Degenerative Myelopathy in German Shepherds

German Shepherd with Degenerative MyelopathyUnfortuntely, all dog breeds including the mighty German Shepherd are not immune from a simple sickness nor a complex disease. However, most are easily treated and in a relatively short time your dog goes back to being your best friend.

However, just like us, your German Shepherd may be diagnosed with something much more sinister then a simple illness. One of these diseases were going to discuss is called Canine Degenerative Myelopathy or DM. DM is one of those progressive diseases that travels up and down a dogs spinal column and as the disease progresses a dog will lose its ability to function.

The prognosis of Degenerative Myelopathy on German Shepherds is well documented and almost always concludes with the dog not being able to walk due to complete paralysis.

The name Degenerative Myelopathy comes from the dielectric material that forms a coating around the neurons and it is vital for the functioning of the nervous system. With the process of degeneration the dog first has trouble getting up, later it progresses to difficulties in walking and at the end the dog is completely unable to coordinate its moves (especially the hind legs).

Canine Degenerative Myelopathy is usually not visible in younger German Shepherd dogs. The tell-tale signs of DM in German Shepherds normally occur between 5 to 7 years old. It’s important to note that not all dogs experience the same progression of the disease, but typically it takes 6-12 months from onset for DM to fully progress and the dog becomes paralyzed.

The German Shepherd breed is by far the most risky breed when it comes to Degenerative Myelopathy. According to some statistics up to 3% of German Shepherds around the world suffer from this disease at any given moment. That’s around 30.000 German Shepherds in the United States alone!

The definite cause of Degenerative Myelopathy in German Shepherds is not yet determined. However researchers are sure that DNA mutation is one of the main reasons. It is probably because of the specific German Shepherd’s DNA that DM occurs so often in this breed. However, DM is not exclusive to German Shepherds and other breeds such as the English Cocker Spaniel, Kerry blue terrier, Pug, Whippet, Corgi’s, Boxers and =bloodhounds all suffer from DM.

Although DM is not a curable disease it is important to be proactive when you first notice the signs of DM. Sometimes these signs can be mistaken with those of hip dysplasia (an abnormal structure of the hip socket which can eventually lead to arthritis in dogs). That’s why taking a test is a must for all owners who see some of these clues or for German Shepherd owners. Understand that you do not have to wait to see if your dog develops DM. The test can tell if the dog is at risk even before it turns 5 years old.

As we have mentioned before, Degenerative Myelopathy is incurable because the myelin sheath cannot be replaced and the neurons running up and down the spinal column do not have another way to protect themselves. However, for thousands of dogs there was a way to slow down the progression and make your dog feel more comfortable while coping with the disease.

Other treatments include:

  • Gene therapy – Recommended even when the dog is young (if your dog tests positive for DM).
  • Exercising – Physiotherapy is very important because it can extend the life expectancy of the dog.
  • Change of eating habits – Finding a proper and suitable diet for the dog is also important (home-made food is preferred).
  • Supplements – There are some supplements, such as Sanus Biotex that have been provento be very successful in treating Degenerative Myelopathy in German Shepherds.
  • Looking for more info an in-depth reviews of the most promising treatments for Canine Degenerative Myelopathy.

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