What Breeds Are Prone To Degenerative Myelopathy
Degenerative myelopathy is a particular concern in Boxers, Pembroke and Cardigan Welsh Corgis, Wire Fox Terriers, Bernese Mountain dogs, Borzoi, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Golden Retriever, Great Pyrenean Mountain dog, Kerry Blue terries, Poodle, Pug, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Shetland
Is There A Genetic Test For Dm
You might be wondering if theres a DNA test for the disease. A DNA test exists, available through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, that can identify dogs who do not have the DM gene, as well as those who are carriers and those who are at much higher risk for developing DM. However, even dogs whose results show that they are at higher risk for developing DM may not develop the disease. In other words, the test does not actually diagnose DM.
Intensity Of Welfare Impact
DM is itself not a painful disease however, affected dogs may be caused distress by being unable to function or behave as normal. Trauma may also occur to nails and the skin of the hind limbs as sensation and loss of function progresses. Once paralysed, these dogs have long-term care needs which many owners find difficult and some dogs will be euthanased because of this. Deciding whether these dogs should be euthanased or if they have enough quality of life to justify being supported with paralysis and possible incontinence is an ethical dilemma some dogs and owners do seem to manage successfully with hindlimb carts which support the rear of the dog, for a period of time.
Ultimately, when earlier euthanasia is declined, DM leads to an inability to carry on any kind of normal life and finally to death.
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Feet Scraping And Knuckling Of Paws
As the disease progresses, symptoms worsen and the hind limbs get weaker. This can cause the feet to scrape on the ground when the dog tries to pick them up to walk, resulting in the loss of hair and an increase in irritation to the skin. Knuckling of the paws may occur, starting with the hind paws. The dog will begin to turn its knuckles under and try to walk on them.
Degenerative Myelopathy In German Shepherds
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. Over a few to several months, it progresses to the point where a dog can no longer walk. While it also appears in other large breeds, Degenerative Myelopathy is most prevalent in German Shepherds, and usually becomes apparent in dogs from 5-14 years old.
Watch for these symptoms
If your German Shepherd displays one or more of these symptoms, consult your veterinarian right away.
- Progressive weakness of the hind limbs
- Dragging nails
- Wearing of the inner toes of the rear paws
- Loss of muscle in the rear legs
- Tremors of the rear legs
Treatment for Degenerative Myelopathy
Hopefully, veterinary science will develop disease-modifying drugs similar to those used to treat Multiple Sclerosis to slow or halt the progression of the disease. In addition, the discovery of a gene that identifies dogs at risk for developing DM could pave the way for therapeutic trials of medications that will prevent the disease from developing. This discovery might also alert breeders about which dogs carry the genes, so they can choose not to breed them.
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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. DM is similar to some of the forms of human amyotrophic lateral sclerosis more commonly known as Lou Gehrigs Disease.
The exact cause of DM is unknown. In its early stages, the symptoms of DM resemble those of osteoarthritis , which often occurs secondary to hip dysplasia in many large breed dogs, making diagnosis challenging.
In later stages of the disease, the progressive weakness and ataxia distinguish it from osteoarthritis of the hip joints. Other considerations for this condition include spinal injuries, spinal tumors, lumbosacral stenosis, fibrocartilaginous embolism, myasthenia gravis, and discospondylitis.
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What Are The Common Signs Of Degenerative Myelopathy
The first signs of degenerative myelopathy generally develop at around eight years of age, although the onset may be later in life in some dogs. Weakness and loss of co-ordination in one or both of the hind limbs is often the initial sign, followed by dragging and scuffing of the digits . Affected dogs have a drunken appearance and will often stumble and fall when turning, especially on slippery surfaces. As the condition gradually progresses over many months, hind limb weakness and loss of co-ordination increase. In some severe cases the fore limbs also become affected and affected dogs can become unable to walk and may develop incontinence. Degenerative myelopathy is not a painful condition and, as a result, affected dogs are generally well and keen to exercise, despite their disability.
A German Shepherd Dog with degenerative myelopathy the hindlimbs are weak and inco-ordinated, and the toes of the right hind paw are being dragged.
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, MRIâs, 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.
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Systemic Lupus Erythematosis :
Systemic Lupus Erythematosis, or SLE, is one of the German Shepherd diseases that involves the dogs own immune system attacking their tissues. Each tissue in the dogs body contains antigens that can stimulate a reaction from the immune system. The reaction produces proteins, or antibodies, that generate an immune response. The result is inflammation along with tissue damage to the dogs blood, heart, joints, kidneys, lungs, nervous system or skin. It normally affects several organs.
Large dogs, like the German Shepherd, have a predisposition to SLE. The name lupus is derived from the Latin word for wolf. This is because some humans develop a rash on the face that is slightly similar to the face of a wolf.
