Does Degenerative Myelopathy Hurt?

Posted on Sep 23, 2013 in Bladder Infections, Blog, Early Symptoms, Long Term Symptoms

Does Degenerative Myelopathy Hurt?

Even though it should be common knowledge by now that degenerative myelopathy is not a painful disease there may be times when your dog can’t get comfortable and starts to whine and may even seem like its in pain. I want to re-assure you that degenerative myelopathy is NOT a painful disease however, it can be very frustrating for your dog. Certain breeds of dogs have a lot of energy and when they can’t do exactly what they want they get frustrated. Thats why you should always give your dog lots of physical exercise to keep them entertained and it can be something as easy as going for a walk in its cart.

There are lots of great exercises you can do with your dog, massage therapy, water therapy, stretching, and range of motion exercises help greatly however, it doesn’t need to be complicated. Take your dog to a grassy area and leave its back legs down and just let it have fun. With it’s back legs down it is exercising and stretching it’s legs and this is a great way to maintain muscle mass.

Even though you may be taking your dog out for a big afternoon walk, you also have to remember to keep it entertained in the house as well. You can’t come back from a walk and then just leave your dog in its bed for hours at a time. Just like humans, sitting in the same spot for too long gets boring. Be sure to help your dog up for frequent drinks of water and sometimes just for a change of scenery. If you are woking on something in a different part of your house be sure to bring your dog with you. Most of the time they just want to be near you.

As degenerative myelopathy progresses you will notice that your dog will loose muscle mass in the hind legs. It can be alarming to see your dogs hind legs shrink in size but again it is not painful. It’s a symptom of paralysis and is inevitable. However, frequent exercise will go a long way to prolong the lose of muscle mass in the hind legs.

Signs of Something Wrong

If your dog is getting lots of exercise and eating and drinking normally and still continues to whine this may be a sign of something more serious going on. Bladder infections are a constant occurrence in dogs with degenerative myelopathy. The most common sign of a bladder infection is acidic smelling urine or frequent urination. If your dog has either of these two symptoms you should take a urine sample to your vet to have it checked for an infection. Bladder infections can be very painful and make your dog very sick.

Have Fun!

Have fun and always keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated.  Remember that with a cart and lots of exercise a dog with DM can live a happy and long life.


  • MaryBeth Teicholz

    Josh, this is an AWESOME post. So true all around. Some other potential sources of pain secondary to the DM that I can think of are urine scald from pee leaking (preventable by expressing bladder, using diaper creme, and/or doggy belly bands (for males) or diapers (for females), and sore toes/knuckles from dragging (solved by boots).

    As far as keeping them entertained I wholeheartedly agree! My Clancy boy loved gnawing on bones right til the end, when we had to prop him up even in a laying down position but once the pillows were tucked around him properly he’d go to town on a bone like he always has. There are also dog puzzles where you hide treats and the dog has to figure out how to get them. Nina Ottoson makes some but there are also more and more cheaper ones available.

    Thanks again for this awesome post.

    • MyDogHasDM

      Great tips, Thanks MB!