Degenerative Myelopathy in German Shepherds: This condition has a genetic component. German Shepherds have a less effective immune system than pedigree dogs. Their levels of IgA are much lower than their pedigree counterparts, which puts them at risk for immune-mediated disorders. German Shepherds are particularly susceptible to intestinal and skin diseases, which can be exacerbated by further compromising the dog’s immune system. As such, spot-on medications and vaccines are often prescribed to treat symptoms rather than addressing the cause.
Degenerative Myelopathy in German Shepherd – Treatments
Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive, incurable spinal cord disease affecting several breeds of dogs, including the German Shepherd. In advanced stages, this disease results in complete paralysis of the hind limbs. In many cases, degenerative myelopathy is fatal, and euthanasia is the only viable option. Treatments for this disease are currently lacking, but the good news is that there are now genetic tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Early-stage dogs with degenerative myelopathy will experience normal bladder and bowel function. Later, they may develop fecal or urinary incontinence. In such a case, veterinarians will likely recommend euthanasia to prevent complications from developing. Treatment options can vary widely, and the costs are often hundreds of dollars. In many cases, however, treatments are still available.
As with any diagnosis, degenerative myelopathy diagnosis is based on exclusion. Any other condition that produces similar clinical signs must be ruled out first. A blood sample is obtained during the initial examination to rule out metabolic or genetic causes of spinal cord weakness. Supplements are also used to treat degenerative myelopathy in dogs. Surgical procedures are rarely recommended in these cases, as they may result in permanent deterioration.
Genetic testing can also identify dogs at high risk of developing degenerative myelopathy. Breeding guidelines are available for dogs with a genetic mutation. Genetic testing can identify dogs that are ‘clear,’ ‘carriers,’ or ‘at risk’ for developing the disease. DM is a slow-onset disease; a dog can begin showing signs of the condition as early as fourteen.
Physiotherapy can help reduce the progression of DM. Physiotherapy has been shown to prolong mobility in dogs with DM, including Bronko, a police dog diagnosed with the disease. The goal of physiotherapy is to reduce inflammation and promote healing. However, many dogs will need ongoing therapy. Fortunately, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture treatments have proven effective in improving the quality of life of dogs with DM.
Degenerative Myelopathy in German Shepherd – Genetics
While the genetics of degenerative myelopathy in dogs has only been discovered in a small group of German Shepherd dogs, it is widely accepted that dogs from any breed can be at risk of this disorder. While some species are more susceptible to DM than others, this condition is inherited at a low frequency by both parents.
Thankfully, a DNA test has been developed that uses a specific gene marker, SOD1-A, to determine if your German Shepherd is affected.
While degenerative myelopathy has been known for decades to affect German Shepherd dogs, it has also been discovered in other breeds. It is no longer considered a German Shepherd-specific problem and is now recognized in other dog breeds. It is of particular concern in Boxers, Wire Fox Terriers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Borzoi, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Cheese Bay Retrievers.
Motor and sensory function loss in the spinal cord results from the gradual neuromuscular disease known as degenerative myelopathy. It generally affects the hind and forelimbs and ultimately leads to paralysis. The Genetics of degenerative myelopathy in German shepherd dogs is complex, but researchers believe that DM is a hereditary disorder that affects both males and females.
The disease, which affects the spinal cord of older dogs, is caused by mutations in the SOD1 gene. Mutations in this gene cause the cells that send brain signals to the spinal cord to start deteriorating. Symptoms include difficulty walking, unsteady gait, and loss of bladder control. Even worse, the disorder can lead to a dog’s inability to use its front legs.
A study in the UK showed that a single SOD1 gene mutation, c.118A, was present in nearly half of the German shepherd population. Although the number of dogs with the mutation varied, the results of the three studies show that a single homozygous copy of the gene is associated with the disease in two out of every three affected dogs.
Moreover, most dogs with the disease were heterozygous, indicating that their SOD1 genotypes were associated with the degeneration.
Symptoms of German Shepherd Degenerative Myelopathy
A vet may notice the symptoms of German Shepherd degenerative myelopathy if you see them consistently over time. However, most dogs are painless in the early stages of the condition. If your dog seems weak, he may also have another underlying medical condition. Therefore, it is essential to seek veterinary advice as early as possible. The symptoms of DM vary from one breed to another.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is a progressive spinal cord disease in dogs. It causes gradual weakness in the hind limbs and, ultimately, paralysis. In dogs, DM is caused by a genetic mutation that leads to a shortened or incomplete spinal cord. To develop the condition, two copies of a mutated gene must be present in the dog’s genome.
Although dogs with a single mutation do not set the situation, they are carriers of the gene.
Another cause of German Shepherd degenerative myelopathy symptoms is an improper diet. While some dogs are allergic to certain foods, many will still be exposed to harmful bacteria and other toxins.
As a result, these dogs often develop a disease that may not be curable by a veterinary treatment. Although German Shepherds may not display symptoms of this disease, they show a decrease in their immune system.
In addition, degenerative myelopathy in German Shepherds often results in an accelerated loss of the spinal cord’s myelin sheath, which is the insulating covering around the neurons. The immune system attacks this insulating covering and damages the nerves.
The resulting breakdown leads to loss of nerve communication. Luckily, German Shepherds can still be healthy, and some breeders are working to find a cure for the condition.
Dogs with DM often coexist for anything from six months to three years. Dogs with DM may benefit from rehabilitation therapy and frequent exercise. Sadly, there is currently no treatment for Degenerative Myelopathy.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), although it can occur in other large breeds, is more common in German Shepherds and often manifests itself in dogs between the ages of 5 and 14.
Although degenerative myelopathy is not painful, especially in its later stages, it frequently results in a marked decline in quality of life. A dog with degenerative myelopathy has a one- to two-year lifespan.
DM is an orphan illness since it is a rare condition that affects one to three percent of German Shepherds. The number of infected German Shepherd dogs with DM varies from 14,000 to 42,000 yearly in the US. It represents less than 0.1 percent of all dogs despite being a large number.
When should a dog with degenerative myelopathy be put down? A dog with canine degenerative myelopathy will typically be put to sleep or killed within six months to three years after the diagnosis. The veterinarian will advise on when to euthanize a dog based on the disease's stage and how it affects the quality of its life.
Changes to be mindful of throughout the DM's latter stages : The dog cannot support any weight for an extended period on its back legs. The dog will fall even after being lifted since it cannot maintain itself while standing. Incontinence of the bladder and bowel. Front end weakness results from shoulder weakness.
Although the beginning may occur later in life in particular dogs, the first symptoms of degenerative myelopathy often appear around the age of eight. The first symptom is frequently weakness and loss of coordination in one or both of the rear limbs (back legs), followed by dragging and scuffing the fingers (toes).
Dogs' cases of degenerative myelopathy most closely resemble human cases of ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. DM is a non-painful condition, similar to ALS. Typically, mature canines between the ages of 8 and 14 are affected.
Most of the time, indicators of weakness and an inability to walk around freely indicate that an animal requires immediate medical attention or has deteriorated to the point where it's time to think about euthanasia or putting your dog to sleep.
The good news is that paralysis does not necessarily indicate the end of life. There is no need to put your dog to sleep if they are content and not displaying any indications of pain; with just a bit of assistance from you, they can continue to lead everyday, active lives.