The genes that gave your fluffy lap pal his gorgeous white coat are known to cause certain neurological disorders in Maltese dogs. Being aware of his potential nervous system challenges will make you more alert to developing symptoms and ways to help him should trouble arise.
Canine epilepsy is a serious medical condition that, once detected, is manageable through medication. Its leading symptom is sudden-onset seizures often triggered by excessive noise, light or stress. During such a seizure a dog may fall down, stagger, eliminate waste, lose consciousness as well as control over his limbs and muscles, or go into spasms. Seizures can last for less than one minute and up to five minutes. It is important to keep your dog in a safe environment free of sharp objects when a seizure occurs. The Veterinary Specialty Hospital advises not attempting to restrain the dog during the seizure. Rather, as suggested by The Fun Times Guide, find objects such as pillows, blankets or stuffed toys to cushion the dog's thrashing until the episode has passed.
Hydrocephalus is an excessive buildup of fluid on the canine brain that can potentially cause brain damage or coma. In the Maltese it can occur between 1 and 6 years of age. It is a tricky condition to deal with, as the cerebrospinal fluid is naturally present in limited amounts to act as a buffer between the brain and the skull. Too much fluid and the dog's head become swollen and his eyes may appear to be set incorrectly in its head. Other symptoms of too much brain fluid include walking in circles, walking into walls or other objects, and a strange and dramatic change in behavior.
Death of Cells
Necrotizing meningoencephalitis is an infection of the central nervous system with invasion occurring literally at the cellular level causing cellular death. Initial symptoms include blindness, fever, cervical pain, uncoordinated gait, head tilt, facial paralysis and difficulty swallowing. Its exact cause is not known; veterinary researchers are investigating potential bacterial and viral causes as well as adverse reactions to vaccinations and other drug therapies. As this disease has no known cure at this time, veterinary intervention is aimed at reducing the impact of symptoms to make the dog as comfortable as possible for the duration of his life. In most cases, this is a relatively short period of time. PetPlace.com breaks the difficult news: A dog with this disease usually lives only two three months after diagnosis.
White Dog Shaker Syndrome
White dog shaker syndrome has gained in familiarity with the general public as the popularity of Maltese dogs -- especially when bred with other breeds such as poodles -- has risen. Researchers have yet to pinpoint an exact cause of this sudden tremorlike shaking that seems to predominantly impact dogs with white hair pigmentation. Current research involves study of possible brain inflammation. While considered rare by the American Maltese Association, when white dog shaker occurs it is overwhelming. An affected dog often cannot walk or keep his eyes from darting. Medications such as glucocorticoids that promote the effective role of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system are often prescribed for canines with white dog shaker syndrome.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.