As much as we want them under our care forever, our dogs’ lives also have an end.
Unfortunately, a condition that progressively debilitates dogs exist, but the cause is unknown.
Although not painful, degenerative myelopathy has no cure as of present. Worse, it could trigger other illnesses that make their condition worse and hastens the progression. That is why there are cases when other diseases occur, it is better to euthanize the dog to lessen its suffering.
In this article, you will enrich your awareness about canine degenerative myelopathy as a way to prepare you in case this strikes your pet.
Specifically, we will address the following:
- What is canine degenerative myelopathy?
- What causes this condition?
- Which dogs are more prone to DM?
- How does DM affect dogs?
- Tests that affected dogs should undergo
- Is treatment available?
- When to euthanize (or not)
If your dog is of a specific giant breed, is old, seems so weak, and loses coordination, there is a slight chance that it suffers from canine degenerative myelopathy.
We outlined the essential information you need to know.
Read on to determine which dogs are prone to DM, the symptoms to watch out for, and the potential remedies.
Canine Degenerative Myelopathy: What is It?
Canine degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a progressive, incurable disease that targets the spinal cords.
It begins in the chest area then its adverse effects on our furry friends get worse over time.
It is also known as chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy (CDRM), and it is almost similar to Lou Gherig’s disease.
What Causes This Condition?
Pet owners should be more responsible and watchful toward their furry pets because conditions like DM have no known significant cause.
It is often difficult to diagnose and distinguish from arthritis in canines or even hip dysplasia.
These are the most common symptoms in dogs of large breeds.
At the moment, no treatment is available yet, and no findings of its origin.
The closest we can wrap our heads around this is that a particular gene confirms DM’s presence in dogs.
Researchers highly suspect that it is the genetic mutation that causes degenerative myelopathy, but there is little evidence that supports the claim.
They run tests in their genes to determine whether they have two copies of the mutated SOD-1 gene, which reportedly triggers this condition.
However, not all dogs with this mutated gene eventually tested positive for the disease.
There may be a correlation, but the medical field gives no assurance that it is the primary cause of canine degenerative myelopathy.
Which Dogs Are More Prone To DM?
The onset of this disease is when dogs are eight and fourteen years of age. It will take six months to a year before the dog becomes paraplegic.
DM is the most common illness found in middle-aged to old dogs, typically ages four to fourteen years.
It is sporadic in young breeds, or even if they get affected, the progression is relatively slower.
The following are the dog breeds that are at risk of DM.
Before they start breeding, they must be examined for the SOD-1 mutated gene’s presence and detect possible early symptoms of degenerative myelopathy.
- Siberian Huskies
- Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
- Golden Retrievers
- Welsh Corgis
- Wirehaired Fox Terriers
- Miniature Poodles
- Kerry Blue Terriers
- Rhodesian Ridgebacks
- Standard Poodles
- German Shepherds
- Bernese Mountain Dog
How Does DM Affect Dogs?
As the disease acclimates within your dog, it slowly kills the spine then follows the deterioration of the spine’s white matter.
The degenerated white matter is the one responsible for the movement of canines.
It disrupts the link between the brain and the limbs.
Watch out for these early signs:
- It walks on its knuckles.
- Experiences bladder problems
- Hindquarters unstable and tend to sway.
- No balance and strength when standing still
- Falls easily
- Bowel movement disturbance
- Hind feet scrape the ground when walking.
- The top part of the feet is irritated and hairless.
- Struggles to get up
At the later stages, however, the symptoms are so substantial and more apparent.
They may seem so weak, but it is not painful at all.
The exception is when they experience other physical problems that complicate their case.
Observe these instances:
- Their hind limbs weaken and lose coordination
- Restricted mobility
- Urinary incontinence
- Fecal incontinence
- Drags its toes of the paw
- and they eventually become paralyzed.
Some variations of this disease include:
- Spinal injuries
- Lumbosacral stenosis
- Spinal tumors
- Myasthenia gravis
- Fibrocartilaginous embolism
Tests That Affected Dogs Should Undergo
The diagnosis of this disease may prove to be a challenge.
- In the first stages, canines have to undergo spinal imaging techniques and x-rays to distinguish between osteoporosis and hip dysplasia.
- Cerebrospinal fluid analysis
- Tissue biopsies
- Neuromuscular tests
- DNA testing to detect SOD-1 mutation
Is Treatment Available?
There is no available medication for this disease.
But you can relieve the pain caused by arthritis and other debilitating conditions.
You can also incorporate these tips into your dog’s lifestyle:
- Rehabilitation and treatment should focus on the dog’s diet and exercise to keep it on its feet.
- Take dietary supplements that have L-carnitine, vitamin E, gamma-linolenic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Lead walks on grass and smooth surfaces first.
- Preserve muscle mass through physical therapy.
When to Euthanize (Or Not)
Dogs in the later stage of DM are fragile. If they seem to be in pain, there has to be another complicating condition.
They can use a paraplegic cart to preserve their mobility even in the short run.
Some specialists deem it necessary for dogs with the worst case to undergo humane euthanasia within six months to three years after diagnosis through their help in animal referral centers.
The veterinarian would determine when necessary, under welfare grounds, to put down the dog based on the stage and degree of illness.
Canine degenerative myelopathy is an incurable and progressive disease that disrupts mobility in dogs.
Although incurable, pet owners let their canines undergo physical therapy, a strict diet, and exercise to prolong life.
Within six months to three years after diagnosis, the specialists recommend humane euthanasia under the canine’s unique instances.