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How Common Is Dm In German Shepherds

What About The Dm Test

Degenerative Myelopathy progression update. Nov014

A genetic test is available for a gene associated with the development of DM in some dogs. This gene, SOD1, is mutated in some dogs with DM and it is also mutated in one form of ALS in people. It is important to know that this is not a test for DM, only for a gene mutation which has been associated with DM. There are dogs who test at risk, meaning they have 2 copies of the mutation, who never develop DM, and there are dogs who test clear, meaning they do not carry the mutation, who do indeed go on to develop DM. If DM testing is done in a patient, the results must be used as part of the entire clinical picture of a patient , not on their own.

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Number Of Animals Affected

Degenerative myelopathy was first identified in GSDs. The commonest cause of progressive hindlimb dysfunction in older, large-breed dogs , it was originally thought to only affect GSDs, this is now known not to be the case. Wahl et al consider it a major genetic disease afflicting GSDs.

The exact percentage of GSDs to be affected is currently unknown although researchers at Missouri University suggest that a relatively high proportion of individuals from the following breeds: GSD, Boxer, Pembroke corgi, Chesapeake Bay retriever and Rhodesian ridgeback have the predisposing mutated gene and that many of these genetically-affected individuals will go on to manifest the disease. , In one study 2% of all GSDs presented at USA veterinary teaching hospitals were found to be affected . From data on estimates of total dog population in the UK and on the percentage of all micro-chip registered dogs that are German Shepherd Dogs , we estimate that the UK population size of this breed may be around 400,000. If, on the basis of the above, we estimate prevalence at 2%, then the number of affected animals in the UK may be about 8000.

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Degenerative Myelopathy In Dogs

Degenerative Myelopathy in dogs is a disease that most pet lovers have never heard of.

Most German Shepherd owners fear hip dysplasia in their German shepherd and are unaware that this breed is also one of the top breeds known to develop Canine Degenerative Myelopathy. DM is progressive and, to date, has no cure.

Degenerative Myelopathy is a degenerative neurologic disease that was recognized in 1973. Since then, steps have been taken to understand the disease better.

DM in dogs is caused by an autoimmune disease that attacks a dogs nervous system.

It leads to increasing neural tissue damage that culminates in the dogs paralysis and eventual death.

Degenerative Myelopathy is a progressive degeneration affecting the white matter of the spinal cord that starts in the rear and works its way forward.

The disease starts out slowly and gets worse over time.

The first signs of DM are usually very subtle a slight drag of one rear foot, the back toenails becoming worn down, or random spurts of instability in the hindquarters.

Degenerative Myelopathy may start in both rear legs simultaneously or may begin in one and gradually move to the other one.

As Degenerative Myelopathy progresses, so does the loss of muscle control and coordination in the hind legs.

A dog will begin to lose feeling and control over their back legs, causing them to stumble or trip.

They will eventually struggle to get up and move around until complete paralysis in the hindquarters sets in.

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What Are The Long

Unfortunately degenerative myelopathy progresses to paralysis i.e. an inability for your dog to walk and support their own bodyweight. The progression of the disease results in further weakness, muscle atrophy and finally faecal and urinary incontinence. The disease may progress up the length of the spinal cord to eventually affect the forelimbs.

What Is Dm In German Shepherds

Degenerative myelopathy (DM)

What is degenerative myelopathy? Degenerative myelopathy , also known as chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy , is a disease affecting the spinal cord, resulting in slowly progressive hind limb weakness and paralysis. The symptoms result from degeneration of the white matter of the spinal cord.

What diseases do German Shepherds have? As a German Shepherd owner, you may have heard about a devastating disease called Degenerative Myelopathy. Often thought of as the canine equivalent of Multiple Sclerosis, this progressive neurological disease affects the spinal cord and ravages muscle coordination, starting in the hind legs and eventually affecting the front legs, as well.

What is degenerative myelopathy in German Shepherds? Degenerative Myelopathy in German Shepherd Dogs GSDs are susceptible to diseases or genetic defects. One of the disorders they inherit is Degenerative Myelopathy. Keep reading to find out more about this fatal disease, what causes it, and what treatments are available.

How many German Shepherds are affected by DM? Worldwide between 1 to 3% of German Shepherds are affected. In the USA alone however its more like 8.8%! Because each year between 14,000 to 42,000 GSDs are diagnosed with DM which effectively means that in the USA the proportion of affected GSDs is much higher.

