Canine Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a progressive and incurable neurological disorder that affects dogs. It’s caused by the deterioration of nerve cells in their spinal cord. Symptoms of DM typically begin to appear when the dog is between one and five years old, although some breeds can be affected earlier or later. Affected dogs can have signs of weakness in their hind legs, loss of coordination, and difficulty walking. As the condition progresses, dogs can become completely paralyzed in their hind legs.
The cause of degenerative myelopathy is not fully understood. It’s most commonly found in older dogs, especially Boxers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Poodles, Pugs and Golden Retrievers. Studies suggest that a genetic mutation might be associated with the disease. This mutation causes an abnormal buildup of certain proteins in their spinal cord, which can lead to nerve cell damage.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for degenerative myelopathy. However, early diagnosis and treatment can help slow the disease’s progression. It’s important for pet owners to be aware of the signs and symptoms of DM, so that they can get medical attention as soon as possible if their dog starts having symptoms.
Symptoms of Canine Degenerative Myelopathy
Symptoms of DM include:
- Difficulty walking
- Hind legs weakness
- Loss of coordination – Muscle wasting
- Loss of sensation in their hind legs
- Incontinence / Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Stages of Canine Degenerative Myelopathy
The disease typically begins with an initial period of stiffness and difficulty walking, followed by a gradual decline in their mobility. As the disease progresses, dogs can have muscle wasting, sensation loss in their hind legs, and eventually paralysis.
Diagnosing Canine Degenerative Myelopathy
Diagnosing DM is made through a combination of physical examination, laboratory tests, and imaging studies such as an MRI or CT scans.
Treating Canine Degenerative Myelopathy
Treatment usually consists of supportive care, such as the use of harnesses and wheelchairs to help dogs stay mobile. Physical therapy can also be beneficial for some dogs. In some cases, medication can be prescribed to reduce inflammation and pain.
Degenerative Myelopathy DM is a progressive disease, meaning that it will continue to worsen over time. Unfortunately, there is no cure for DM, but with proper care and management, dogs can still lead happy and active lives. There are several organizations dedicated to helping dog owners manage their dog’s DM condition. GuideStar seems to be the biggest of them with a lot of resources that can be extremely helpful for more information.
Preventing Canine Degenerative Myelopathy
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent DM because it’s caused by a genetic mutation. Responsible breeding practices can help reduce the incidence of this disorder.