Types of Diseases of the Nervous System in Dogs

Many people notice that dogs often “adopt” the behavior of their owners and differ in extremely broad manifestations of individuality in character. Basically, these differences are due to different types of nervous activity, and sometimes the causes of deviations are diseases of the nervous system in domestic dogs.

In order to understand the causes of certain manifestations of animal behavior, it is necessary to know the causes of the condition, be able to detect the disease at an early stage and understand when individuals end and the disease begins. Basic knowledge will help you detect the disease at the very beginning and quickly cure your beloved dog.

Types of nervous activity in dogs

Classification by type of behavior has been around for a very long time and can be correlated with similar observations of human behavior. According to the properties of the character, it is customary to distinguish the following types:

  1. Sanguine people.
  2. Choleric.
  3. Melancholy.
  4. Phlegmatics.

This division, accepted for humans, also applies to dogs. Scientific research in the field of nervous activity was conducted by academician Pavlov. He introduced the concept of reflexes and derived three main properties of nervous processes:

  • power;
  • balance;
  • mobility.

All types of reflexes were divided into unconditional and conditional. Unconditional reflexes are also called innate, they are caused by the reaction of the nervous system to environmental conditions. Conditioned reflexes are developed in response to certain influences, persist for as long as they are in demand, and fade away when they are no longer needed.

They are not genetically transmitted. Conditioned reflexes are very important for dog training. The easier it is to develop a conditioned reflex in an animal, the easier and faster it can be trained.

By the strength of nervous activity, dogs can be weak or strong, and this applies both to the excitation of activity and to its inhibition. This is a very important criterion, especially for service dogs. They must react quickly to changes in the situation and calm down just as quickly.

Mobility provides a quick transition from one activity to another. Nervous processes of this type can be reactive and inert.

By balance, dogs are divided into balanced and unbalanced types.

It cannot be said that all types of higher nervous activity in domestic dogs are manifested in their pure form. As with humans, animals with mixed or transitional behaviors are common. The most common dogs are unrestrained type, which according to the “human” classification can be attributed to choleric.

These are strong, sometimes even aggressive dogs that easily adapt to changes in the environment, easily form and fix conditioned reflexes, their inhibitory reflexes are difficult and are developed with effort.

If such an animal is overloaded, given too complex tasks, it becomes susceptible to neuroses. The excitable type of dog should be subjected to special training in order to develop adequate inhibition processes.
Dogs of the sanguine type are strong, energetic, very mobile, with sharp reactions, excellent sociable properties.

They easily form conditioned reflexes, just as easily move from strong excitement to concentration, and perfectly cope with difficult tasks that require a quick and error-free choice of solutions. Dogs with this type of nervous organization are better suited to perform official tasks.

Melancholics are timid, suspicious, and have weak processes of arousal and inhibition. Such dogs are always wary, they behave this way even in relation to their own owner. Developed conditioned reflexes quickly fade.

Phlegmatics are even less suitable for the role of a service dog. They are slow to react and just as sluggish to return to their original state, poorly assimilate new information and quickly lose their previously acquired skills. For them, rapid transitions from one type of nervous activity to another are almost impossible.

The behavior of a dog with abnormalities in nervous health can be pronounced or implicit, hidden. If the dog at the sound of a bunch of keys suddenly falling on the tile does not just flinch, but begins to bark hysterically or even rush at people, there are clearly violations in the work of its nervous system. A healthy dog with a sanguine temperament will not even lead an ear to the sound and will not “rage”itself.

Signs of a nervous system disease are seizures, sudden unmotivated mood changes, unjustified aggression, or complete apathy.

Brain diseases

Inflammatory diseases of the Central nervous system in most dogs are mostly manifested by such dangerous diseases as meningoencephalitis. This combined disease affects the meninges (meningitis) and the actual substance of the brain (encephalitis). Sometimes it “captures” the spinal cord. Its lesion is called “encephalomyelitis”.

The disease has the following classification:

  1. By origin — primary or secondary meningoencephalitis.
  2. By nature — purulent and non-purulent.
  3. Downstream — acute and chronic.

