Dogs might enjoy music, but if you have a Doberman Pincher and notice that they hop back and forth between their hind legs, it might be a sign of Dancing Doberman Disease (DDD). This problem is relatively rare and only affects Doberman Pinschers. As far as we know, this progressive disorder hasn't been seen in any other breed.
What begins with standing with one hind leg in the air often progresses into alternating between hind legs and muscle atrophy on the non-preferred leg. While there is currently no treatment, many dogs still live normal lives. It is important to identify and diagnose DDD to ensure your Doberman isn't having a different spinal or muscular problem that may be treatable.
Causes of Dancing Doberman Disease
Little is known about the cause of the disease, but it appears to be genetic since no other breed has been reported to have the same symptoms. There is also evidence that it might be neuropathic, meaning that a portion of the nervous system has been damaged. This could cause abnormal sensations when the dog steps on their hind leg. In humans, neuropathic disorders can cause people to feel a burning or prickly sensation in their foot when they put weight on it. The same might be happening to Dobermans with DDD.
DDD can affect both male and female Doberman Pinschers, and often begins between six months and seven years old. What's most important about DDD is ruling out any other causes of the flexing or shifting behavior. DDD-like symptoms could actually indicate a slipped disc, spinal arthritis, Wobbler's Syndrome, or hip dysplasia, which will all require different treatments.
What Are the Symptoms?
DDD usually begins with the flexing or lifting of a hind leg while the dog is standing. Over a couple months, this may also spread to the other hind leg, causing the Doberman to shift their weight between legs, which explains the “dancing” term. Eventually, the dog may prefer to sit instead of stand when stationary, but this disorder usually does not affect walking or running.
There appears to be no pain from the disorder, but some kind of sensation or discomfort makes the dog prefer to flex or hold up their foot. Your vet may look for signs of pain as an indication that the behavior is caused by a different disease. Due to lack of use, muscles in the unused legs will eventually atrophy and lose sensation.
Treating Dancing Doberman Disease
There is currently no treatment for DDD, but it is important to get an accurate diagnosis. If the symptoms are actually from a spinal condition, your dog will likely need treatment to avoid further injury. Your vet should give your Doberman a complete physical including blood work. If it is in fact DDD, all tests should come back normal, and you may need to visit a neurologist. Veterinary Neurologists will be able to do a special test to stimulate abnormal nerves and check for DDD.
Luckily most dogs with DDD live long and healthy lives, even with the slow progression to muscle atrophy in one or both hind legs. While it may seem strange, DDD shouldn't interfere much with their lives or cause any pain.
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