Canine Degenerative Myelopathy
What is it?
Canine degenerative myelopathy is an incurable disease that effects the dog’s spinal cord. The dog will get progressively weaker and lose the ability to control their hind legs. Over time, the paralysis creeps up the spine. The cause is a degradation of the myelin sheath which surrounds neurons. The myelin degrades and causes the neurons to lose their functionality.
Can you test for it?
Yes, there is a gene that is associated with this disease. It’s called the SOD1 gene. If there is a specific type of mutation in this gene, then the dog is very likely to develop the disease at some point in their life. If the dog as one copy of the mutated gene, he isn’t likely to develop the disease. But if he has two copies of the gene, the dog is at high risk for develop the disease.
Are certain breeds more likely to be effected?
Yes there are specific breeds that are more prone to this disease. German Shepherds, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, and Boxers are the breeds where this disease is most frequently seen. But the disease has been documented in 43 different breeds.
Is there a treatment?
Not really. This disease is irreversible and progressive. Exercise and physiotherapy may prolong the dog’s ability walk and stay mobile, but eventually the myelin will degrade enough to where the neurons just cannot transmit messages anymore. Once the dog starts to lose control over his hind legs, swimming can be a a great form of exercise and works the muscles without needing the dog to bear weight on his legs. A belly sling can also be used help the dog get up and go up and down stairs. The dog can then transition to a doggie wheelchair in order to remain at least somewhat active.