Sensory neuropathy is a form of peripheral neuropathy characterized by a tingling, or burning sensation in the paws. This progresses into a condition where the dog lacks pain sensation in his paws, and more pain than usual in his legs, often resulting in infected open sores of the paws. This is a degenerative disease and most affected dogs are euthanized by the age of 3.
Puppies born with sensory neuropathy often have trouble with their leg bones being loose and slipping out of joint from lack of muscle tone. Often the legs of the animal display a pronounced lean toward each other, resulting in the dog being off-balance. The dog can still walk but with an abnormal gait. The affected dog often feels pain when the leg is touched. He may also have incontinence issues from lowered motor control in the hip area.
The paws of an animal affected by sensory neuropathy lack sensitivity to pain. This can result in the dog cutting his paw pads while walking, since he can't feel anything.This problem creates more trouble as infected tissue becomes necrotic and eventually an amputation may be necessary to save the animal's life. However, since the disease is progressive, and will happen repeatedly, eventually all of the paws will be removed. Most dog owners choose to euthanize the animal.
Dogs with sensory neuropathy often bite at their own feet, probably trying to get rid of the sensation of tingling or burning that human patients with the disease have described. Since the animal feels lessened pain in the paws, the biting results in open sores that will get worse as the dog continues to chew at his own feet. This can result in further nerve damage and loss of the foot if it is not noticed right away.
Sensory neuropathy is a genetic disorder caused by both parents being carriers of the defective gene but not having the disease themselves. Adult dogs with the disease should not be allowed to breed. If both parents both have one bad gene, a quarter of the puppies born will have the disease. The ones who don't become carriers themselves. Border collies are prone to sensory neuropathy and there is a form of the disease that is common to golden retrievers.
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