Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs: Symptoms and Diagnosis

What is It?

Degenerative myelopathy (DM) or chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy (CDRM) is a disease that affects the spinal cord causing progressive weakness and loss of coordination.

What Causes It?

DM attacks the white matter in the spinal cord. Without the white matter, nerves cannot send messages to the muscles.

DM is a hereditary mutation to the gene superoxide dismutase 1. This is the same gene mutation that causes Lou Gehrig’s in humans.

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What Are The Symptoms?

Early: Stiff hind legs, loss of balance, loss of coordination 
Advanced: Trouble swallowing, loss of bowel and bladder control, weak front legs

Is it Life Threatening?

Yes. Within the first year of symptoms most dogs cannot walk. Even with the available therapies this is a progressive degenerative disease that will ultimately end in death.

Are You Covered When Your Pup Gets Sick?

How is It Diagnosed?

There is no definite diagnosis while your dog is alive. A diagnosis will be given based on the breed of your dog and a myriad of tests including DNA testing for the presence of the mutated gene, blood tests, x-ray, spinal fluid testing, CT scan and MRI.

What Are The Treatments?

There is no cure. There is therapy that can help delay the onset of further symptoms. Swimming as therapy is one of the best advantages you can give your dog with DM.

Some veterinarians recommend a vitamin supplement to boost you dog’s immune system.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pup’s condition, please make an appointment with your veterinarian. Or, consult a virtual vet here.