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Disorder: Degenerative Myelopathy

Organ System Involved

Alternative disorders described within LIDA

Alternative Names
German Shepherd Myelopathy
Chronic Degenerative Radiculomyelopathy

Brief Description
A slow and progressive degeneration of one type of tissue in the spinal cord - the white matter (axons and myelin) in the spinal cord.

Presenting Signs
Degenerative Myelopathy is an incurable disease, in which slow and progressive changes occur throughout the spinal cord. These changes are caused when the axons (long processes) of the nerve cells and their sheaths (myelin) degenerate. Initially, there is loss of muscle coordination and mild paralysis of the hindlimbs (generally both limbs are affected, but not necessarily to the same extent) and it may appear that the dog is suffering from arthritis. An abnormal gait will be more obvious when the dog walks on smooth surfaces. The toes of the hind paws may be knuckled over and scuffing on the ground, and when the animal turns, the hind-quarters may cross over and sway. There is no pain or discomfort with this condition. As it progresses, there is muscle wastage in the hind legs, while pressure sores arise from continually lying down. These dogs are usually able to urinate and defaecate as normal until extremely late in the disease. Eventually they also lose the use of their forelimbs. A cart to support the hindlimbs and plenty of soft bedding may be beneficial. These dogs should be encouraged to be as active as possible to delay the beginning of a stage where they are totally unable to walk (generally from 6 months to 2 years after onset), at which time euthanasia is usually recommended.

Dogs at Risk
Male dogs, between the ages of 4 and 14 years.

Related Disorders
Demyelinating Myelopathy
Neuroaxonal Dystrophy
Hereditary Ataxia

PubMed References
Degenerative Myelopathy

Further Reference Material [OMIA Number]

Natasha Hovanessian

  Last Updated: 7 April 2008
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