Early Symptoms

Posted on Aug 15, 2010 in Blog, Early Symptoms, Wrangler

It was early 2009 when I first noticed my dog Wrangler start to limp.  I went through hell with my other dog Buca who had both her ACL’s replaced, suffered from terrible seizures, eventually went blind and unfortunately had to be put down.  So when I saw Wrangler start limping on his left leg, I thought to myself, oh no, not Wrangler too.  Buca’s ACL surgeries, including pain meds, anti-biotics and post surgery checkups cost $4000 per knee, not too mention the 24 week recovery period.  I was also told since Wrangler was a puppy that he had a pretty severe heart murmor and putting him under anesthesia could be risky.  I took him to the vet to get checked but it was the same routine as with Buca, Wrangler needed to go to the knee specialist to see if he required surgery to repair his ACL.  All things considered I decided to keep a close eye on him, and really hoped to avoid the surgery.

It started as a limp, it could have been anything, boxers are crazy dogs and constantly hurt themselves.  Occasionally it seemed like his leg hurt him, other times it just appeared weak when he laid around for too long.

In November of 2009 I decided to move to Vancouver for a new job opportunity.  I packed up my blazer, loaded Wrangler into the back and drove from London, ON across Canada.  After 4 days in an SUV and some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen, we made it to Vancouver.  The limping continued over the next couple of months and by Christmas he was was limping pretty bad but it was still only his left leg.  Wrangler celebrated his 9th birthday on Dec 15th 2009.  Most boxers don’t live long lives, 8 to 10 is usually the max, so for him to be in such great shape other than a sore left leg was pretty impressive.  By the time summer rolled around Wrangler started crossing his back feet, walking seemed like it was a lot harder than it had ever been before and he’d occasionally trip and fall.  Our walks became shorter and shorter and I noticed him trying to walk on the grass whenever possible as he started to drag his left paw.  His toe nails became very warn and eventually they started to bleed along with the top of his left paw.

Around this time he started to fall when he’d squat to go to the washroom.  His legs became too weak and he was unable to hold himself up.  Wrangler was extremely embarrassed by this and he had a very hard time getting back to his feet when he’d fall.

This was very hard to watch and I knew I needed to something.  While Wrangler and I were on a weekend trip I met my friends Uncle who was a vet.  He knew right away that Wrangler had some kind of a nerve disorder and that things would unfortunately continue to get worse.  As soon as I returned home after the weekend, I googled nerve disorders and found a website with info about Degenerative Myelopathy.  All the symptoms were exactly what Wrangler was experiencing, I even took Wrangler to a vet in Vancouver and told them what I thought was going on.  The vet agreed and told me he wasn’t in any pain but unfortunately there also wasn’t a cure.  When I asked how long I could expect Wrangler to live, the vet informed every day I get with him is a good day.

So what is Degenerative Myelopathy?

Degenerative myelopathy, DM, is a progressive disease of the spinal cord in older dogs. The disease has an insidious onset typically between 8 and 14 years of age. It begins with a loss of coordination (ataxia) in the hind limbs. The affected dog will wobble when walking, knuckle over or drag the feet. This can first occur in one hind limb and then affect the other. As the disease progresses, the limbs become weak and the dog begins to buckle and has difficulty standing. The weakness gets progressively worse until the dog is unable to walk. The clinical course can range from 6 months to 1 year before dogs become paraplegic. If signs progress for a longer period of time, loss of urinary and fecal continence may occur and eventually weakness will develop in the front limbs. Another key feature of DM is that it is not a painful disease.

This is what Wrangler looked like by the summer of 2010 in Vancouver.