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Histopathology Immunohistopathology And Electrodiagnostic Testing

Standard procedures were used for histopathology, immunohistopathology, and electrodiagnostic testing as detained in SI Methods. Samples used for SOD1 immunohistochemistry were coded, and micrographs of spinal cord motor neurons were obtained in a masked manner. A second masked evaluator classified the neurons in the micrographs according to the presence and appearance of SOD1-positive inclusions based on the following categories: well-defined dark staining clumps, well-defined light staining clumps, poorly defined light staining regions, and no staining or diffuse light staining similar to the background staining 6 to 9 sections from each cord were examined.

What Is The Prognosis Of Dm

Sadly the prognosis for DM is generally considered variable. The condition will most likely progress with time, despite treatment efforts. Large breed dogs with this diagnosis may lose the ability to walk less than a year after the diagnosis is made, although some dogs retain good function for longer. Smaller breed dogs have been reported to progress very slowly and may be easier to care for.

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Correcting My German Shepherds Ears

Many German Shepherd owners jump the gun and start thinking about correcting their dogs ears while they are only three or four months old. Please note, theres no need to correct your puppys ears in any way until he has finished teething.

Depending on a dog, the teething can last 16 to 20 weeks, and by that time the cartilage in the ear will become strong enough to hold an erect ear.

You should get interested in your German Shepherds ears if five months have passed and they havent perked up yet. This could be a sign that your pup is lacking some essential nutrients and isnt developing properly.

So before you opt to correct your German Shepherds ears, take him to the vet for a full check-up. And if everything turns out fine, your pup has most likely inherited the floppy ears from one or both of his parents.

In this case, you should ask yourself whether a correction is really necessary and whats in it for your dog. On the other hand, if you find your German Shepherds floppy ears funny and cute, you dont have to stress if they are going to perk up at all.

But if you decide to correct your pups ears, do it after he has finished teething and do it right. Its unnecessary and cruel to put your dog through pain and discomfort just for the sake of beauty.

What Causes Degenerative Myelopathy In Dogs

German Shepherd with degenerative myelopathy (DM) in a dog wheelchair

Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive disease of the spinal cord in older dogs.

The disease has an insidious onset typically between 8 and 14 years of age.

It begins with a loss of coordination in the hind limbs.

The clinical course can range from 6 months to 1 year before dogs become paraplegic.

The breeds most commonly affected include the German Shepherd, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Boxer, Borzoi, Rhodesian Ridgeback, American Eskimo Dog, Bernese Mountain Dog, Golden Retriever, Great Pyrenees, Kerry Blue Terrier, Poodle, Pug, Shetland Sheepdog, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Wire Fox Terrier,

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What Is The Treatment For The Disease

Unfortunately, there is no cure for degenerative myelopathy, but there is treatment. Intensive physical rehabilitation and selected assistive equipment can extend a dogs survival time by up to three years, versus six months to a year for dogs who do not receive therapy. A study conducted in Europe confirmed this to be accurate when the researchers determined that dogs who received intensive physical rehabilitation survived longer than dogs who received moderate or no therapy.

A typical physical therapy program might involve walking, weight shifting, stretching, strengthening and balance exercises, and underwater treadmill exercise. The most important thing to remember when adding physical activity to your dogs care routine is that a fine balance exists between not doing enough and doing too much. Overdoing it can worsen the dogs disease and is more damaging than doing too little.

As mentioned, DM is generally not a painful disease, although dogs can have some pain related to muscle compensation and weight shifting. Ways to manage pain include massage, acupuncture, cold laser, chiropractic adjustments, nutraceuticals and prescription medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , if your veterinarian feels this is indicated.

Explanation Of Dna Test Results


This dog is homozygous N/N for the mutation that is the most common cause of Degenerative Myelopathy, with two normal copies of the gene. Among the hundreds of dogs studied so far at the University of Missouri, only two dogs with test results of N/N have been confirmed to have DM. The N/N dog can only transmit the normal counterpart of the common mutation to its offspring, and it is unlikely that this dog or its offspring will ever develop DM.


This dog is heterozygous A/N, with one mutated copy of the gene and one normal copy of the gene, and is classified as a carrier. Carriers are far less likely to develop DM, but we have confirmed DM in a few carrier dogs. They may be used carefully in breeding programs to keep their good qualities while reducing the risk of DM in future generations.



An Equivocal test result indicates that the test results were inconclusive. This is typically the result of poor sample collection. When the test yields an equivocal result, a second punch will be taken from the FTA card and the test rerun. If the second test is still equivocal, the owner will be contacted and asked to submit a new sample.

Breed Testing

  • American Eskimo Dogs
  • Wire Fox Terrier

Guidelines for Breeding Dogs Who Are Carriers or At-Risk for Degenerative Myelopathy

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How Is It Diagnosed

Degenerative myelopathy can only definitively be diagnosed by identifying classic microscopic changes in the spinal cord on autopsy. DM is strongly suspected in dogs where all other causes for neurologic disease are ruled out.

