Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs - Everything You Need to Know - Salt Lake Animal Physical Therapy
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Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs – Everything You Need to Know

Have you had the unfortunate news that your dog has Degenerative Myelopathy? Or want to be aware of early signs that can prevent this degenerative- disease? Well, here is a detailed and informative read on everything you need to know about how to help your dog with Degenerative Myelopathy, live a better life.

The news that your dog has Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is not something you want to hear. And frankly, it can be devastating. Also, unfortunate but true, there is currently no cure for degenerative myelopathy.

So obviously, the first question that comes to your mind is – how many years does my doggo have? Or can he/she recover from DM? What can I do to fix it?

So without further adieu, let’s start by addressing the most concerning ones:

  1. How does DM impact my dog?

    DM impacts a pet’s strength and ability to maintain control over its body. It is a progressive neurological disorder that affects the spinal cord of a dog. And it can progress rapidly. So you need to be prepared for the worst and take immediate action.

  2. What are the early signs or symptoms of Canine Degenerative myelopathy?

    The early signs might be subtle in some dogs but can be noticeable or pronounced as well. A swaying gait or crossing back legs while walking may be an early indicator of either a neurological condition or Degenerative myelopathy. In any case, see a trusted vet immediately! Loss of coordination and weakness of one or both hind legs are the first visible signs. As the disease progresses, it can cause dragging and scuffing of the toenails. Degenerative myelopathy generally shows up around when the dog is of about eight years, but the onset can be delayed or come early in some breeds.

Symptoms Summary:

  • Weakness in hind legs
  • Crossing hind legs
  • Loss of coordination in the hind limbs
  • Dragging and scuffing of the toes
  • loss of appetite in the last stages

3. How fast does Degenerative Myelopathy progress?

There can be a great deal of variation in the progression of DM from dog todog. Although the disease can be very rapid, it usually takes between six months and a year to reach the final stage in most dogs. Dogs’ conditions can deteriorate rapidly in the final stage of DM, seemingly in an instant.

4 How painful is Degenerative Myelopathy for dogs?

Fortunately, the degenerative condition is not painful. But the very struggle can be quite nerving to watch, but there isn’t any physical pain, rest assured.

5. How many years does a dog with Degenerative Myelopathy live?

Ok. Here is the hard truth. Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive neurological disorder that affects the spinal cord and progresses rapidly. And at most, your dog has 2 years. But sometimes, with proper care and luck on their side, they can live up to 3 years.

But does it mean we give up on them? Well, they never gave up on us when we came home from a tough day’s work? Or made our children smile when they had it rough at school. So giving up is not an option.

But what do I do then!?

First and foremost, keeping the progressing symptoms in check helps prepare better. Second, love and care are the go-to remedies that we know that work. And since you are here, we are sure you have ample of those two to share with the ailing friend.

Now let’s straight get to more scientifically proven methods. There are other ways to help your dog with Degenerative Myelopathy, to see out the rest of their days with grace and a certain level of playfulness.

Treating a dog with Degenerative Myelopathy

Sadly, there is no cure for degenerative myelopathy yet. But there are things you can do to improve your dog’s quality of life suffering from DM.

Start by seeking expert help:

Work with your veterinarian and find a trusted Animal Physical Therapist. Physical therapy is the only known way to reduce the suffering of Degenerative Myelopathy and in fact, improve the quality of life. Regular physical therapy such as land-based exercises, balance and coordination work, and others have proven to increase the life expectancy in dogs with Degenerative Myelopathy.

Some physical therapy exercises that work are:

  1. Acupuncture – It stimulates the nerves in their hind legs and spine, decreasing muscle atrophy. It even slows down the disease.
  2. Regular Exercises: Activity is the key to keeping your dog fit, mentally and physically. A combo of active and passive exercises can help a great deal. Exercises can be further divided into two categories, active and passive.

Active Exercise: A short walk, guided weight-shifting exercises, stair-based exercises, etc., can reap great results for your dog with Degenerative Myelopathy.

Passive exercises: These include gentle stretching and maintaining range of motion and specific messages.

3. Massage –Massage is a great way to relax and improve your pet’s circulation. It can also help relieve muscle tension and pain.

4. Canine Mobility Aids –If your dog has DM, at a certain point you may consider getting them a wheelchair to help them stay active and mobile. It’s important to work with a professional for the right timing on this.

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Do not let Degenerative myelopathy deter you from doing the best for your ailing four-legged friend. There are multiple cases where dogs with Degenerative myelopathy have lived a normal- happy life! With patience, regular physical therapy, and care, it is possible. But ensure continued mobility and activity and invest in the right supportive equipment, such as a dog wheelchair to keep them active. So buckle up and make the best of the times with your beloved friend.