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  Degenerative Myelopathy
- Course and Presentation -

Degenerative Myelopathy is variable in its presentation and course. Generally, there is progression to paralysis in 3-6 months when untreated. With treatment this can usually be doubled. Some dogs, of course, do not progress with treatment. Almost all dogs will progress without it. Once paralysis occurs, there is another progressive course toward forelimb paralysis and eventually brainstem failure. Each of these takes 3-6 months to happen. Few dogs will survive beyond 2 years without treatment. At this time, they are completely paralyzed although there may be some residual head movement. They cannot get up or remain sternal at all.

The only organ affected by DM is the spinal cord and brainstem (although changes are seen in the white matter of the cerebrum). On the other hand, the ravages of being paralyzed can result in failure of the kidneys, heart, or lungs. Due to decubital ulcers, systemic infection can also take place. Death results from multisystem failure, depending upon many additional factors including the aforementioned problems. Certainly, the quality of life is less at these latter stages of the disease. I personally and professionally try to guide clients toward euthanasia before quality of life is affected. This decision is individual and personal between the client and the patient. I always know when it is time for my own pets; they tell me with their eyes and expression. It is never easy, but, when the time comes, it is our last unselfish sacrifice we can make for our pets. Many DM dogs develop other problems. Too often they are ignored by their medical team, not wanting to put them through anything else or you through the expense. However, I still feel it is important to monitor their health and treat those things which can be treated. To do otherwise doesn't seem fair. DM dogs do get splenic masses (and even cancer) if not receiving medication like bromelain and curcumin. Untreated these can lead to problems and death. Being down can also (or sometimes even when now down) lead to stress on the heart. As animals age, the heart can loose efficiency and even develop arrhythmias. That can also put dogs off food. DM dogs can also get additional neurologic problems (unrelated to DM) including idiopathic vestibular disease which cause imbalance and distress, IVD disease which can cause signs similar to DM, and neoplasia.
Dr. Clemmons

Hope this helps.  Our group is a close knit, caring group. If you have to deal with this disease, it's easier with support.....  May all our dogs live a thousand years..

Marjorie + Jack Flash
...two hearts, two hearts that beat as one....
....you know it's true, everything I do, I do it for you..

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