November 3, 2018

Structural and Biochemical Changes in a Spinal Myelinopathy in Twelve English Foxhounds and Two Harriers

By Chasse_a_courre.jpg: Luna04 at fr.wikipediaderivative work: Anka Friedrich (talk) - Chasse_a_courre.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0,

In the early 90’s, there were reports of gradual loss of control of limbs in canines who were fed ruminant stomachs (mammals that acquire nutrients by fermenting plant-based food in a separate stomach before digestion.) English Foxhounds, along with Harriers and Beagles, were reported as often losing control of their hindquarters and exaggerating retraction of rear legs.


Similar reports came from two packs of English Foxhounds and one pack of Harriers in Ireland. Post-mortem it was confirmed the Foxhounds in Ireland had no blood relation to the ones reported in America, and they had also been fed ruminant stomachs.

Thus, a study was performed in 1991 which studied twelve English Foxhounds, along with two Harriers who had degenerative lesions in their spine. Initial analysis found the canines showed signs of a spinal myelinopathy (disease or degradation of myelin) similar to one found in humans, caused by a vitamin B deficiency.

In the study, nervous tissue was taken from affected dogs immediately after euthanization and was analyzed for the cause of the myelinopathy. The examination of the tissue showed a clear association between feeding the dogs ruminant stomachs and the degenerative lesions in their spinal cords. While the lesions varied in severity, they all shared similar structures.

This finding alone, however, does not prove a direct link between feeding dogs ruminant stomach and degenerative lesions in their spines. The nervous tissue was then examined for Neuronal Chromatolysis (dissolution of protein-creating Nissl Bodies in each nerve cell), characteristic of a “dying back” axonopathy. This examination showed an absence of this condition, thus linking the spinal myelinopathy observed in the twelve Foxhounds and two Harriers.

Despite this finding, however, more research is needed to determine the cause of the disease. However, since the removal of ruminant stomachs from the diet of English Foxhounds, among other breeds, no other cases of spinal myelinopathy have been reported.

Sheahan, B., Caffrey, J., & Gunn, M. (n.d.). Structural and Biochemical Changes in a Spinal Myelinopathy in Twelve English Foxhounds and Two Harriers. Retrieved from

Review by Calvin Isley | Nov 2 2018