VIP (Vizsla Inflammatory Polymyopathy) is an immune mediated/auto immune muscle disease. The body attacks and impairs the function of its own muscle fibres – especially those involved in the swallowing processes ie the tongue, pharynx and oesophagus. Other skeletal muscles can also be involved. Fatigue and lameness are frequently part of the clinical picture. VIP is a serious illness and veterinary attention is always required.

Because VIP results from inappropriate immune system behaviour it is necessary to temporarily “downregulate” these processes. Immuno-suppression is usually required to achieve remission from the clinical signs of the disease.

This protocol involves the administration of steroids (prednisolone) in combination with an Immuno-Suppressant. Usually in the past Azathioprine (Imuran)  – but recently other adjunctive drugs have been used with even better success – particularly Ciclosporin, Leflunomide and Mycophenolate.

Gastro-protectants are vital also – to prevent stomach ulceration.

These drugs start off at very high doses and are gradually and carefully reduced – thereby quietly encouraging the return of “normal” immunological processes. Careful monitoring of the drug doses is vital – especially in regard to kidney and liver function.

Immuno-suppression is not a benign treatment regime – and will not be embarked upon lightly. Typical side effects may include further muscle wasting, depression, thirst, peeing, increased hunger and decreased resistance to opportunistic infection (particularly of the skin) However these unwanted side effects usually disappear quite quickly in line with the tapering protocols. We know of many vizslas that have tolerated the treatment very well indeed – and have gone on to full and long term remission from the clinical signs of the disease. Sometimes though a low but lifelong “maintenance” dose of steroids is required to prevent a recurrence of illness.

In terms of management of swallowing problems owners report that feeding little and often is helpful. The consistency of food is important and walnut sized balls of “pate like” consistency seem to work best. In cases where the vizsla finds it difficult to eat from a bowl because of impaired tongue function then spoon-feeding can be helpful. View the technique.

Please make contact if advice/help is needed – no two cases are the same but we have a wealth of owner experience to draw on. We also advise joining a forum called CIMDA – Canine Immune Mediated Disease Awareness. Here is the link