There are many health conditions that can affect the animals we love. Some are relatively benign, but others require special planning and attention to be able to manage them. Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is one challenging example as it slowly but surely progresses in affected dogs. Thankfully, genetic testing can help us know what our pets may have in store as they age, allowing us to be prepared to handle anything that comes — including DM.
What Is Degenerative Myelopathy?
Also known as chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy (CDRM), DM is a disease that affects dogs’ spinal cords, leading to a lack of strength and mobility. Caused by degeneration of the white matter in dogs’ spinal cords, DM causes increasing weakness in their back legs and pelvis as it progresses and can eventually lead to paralysis.
For context, this condition in dogs is similar to some forms of the degenerative condition ALS in humans (also called Lou Gherig’s Disease).
Clinical Signs of Degenerative Myelopathy
If your dog is experiencing mobility issues and you’re not sure what they may be dealing with, there are a number of signs that may indicate the onset of DM. Two common early signs to look out for are swaying or sagging hindquarters, especially when your dog is standing still. Early-onset DM can also make getting up from a lying position hard and make dogs fall over easily from gentle pushes.
To find another symptom of degenerative myelopathy, check out your dog’s back feet. As DM progresses, your dog’s hind feet seem to drag the ground when walking. Their hind paws may also “knuckle,” meaning that they turn under, making your dog walk on their knuckles. Over time, this can cause the fur to rub away from the tops of the feet from the scraping, which is a telltale sign of DM.
X-rays and other spinal imaging techniques can also be used to rule out other problems like hip dysplasia and chronic arthritis, which can look similar to the initial stages of DM.
Treatments for Degenerative Myelopathy
While there is sadly no known cure for degenerative myelopathy yet, there are things that can be done to slow its progression. Treatments that work for arthritis, such as physical therapy, can strengthen muscles in dogs’ rear quarters. This provides relief and prolongs their ability to walk and stand. Taking steps to help your dog remain active and avoid obesity can also make a significant difference. Certain supplements like vitamins C and E have also been shown to slow the progression of DM.
Testing for Degenerative Myelopathy
As with any genetic disease, being prepared is key to avoiding or slowing the onset of degenerative conditions. Genetic testing can let you know what risks your dog will face as they age, giving you a chance to take preventative measures. Some breeders perform these tests as part of their routine, but they don’t always screen for specific conditions like DM. No matter what your concerns are, having your dog tested is absolutely essential to ensuring that you can provide them with the best possible care throughout their lives.
Be Prepared with Orivet
A leader in genetic testing for dogs and cats, Orivet offers a range of genetic services to owners, breeders, and veterinarians, including screening of genetic diseases, coat colors, traits, parentage confirmation, and much more. Whether you’re a first-time pet owner or a seasoned breeder, Orivet’s at-home testing kits provide a surefire way to better understand your dog’s breeding and lifestyle needs.
To learn more and see the full range of available testing kits, head to orivet.com.