Degenerative Myelopathy In Dogs
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is a neurodegenerative disease affecting many breeds of dogs.
It impacts the myelin, the white matter of the spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. The place messages are sent from the dog’s brain to the limbs. Eventually, the dog will become paralyzed when transmission of the signals to “move” no longer occurs.
Breeds that are most affected by DM
- German Shephard Dogs
- Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
- Rhodesian Ridgebacks
- Standard Poodles
- Golden Retrievers
Symptoms of Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs
The onset of Degenerative Myelopathy symptoms in dogs is typically seen in adult dogs, anywhere from ages 8 to 14 years old.
- Loss of coordination
- Wobbling when walking and or rear feet, knuckling or dragging
- Mild hind end weakness
- Trouble navigating stairs, walking up steps, squatting to use the bathroom, sitting down, and or getting into the car
- It can first occur in one limb and then move to the other limb
- Limbs become weak; the dog has difficulty standing.
- Weakness progresses until the dog can no longer walk using hind limbs.
- Weakness in the front limb
Diagnosis of Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs
According to the Canine Genetic Disease Network, Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs can only be diagnosed by eliminating other possible causes or diseases. This means a veterinarian will use diagnostic tests such as x-rays, CT scans, MRI, or myelograms to determine his findings. Once all other possible causes are excluded, a diagnosis of DM is confirmed.
- Herniated discs
Treatment of Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs
There is no cure for Degenerative Myelopathy. Treatments used are to keep a dog comfortable and enhance their quality of life. Unfortunately, the prognosis for DM is always death. However, a dog’s life can be extended and more enjoyable through quality treatment options.
Beneficial Therapy & Rehabilitation
A delicate balance of physical rehabilitation can help the progression of DM and the dog’s quality of life.
- Laser Therapy
- Strength & Balance Exercises
- Massage Therapy
Assistive equipment can increase a dog’s mobility. By helping to shift weight, support affected limbs, and help a dog move around quickly; they benefit larger breeds as they are difficult to lift.
Using any of the listed assistance equipment will offer dog independence, improve quality of life, and make it easier to assist the dog safely.
Again, balance is essential because there is a fine line between too much therapy and not enough. The goal is to find that balance and not aid the progression of the disease.
Pain management is often part of the treatment plan. While the disease is not painful, the dog’s more substantial body parts begin to overcompensate for the weak parts, and they can become tired and sore.
A dog diagnosed with Degenerative Myelopathy and treated can expect to live longer, than those not treated. Remember, the goal is to comfort the dog while rehabilitating him to work against a more rapid progression.