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Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) in Dogs

Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is an inherited disease of dogs that affects the spinal cord. It is similar to the condition in people called ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

It typically affects dogs around eight years of age or older. The first signs are usually muscle wasting and incoordination in one or both of the back legs, with wearing down of the toe nails. It then progresses with signs such as incontinence (an inability to hold on to urine and faeces) and increasing weakness in both back legs. Sadly, it finally results in complete paralysis.

Breeds more commonly affected include German Shepherds, Huskys, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Pembroke Welsh Corgis and Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Early signs to look out for are:

  • The back feet seem to scrape the ground when walking, sometimes the top surface of the feet become hairless and develop sores
  • The hips appear to sway when standing still
  • Falling over easily when pushed from the side
  • Difficulty getting up from a lying position

A gene associated with DM has been identified, however, not all dogs who carry the gene will develop the disease.

There are a number of other common conditions that have similar signs, so it is important to have a check up with your vet if you suspect that your dog may have DM.

Unfortunately, DM is not curable, however, there are things you can do to slow the progression of the disease and improve your dog’s quality of life.

Acupuncture helps dogs with DM’s in a number of ways. It helps stimulate nerve function so we will often see an initial improvement in coordination and reduction in incontinence. Acupuncture helps with pain relief so can help support the front legs that are taking more load when the back legs don’t function so well. And owners report that after the first couple of treatments their dogs are more playful and cheerful, improving their quality of life. 

Tips for DM dogs:

  • Regular acupuncture
  • Rehab / Physio
  • Hydrotherapy

As the condition progresses there are harnesses and doggy wheelchairs that can be used to improve mobility and give your dog independence and the ability to get outdoors and sniff and socialise.

If your dog has been diagnosed with DM, I’m here to help, please call if you’d like to discuss how acupuncture may benefit.

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