Many Dachshund owners have never heard of Lafora Disease (LD). I’ve been researching the breed for over 9 years and I hadn’t until a couple of months ago.
As I do, I set out to learn everything I could about it.
You may be here because you’re curious if your Dachshund has Lafora Disease or if they could get it.
In this helpful guide we will discuss what Lafora Disease is, as well as signs, symptoms and treatment options for this unfortunate health condition.
Lafora Disease can be scary, especially if you don’t know anything about it.
What is Lafora Disease?
Lafora Disease, also known as LD, is a genetic disease that most often affects Wirehaired Dachshunds.
LD is a myoclonic epilepsy which results in sudden jerking movements of the head.
LD is one of the most aggressive, severe forms of canine epilepsy.
It’s is progressive, meaning it will cause inevitable neurological changes as time goes on.
Unfortunately LD can lead to seizures, loss of balance, blindness and even dementia.
Lafora Disease is something that is passed down genetically.
It’s an inherited disease most commonly found in Wirehaired Dachshunds, Beagles and Basset Hounds.
Thankfully LD is rare, but if you’ve found your way to this article, you may be desperate to help your pup manage the symptoms Lafora Disease.
What Causes Lafora Disease?
Lafora Disease (LD) is a late onset disease which generally develops after a dog is about 5 years old, although the average diagnosed age is 7.
As we mentioned above, Wirehaired Dachshunds, Beagles and Basset Hounds are most like to inherit this disease, but it can affect any breed.
Lafora Disease is genetic, and both of your Dachshund’s parents must have had the gene (even if they never displayed any symptoms) or the disease in order it to be passed down.
Both of your Dachshund’s parents must have the gene for it to be passed down. It’s not always obvious that the parents have it though.
This is called autosomal recessive inheritance.
Ultimately, LD is caused by a mutation of the EPM2B (NHLRC1) gene.
Up to 20% of Wirehaired Dachshunds are said to have Lafora Disease, with it being much less common among long haired and smooth coat standard and miniature Dachshunds.
LD is not in any way gender specific.
Signs and Symptoms of Lafora Disease
Symptoms of Lafora Disease (LD) are often induced by flashing lights (which can be as simple as the TV), sudden noises and quick movement, especially if they occur close to your Dachshund’s head.
It can be difficult to diagnose LD but a classic sign is head jerking or shaking.
You may notice the following clinical signs if your pup does suffer from LD:
- Shaking, jerking or shuddering of your dog’s head (can even disrupt sleep)
- Anxious behaviors such as high-pitched vocalizations due to panicking
- Loss of balance (ataxia)
- Hallucinations (much like humans who suffer from Lafora Disease)
The most obvious sign to look for, of course, is the shaking or jerking of your Dachshund’s head.
There aren’t many other unique symptoms of this disease, making it potentially difficult to properly diagnose.
Be sure to keep a thorough record of potential episodes and seizures so you can present it to your veterinarian upon examination.
Lafora Disease Treatment
There is not one standard treatment for Lafora Disease, but there are several steps you can take to reduce the severity of your Dachshund’s symptoms.
It may take several different treatments to control your Dachshund’s Lafora Disease symptoms.
- Consider changing your Dachshund’s diet to a food with a low glycemic index. This can make a substantial difference for dogs who suffer from seizures. It’s also best to keep sugary or starchy treats to a minimum, as they’ve been known to exacerbate symptoms of LD.
- Various epilepsy medications can potentially help. Common medications for Lafora Disease include phenobarbital, potassium bromide or levetiracetam (aka Keppra), which is best for controlling seizures.
- Minimize sun exposure because, unfortunately, the sun can cause influence LD episodes. If your Dachshund enjoys spending time outside, purchasing canine goggles (Like RexSpecs) may be helpful. You can use them while going on walks and for more strenuous adventures. Lifestyle changes in general may be necessary if you find that sun exposure is consistently affecting your Doxie.
- Be mindful of bright and flashing lights around your Dachshund. Don’t use any unnecessary fixtures in your home, such as strobe lights. If you are watching an intense movie with unpredictable light scenes, you may want to secure your dog in a place where they won’t be affected by the lights emanating from the television.
Is there a Lafora Disease Cure?
There is not a cure for Lafora Disease. It’s a genetic disease which comes on suddenly, and slowly progresses as your dog ages.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease.
You can control your dog’s circumstances and make lifestyle changes to help reduce symptoms, but there is no ultimate cure.
Unfortunately once your Dachshund shows those first signs and symptoms of having LD, it will be a lifelong battle.
Although Lafora Disease is not fatal, it can be debilitating once the disease has progressed.
Balancing exercise and proper diet while managing triggers will be extremely helpful in allowing your Dachshund to be comfortable when attempting to deal with this disease.
LD progression is inevitable, but you can do your best to keep your Dachshund happy and otherwise healthy.
Is There a Genetic Test for Lafora Disease?
Lafora Disease can be identified through specific canine DNA testing.
The Lafora disease test has been available since 2012.
This disease can be detected through DNA tests.
Responsible breeders are now using these canine DNA tests to plan their breeding strategies.
According to Biomed Central, “Canine Lafora disease is caused by a dodecamer repeat expansion mutation in the NHLRC1 gene and a DNA test is available to identify homozygous dogs at risk, carriers and dogs free of the mutation.”
Studies of Wirehaired Dachshunds suggest that DNA tests are critical tools for breeders, as the amount of dogs affected by Lafora Disease can possibly be dramatically decreased.
This is because when responsible breeders know that two Dachshunds harbor the gene or disease, breeding of the two can be avoided.
Years of research validate that DNA testing can be a valuable tool in Wirehaired Dachshund breeding.
A Quick Recap of Lafora Disease
These are the most important things to know about Lafora Disease.
- Lafora Disease (LD) is a progressive myoclonic epilepsy
- The age of onset is generally around 5 years old
- Disease progression includes symptoms such as dementia, blindness and ataxia
- LD is most prevalent in Wirehaired Dachshunds, but it can affect any dog breed
- LD is rare, and not generally fatal in and of itself
- There is no cure for Lafora Disease
Lafora Disease is rare (and becoming rarer) but Wirehaired Dachshund parents should be on the lookout for all of the signs and symptoms we listed above once your pup hits 5-7 years old.
You can talk to your veterinarian about Lafora-specific canine DNA testing to determine whether or not you Dachshund has the NHLRC1 gene mutation.
In the meantime, you can make diet and lifestyle adjustments to potentially reduce stressful symptoms that your Dachshund is suffering from.
If they battle regular seizures, we suggest asking your veterinarian about an appropriate epilepsy medication.
Remember to make your Dachshund comfortable, and give them plenty of love and attention, especially as the disease progresses.
About the Author: Through her 17 years of owning and caring for Dachshunds, and almost 10 years researching and writing about them, JW has become a respected expert in the Dachshund community. Read more about her here.