Distal Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy, also called dying-back neuropathy and distal axonopathy, is a disease that affects the nerves (mainly long, large-caliber, myelinated nerve fibers) that carry information to and from the brain and spinal cord. The disease is characterized by pain and loss of sensation. A hereditary form of distal sensorimotor polyneuropathy has been described in the Rottweiler, Bouvier des Flandres and Alaskan Malamute breeds. The disease has similarities to hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy (HMSN) type II in humans. There are numerous causes for nerves to malfunction. Damage to nerves can result from any of the specific conditions associated with nerve damage; some animals have a hereditary predisposition for neuropathy. In some dogs, the neuropathy may appear after heparin therapy for disseminated intravascular coagulation, a complication of thiacetarsamide therapy for heartworm disease.

Distal sensorimotor neuropathy, also known as dancing Doberman disease, is marked by complete paralysis of all four limbs, decreased muscle tone and atrophy (muscle withering, especially of skeletal muscles), reduced response to muscle stimulation, and exercise intolerance. Affected Dobermans walk on the sole of the foot with the heel touching the ground. The abnormal gait is mild initially, but becomes severe as the disease progresses. Although in some cases signs may appear suddenly, the course tends to be gradually progressive (up to 12 months or longer) and may be relapsing. Affected dogs are unable to stand still, so that the dog flexes alternately each limb as if it is dancing. Since a recurrent laryngeal is a long nerve, laryngeal paralysis is often a consequence.

  • Heparin - a potent agent used to prevent blood clots from froming;
  • Thiacetarsamide - an anthelmintic used against adult heartworms in dogs with significant hepatic and renal toxicity; commonly known as Caparasolate.


  1. Braund KG, Toivio-Kinnucan M, Vallat JM, Mehta JR, Levesque DC. Distal sensorimotor polyneuropathy in mature Rottweiler dogs
  2. Dillon AR, Braund KG. Distal polyneuropathy after canine heartworm disease therapy complicated by disseminated intravascular coagulation
  3. Braund KG, Shores A, Lowrie CT, Steinberg HS, Moore MP, Bagley RS, Steiss JE. Idiopathic polyneuropathy in Alaskan malamutes
  4. Ronaldo C. da Costa, DMV, MSc. New adult-onset distal sensorimotor polyneuropathy in Bouvier des Flandres dogs
  5. Michael D. Lorenz, Joan Coates, Marc Kent. Handbook of Veterinary Neurology

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