In dogs, this disease manifests itself as a complication of a number of other diseases, such as canine distemper, rabies, viral hepatitis, and even helminthiasis (toxascaridosis).

The symptoms of the disease are diverse and differ at different stages. At the beginning of the disease, the dog’s pupils are dilated, there are convulsions, twitches, which are sometimes confused with such a condition as a nervous TIC of the head in an elderly dog. There is also rigidity of the neck muscles, arousal, and an acute reaction to any stimuli, including light and sounds.

With further development of the disease, the animal becomes apathetic, indifferent, does not respond to stimuli and ceases to follow the commands of the owner, his coordination of movements is disrupted, and his limbs are paralyzed. If the inflammation is acute and purulent, the body temperature rises.

The diagnosis is confirmed by a puncture with the intake of cerebrospinal fluid. Treatment is associated with the elimination of the main cause of the disease. It is carried out in a complex, the basis is the appointment of specific antibiotics.

In addition to encephalitis and meningoencephalitis, dogs may have the following diseases caused by disorders in brain cells:

  • benign and malignant tumors;
  • hydrocephalus;
  • idiopathic epilepsy and other diseases.

A problem associated with a brain disease can be caused by external influences, such as an animal being hit by a car, beatings inflicted by a person or other animals, or a fall. The resulting injuries to the skull can have serious consequences up to damage to the brain substance. If they do not lead to the death of the dog or do not make it disabled, then changes in the behavior of the animal may occur.

Diseases of the spinal cord

Diseases of the spinal cord in dogs are not provoked by brain damage, but arise from various effects on the spine and nerve endings. They can be caused by various reasons:

  1. Injuries and fractures of the spine.
  2. Heredity. Some breeds with a long body and short curved limbs have a hereditary predisposition to such diseases (dachshunds, Basset hounds, English and French bulldogs, pugs, and so on).
  3. Dislocations of the vertebrae.
  4. Inflammatory processes.
  5. Infections.

Herniated disc is most common in dogs with hereditary defects. In this condition, the disc is displaced and pinched between two vertebrae. Nerve endings are damaged, and the dog suffers serious pain and mobility disorders.

Ponytail syndrome can occur with severe inflammation or trauma to the lumbar and pelvic spine. It develops a disease of the extremities, which constantly progresses and leads to persistent paralysis, violations of the functions of the pelvic organs, genitourinary and excretory systems.
Unstable vertebra syndrome develops due to sudden head movement during degeneration of the cervical vertebrae.

In this case, there is an inflammation of the membranes of the spinal cord, a wobbly gait or the development of paralysis. It is believed that dogs with a long cervical spine, such as great Danes and Dobermans, suffer most often from this. Also, this condition is often observed as a result of trauma.

When injured and pinched with the death of the end, there is no sensitivity in the affected area of the nerve, the animal can not control the damaged part of the body, paresis or paralysis develops.

Depending on the size and depth of damage to the spinal cord membranes, symptoms can affect different parts of the body. With massive lesions, the animal can be completely paralyzed.


These diseases are caused by prolonged stay of the animal in a stressful state. Usually, the impact is so deep and intense that it leads to the development of persistent lesions of the nervous system.

Difficulties in diagnosing neuroses consist in the fact that each dog reacts differently, and the manifestations of pathology can differ dramatically. It is important to correctly identify the disease and separate it from the behavior disorder that can form in an animal with improper upbringing.

Neuroses are manifested by the following behavioral abnormalities:

  1. Fear, panic States.
  2. Apathy.
  3. Aggression. This is a particularly dangerous deviation, since such an animal can attack absolutely any living creature, including a small child, a pet, or even its own owner.

Any neurosis is treated as Professor Preobrazhensky advised from Mikhail Bulgakov’s “heart of a Dog” — “exclusively with love”. Since the cause of this condition is stress, you can cope with the condition of the animal by paying maximum attention to it. Feeling loved, it will be freed from the consequences of a stressful situation.