The diagnosis of DM is made with a combination of history, neurologic examination, radiology, and genetic testing. Dogs will have a history of slowly progressive, non-painful weakness and ataxia coupled with muscle atrophy . X-Rays and MRI are typically done to look for other causes of progressive weakness, including cancer and chronic intervertebral disc disease. Cerebrospinal fluid analysis usually shows an increase in protein. It is not uncommon for dogs with degenerative myelopathy to also have chronic disc disease, and deciding whether the gait abnormality is due to compression from chronic disc disease or potential degenerative myelopathy can be difficult in some dogs.

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Diagnosing Degenerative Myelopathy In Dogs

The initial symptoms of degenerative myelopathy can look like other diseases so a full physical examination and often some diagnostic testing must be performed to rule out other causes of hind limb weakness. A full medical history along with the consideration of the breed and age of the dog will also be taken. Diagnostic tests such as X-rays, CT scans, MRI’s, and cerebrospinal fluid analysis may be performed as well but a biopsy of the spinal cord is the only way to truly diagnose DM. This is not commonly performed though and the diagnosis of DM is typically made after ruling out other potential diseases.

Is Degenerative Myelopathy Neurological

Degenerative myelopathy is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that affects older dogs. It initially results in paralysis of the pelvic limbs but progresses to affect all limbs. Since first described in 1973 by Damon Averill, DVM, DM has stood for a degeneration of the spinal cord due to an unknown cause.

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Dna Testing For Degenerative Myelopathy

DNA testing is available to determine if your dog is at risk of developing or carrying the genetic mutation that causes Degenerative Myelopathy. Testing can determine if your dog is clear of the gene, if they are a carrier for the gene mutation, and if they are considered high risk for developing the condition when theyre older. Breeds at-risk for the condition should be tested prior to breeding to prevent DM from spreading.

Although there is no cure for DM, intervention can extend survival and greatly improve quality of life.

Are White German Shepherds Common

Degenerative Myelopathy in German Shepherds

AKC German Shepherds who happen to be white

German ShepherdGerman Shepherds

10 other answers

Degenerative myelopathy is a fatal, chronic, progressive, degenerative disease of the spinal cord of several breeds of dog, including the German Shepherd dog . There is no treatment for this disease and in time it leads to complete paralysis in all limbs .

DM used to be considered an old dog disease, but it is starting to be common in German Shepherds as young as five to six years old. Managing Degenerative Myelopathy. Degenerative Myelopathy has no cure, and treatment options can be equally frustrating. Western medicines treatment varies.

Definition Canine Degenerative Myelopathy is a progressive degeneration of the spinal cord. It usually affects adult GSDs between 8 to 14 years of age. Some are affected as early as 5 to 6 years of age. Affected GSDs develop a loss of coordination of the hind limbs.

Diabetes Mellitus In German Shepherds. D iabetes Mellitus is a serious condition that may go undetected in German Shepherds during the early stages. Treatment is available for dogs with diabetes, and those which are treated correctly will often live a long, happy life.

Degenerative Myelopathy In The German Shepherd Degenerative Myelopathy in the GSD Degenerative myelopathy was first described as a specific neurologic disease in the early 1970’s. Typically, the dogs age at onset of DM can be anywhere from five to fourteen years of age.

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Is Canine Degenerative Myelopathy Painful

Dogs with degenerative myelopathy are not in any pain. Although DM itself is not a painful condition, as dogs grow weaker they do place additional stress on other parts of their body which can cause pain. As the hind legs weaken, a dog may experience pain in their shoulders, elbows, and front legs as they bear more weight on their front legs to compensate. DM dogs that are showing signs of pain, may be experiencing pain from another health condition such as arthritis.

What Causes Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy is associated with a genetic abnormality in dogs. The most common form is due to a genetic mutation in a gene coding for superoxide dismutase, a protein responsible for destroying free radicals in the body. Free radicals are part of the natural defence mechanism but become harmful when they are produced in excessive quantities causing cell death and a variety of degenerative diseases. The same gene mutation can also cause a form of motor neuron disease in humans.

Genetic testing is available through laboratories and breeding guidelines are available to identify dogs at risk of degenerative myelopathy. Test results identify dogs that are clear i.e. the dog who is extremely unlikely to develop DM those who are carriers and are less likely to develop the disease and those who are at risk of developing DM. It is important to understand this genetic test does NOT confirm degenerative myelopathy. In addition, some dogs that might be destined to develop the disease do not do so in their lifetime and pass away before getting degenerative myelopathy.

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