Just when I thought I’d heard about every kind of disease that can prevent a dog from walking, a reader left a comment about Beagle Pain Syndrome. It’s a rare disease that primarily effects Beagle puppies. It causes them to have a host of confusing symptoms that include severe neck pain and muscle spasms in their front legs.
Reading the words “Beagle Pain Syndrome” sent chills down my spine. Three years ago, my family adopted the sweetest little Beagle puppy named Olivia. I knew she was prone to IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease) and I watch her like a hawk for symptoms, but knowing she could be predisposed for another disorder sent me on a quest. I wanted to learn everything I could about the condition.
Basic facts about the syndrome
The first thing I found out about Beagle Pain Syndrome is that it not only has confusing symptoms; it’s a puzzling disease from every aspect.
It goes by two medical names. Some vets refer to it as Juvenile Polyarteritis, which according to PetMD, is a disease that causes the arteries and small vessels in the spine, neck and heart to become inflamed. Others call it Steroid Responsive Meningitis arteritis (SRMA) because they believe it’s a unique form of meningitis that gets better when steroids are administered.
Beagles get credit for the common name of the condition because they were the first breed diagnosed with it. Researchers now know that Springer spaniels, Boxers and Bernese Mountain dogs are prone to the disorder, as well.
Signs and symptoms of Beagle Pain Syndrome
The disorder can happen at any age, but it’s seen most often in Beagle puppies between the age of 4 months to 10 months old.
Dogs can show some or all of these symptoms:
- High fever
- Neck pain
- Stiff neck
- Hunched back
- Trouble raising their head
- Crying when lifted
- Muscles spams in the front legs and neck.
- Muscle weakness
- Decreased appetite
- Refusal to move on their own
- Some dogs experience blindness or paralysis of the front, back or all 4 limbs.
How vets make their diagnosis
Due to the puzzling nature of the condition, veterinarians make their diagnosis by ruling out other illnesses like bacterial meningitis, diskospondylitis (an infection of vertebrae), spinal tumor, Lyme disease and cervical disc disease.
Once that’s done they go on to test for anemia and infectious diseases. Interestingly enough, many dogs who are ultimately diagnosed with Beagle Pain Syndrome test positive for anemia and an infection. But when dogs with Beagle Pain Syndrome are treated with antibiotics they show no signs of improvement.
Another strange symptom that makes the condition hard to diagnosis is that signs of the illness come and go. Sometimes dogs are in extreme pain that include crying and whimpering and other times they seem fine.
All of these conflicting characteristics cause veterinarians look at other conditions before they diagnose Beagle Pain Syndrome.
Treatment of the disease
Dogs are treated with high doses of prednisone that are then slowly tapered off. Most patients show rapid signs of improvement in just a few days. But that doesn’t get them completely out of danger.
In the past dogs were taken off prednisone after two weeks when most showed signs of a complete remission. That led to many dogs having relapses that sent them back to the hospital.
Today dogs with Beagle Pain Syndrome are put on a maintenance dosage of prednisone for up to 6 months. Some dogs remain on long-term low doses of steroids even longer.
Dogs are also kept on crate rest while they recover to keep them as pain free as possible. And pet owners are told to watch for signs of relapse.
Suspected causes of the disease
The verdict is still out about the cause or causes of Beagle Pain Syndrome.
Some researchers think it’s a rare form of Juvenile Polyarteritis because there’s inflammation of an artery. Others suspect it’s a type of meningitis that’s not bacterial. That’s because dogs show signs of infection in the small vessels of the spinal cord near the neck and the heart. But researchers don’t know the actual cause of the disease.
They think it has a genetic component because only a handful of breeds are prone. And they believe the root cause lies in the auto-immune system.
It’s obvious that studies still need to be done on this rare condition.
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