Canine dysautonomia

Canine dysautonomia Canine dysautonomia is characterized by a malfunction of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), the system that controls heart rate, respiration , digestion, urination , salivation, sweating , dilation of the eye’s pupil, blood pressure , intestinal contractions , glandular activity, and physical arousal. The bodily functions that occur within the SNA are performed largely without conscious thought, with the exception of respiration, which works in coordination with conscious thought. This condition is also known as Key-Gaskell syndrome.

This is a rare condition, but when it does occur, it tends to affect young dogs, older than a puppy, and free-roaming dogs that live in rural areas tend to be at higher risk of contracting the disease. There is no gender or age predisposition.

Treatment is based on the primary symptoms and the prognosis for recovery is reserved.


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  • 1 Symptoms
  • 2 Causes
  • 3 Diagnosis
  • 4 Treatment
  • 5 Forecast
  • 6 Sources


Acute symptoms usually develop in three to four days

  • Dilated, unresponsive pupils
  • Lack of production of tears
  • Fear / avoidance of light ( photophobia)
  • Elevation of the third eyelid (protrusion of the third eyelid)
  • Vomiting
  • Regurgitation
  • Anorexia and weight loss
  • Urine drip ( polyuria)
  • Straining to urinate
  • Loss of tone of the anal sphincter
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation in some cases
  • Bladder distention, the bladder is easily seen
  • Possible abdominal pain
  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  • Dry nose and mucous membranes
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Depression
  • Loss of spinal reflexes
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Possible weakness


The cause is unknown.


The vet will do a complete physical exam on your dog. You will need to give a complete history of your dog’s health, the onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that could have led to this condition. The history you provide can give your vet clues as to which organs are affected by this condition.

X-rays will show a megaesophagus (enlarged esophagus), distended bowel loops without peristalsis (the normal contraction of the intestinal muscles), and a distended bladder . Loss of control of the nerves in the iris of the eye will make them hypersensitive to cholinergic drugs , affecting the response time for the iris of the eye to contract. A dog that is not affected with Key-Gaskell will have a normal response time of 30 minutes, and a dog that is affected with this condition will have an abnormally rapid pupil constriction reaction .

An atropine challenge test will be given to test the heart’s response – a healthy dog ​​will have increased heart activity ( tachycardia ), in response to atropine , where a dog affected with Key-Gaskell will have no increase in heart rate. heart rate.

Histamine injections can be given for testing for loss of sympathetic capillary function. If there is loss of capillary function, there will be no visible reactive response on the skin, or a welt , but there will be no breakouts on the skin. These tests will help your vet make a competent assessment of the ability of the autonomic nervous system (made up of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems) to function in a healthy way.


The cause of dysautonomia is unknown. Therefore, the treatment is symptomatic. To prevent dehydration, fluids should be given intravenously (IV) to dogs. A feeding tube can help ensure proper nutrition, if there is a megaesophagus. If intestinal motility is absent, a feeding tube may be required. Artificial tears should be administered if tear production is insufficient. Humidifying the air can help with dry mucous membranes. The dog’s bladder must be emptied manually.

Medications will be administered to support the organs, and to promote contraction of the bladder and improve intestinal motility . If infections or pneumonia are suspected , antibiotics will be prescribed.


The prognosis for dogs with dysautonomia is reserved. Most dogs that are affected by this disease will not survive, as many die from aspiration pneumonia or need to be euthanized due to poor quality of life. Surviving dogs may take more than a year to fully recover and often have some degree of permanent autonomic dysfunction, which may require constant attention.


by Abdullah Sam
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