Go Back Music Controls Go Forward

Helpful Hints for DM Dogs


Warning about Alfalfa
Misc Equipment to Help with DM Dogs
Non-DM Related Problems
Lick Proof Bandage
Estrogen and DM
Alternative to NSAIDs
Waterless Bath
Getting Around the House with DM
Dog Ramp
Best Bedding
Don't Boost the Immune System
Keeping Skin on Rear Legs Dry
Prevent Bedsores
Calendula for Sore Spots
Expressing the Bladder
More on Incontinence
Problems with Steroids
Stimulating a Bowel Movement
Best Heartworm Preventive
Immediately after DM Diagnosis
Lick Granulomas
Upset Tummy Help
When Your Dog is in a Cart
Mechanical Lift
Vaccines and DM
Diet: Don't do Raw
How to Lift a DM Dog
Dragging Paws (the case against booties)
Medication Doses



In the later stages of Degenerative Myelopathy, dogs will become incontinent. Owners of these DM dogs are often at a loss of how to cope with this problem, if their dogs still have the spirit to live in their eyes. I have received many emails asking me how to deal with this problem.

For male dogs, I can highly recommend "Depends Easy Fit Diapers" (for humans) with the adjustable velcro closures and elasticized legs.  The velcro closures attach easily to any part of the diaper, not just the velcro patches, leading to a very satisfactory fit.  Placed sideways around the male dog (like a belt) these diapers work well to contain the urine.

For female dogs, you must cut a hole in the diaper for the tail, and the diaper must be placed as it would be placed on a person.

I found that a shower curtain placed on the floor under the bed of the dog will prevent accidents if the dog urinates while a diaper change is taking place.  Additionally, I used vinyl backed mattress pads on top of the bed, to make sure that overnight, if leakage did occur, the bed would not get soiled.  These pads are easily cleaned in the washing machine and dried in the drier.

Always sponge bath the dog's lower abdomen before putting on a fresh diaper, and make sure the area is COMPLETELY dry before closing the new diaper.

Incontinence & Athletic Supporter

This helpful hint comes from Cindy, owner of La Paw Spa. I think it's a super-neat idea.

For incontinent (incontinent with urine) girl or boy dogs....use an athletic supporter (a "jock strap") and a sanitary napkin. You put the "cup" area of the athletic supporter in the dogs groin area, and the straps go over the dog's back. Put the sanitary napkin in the correct spot inside the cup, and presto! You've got a "diaper" that allows lots of air circulation and is easy to change.

She used an adult-small size for her 75 pound GSD.

She said you can also cut the staps and put velcro on them, so you can easily open and close the straps (instead of pulling the supporter on like a pair of pants each time).

Keeping Skin Dry

If the dog is down completely, a pillow placed between the knees will seperate the rear legs, allowing for air circulation.  You can place a fan several feet from the dog aimed at the area between the dog's rear legs on the lowest setting to keep the area dry.  Do not leave the fan on while you are not at home!


Remember to turn your dog several times a day!  This will prevent the dog from developing bedsores, which are very difficult to cure once they appear.

Non-DM Related Problems

Do not automatically assume that if your dog is exhibiting additional symptoms, it is the DM that is causing it.  Dogs with Degenerative Myelopathy can get other things, just as any dog.  If your dog seems to be in pain it very well might be that something else is the root of the problem.  DM dogs do not appear to feel pain.

No Boots

Booties are NOT recommended for DM dogs!  Booties cut down on the sensation to the paws, and will have a negative effect upon the nerve impulses going to the hind quarters.

Heartworm Meds

DM dogs should receive "Filarbits plain".  DM dogs must receive a Heartworm preventative!  Heartworm is a very serious disease and even healthy dogs have a hard time with the treatment if they develop this disease. Westlab Pharmacy compounds a daily dose of Heartworm prevention, made for DM dogs. They can be contacted at: 800- 4- westla

Rare, Not Raw

Do not feed RAW diets to DM dogs!  This diet can be harmful to a dog that is not healthy.  Raw food can carry the E.Coli Bacteria and Salmonella.  Raw pork carries Trichonella.  These bacteria are deadly to a DM dog.


If you cannot find an indoor pool for dogs located near you on my pool page, check with any horse farms you may have in your area.  Many times, horse farms will have pools for their horses, and will allow dogs to utilize the facility when the horses do not.

A life preserver should be used if you are swimming your dog in any arena that is not supervised, such as a lake, or if your dog is very weak in the hindquarters.

