Rocky’s Viewpoint

Rockys Viewpoint

A blog for people who treat their dogs better than family

Improving the Quality of Life for Dogs with Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy, or DM, is a disease of the spinal cord in dogs that is normally contracted between the ages of 8 and 14. DM is primarily seen in German Shepherds but other large breed dogs can also be affected.

DM first occurs in one hind limb and then moves to the other side.  The limbs subsequently become progressively weaker until the dog becomes unable to walk.  Unfortunately there is no cure for DM and there are no drug protocols that can slow the degeneration.

So what can you do? First, it’s important to diagnose DM early. If diagnosed early, you can work to maintain hind end muscle tone, slow the progression of the disease, and maintain your dog’s quality of life.  Maintaining muscle strength and mobility for as long as possible is absolutely critical. 

Regular structured exercise such as walking (if the dog is able), range of motion exercises, and other forms of physical therapy such as strength and conditioning exercises can delay the muscle atrophy associated with DM. Aqua therapy and targeted exercises will help to maintain strength, balance and mobility.  For dogs that can’t go through a rigorous exercise routine, therapeutic massage is a viable option.  It increases circulation so tissue fluid buildup due to inactivity can effectively be reversed.  The massage is roughly equivalent to a thirty-minute brisk walk. It also gives them extra love and attention, an added benefit.

The most important thing to keep in mind if you’re noticing hind limb weakness (especially if you have a large breed dog), is to see your veterinarian as soon as possible.  The earlier a diagnosis is made, the faster you can begin aggressively supporting your dog with exercises to build and strengthen your dog’s muscles.  Being proactive in your approach to this disease will help to prolong your dog’s quality of life. And ultimately that’s what we all want.

Category: Health Management