What Is Dm In German Shepherds
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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Prognosis For Dogs With Degenerative Myelopathy
The symptoms of a dog with degenerative myelopathy will quickly worsen after diagnosis. The spinal cord will continue to degenerate, the dog will have trouble standing up from laying down, and mobility will become more difficult as time goes on. Eventually a dog with DM will become incontinent. The final stage of DM is paralysis.
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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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.
Dna Testing For Dm In Dogs
DM is a genetically-inherited disease, so DNA testing can help you know if your dog is at risk. DDC Veterinarys DNA test for Degenerative Myelopathy is available for all dogs, even mixed breeds.
For Pet Owners
If a veterinarian suspects your dog may have the disease, our test can aid them in a differential diagnosis, where they can either identify the disease or rule it out.
The results are also essential to breeders in screening their breeding dogs in order to produce healthy puppies. The DNA test is an accurate, convenient, and affordable tool to help breeders avoid producing at-risk offspring and significantly reduce the gene frequency in future generations
For Puppy Buyers
Potential puppy buyers often see breeders display our test results on their own websites.
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Can A Puppy Have Degenerative Myelopathy
Signs of Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs They usually occur in dogs over eight years of age. Eventually a dog with DM will fall down when trying to walk and develop complete paralysis of the hind limbs. In dogs that are not euthanized, the disease will eventually progress to affect the front limbs as well.
Physical Therapy Laser Therapy Holistic Care And Nutrition
No treatment will cure DM, but several new studies are revealing ways to prolong a dogs life. One clinical trial published in the National Library of Medicine proved that daily physical therapy with a canine rehab specialist, increased a dogs survival rate. A second study released in 2020 showed that Laser Therapy also prolonged the lives of DM patients.
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Why Does My German Shepherd Keep Biting Me
Sadly, some German shepherds are the victims of abusive owners who keep them as attack dogs, train them poorly and encourage dogs to bite any intruders. When these dogs slip their leashes or escape their compounds, they can attack. Although German shepherds should only be trained as guard dogs by experts,
What Are The Symptoms Of The Spinal Cord Disease
In general, DM is not a painful disease. However, having a weak hind end can put stress on other areas of a dogs body such as the neck, shoulders and front limbs and cause pain. DM typically comes on very gradually, so you may not see the very early onset. Initial signs include loss of coordination in the hind limbs, swaying or wobbling when walking, rear feet knuckling over or dragging, and difficulty with walking up steps, squatting to defecate or getting into the car.
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What Are The Clinical Signs
Early clinical signs include:
- The hind paws “knuckle” or turn under so that the dog walks on its knuckles, especially when turning.
- The dog’s hindquarters appear to sway when standing still.
- The dog falls over easily when pushed from the side.
- The hind feet seem to scrape the ground when walking and sometimes the top surface of the feet become hairless and irritated from repeated trauma.
- The dog has difficulty getting up from a lying position.
As the condition progresses and the spinal cord deteriorates, these symptoms worsen, eventually progressing to paralysis of the hind end.
Buying A Healthy German Shepherd Puppy
Responsible breeders will screen both parents before breeding to reduce the risk of hereditary diseases being passed on to the puppies. German Shepherd parents should be:
- Hip scored: an x-ray is taken of the fully grown GSDs hips and sent to specialists to assess for hip dysplasia. Dogs are given a score out of 106. German Shepherds should only be bred if their score is less than average for the breed .
- Elbow scored: As for hip scores,elbow scores are given to adult GSDs after taking an x-ray. Dogs should only be bred if they have a score of 0.
- DNA tested for degenerative myelopathy and hemophilia.
- Eye screened: a specialist ophthalmologist looks for common signs of eye problems and labels dogs as clinically affected or clinically unaffected. Affected dogs shouldnt be used for breeding.
In addition, any puppy should be raised in an environment with lots of social interaction with humans, regularly wormed, and vet checked before purchase. Using the Puppy Contract can help you to find a responsible breeder.
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How Do I Know If My Dog Has Degenerative Myelopathy
If you are concerned that your dog may have canine degenerative myelopathy, the following are a few symptoms which can indicate early stage DM:
- Swaying backend when your pet is walking
- Difficulties rising into a standing position
- Scraping nails when walking
- Stumbling and tripping
Sadly degenerative myelopathy can quickly become severe, leading to the following symptoms:
- Loss of ability to stand on hind legs
- Unable to stand, even when lifted into position
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Gradual loss strength in front end
Good Breeding Practices To Prevent Dm
Because Degenerative myelopathy is an inherited disease, victims can be limited through responsible breeding practices.
If youre planning to add a puppy whos prone to the disease, ask the breeder about the history of DM in the dogs lineage.
Good breeders are proactive and remove a dog from the breeding pool when their DNA test shows theyre in the At-Risk category.
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What About The Dm Test
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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