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 pain in their neck 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 disposed to another disorder sent me on a quest. I needed to learn everything I could about the condition.
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What I learned about Beagle Pain Syndrome
The first thing I discovered about Beagle Pain Syndrome is that’s known by several names. Some vets refer to it as Juvenile Polyarteritis and others call it steroid responsive meningitis arteritis (SRMA). It seems to be a combination of a special type of meningitis and juvenile polyarteritis, which is an inflammation of the arteries.
Beagles get credit for the name 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 syndrome can happen at any age, but it’s seen most often in Beagle puppies between the age of 4 months to 10 months old. The symptoms come and go, making it hard to diagnose. But when they occur, it causes extreme pain to your dog.
Some Beagles whimper in pain while others refuse to open their jaw or bark because of the distress they feel. If most Beagles are like Olivia, it’s hard to imagine her being in so much pain that it stops her from baying. She loves to do that high-pitched Beagle howl.
Dogs show some or all of these signs:
- 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
Beagle Pain Syndrome is diagnosed by ruling out other illnesses such as bacterial meningitis, diskospondylitis (an infection of vertebrae), spinal tumor, Lyme disease and cervical disc disease. Vets use x-rays and blood work to look for signs of anemia, infectious diseases and problems with protein in the kidney and liver.
Dogs with the syndrome often test positive for anemia and a high white blood cell count which indicates an infection.
One of the more interesting facts about Beagle Pain Syndrome that helps with the diagnosis is that it doesn’t respond to antibiotics.
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.