We often get asked, “What is DM in dogs?” Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is a progressively-degenerative disease affecting the spinal cord. It can start with simple symptoms such as unsteadiness while walking or having trouble getting up. It can look like hip dysplasia in the early days, but then the dog starts dragging her rear limbs, often wearing the nails and toes raw. More signs include:
- Rear legs crossing over each other
- Muscle atrophy and weakness
- Front legs losing function (this one sometimes happens as the disease progresses)
The typical age of onset is between 8-14 years of age and both sexes are equally affected. It is heartbreaking to watch a formerly-exuberant Labrador Retriever or German Shepherd Dog become unable to chase her beloved ball anymore. But one blessing is that the condition does not seem to be painful.
Help for DM in Dogs
There is no cure for the condition—only medical management. Your veterinarian may suggest a few things to help keep your dog comfortable as the disease progresses.
- Physical therapy, such as massage or swimming, can keep some dogs moving longer than those who are inactive. There are underwater treadmills designed for dogs that can help greatly with this
- Controlled walks can be helpful in the early stages to maintain muscle mass. There are even harnesses available for use in supporting the rear legs
- Protecting the rear feet in bandages or boots is important when the dog begins to drag its legs. Sores develop, which can be made worse by the dog constantly licking them, and these sores can become infected if untreated
- Vitamin supplements may help, but there is no scientific proof for it
DNA Testing for DM in Dogs
DDC Veterinary’s DNA test for Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is available for all dogs, even mixed breeds, since this condition can strike virtually any breed. The purebred breeds where DM is most prevalent include German Shepherd Dogs, Corgis, Boxers, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and Standard Poodles.
For Pet Owners
If a veterinarian suspects your dog may have the disease, our test can aid them in a differential diagnosis, where they can either identify the disease or rule it out.
The results are also essential to breeders in screening their breeding dogs in order to produce healthy puppies. The DNA test is an accurate, convenient, and affordable tool to help breeders avoid producing at-risk offspring and significantly reduce the gene frequency in future generations
For Puppy Buyers
Potential puppy buyers often see breeders display our test results on their own websites.
The Tip of the Tail
It’s hard to watch a faithful friend go through the devastating effects of DM in dogs, which is why DDC offers this important screening. DNA collection is simple—it’s a painless cheek swab that can be done in your own home, then sent to our laboratory. Once we receive the sample, you get an email with the DNA test results within five business days. It’s that easy!