Leukoencephalomyelopathy (LEMP)

Rottweiler and Leonberger in trunk

A neurological disorder, termed leukoencephalomyelopathy (LEMP) has described in Rottweiler and Leonberger dogs. LEMP is a recessively inherited neurodegenerative disorder that affects the white matter of the central nervous system (CNS).  Canine LEMP is characterized by slowly worsening gait abnormalities, especially spontaneous knuckling, dragging of the paws and hypermetria of the thoracic limbs, and a characteristic pattern on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Affected dogs show corresponding gross lesions in the cervical spinal cord white matter that may extend to the thoracic spinal cord, as well as to the brain; peripheral nerve and muscle biopsies are unremarkable.  Canine  LEMP often shows  a  juvenile  onset  and is characterized  by  a  generalized  progressive ataxia. Spinal reflexes of affected dogs are mostly normal.  In  the  progressive  clinical  course  of  the  disease,  affected  dogs may become  increasingly  immobile  within  a  few  months.  Like many diseases of the CNS, there is no effective treatment for LEMP. Since in most cases  the  dog  is  not  in  pain, but  is  strongly  restricted  in  its  quality  of  life,  owners  are  encouraged  to  ask a veterinarian for advice.

Research carried out at the University of Minnesota, the University of Bern, and Utrecht University has identified two LEMP mutations within the same gene, one in the Leonberger and the other in Rottweilers.  The Rottweiler mutation has also been observed in Great Danes.

Rottweiler Video

Leonberger Video

Rottweilers & Great Danes

LEMP in Rottweilers is a autosomal recessive central neverous system disease resulting from a 1 basepair insertion within the LEMP gene; cincal signs may develop as early as 1 year of age.  All studied Rottweilers homozygous affected (D/D) for this LEMP mutation have shown clinical signs of disease.  However, not all Rottweilers with suspected LEMP have tested affected for this mutation.  It is possible that these dogs may be suffering from a different form of LEMP or the other neurodegenerative disase described in this breed - Neuroaxonal Dystropy. 

  • Population testing of >200 Rottweilers indicates that the carrier rate of this muation is ~8%.
  • Though no affected Great Danes have yet been observed, population testing of >250 Great Danes indicates that the carrier rate of this mutation is ~8%.


LEMP in Leonbergers is a paritally penetrant autosomal recessive central neverous system disease resulting from an amino acid change within the LEMP gene.  All Leonbergers with confirmed LEMP have tested homozygous affected (D/D) for this mutation; however, not all dog that are homozygous for this mutation may show obvious clincial signs of disease within their lifetime.  Clincal signs may develop as early as 1 year of age.

  • Population testing of >5,000 Leonbergers indicates that the carrier rate of this muation is ~14%.

Scientific References

Oevermann, A., Bley, T., Konar, M., Lang, J. and Vandevelde, M. (2008), A Novel Leukoencephalomyelopathy of Leonberger Dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 22: 467–471. doi:10.1111/j.1939-1676.2008.0068.x

Hirschvogel et al.: Magnetic resonance imaging and genetic investigation of a case of rottweiler leukoencephalomyelopathy. BMC Veterinary Research 2013 9:57. doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-57

Joseph S. Eagleson, Marc Kent, Simon R. Platt, Raquel R. Rech, and Elizabeth W. Howerth (2013) MRI Findings in a Rottweiler with Leukoencephalomyelopathy. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association: July/August 2013, Vol. 49, No. 4, pp. 255-261. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5326/JAAHA-MS-5864