Degenerative Myelopathy Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a cure for DM?
No, there is no cure however, there is a DNA test has been developed that picks up a genetic marker for the disease. For more information and to order the DNA test please visit the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).
For help understanding the DNA test results please visit the Canine Genetic Diseases Network (CGD).
Are there medications that can help?
There are no treatments that have been clearly shown to stop or slow the progression of DM. Although there are a number of approaches that have been tried or recommended on the internet, no scientific evidence exists for any that work. The outlook for a dog with DM is still unfortunately grave. The discovery of a gene that identifies dogs at risk for developing degenerative myelopathy could pave the way for therapeutic trials to prevent the disease from developing. Meanwhile, the quality of life of an affected dog can be improved by measures such as good nursing care, physical therapy, pressure sore prevention, monitoring for urinary infections, and ways to increase mobility through use of harnesses and carts.
Are there specific exercises that can help?
Physical and mental therapy are key to the continued success and happiness of a dog with DM. A positive attitude towards helping your dog and giving your dog lots of physical exercise in a cart or a swimming pool are extremely beneficial.
How can I protect my dogs feet from dragging?
The only product that I currently recommend is Pawz Reusable Dog Boots. Many of the other boots out there are too big and your dog won’t be able to lift their foot high enough on the ground to prevent it from dragging and eventually falling off.
How can I prevent my dog from slipping on floors?
Throw down rugs and carpets work great and you can also use a harness in the house to assist your dog and sure it doesn’t fall.
Will my dog become incontinent?
Not all animals with DM become incontinent although it is very likely. You can read my post on incontinence to learn more about what you can expect.
Do carts really work?
Will my dog be able to go to the washroom in his cart?
Yes, although you may need to relieve some pressure by lifting their back legs when they pee. You can ready my post Wagging Tails and Lifting Legs to learn more.
How do I know if my dog has a bladder infection?
The best way to know if your pet has a bladder infection is by the smell of their urine. You will notice a strong acidic smell when they pee if they are developing a bladder infection. You can read my posts on bladder infections to learn more.
How long do I have left with my dog?
My opinion is to take it day by day, as long as your dog is happy try not to worry, just enjoy the time you have with them. Long term symptoms can occur anywhere between 6 – 12 months. Wrangler started displaying long term symptoms after being in his cart for 8 months however, from the first initial symptoms of DM Wrangler lived a full 2 happy years.
How do I know when it’s time to say good bye?
Unfortunately no one can answer this question for you. Caring for a dog with DM is like saying the longest good bye. The disease progresses relatively slowly but each day you’ll notice something new start to go wrong. In the later stages you will start to ask yourself whether your dog is still happy and enjoying its life. Try to take it day by day and although your dog may no longer be able to do many of the things it once could, you will be surprised by it’s ability to adapt and overcome the disease and with your help continue to live a happy life. You can also read my post about saying goodbye to my dog Wrangler.