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.
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
- 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
- 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:
IS CANINE DEGENERATIVE DISEASE A PAINFUL CONDITION?
Not at all, the dog experiences any pain in this condition. On the other hand, Osteoarthritis, and arthritis cause painful sensations in your dog.
WHICH DOG BREEDS ARE AT HIGHER RISK OF GETTING CDM?
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.
CAN YOUNG DOGS DEVELOP CANINE DEGENERATIVE MYELOPATHY?
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).
DOES THIS CONDITION IMPACT THE FUNCTIONING OF THE BLADDER AND BOWEL?
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.
WHAT IS THE PROGNOSIS OF CANINE DEGENERATIVE MYELOPATHY?
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.
CAN MRI HELP IN DIAGNOSING CDM?
Yes, the latest diagnostic imaging techniques including Magnetic resonance imaging also help in the better diagnosis of CDM.
CAN CDM AFFECT THE FORELIMBS?
This is a degenerative disease that first affects the hind limbs and then progresses to the forelimbs.