Dog Degenerative Myelopathy Treatment

Dog Degenerative Myelopathy Treatment

Dogs are loyal creatures. Every dog lover wishes to see his/her dog enjoying good health. Several health-related conditions affect the overall well-being and performance of the dog. Many dog lovers ask questions about degenerative myelopathy in dogs, for instance.

  • What is degenerative myelopathy?
  • What are the important causes and signs of DM?
  •  How can I deal with degenerative myelopathy in my dog?

In this blog, we will discuss dog degenerative myelopathy treatment and all associated facts and figures in light of scientific literature and general field experience.

What is Dog Degenerative Myelopathy? 

Canine degenerative myelopathy also called (CD RM) is a progressive degenerative condition of the spinal cord in dogs. It badly affects the overall performance of your beloved canine buddy. This condition progress slowly and ultimately leads to hind limb weakness and paralysis in dogs. Remember, canine degenerative myelopathy usually occurs in older dogs (approximately, 8-14 years of age).

CDRM= Chronic Degenerative Rediculomyelopathy

The Causes of Degenerative Myelopathy

There are many causes of canine degenerative myelopathy. Here, we have summarized some key causes of this devastating condition.

  • Genetic predisposition- According to scientific literature, a genetic mutation in the gene that codes for superoxide dismutase enzyme (This particular enzyme plays an important role in destroying the harmful free radicals in the body). Lack of this enzyme leads to progressive canine degenerative myelopathy in dogs.
  • Degeneration of white matter of the spinal cord- This is the main reason for degenerative canine myelopathy. White matter contains various nerve fibers along with lipids. Due to the degeneration of this area, the communication between the spinal cord and limbs breaks away.

Signs and Symptoms of Dog Myelopathy

Signs and symptoms of canine degenerative myelopathy can confuse the owner, as many diseases can be easily considered as CDM, For instance, spinal cord tumors, injuries, and disc problems. Here we have summarized a few key signs of canine degenerative myelopathy.

  • Difficulty in standing up
  • Knuckling of hind paws. Usually, a dog walks on its knuckles.
  • Swaying of dog’s hindquarters
  • The top surface of the hind feet seems to be hairless and irritated

In the last stage, the dog becomes ataxic and paralyzed due to the excessive degeneration of the spinal cord.

Differential Points

Osteoarthritis- Initial signs and symptoms may confuse with the clinical manifestations of osteoarthritis that usually occurs after hip dysplasia. However, wobbling/stumbling differentiates CDM from osteoarthritis.

Keep the following conditions in consideration while diagnosing the CDM:

  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Lumbosacral stenosis
  • Fibro cartilaginous embolism
  • Discospondylitis
  • Other spinal cord tumors and injuries

Diagnosing Canine Myelopathy

Diagnosis of this degenerative condition becomes challenging due to its similarity with several other conditions. However, the following important things facilitate the veterinarian in diagnosing CDM:

  • Based on breed history
  • Detailed physical examination- Clinical signs and symptoms
  • Spinal cord imaging techniques
  • X-rays
  • The spinal cord evoked potential testing
  • Tissue biopsy
  • Cerebrospinal fluid analysis
  • Histopathological techniques for the confirmed diagnosis
  • DNA testing- to evaluate the breeds at risk

 Note: Cerebrospinal cord sampling requires highly trained and professional experts.

Dog Degenerative Myelopathy Treatment

There is no particular treatment to cure this condition in your dog. But many support strategies can improve the overall quality of your dog’s life. Physiotherapy gives the best outcomes in this regard. Over and above, get a proper diet and exercise plan from a registered and well-experienced pet expert. Try to keep your dog physically active. However, your vet can prescribe you vitamin (B, E, and C) supplements along with prednisone and other drugs.

Note: Don’t use any drug without consulting a registered veterinary practitioner.


Canine degenerative myelopathy is a slowly progressing degenerative disease of the spinal cord of dogs. Initially, it causes mild symptoms which may confuse osteoarthritis but in advanced stages, it may lead to paralysis of the hind limb. There is no specific treatment for this disease but physiotherapy helps the dogs deal with this situation. Consult your veterinarian for further guidelines in this regard.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions that we commonly come across: 


 Not at all, the dog experiences any pain in this condition. On the other hand, Osteoarthritis, and arthritis cause painful sensations in your dog.


 Usually, this condition is associated with German Shepherds but there are so many other breeds that are at higher risk of developing canine degenerative myelopathy. For instance, Miniature Poodles, Golden Retrievers, Standard poodles, Pugs, Boxers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, and Kerry Blue Terriers.


 There are only a few cases that have been reported in young dogs. Usually, this condition occurs in older dogs (8-14 years of age).


 Urinary and bowel problems have been observed in the advanced stages of canine degenerative myelopathy. In the initial stages, there is no effect on the normal functioning of the bladder and bowel.


 Generally, the prognosis of this condition is not so good. This is a devastating, slowly progressing degenerative disease. Only supportive therapies can enhance the quality of your dog’s life.


 Yes, the latest diagnostic imaging techniques including Magnetic resonance imaging also help in the better diagnosis of CDM.


 This is a degenerative disease that first affects the hind limbs and then progresses to the forelimbs.

Read more:

Breed distribution of SOD1 alleles previously associated with canine degenerative myelopathy

Canine degenerative myelopathy: a model of human amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Clinical characteristics of canine fibrocartilaginous embolic myelopathy (FCE): a systematic review of 393 cases (1973-2013)

Genome-wide association analysis reveals a SOD1 mutation in canine degenerative myelopathy that resembles amyotrophic lateral sclerosis | PNAS
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