Dog Manual

Persistent Twitching

Persistent twitching is most commonly due to a disease called chorea. A nervous involvement characterized by intermittent twitching of certain muscles or a group of muscles, chorea is quite common. The ailment may persist for months or years and, though it may occasionally contribute to discomfort, the normal functions of the animal remain apparently unaffected, and its longevity seems unimpaired.

The cause of the disease is obscure. Most cases seem to occur as an aftermath of a severe attack of distemper. It may also be a symptom of an inflammatory condition of the membranes that cover the nerves or spinal cord, and it occasionally appears in the early stages of rickets. Even the most exacting microscopic examination of the body tissues, on post mortem, have failed to reveal specific, characteristic manifestations of the disease complex, though anemia has been a pretty constant finding.

The muscles of the head and legs are most commonly affected in chorea, though the twitching may occur in any part of the body. In mild cases, the spasmodic movements are most readily observed while the animal is lying on its side. The spasms are often less marked while the animal is asleep, and excitement may cause exaggeration of the symptoms. Consciousness is not disturbed in cases of chorea. Diagnosis is based on the history of the case, the lack of general symptoms and the characteristic periodic movements.

Treatment of chorea is usually ineffective, and it is not often attempted because results cannot be expected unless medication is administered over long periods of time. Various tonic preparations containing arsenic or iron compounds have occasionally been used with indifferent results. Highly nourishing food should back up any course of treatment.

In the above, chorea has been discussed in its pure form, that is, where it is present in the otherwise normal animal. Very often chorea arises as a complication of a severe attack of distemper at the height of the disease. In such cases death almost invariably ensues.