Floor Runners

Inexpensive, washable runners, will make it easier for your dog to retain its footing when placed on wood, tile, or stone floors.  This will give more traction, and enable your dog to have better footing.  When Jack Flash began to lose his footing on our slippery floors, I went and purchased a whole roll of inexpensive runner sized carpeting, and made a path throughout the house that he could walk on.


Steroids are no longer the first choice recommendation for use as anti-inflammatory in DM dogs.  Steroids lead to loss of muscle mass, which is a big problem in DM dogs.  DM causes wasting, so to add something that will only increase the loss of muscle mass is not a good line of defense to follow.  Natural anti-inflammatories, such as those listed on the DM Medication and Exercise Schedule page should be the first choice.


There is an inflatable air mattress you can purchase at any surgical supply store, that is wonderful for preventing bed sores.  The mattress plugs into the wall, with circulating currents of air, going into bubble-like pockets in the mattress.  This provides complete cushioning of your dog, and helps to eliminate the friction that lying a hard surface can cause (friction eventually leads to bed sores).  Cover the air mattres (it's vinyl) with a nice soft bed, so the dog will not be lying on a surface that does not "breathe".  However, do not lie on this set-up yourself, as you will find that YOU may wish to sleep on it!  {VBG} ;)

Immune Response

DM is an autoimmune disease. Therefore, any supplement or medication that increases immune responsiveness or boosts the immune system should not be administered to DM dogs. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system views the body as the "invader". Therefore, when boosted, the immune system works overtime. In an autoimmune disease, one wishes to SLOW the immune response, not stimulate immune response! Boosting the immune system will lead to the immune system attacking itself, thereby speeding the progression of the disease.

Medication Dosages

do NOT increase the medications because you see your dog is doing well on them.  More is NOT better!  More can cause gastric upset.  Additionally, when your dog does reach the latter stages of DM, if you have not cut back on the dosages as per Dr. Clemmons' instructions, you will not have the added boost available when you need it most!

Expressing the Bladder

****** General Information

Essentially, the bladder keeps filling and can't empty on its own untill there is so much pressure there, that it leaks past the sphyncter. What we need to do is add pressure, gently, untill the sphyncter lets go and lets the urine flow out.

The methods are different for males amd females. I am more familliar with girl dogs 'cos that is what Raffi is so I'll start with:

****** The Ladies

You have probably done this by accident, I know I first experienced Raffi emptying her bladder to my pressure when I was lifting her into the car one day, I had to go back in and change!!

I take her out in her harness, stand behind her with my feet spread apart so that my shoes dont get filled! Reach with one hand under her belly and slide the hand back until my wrist is stopped by her boney hips. Hold her up as you slide the other hand in from the other side, on top of the first Then lift. The soft belly is against the palm of my first hand. [or you can slide one whole forearm under and lift, tho I find that harder on my back] her own weight is enough to start the flow. Sometimes it takes a moment or two, but you will see a reflex squatting action as her legs come up right before she starts. Keep the pressure on untill her legs come down again and you are sure she has emptied.

****** The Boys

I am going to ask someone else to confirm this because I only know this from reading it not from doing, and I dont have a dog to check out the anatomy. But my understanding is that if you reach under with your hand right in front of the pelvis, now I dont know if that is in front or behind the penis area you will be able to feel the hard globe of the full bladder. gently squeeze untill the flow starts. It is apparently easier with boys than girls.

More About Expressing the Bladder

It takes practice, practice, practice...but you can express the bladder very gently with the dog in a lying-down position, or in a standing position. Ideally, the bladder should be emptied every few hours (e.g., every 2-3 hours during the day, and just before you go to bed...he should be able to last the night).

In a standing position, I put a glass oblong pan underneath Zion and expressed the bladder into that. Then, I could look at the urine for color and clarity, and check for smells. As Zion was paralyzed in the back, I used the "stick" from a plummer's helper to hold him up while I expressed his bladder. I sat in a chair, put the stick over my two legs, and fit Zion's rear-end sling over the stick. This held him up. Baily Bear may be too heavy for you to do this. If you don't have help right then, you could put him in his cart...or use the lying down position.

Have BB lay down on something absorbent and something waterproof (Profleece over a vinyl sheet works). Position yourself in back of him, with one hand/arm under his body, and one over. Run your hands down his body from hip bones toward his sheath in a stroking or milking motion, pressing in gently. Soon, you will become skilled at finding his bladder (especially when it's full). When you find it, keep pressing gently until the urine stops. Then repeat the stroking motion until more urine flows. Usually, two or three "pressings" empties the bladder...but it may take you some time to be really successful at expressing the bladder. The bladder moves around in the body and is not always in the same place.

