The nervous system of the dog is very highly developed, and consequently subject to a variety of disorders, the most frequent being chorea, a disease whose pathology is not well understood, and fits due commonly to worms, indigestion, distemper, teething, etc.
CHOREA.-The most satisfactory theory in regard to the cause of this disorder is that the brain cells controlling a certain muscle or set of muscles are so weakened by the poison of distemper or some other cause as to induce them to send out muscular impulses without natural mental impulse or willpower.
There is a form of chorea, due to a disturbed nervous system, induced by blows or injuries or to the presence of intestinal parasites which have deranged the digestive organs. This form of chorea is generally curable. The form which follows distemper is not so amenable to treatment. There is also another form of chorea that follows the use of the imperfect vaccines and inoculations for distemper that have been used so generally the last few years. Chorea from this cause is almost always fatal.
Symptoms.-These are so prominent and characteristic that there is no mistaking the disease, and the peculiar involuntary twitching of the muscles once seen is never forgotten. The entire body may be affected. Generally it is only one set of muscles, those of the foreleg or of the neck and shoulders, in which case the head bobs up and down in a most helpless manner. Where the hindlegs are affected the dog will suddenly drop one of the limbs from the hip downward, as if there were an entire loss of strength and power. This is particularly noticeable if it attempts to jump on a chair or table, for after one or two attempts it falls on its side or in a heap completely helpless.
The top of the head is often affected, and twitches and throbs in a most peculiar manner, and the jerking is commonly observable about the muscles of the eyelids, lips, and face. In severe cases of chorea the general health is affected, and the animal shows signs of suffering, probably due to anxiety and ap preciation of its helplessness. In mild cases it does not affect the animal’s general health, and some field dogs have it all their lives without affecting their usefulness. The owner, however, is annoyed by the constant muscular movements and is always anxious to effect a cure. Some cases are quiet during sleep, others are worse.
Treatment.-The disease occurs in the best-regulated kennels, but dogs properly treated for distemper are less liable to the disease than those which are given too powerful remedies.
In a case of chorea the first thing to do is to look after the animal’s general health. See that the bowels act properly, and this is accomplished best by dieting and the feeding of foods possessing laxative properties, and not by resorting to physics. If there is the slightest suspicion of worms, treat for them, as they torment the nervous system beyond all measure and are the cause of many attacks.
If there is a tendency to constipation use wellboiled oatmeal, mutton broths with stale bread, beef well boiled, or raw, lean beef chopped. Give a condition pill after each meal to assist the stomach in the process of digestion. If there is much debility and weakness give emulsion of codliver oil. The other drugs used are: arsenic, iron, nux vomica, bromide of strontia, and strychnine in various doses depending upon the age and size of the patient.
This disease is so slow in yielding to medicine that many valuable dogs are given up as incurable which could be cured if their owners only would persist in the treatment and not be discouraged too easily. Dent’s special remedies can be recommended as easily administered and adapted to dogs of all ages and sizes. Of course, if administered at the first appearance of the disease the chances for recovery are much greater than in old or neglected cases.
FITS.-Fits and convulsions are of commoner occurrence in dogs than in other domestic animals, because the nervous organization of the dog is more highly developed and sensitive.
Causes.-These are various, such as excitement, worms, teething, exhaustion, overheating, indigestion, and epilepsy.
Treatment.-During the convulsions the body should be kept warm and the head cold by applying ice to it or bathing it in cold water. This will relieve the patient, after which the cause should be sought and removed. If from worms, give vermifuge; if due to teething, remove the milk teeth when loose and lance the gums where the second teeth are attempting to force their way through; if the result of indigestion or a weak stomach, apply the remedies suggested for the cure of indigestion.