This disease, which mirrors that of human gangliosidosis, results from a enzyme deficiency that causes accumulation of various carbohydrates (ganglioside) within the CNS, peripheral nerves and liver.
It is caused by structural defects of the beta-galactosidase gene, resulting in severe phenotypical impairment in homozygous individuals, while most heterozygous carriers are clinically asymptomatic carriers. Accumulation of ganglioside in neurones results in neuronal apoptosis, inflamamtion and abnormal axonal transport.
Two variants are recognized in dogs:
- Gangliosidosis 1 - deficiency of β-galactosidase - Portuguese Water Dog, Alaskan Malamute, Shiba dogs
- Gangliosidosis 2 (Sandhoff-like disease) - deficiency of acid β-hexosaminidase - Toy Poodle, Golden Retriever
Clinical signs become apparent from 5 - 6 months of age and include ataxia, muscle tremors, dysphagia, dysbasia (stiff-stilted gait), reduced postural reflexes, megaesophagus, corneal opacity (swelling and dysfunction of keratocytes), blindness and salivary gland cysts. Symptoms progressively worsen by 12 - 18 months, with abasia, collapse and respiratory distress, often requiring euthanasia due to poor quality of life parameters.
Diagnosis cannot be performed on clinical symptoms alone and requires CSF analysis (determined using thin-layer chromatography (TLC)–enzyme immunostaining), which often shows elevated levels (up to 40 times higher than normal) of GM1 (monosialotetrahexosyl ganglioside) due to leakage into the CSF from the central nervous system.
Neonatal screening can also be performed on amniotic tissue samples using specialist referral centers.
There is no known treatment for this disease and dogs gradually deteriorate and require euthanasia when quality of life is poor.
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