Can Myasthenia Gravis Be Fatal To Dogs? Myasthenia Gravis: The Autoimmune Disorder, And How To Treat It

Can Myasthenia Gravis Be Fatal To Dogs?

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Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease in which the bodyโ€™s immune system attacks its own healthy muscle, causing weakness. Muscle weakness can be mild to severe and worsens over time.

Myasthenia gravis is a serious autoimmune disorder that causes muscular weakness in dogs. It's not life-threatening, but it can be hard on your pet and you. The condition occurs when the immune system attacks the nerves that innervate skeletal muscles. These don't control automatic functions like heart rate and breathing. This leads to muscle weakness and fatigue, making it difficult for dogs to perform normal daily activities like walking or jumping. However, the condition is rare, with around 14 to 20 cases per 100000 dogs. 

The Immune System Attacks The Nerve Cells

Myasthenia gravis is a condition where the immune system attacks the nerve cells that release acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that helps muscles contract, so it’s essential for normal movement and muscle strength. When someone has myasthenia gravis, their immune system makes antibodies that attack and destroy these nerve cells. 


Most commonly, symptoms of myasthenia gravis include generalized muscle weakness and lack of coordination. They may vary depending on where the condition occurs in the body. Therefore, it's hard to diagnose myasthenia gravis in dogs as there are many other possible causes of muscle weakness in dogs.

The symptoms of myasthenia gravis can vary depending on which muscles are affected by this autoimmune reaction. It is more commonly characterized by bulging eyes, drooping eyelids, inability to swallow food or water, and dyspnea. There may also be rapid production of saliva between meals or while resting. Some other symptoms may include:

  • Muscle cramps

  • Painful urination or ejaculation

  • Difficulty swallowing food

Treatment Includes Medication, Surgery, And Dietary Supplements

The treatment for this disease is labor intensive and expensive, involving daily pet medication to keep the dog from going into an attack. The most common treatment options include:

  • Pet medication can help reduce the symptoms' severity and your dog’s susceptibility to stress or fatigue.

  • Surgery may be an option for dogs with trouble producing saliva or whose salivary glands are blocked by inflammation.

  • Your veterinarian may also prescribe a special diet that includes nutritional supplements such as zinc, vitamin B12, and glucosamine hydrochloride. Some of the great options are Blue Buffalo Dog Food, Hills Prescription Diet, etc.

It's crucial to understand that treating myasthenia gravis is challenging because it can be difficult to find the right combination of medications that work well together. To develop a viable treatment, ninety-four dogs were treated with an anticholinesterase drug, among which 31% had clinical remission, 26% showed signs of improvement, and 29% of dogs had no improvement. 

No Known Cause

There is no known cause of myasthenia gravis in dogs, but some experts think it might be an autoimmune disorder. Autoimmune disorders occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the body. 

The disease is not contagious and does not appear to run in families. It doesn’t seem more common in certain dog breeds than others, but it does tend to affect younger dogs under five years of age. 

There's No Cure For Myasthenia Gravis

Since there's no cure for this disease, treatment is focused on reducing symptoms and managing them. There are several treatment options to help your dog feel better, including pet medication, surgery, and dietary supplements. Your vet will recommend the best treatment for your dog based on the symptoms and disease severity.

Dogs with myasthenia gravis can live normal lives for years after diagnosis, but it will be stressful for them as they age. Some dogs may need to take immunosuppressive drugs like prednisone every day. 

Side Effects Of Medications

Some pet medications can cause side effects, but the same can be managed with proper care and a few adjustments to your dog’s lifestyle. Some of the side effects are:

  • Dry mouth or Xerostomia: Pet mouthwashes, water additives, pilocarpine to stimulate saliva production, and meals with a high water content are great ways to treat a dry mouth in pets.

  • Excessive drooling or Hypersalivation: You can't do much if the condition is due to the emotional state. You can use pet toothpaste or Bully Sticks for dogs to maintain their oral hygiene. But the condition can be grave, and it’s best to keep your dog’s mouth clean and dry until you can seek professional help.

  • Difficulty swallowing food or water: You can talk to your vet and get some pet medications to help your dog. You can also try feeding him by placing food at the back of their throat and getting them a higher dog bowl stand.

  • Increased urination or Polyuria: Several medications like Cefpodoxime Proxetil treat the condition in pets. Also, you can use diapers for dogs while the treatment continues.

  • Weight gain: The best way to lose weight is physical exercise, but it might be difficult for your pet to be physically active due to the underlying condition. So, it’s best to regulate the diet to control excessive weight gain.

  • Osteoporosis: To help relieve the pain caused by the weakening of the bones, medicines like Previcox or Deramaxx can be used. You can also get an Orthopedic dog bed to ensure comfort for your pet.

  • Diabetes: Diabetes in dogs is more common than you may think. It is estimated that 1 out of 300 dogs have diabetes. There is insulin for dogs that will help you regulate your dog’s diabetes. However, always consult a vet before using them.

It’s also important to note that the medication can be toxic to humans and other animals. So, it's important that only one member of your family gives it to your pet. 


Myasthenia gravis is a neuromuscular autoimmune disorder in which antibodies form against the acetylcholine receptor and block transmission at the neuromuscular junction. This results in muscular weakness. There is no cure for myasthenia gravis, but there are treatments to keep your dog comfortable.

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