Hi my friends!
As promised, here is part two of my blog on Canine Degenerative Myelopathy where I go more into details about the symptoms, treatments, and care of the disease.
CDM or Canine Degenerative Myelopathy is a progressive disease of the spinal cord. The onset is usually between the ages of 7 and 14. The disease effects the hind limbs of older dogs with the result of paralysis. It is a chronic and progressive illness.
When the body's immune system attacks the myelin sheath around the neurons of the spinal cord, the communication between the lower body and the brain is disrupted. This results in a paralysis of the hind limbs. So far there are 79 breeds of dogs that carry the mutated gene. Some of the breeds affected are: German Shepperds, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Boxers, Standard Poodles, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, both breads of Welsh Corgis, French Bulldogs, Kerry Blue Terriers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Collies, Irish Setters, and also mixes that are derived from those breeds. There is a test that checks for the mutated gene. The test consists of a cheek swab. Not every dog that carries the gene will show symptoms. Many dogs that have been tested positive for the genetic mutation are symptom free.
The symptoms of CDM are as follows:
- muscle weakness
- muscle loss
- lack of coordination
- dragging of one or both rear paws
- worn down nails on the affected paws due to dragging
CDM is a non-reversible and progressive disease. There are no known treatments that can cure or stop the disease. However, with good supportive care, physical therapy, and dietary supplementation, the progression of the disease can be slowed down.
Lets start by talking about supportive care. An important part of supportive care is to keep your pooch free of pressure sores and skin ulcers. Dogs with muscle weakness or paralysis do not turn on their own, thus spend lots of time on one side of their body. This can result in pressure sores. You can avoid these sores by providing well padded bedding and also by turning your pooch from one side to the other frequently. By frequently I mean once every hour or two. When turning your dog, please never pull him or her up by the tail.
Since many dogs with CDM become incontinent, skin ulcers can appear in areas that are soiled with urine or feces. It is important to keep areas clean. When you put your dog in diapers, make sure to check and change the diapers frequently. Never leave your dog in a soiled diaper. You can also ask your veterinarian to show you how to express the bladder and then do it several times during the day and night.
There are many options that can be used to help your dog ambulate. There are slings that support the hind legs, wheel carts that are measured to fit your dog, and inflatable rubber peanuts in various sizes that can hold up your pooch while eating. When you place your dog in any of the devices, please never lift him or her up by the tail. A good point is also to keep your dog from being overweight. It is much easier on the dog's front legs and also on your back. There is a very good website that offers many of the items such as slings, beds, wheelchairs, and most anything that can make your and your pet's life easier. The link to it is:
There are no known medications that can cure CDM but some people have reported very good results in slowing the progress of the disease down with dietary supplements. One of them is Aminocaproic Acid which inhibits the break down of the myelin sheath. Another one is Acetylcysteine which is a very strong antioxidant. Vitamin E, B, and C as well as Omega 3 Fatty Acids are also known to slow down the disease. Please contact your veterinarian for the correct dosage according to the body weight of your dog. Some veterinarians give steroids but steroids come with many side effects and can also lead to diabetes. In recent years there have been more and more promising news with the use of Acupuncture and Acupressure.
Even though Canine Degenerative Myelopathy is a non reversible and progressive disease, there are ways to manage and slow down the progress of the disease. I hope I was helpful in showing you some of these ways.
Love and Peace,