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Objectives: To perform a histological and immunohistochemical study of epidermal growth factor, transforming growth factor-alpha and their receptor, as well as the apoptotic signal active caspase-3 in the levator ani muscle of dogs with and without perineal hernia.

Methods: Biopsy specimens of the levator ani muscle were obtained from 25 dogs with perineal hernia and 4 non-affected dogs and were processed for Masson and immunohistochemical staining.

Results: The affected dogs exhibited myopathological features, internalised nuclei, destruction and abnormal size of muscle fibres, which were replaced by collagen. The immunohistochemical study revealed active caspase-3, epidermal growth factor, transforming growth factor-alpha and epidermal growth factor receptor in the levator ani. Compared to the healthy muscle, transforming growth factor-alpha staining intensity was lower in the affected muscle, whereas epidermal growth factor receptor and active caspase-3 staining were higher.

Clinical Significance: Pelvic diaphragm muscle weakening is the leading cause of perineal hernia in the dog. Survival and death signals expressed in these muscles may contribute to the pathogenesis of this disease. This study reports epidermal growth factor, transforming growth factor-alpha and epidermal growth factor receptor immunohistochemical expression in the skeletal muscle and suggests that perineal hernia in the dog is accompanied by levator ani muscle atrophy, increased expression of epidermal growth factor receptor, caspase-3 activation, and decreased expression of transforming growth factor-alpha.