A bright and dangerous manifestation of the pathology of the nervous system is epilepsy in dogs. This disease is associated with seizures and convulsions, which can provoke external stimuli, such as sound and especially light. The disease is provoked by a lesion of a part of the brain of a non-infectious nature.

Epilepsy can be true and symptomatic. This disease is characterized by a regularly recurring series of short, time-fixed seizures. The symptomatic form is associated with another disease, such as the plague.

True epilepsy cannot be completely cured; symptomatic epilepsy can go away on its own after the elimination of the cause that caused it. With epilepsy, treatment will last the entire life of the dog. Correct diagnosis is important so that the owners do not take seizures for this disease.

Hyperkinesis is a pathological sudden involuntary movement caused by a failure of the conduction of nerve endings. Individual muscles or groups of them may be involved. Such manifestations are caused by organic or functional lesions of the nervous system, provoked by various factors.

Sometimes this condition occurs during treatment with neuroleptics due to harmful effects. In dogs, the disease manifests itself after traumatic brain injuries, rheumatism, encephalitis or encephalopathy.

Different types of intoxication also play an important role, which is why you do not need to deal with independent treatment of Pets, especially drugs for people. Also, poisoning can be caused by medicines, household chemicals, and even cosmetics left available to the dog.

A nervous TIC, which is often mistaken for the manifestation of a seizure, refers to hyperkinesis.

Treatment is prescribed by a doctor depending on the manifestation and severity of symptoms, as well as what caused the problem. Anti-inflammatory drugs, drugs that improve brain circulation, neuroleptics, medications to eliminate muscle rigidity, vitamins, General tonic, physiotherapy, massages are prescribed.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Some deviations in the dog’s behavior that we often think of as oddities are actually obsessive States, or obsessive-compulsive neuroses. Many of them are familiar to pet owners:

  1. Circling behind your own tail.
  2. Excessive, pathological neatness, when the dog literally licks for hours.
  3. Trying to chew out fleas that he doesn’t actually have.
  4. Sucking a paw or tufts of hair on your body.
  5. Eating items that are not edible, including your own or someone else’s droppings.
  6. Unmotivated aggression.

The mechanism is triggered by factors that are strong stimuli for the sensitive nervous system. Obsessive-compulsive States can only be treated in a complex way, using medications, substitution training, and encouragement for correct command execution and calm behavior.

Other diseases of the nervous system

Aggressive States are most often observed in dogs as a reaction of the nervous system to sudden changes. For example, a sudden wave of the hand of a stranger or even a family member may be perceived as a sign of an attack. The result may be a twofold reaction.

In dogs with a weak type of nervous Constitution, this will cause fear and lead to a hasty flight and a desire to hide. But more often there is a different effect: the dog suddenly bursts into hysterical barking, while it can rush to the person or hide behind the owner, if it was frightened by a stranger.

Sometimes aggression is provoked by actions that are innocent from the point of view of a person — an attempt to pet a dog, a desire to correct his bowl of food, and so on. If the animal has abnormalities in the nervous system, it is impossible to predict its reaction.

A dog with deviations from the norm is not able to adequately perceive ordinary actions, gestures or events. Such dogs are usually culled because they are a “time bomb” that can “explode” at the most unexpected moment.

Complications after injections

When treating diseases of the nervous system, the dog often has to do injections. You need to know the basic rules of injection and follow the rules of antiseptics, otherwise you can not avoid suppuration, abscesses, and in particularly severe cases — sepsis.

Intravenous injections can only be made by a specialist, intramuscular — and the owner himself. However, they must comply with the following rules:

  1. Treat your dog the way you would treat a human: check the expiration date of the drug, use disposable syringes, and use antiseptics.
  2. Wash your hands thoroughly before the injection, and do not touch the contents of the syringe or ampoule.
  3. Put a muzzle on the dog or fix its muzzle with wide bandages so that it can’t bite you.
  4. Work together — one holds the animal, the second stabs.

If a “bump”, soreness or suppuration occurs in its place after the injection, immediately go to the veterinarian or call him home. These phenomena should not be ignored.

