Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) also known as chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy (CDRM) is a fairly common disease that affects a dog's spinal cord. Similar to Lou Gehrig's disease in humans this illness progressively gets worse and results in full paralysis.
Walkin' Pets loves to share the stories of how pet parents manage their furry friend's special needs, Roscoe's parents Jen and Em were kind enough to share how Roscoe became a part of their family and his journey with DM from his initial diagnosis, to his treatment, and current management of this condition.
The Early Years
Roscoe came to us in 2015 when he was almost 6 years old through PawSwap in Lafayette, Indiana. He was full of puppy-like energy, a frisbee-playing fiend, an A+ cuddler, and looooved vegetables (still will do anything for some broccoli). We had lots of great adventures while romping through the creeks and woods of southern Indiana, and Roscoe seamlessly adapted to life as a city dog when we made the move to Boston. He helped us find and eventually adopt two stray cats that love him like a big brother.
Initial Symptoms of Degenerative Myelopathy
When Roscoe first started showing signs of DM, it was knuckling under in just one of his paws, we had thought that he was just starting to lose a step due to his age. He wasn't as excited about walks or frisbee anymore. When we finally found out it was Degenerative Myelopathy and we were devastated. Luckily for us, the DM online community has been an invaluable resource, and our wonderful vet who also has a DM pup has been so kind and honest with us throughout this process. We learned so much from other folks who have been through this with their dogs, and we got Roscoe his Maximus Skates and WalkinPets dog wheelchair right away. Once he had the tools to make walking and playing comfortably for him again, the spark returned. Now, he is so excited to go outside and walk around the neighborhood and even play some (modified) frisbee. The joy of seeing our boy full of life and feeling independent again is beyond words.
He uses his wheelchair for all of his walks now and is having a blast. Still has that puppy-like energy and has taken trips to the beach, apple orchards, and local parks. He gets lots of attention and compliments from the neighbors on his chair and loves being the star of the show. He is getting his own yard soon and we're excited for him to be able to move around outside on his own. The wheelchair means more quality years with our sweet, playful boy and we are soaking up every minute!
Managing Roscoe's Degenerative Myelopathy
We first starting tending to his DM symptoms by using the Maximus toe-up boots to both prevent further damage to his nails and also keep him stable for as long as possible. He actually just wore a hole through his first pair recently. As the paw proprioception continued to deteriorate, we started piecing together a maze of yoga mats and gym mats to help Roscoe as he began to slip on our hardwood floors. The mats helped him move around with confidence but it soon became apparent that he would need the help of his chair soon. The wobbly “sea legs” were too much for just the Maximus skates so we started to transition to his wheelchair. We rely on his harnesses to get him up and downstairs, out for a quick potty time, and into the car for our many adventures.
DM is NOT a Death Sentence
Rising to the challenges and frequently changing needs of a DM pup certainly isn’t easy. But it is worth it for the days that Roscoe seems like his independent, happy, and energetic self. These moments aren’t possible without his mobility aids (thank goodness for his chair) and his trusting and relentless spirit.
Roscoe's wheels are what allow not just Roscoe, but Em and I as well, to feel a sense of “normal” with this diagnosis, and to keep active. Watching Roscoe take off in his chair, bounding through the beach, the yard, etc. is really the best feeling in the world. We are fortunate to have a huge DM support community and a community of folks here in Boston that cheer him on as we roll by every day!