Degenerative myelopathy is a neural condition that causes progressive loss of strength and coordination as a result of function loss in the spinal nerves. Spinal nerves are protected by myelin and with this condition, the myelin sheath begins to deteriorate, causing the spinal cord to break down and for nerve impulses to transmit improperly. Onset of symptoms occurs later in the pets life, typically between the ages of eight and fourteen. Degenerative myelopathy usually occurs in the German Shepherd and Boxer dog breeds, however, it is not limited to just those breeds.
Symptoms of this disease are difficulty standing up, muscle atrophy and weakness in the hind end, such as the tail and back legs, slow reflexes, and the dog may begin dragging one foot. This condition tends to progressively worsen and the dog may develop difficulty standing up. Diagnosis is usually done by a physical exam or you may request certain neurological procedures at a specialist such as a myelography, an MRI, CT, and Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) test, however, they are often inconclusive. Performing those special neurological procedures are helpful in ruling out other spinal problems that the dog may be experiencing. Treatments may include dietary supplements, medications, and exercise. Treatment costs for medications and diagnostic tests can cost several hundred dollars. There is no complete cure for this condition, however, treatments can help slow its process.
To learn more about degenerative myelopathy in pets, check out our Pet Health Concerns Guide. By enrolling your pet with Trupanion pet insurance, your cat or dog’s policy will include coverage for diagnostic tests, medications, surgeries, hereditary and congenital disorders, as long as treatment for a certain condition is required after enrolling and is not pre-existing.
Has your pet ever been diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy? If so, we would love to hear from you and any comments, advice, experiences, of thoughts on this condition.