Degenerative Myelopathy also known as Chronic Degenerative Radiculomyelopathy or DM is a progressive disease that affects the spinal cord of a dog. DM begins with hind leg weakness and will eventually result in full paralysis. Degenerative Myelopathy is generally seen in older dogs, symptoms will start to be seen in dogs aged 8-14.
FAQ's About the Final Stages of DM
When is it time to euthanize my DM dog?The decision to euthanize is something only you and your veterinarian can make. Typically pet parents can see when a dog is ready to pass but this will be the most difficult choice you can make as a caregiver. Many dogs can live happy and healthy lives with limited impacts after their DM diagnosis.
- Is my dog in pain?
Most DM dogs do not seem to be in pain, just very weak. If your dog starts to exhibit symptoms of being in pain, there may be another condition such as arthritis complicating the condition.
- How do I know if my dog has entered the late stages of degenerative myelopathy?
The jerkiness of movement. The dog's tail, legs, and hind end will move in an uncontrolled, spastic way. Sometimes the hind legs will kick out for no apparent reason. The tail may raise and lower randomly as if the dog needs to defecate.
Extreme weakness, loss of coordination, and balance. Dogs need help to walk and care must be taken so that they don't fall and injure themselves. They are weak to the point where they cannot squat to defecate or urinate (they will fall if not supported). They aren't able to get up from a down position without help, and cannot stand for long without support.Eventual paralysis of the hind end and weakness in the front end, including shoulders and legs.
In the very late stages, the dog will become so weak he is unable to support himself in any way. Respiratory issues will occur along with organ failure.
Managing My Dog's DM diagnosis
While there is no cure for DM you can manage the symptoms! Keeping the muscle tone in your dog's hind end is crucial for extending your pup's life so using hydrotherapy and physical therapy exercises is a great idea. You can also get a dog wheelchair to help keep your dog active and playful!