Degenerative Myelopathy or DM, often a disease in which most people are completely unaware of. That is, until their dog happens to be diagnosed with this dreadful disease. If your dog has been diagnosed with the disease there is HOPE! Only a few dozen dog breeds in the world (see list below) have been found to carry the genetic history of the degenerative myelopathy, and I cannot stress this enough – how vital it is that you do not overlook or ignore the symptoms. It’s important to exclude known causes of spinal cord dysfunction before accepting the diagnosis of degenerative myelopathy. Often misdiagnosed, the symptoms of the disease may resemble other spinal diseases such as: disc disease (protrusions) or spinal cord tumor. Both can cause compression of the spinal cord and show similar signs to degenerative myelopathy.
Keep a watchful eye on your dog if you notice any of the following symptoms for an extended period of time:
- Hindquarter weakness and rear limb ataxia (the rear feet turning inwards).
- Loss of balance with difficulty rising or laying down.
- Knuckling under while walking (seems like the dog is tripping sometimes).
- Limp tail, rear leg dragging, or crossing under the dogs body.
- Wearing of rear nails before others which eventually leads to nail scraping.
What is Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)?
DM has an insidious onset typically occurring between 5- 7 years of age. Why? No one has really identified the exact cause although researchers have been getting closer and closer to finding the answer to that question. On the other hand, What is known about DM, is that it is a deficiency where the nerves along the spinal cord become inflamed causing what is commonly known as “DM flare-ups.” These flareups which cause extremely painful inflammation are normally associated when the nerves surrounding the spine become deprived of blood and die. Overtime this cycle repeats causing more “flare-ups” as the disease progresses through the animals body. The disease moves from the rear hind quarters up along the spinal cord towards the brain. As a result, the progression of the disease eventually causes complete paralysis and incontinence. However, being able to say with absolute certainty why this occurs is debatable.
Moreover, most researchers do agree that degenerative myelopathy is caused by a unique mutation in the SOD1 gene and only occurs in approximately 40 different dog breeds. Did you know that DM is closely related to a well known disease in humans? Well it is, the same gene mutation is also associated with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or more commonly known as Lou Gehrig disease, in people.
Canine degenerative myelopathy, unlike Lou Gehrig disease, initially affects the back legs where it causes visible muscle weakness and loss. A lack of coordination and balance in the dog is normally present as well.
DM In Dogs
It’s important to know that DM, because of its initial symptoms such as: decreased activity, trouble getting up and laying down, oration, soreness, etc – is often misdiagnosed as arthritis or more commonly, hip displasia. The misdiagnosis at this stage can be a fatal mistake. If the disease is allowed to progress through the body, the animal will eventually show front limb involvement and extensive muscle atrophy. At this stage, even with proven treatment options, such as Sanus-Biotex, a successful turnaround and outcome is highly unlikely.
Because degenerative myelopathy is a progressive disease I cannot stress the importance of starting treatment as soon as possible. Although their have been a few case studies where dogs suffering from late term degenerative myelopathy were successfully treated with Sanus-Biotex and survived. However, treating degenerative myelopathy should always begin sooner rather then later due to the progressive nature of the disease.
A dog diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy will normally succumb to the disease within a few months but it is very possible to see where the disease seems to be active and other times may seem to be in a dormant stage. However, the outcome is bleak and without specialized treatment the animal will eventually need to be put down as degenerative myelopathy is a chronic and progressive disease, which always results in paralysis.
Unfortunately, to date, there is no 100% cure that has proven to work successfully with all dog breeds. However, much has been learned over the past two years and extensive research by some of the worlds most renowned veterinarians and scientists have yielded incredible breakthroughs in how we go about successfully treating degenerative myelopathy. Regardless, of what others say, degenerative myelopathy can be suppressed and reversed. Especially, if actions are taken and treatment begins shortly after the diagnosis.