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Helping your dog with
Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is, very unfortunately, an incurable, progressive disease of the spinal cord slowly resulting in eventual paralysis. Typically diagnosed in middle-aged to older dogs it can be easily confused with osteoarthritis in it's early stages. Think there's nothing to be done to help your dog? Think again!

Degenerative Myelopathy Overview

Signs of DM

This is considered a pain-free condition, but the dogs are very weak. If there is a pain element, it is usually a co-morbidity such as osteoarthritis. 

Weakness is the main sign, which gets progressively worse until paralysis. Towards the end stages your dog may become incontinent too. Common signs seen are;

  • Hindlimb paw 'knuckling' especially on turns, dragging back paws

  • Swaying when stood still or easily pushed over

  • Difficulty raising from a lying position

Causes of DM

The cause of DM is not entirely known but is thought to have a genetic component. German Shepherds are commonly seen with this condition, amongst other breeds. 

Specifically, the degeneration seen involves the white matter of the spinal cord, whose job is to conduct, process and send signals up and down the spinal cord.

Treatment of DM

Unfortunately, DM is incurable and will get worse over time. Diagnostics such as X-rays need to rule out other pathologies which can get confused with DM. 

Physiotherapy and hydrotherapy has been proven to prolong the dog's active life and preserve muscle mass, keeping them on their feet and enjoying life for longer.

Supplements in a combination of epsilon-aminocaproic acid, N-acetylcysteine, prednisone, vitamins B, C, and E have been shown to also help slow the condition - speak to your vet about this.

What can we do about it?

Plenty! We have numerous modalities in clinic that we have at our finger tips to help your dog. These include massage, soft tissue mobilisation, stretching, joint mobilisations, targeted exercises, laser therapy, hydrotherapy... shall we continue? These have all been shown to maintain muscle function, strength and coordination and improve your dog's quality of life. With each session they undergo constant review of their clinical signs and progression in order to gain maximum recovery at a pace that's comfortable for them.

 

We have a comprehensive programme tailored for your dog's specific needs, depending on their condition so far.  We will always assess their pain levels (if any), degree of mobility, muscle strength, amongst more, to enable us to create the most successful treatment plan for them. If they have co-morbidities such as Hip Dysplasia or Osteoarthritis we will rehabilitate these concurrently.

Alongside what we do with your beloved pooch, there are a number of things outside of the clinic that can help them manage their condition or rehabilitation. Please find information in the sections below!  

If you would like to consider some wheels for your pooch, please click here for more information!

Home Modifications

Flooring

Wooden floors and stairs are a big slip hazard for your dog. Try using non-slip mats along the main routes of your house. Alternatively, some dogs may benefit from paw pads (please speak to us before trying this option in case of contraindication).

Feeding Stations

Raising their water and food bowls may seem like a insignificant change to us, but it can really help your dog to be in a more neutral position.

Access to Furniture

Jumping up and down from heights if often a cause of additional pain / difficulty to your dog. If they enjoy a cuddle on the sofa or the bed, make it easier for them with dog-friendly steps or ramps onto furniture. This also applies to getting in / out of cars! You may find a sling to be useful.

Keeping Warm

Especially important in the colder months, your dog will benefit from staying warmer. Keep them in a jumper and walk them out with coats. Stay dry too!

Sleeping / Resting Areas

Great quality sleep is essential. Ensure their sleeping area is free from any drafts and in a warm spot. Their bedding should be supportive and not restrictive. Memory foam mattresses without rigid or tall sides are best. Make sure your dog can access the bed and can change position / stretch out easily.

Be Wary of Terrain

Different types of terrain in the garden and on walks can be hazardous, such as steep slopes, loose or uneven surfaces. Be mindful to where they are going.

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