Even more dangerous are damage to the nerve endings. In most cases, they are temporary, but sometimes they can lead to violations of the mobility of the animal’s body part. Veterinarians often have to deal with calls from upset pet owners such as “I gave the dog injections, but the injections made to the dog got into the nervous plexus.”

This will lead to severe pain, numbness and disruption of the functions of the damaged part of the body. It is especially dangerous if large nerve nodes are affected. This can cause mobility problems, lameness, dragging of the limb, and many dangerous consequences.

If the owner is afraid or does not know how to give injections, it is better to entrust it to the veterinarian.

Physiological changes

Depending on the type of damage to the nervous system, changes in the dog’s body can have physical and psychological, behavioral changes:

  1. Problems with the senses: the animal does not hear well, sees, can not bark or makes indistinct sounds.
  2. Violation of coordination of movements.
  3. Ataxia.
  4. With paralysis of the limb, the dog may limp or drag the damaged paw.
  5. Seizures and convulsions. Often there are symptoms of a nervous TIC in a dog, with a seizure there is no reaction of the pupils to light, which may be considered signs of epilepsy.
  6. Violations of the body’s thermoregulation that occur when the nervous system is damaged lead to the fact that the animal’s limbs become cold, and cyanosis may occur.
  7. The dog does not recognize or reacts inadequately to its owners, to people in General, apathetic or, on the contrary, overly excited, aggressive.
  8. From the outside, it may seem that the animal suddenly forgot everything that it was taught before the injury or illness.
  9. The reaction of the cerebral cortex in the first days after injury or infection leads to either strong excitement or lack of interest in life.
  10. The cause of increased weakness of the animal may be a brain tumor of different origin.

The appearance of any incomprehensible signs, including changes in the dog’s habitual behavior, should alarm the owners and become a reason for an urgent visit to the veterinary clinic.


Only an experienced veterinarian with special equipment can determine the type of Central nervous system disease in a dog. You may need to perform encephalography, examine the spine and bones of the skull by x-ray diagnostics to detect their damage, and undergo computer or magnetic resonance imaging to detect changes in the brain or the presence of tumors.

In addition to these examinations, the veterinarian can appoint a series of tests, ultrasound of internal organs to find out possible damage to them.


In all cases, treatment is always aimed at eliminating the cause, that is, the underlying disease. Specific treatment is prescribed by a veterinarian depending on the PSA disease and may include injections, oral medications, massages, and physical therapy.

If the damage to the nervous system affects the behavior of the animal, you will need the help of a correction specialist, as well as an experienced trainer. These people know how to treat such abnormalities. Independent actions with such serious problems can greatly harm the health of a pet.

Risk factors

Any damage to the brain and/or spinal cord, the nervous system as a whole can at best lead to individual violations of the functioning of the dog’s body, and at worst will cause damage to the senses, mobility disorders, paralysis and mental problems.

Risk factors that can lead to pathologies of the nervous system include the following:

  1. Congenital problems that occur due to genetic pathologies or disorders of intrauterine development.
  2. Severe infectious diseases, such as the plague.
  3. Injuries to the brain and nerve endings.
  4. Ill-treatment of people.

Such negative effects can have different effects on the animal’s body, depending on their intensity and frequency of repetition.

Help your pet at home

After being examined by a veterinarian and receiving the necessary treatment, the dog must go through a long path of rehabilitation. The task of the owners is to provide her with peace of mind and competent treatment.

The animal should be provided with a quiet, shaded and warm place where it will not be disturbed. Pets should be warned that you should not disturb a sick animal. In case of severe injuries and paralysis, you will have to monitor the dog’s breathing rhythm, hygiene and feeding.

Depending on the disease, the treatment time may vary: from a few weeks to a lifetime. Owners will have to master the ability to make injections, massages and other manipulations that will be required for the rehabilitation of the pet.

Features of dog training taking into account the type of higher nervous activity

Selection of dogs for official functions, hunting and protection is directly related to the type of their higher nervous activity. If the behavior of an animal is dominated by inhibition, and the reactions are slowed down, it is absolutely not suitable for performing such specific actions as protecting the house, owner or herd, hunting game and animals, searching and tracking, and so on.