Degenerative myelopathy is a disease that affects the spinal cord in canines. The progressive disease, simply put, involves the deterioration of fibers not only within the spinal cord, but also within the nerves and brain. Degenerative myelopathy in dogs, also called chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy, is thought to be a hereditary illness.
The root cause of the anti-inflammatory disease is uncertain, but it's believed to be associated with a genetic mutation in canines. It's often linked to genetic causes because of its breed predispositions. Various types of purebred dogs seem to experience degenerative myelopathy with much more frequency. It's especially prevalent in Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh corgis, German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, Belgian sheepdogs, boxers, Old English sheepdogs and Rhodesian ridgebacks. Despite this, it occasionally appears not only in other purebreds, but in canines of blended heritage, too. Most dogs who have the disease are older, although it sometimes occurs in younger individuals, too. It appears equally in members of both genders.
Be on the lookout for key symptoms of the disease. Some beginning signs of the condition are faltering, problems getting up, scraping of the back feet and the quivering of the back legs. A prominent early indication of this condition is the gradual feebleness of the back limbs.
Since degenerative myelopathy is a progressive ailment, its symptoms change and grow with time. Later indications of this condition are problems holding in waste, constipation, nervousness, feebleness of the front limbs, messy physical appearance and depression. Degenerative myelopathy eventually leads to the loss of both standing and walking capabilities in dogs. Once the disease gets to a late point, dogs have zero control over their back limbs. It does not bring upon pain, however.
Veterinary attention is necessary in dogs upon the first sign of degenerative myelopathy. Veterinarians often focus on stopping the disease from worsening in severity, as no actual cure exists as of yet. The management goal generally is to help dogs continue living happy and comfortable lives for as long as possible. Some dogs with this condition use wheelchairs -- or doggie mobility carts -- to get around easily. Others use slings or supportive braces, for example. Veterinarians sometimes suggest physical therapy exercises that focus on the back legs. If your pooch has degenerative myelopathy, a veterinarian can determine the most appropriate management methods for your pet.
By Naomi Millburn
Delaware Valley Academy of Veterinary Medicine: Canine Degenerative Myelopathy
PubMed: Canine Degenerative Myelopathy
Lap of Love: Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs
American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation: Mapping of Additional Genes Associated with Canine Degenerative Myelopathy
InTown Veterinary Group: Symptoms of Degenerative Myelopathy
Michigan Veterinary Specialists: Degenerative Myelopathy
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.