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Canine degenerative myelopathy

  Canine degenerative myelopathy (also known as chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy) is a neurological disease common in German Shepherds, Welsh Corgis, and possibly occurring in other breeds.[1] The disease is chronic and progressive, and can result in lameness in the animal.

The myelin is an insulating sheath around neurons in the spinal column. One proposed cause of degenerative myelopathy is that the immune system attacks this sheath, breaking it down. This results in a loss of communication between nerves in lower body of the animal and the brain. The animal loses both sensation and control.

The disease usually manifests between the ages of five and fourteen.



Degenerative myelopathy initially affects the back legs and causes muscle weakness and loss, and lack of coordination. These cause a staggering effect that may appear to be arthritis. The dog may scuff its one or both rear paws when it walks. This scuffing can cause the nails of one foot to be worn down. Eventually the condition may lead to extensive paralysis of the back legs. As the disease progresses the animal starts having considerable difficulties walking, and eventually the back legs become useless, at which point euthanasia may be the only option.[1][2]

Progression of the disease is generally slow but highly variable. The animal could be crippled within a few months, or may survive up to 3 years.[1]


The etiology of this disease is unknown. However, as it appears to be most prevalent in German Shepherds and Welsh Corgis, there may be genetic causes.

Known causes of spinal cord dysfunction should be excluded before accepting the diagnosis of degenerative myelopathy; cervical disc disease (protrusion or rupture) can cause contusions and compression of the spinal cord with all of the signs of degenerative myelopathy.[citations needed]


This is a chronic condition that cannot be cured. However it is possible to maintain the dog's quality of life through a proper program of exercise and nutrition.


Exercise has been recommended to maintain the dog's ability to walk.[1] Physiotherapy may prolong the length of time that the dog remains mobile and increase survival time.[3] Canine hydrotherapy (swimming) may be more useful than walking.[4]


Although not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), aminocaproic acid (EACA) and n-acetylcysteine (NAC) may prevent progression.[1][4]


  1. ^ a b c d e # Kahn, Cynthia M. & Line, Scott, eds. (2005-02-08), , (9 ed.), Merck, ISBN 0911910506
  2. ^ Hovanessian, Natasha (2001-03-27). Degenerative Myelopathy. Listing of Inherited Disorders in Animals. University of Sydney. Retrieved on 2007-06-17.
  3. ^ Kathmann I; Cizinauskas S, Doherr MG, Steffen F, Jaggy A. (July-August 2006). "Daily controlled physiotherapy increases survival time in dogs with suspected degenerative myelopathy". J Vet Intern Med 20 (4): 927-932. PMID 16955818. Retrieved on 2007-07-02.
  4. ^ a b Clemmons, R.M. (2002-08-27). Degenerative Myelopathy German Shepherd Dogs. University of Florida. Retrieved on 2007-06-19.
  • Degenerative Myelopathy. Canine Inherited Disorders Database. University of Prince Edward Island (2001-10-30). Retrieved on 2007-06-17.
  • Mitchell, Tamira (2001-03-27). Myelopathy. Listing of Inherited Disorders in Animals. University of Sydney. Retrieved on 2007-06-17.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Canine_degenerative_myelopathy". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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