CHARLIE'S CHALLENGE-Degenerative myelopathy and what you should know about it.
8 years ago, Charlie, a Corgi mix dog, was pulled from a cattle roundup where he was roaming as a 6 month old puppy. The moment Charlie entered our lives, my days of even going to the bathroom alone, were over. He is kind and sweet and he picked me to be his best friend and I am honored.
At age 8, Charlie began having trouble getting up and this coincided with his required rabies vaccine, so off to the vet we went. Charlie had a torn ACL, so we prepared for surgery. The surgery went well and on to the slow and difficult job of medications, sedation and keeping a rather young dog still. He would cry to follow me as before which was heartbreaking, but we kept telling ourselves that it was only 8 weeks.
We were heartbroken when after that time period, the wobbling hind end was worse instead of better. The healing from the surgery was great, but it was clear that something else was going on, so we were referred to a specialist. We learned that Charlie may have a condition called Degenerative Myelopathy which is a progressive disease that destroys the white tissue of the spinal cord in the thoracic region of the back. The onset is typically between 8-14 years of age and as the paralysis begins, it is seen as wobbling with loss of function of one or both hind legs. Dogs will knuckle under their hind legs rather than smoothly pull them forward. There is no known cure and the progress is from 6 months to 3 years.
If you have a middle aged dog who is wobbly in the hind end, I would encourage you to ask your veterinarian to do this new DNA test. If the dog has symptoms and shows as "affected" on this test, then you will have a pretty certain diagnosis of DM.
Knowledge is power and one of the things you can do for your dog is to avoid stressful situations which seem to hasten the progress of this disease process. I have ordered holistic medications and although I am skeptical of their value, I will go down swinging for my best friend.
This was thought to be a disease of purebred dogs and included the American Eskimo, Bernese Mountain Dog, Borzoi, Boxer, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Great Pyrenees, Kerry Blue Terrier, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Poodle, Pug, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Shetland Sheepdog, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers and Wire Fox Terriers, but mixed breed dogs such as mine are also at risk.
Although there is no cure, there are several things you can do such as avoiding stress from surgical procedures and anesthesia if possible. Exercise, medication, supplements and supportive care are advisable and dogswithdisabilities.com is a great website with helpful information.
Charlie is still able to wag his tail and although his hind legs are failing, he is not in pain and we are grateful for every moment we have left. I highly recommend the
simple and inexpensive DNA test for anyone who suspects their dog may have Degenerative Myelopathy because it can help you do the best job to provide for your best friend's care.
PawsPartners.org is an alliance formed between A-PAL Humane Society of Amador County and Tri County Wildlife Care, the latter serving native wildlife in Amador, Calaveras, and Eastern San Joaquin Counties. Since inception we have added the Shelter Partners volunteer group, who support our local Animal Control organization, and Amador County Animal Response Team (ACART).