Muscular dystrophy is a genetic disorder which results in muscle deterioration due to low amounts of dystrophin. Muscular dystrophy is not a curable disease, but treatments have been developed which can reduce the speed at which muscle deterioration occurs.

The rate at which muscular dystrophy progresses, the muscles it affects, and when it occurs depend on the type of genetic mutation the patient suffers. In dogs and cats, the disease commonly manifests itself at birth, or soon after; however, with early detection and treatment, a fair number of those affected can survive into adulthood, but are limited to sedentary lives.

Muscular Dystrophy in Dogs

Male dogs are at a much greater risk of suffering from muscular dystrophy than are female dogs; however, females can carry the genetic defect and pass it on to their offspring. Though it is a rare disease, there are some breeds that are more prone to the disorder than others, such as, golden retrievers, German shepherds, Irish terriers, Rottweilers, Labrador retrievers, and German short-haired pointers.


  • Vomiting
  • Ptylism (excessive drooling)
  • Gait distortion
  • Muscle loss, as well as increased muscle mass in certain areas
  • Inability to exercise beyond basic movement
  • Hunched or sway back
  • Inability to properly suckling by newborn puppies
  • Cardiovascular failure

Muscular Dystrophy in Cats

Similar to dogs, kittens or young cats are most suitable to developing this disorder, and there are certain breeds of cat, such as domestic short-haired and Devon Rex, that are more likely to suffer from the genetic mutation which causes the disorder.


  • Vomiting
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Developing of a ridged gait
  • Inability to exercise beyond basic movement
  • Lethargy
  • Downward curving of the head and neck

Treatment & Management

As previously stated, muscular dystrophy is not a curable disease, but can be managed to allow for a somewhat comfortable, albeit shortened life. Based on the medical diagnosis and the severity of the disorder, a veterinarian will formulate a plan of action to reduce the discomfort that your pet will have to endure.