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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 49439
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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We are about to give a home to a rescued street dog who has

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We are about to give a home to a rescued street dog who has a permanent twitch in one of his back legs. The vet who rescued him thinks he may have had distemper in the past which has left him with neurological damage. My question is this - is there anything that can lessen this twitch as it cannot be pleasant for him? I have seen articles on gold bead treatment,(acupuncture) and NDV spinal tap (which I think would be too late for him).
Aloha! You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin
I'm sorry to hear of this with Karabish. You've described the myoclonus - single or multiple shock-like contractions of a muscle group which may occur singly or repetitively, regularly or irregularly, and doesn't stop during sleep - pathognomonic (particularly indicative) of the neurologic form of distemper.

Myoclonus causes significant suffering in our dogs and euthanasia is usually recommended because myoclonus doesn't respond satisfactorily to anticonvulsive drugs. There's no peer reviewed literature suggesting the effectiveness of acupuncture when addressing myoclonus. The best I can say is that having a few treatments won't be harmful.

Similarly, NDV has no peer reviewed literature to back up its claims and so this evidence-based veterinarian can't in good faith recommended your looking into this - particularly at this late stage of the disease. Information from sites such as this: is entirely anecdotal - the antithesis of good scientific research.

If I were to proceed with therapy, I would consider phenobarbital in an attempt to at lease ameliorate the severity of Karabish's myoclonus with the understanding that cure is unlikely. We do see some dogs go into remission, however, of indeterminate duration.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Thank you for that information. Could you tell me if the dog is likely to still have distemper? Does the virus disappear after time? Is the dog likely to get any worse?

You're quite welcome. Yes, if I were to PCR (a DNA-based) test Karabish I would expect to find the virus in either whole blood, serum or cerebrospinal fluid. It's possible but unlikely that he would be able to clear the virus in time. Because the only predictable thing about canine distemper is its unpredictability, I can't know if he will worsen. Some dogs remain as you see, some go into remission for an indeterminate time, some will progress into generalized seizures (previously called grand mal).

Please continue our conversation if you wish.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

I am so sad that this has happened to him. Is there no treatment available that would get rid of the virus? I presume inoculation would be useless.

I'm afraid not. We don't have effective antiviral drugs for dogs. We still rely on vaccination to prevent contracting this virus but once contracted we're left with treating symptomatically and supportively. You're correct, vaccination at this time is of no value.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

As it is likely that the virus is still present in his system, does it mean that he can pass the virus on other dogs even if they are vaccinated?


A last question which is important to us - can he have a relatively happy life if he is lucky enough not to get any worse or do you think he is already suffering too much pain? Difficult for you to judge, I know. We would very much like to give him a chance of a happy life but we need to be realistic about the situation and also sensitive to his need for a pain-free life.


Vaccinated dogs should be immune. If his myoclonus interrupts his sleep and/or causes his becoming anxious because he can't do "dog things" or his muscular that's affected cramps and becomes painful, he'll become a very unhappy dog. I'll need you to evaluate his quality of life.
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Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Thank you so much for your information and advice. We now know what we are taking on and what signs to look out for.

Best wishes, Kim


Excellent service.

Thank you for your kind accept. I appreciate it.

I'm going to check back with you in a few weeks for an update. Feel free to return to our conversation - even after rating - prior to my contacting you if you wish.

Please disregard the info request.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Glad to report that Otto, who we now call our rescue dog, appears to be pretty fit and healthy now - with lots of energy. He is learning to trust us, is affectionate and acts like a happy dog. His teeth are not in a good state though which I understand can be as a result of having distemper. His nervous tic is still there but it is not nearly so obvious as it was and does not seem to cause him any distress.


On your recommendation, the Turkish vet had a blood test for the presence of distemper before he flew to the UK and we were told it was clear. So hopefully, he will not get any worse.

Thank you for your past advice - much appreciated.

Kind regards, Kim


Thank you for the good update! I appreciate your keeping me in the loop.

Please disregard the info request.