Acral Mutilation Syndrome (AMS) in Dogs

Acral mutilation syndrome (AMS) is a rare known genetic disorder an autosomal recessive inheritance.

AMS happens as a result of abnormal development and slow degeneration of the sensory neurons in the spinal cord and the peripheral nerves. As the disease progresses, the dogs affected start losing sensory feelings in their toes and feet. AMS affects either forelegs or hind legs, sometimes all feet may be affected.

In the initial stages noticeable signs seen are mild to moderate swelling in the toes and feet and discomfort. Progression of the disease will exhibit chronic pain, limping, reluctance to move, constant licking and chewing the feet, abscess which does not heal.

Dog breeds known to be affected by this condition include:
› French Spaniel
› German Short Haired Pointer
› Pointer
› English Springer Spaniel


Acral mutilation syndrome (AMS) is a know genetic disorder which affects dogs. In this very rare disorder, dogs often chew their feet and cause extensive self mutilation and damage. It is also known as Idiopathic Self Mutilation.

Clinical Signs & Symptoms

The first signs shown start right from puppy-hood – between 3 to 5 months. Affected dogs feel no sensation in their toes and legs and this often results in biting and chewing their toes, feet, paw pads and limbs. The hind legs are believed to be severely affected.

Symptoms seen are:
› Lameness
› Abscess
› Inflammation of joints
› Behavioral changes
› Effusion (Swelling)
› Abscess
› Loss of co-ordination
› Hind leg lameness
› Disorientation

Evident signs of ulceration on legs are noticed, however the dog feels no pain and will continue to walk normally without showing any signs of discomfort.


Diagnosis for AMS is made on clinical signs affecting the puppy or the dog. Not all dogs can get affected in a litter.
Veterinarians will require a complete history of your dog which includes medical history, vaccination records, existing health concerns, current and previous medications, onset of symptoms, diet and exercise routine and any information which can help in establishing a correct diagnosis. Diagnosis is done by:

› Physical examination
› Complete Blood Count (CBC)
› Electromyography – this test gives an insight to the absence of normal nerve potentials in a dog
› Necropsy test – This is based on characteristic changes in the nervous system.


Because the disease being so rare and lack of research, science has still not found a treatment for AMS.

› Alternate treatments suggested by veterinarians include
› Bandages to cover the wound
› Sedation for extreme cases
› Elizabethan collar – so that the dog does not chew the wound.

In-spite of these temporary arrangements, prognosis is poor and the condition will worsen.


There is known or proven prevention for AMS.

Home Care

Prognosis is always poor in dogs affected by AMS. You have to administer and monitor all prescribed medicines as directed by your veterinarian. If you observe any behavioral changes or if the condition does not improve, please contact your veterinarian immediately.
› Routine and regular checkups to access the progress, weight checks, further tests may be advised.
› It is mandatory to provide a stress-free environment for your pet. Keep water and food bowls within reach, avoid exercise and physical activity, keep away from noise and any kind of commotion. Do not travel with pets.

AMS will eventually lead to paralysis like symptoms and severe damage of the legs.

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