Some vets recommend pressing super-hard to express the bladder. Zion did not like this and it was not workable for me because he had a spleenic tumor (which could not be touched, let alone pressed), and because my hands are weak from carpel tunnel syndrome. The gentle pressure technique worked for me.

If manually expressing the bladder is not workable for you, ask your vet how to safely use a catheter.

When you express the bladder indoors (especially in the lying down position), Baily Bear will probably want to lick the urine up...he wants to keep the house clean. It's OK if he does that.

By the way, I also "pooped" Zion in the house using the lying down position. This was very useful when he began to be paralyzed in the front. Once you cross the magic line about "no potty/pee in the house", your caregiving will be much easier on you.

Good luck, Janet

Stimulating a bowel movement

Get a routine and try to stick to the same two times per day. For Raffi it works well first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I feed her x2 per day also which might help with regularity. If the stool is hard it woud help to add a fish oil capsule to the diet.

You can get surgical gloves from the pharmacy. Innitially use a little vaseline to lubricate the end of the index finger. After she has peed, and standing in her harness very gently insert the index finger into the anus, there will be a lot of resistance at first but twist a bit as the finger slowly enters. About 1 to 2 inches is enough, you will probably feel the stool right there. If it isn't within 2 inches s/he doesnt need to go. Just the innitial stimulation may be enough for the dog to start and complete the task. With Raffi tho' she has so little control that I need to keep my finger there and gently stroke the inside of the anal area to keep things moving. It helps too if I have my hand under her belly to give a bit of pressure there.

Hope this makes sense. e-mail me if you want more info or clarification. It sounds difficult but it really isnt once you get the knack,and once you have them going when you choose, it makes life so much easier for everyone.

Hugs, Ann and Raffi


An alternative to the NSAID drugs with fewer side-effects is to use a mixture of garlic powder, dry ginger and dry mustard (-1 teaspoon each, depending on your dog's size) 2-3 times a day with food. These can also be dissolved in a small amount of vinegar (1 teaspoon, mixed with 1 tablespoon of honey and diluted with an ounce of warm water) and given orally.

No Alfalfa

Dr C feels that alfalfa may contain natural substances which may be harmful to the immune sysyem. Alfalfa is also easily contaminated by run off ground water, and therefore can be a source of E. Coli. (One of the biggest health warnings ever, issued by the NIH, was regarding alfalfa and E. Coli.) Furthermore, Alfalfa can be an allergan. It also stimulates the immune system, which we all know by now ( hopefully, if we have done our homework) is not good for DM dogs.

Ramping It Up

Drs Foster and Smith carries a carpeted ramp with a slope that is not too steep. It looks like it might be good for getting fur kids up onto your bed or a sofa. It also might help to get them in the car...

Skin Treatment

Calendula Gel and Aloe Vera are good to put on rub spots

Stop the Licking

For lick granulomas dip a Q tip into Listerine. Hold the Q tip under the dogs nose- Dog should pull away when you place it under the nose. If the dog licks the listerine, you can bet it wont do it again, but it will learn the smell and associate it with the taste. Then place a bit of listerine around the lick area- dog should now leave the area alone....This usually works when Bitter Apple will not..


Bathing a DM dog: I had mentioned that I was going to try out Miracle Groom in a post many months ago and never followed up on it. I have been using it on Taka with very good results.

Particularly as he has become less mobile, it is more difficult to get him completely dry after a regular bath. The Miracle Groom seems to really get him cleaner and prolongs the time between real baths. It also helps in cleaning up any accidents and can be more effective than baby wipes.

With him laying on his side I spray it on his coat (making sure to keep the aresol away from his head), then brush him against the grain and then with it using his undercoat rake, and then towel dry. I roll him over and start on the other side.

We're on our second order, this time I got the gallon size. -- Bill and Taka (my best boy in the world)


Anyone with a paralyzed dog may want to go view this web site (www.tylift.com). This lift would save so much energy and make it far easier to move your dog without injuring yourself or your dog.


RuffTuff(tm) Pet Bandage Guard (www.bonafido.com). Protects bandages from being chewed off!!!

Helpful Equipment

I came across a company called Harbor Freight Tools. They have stores throughout the western states. They specialize in shop tools and have things that could work for lifting, and moving at a fraction of handicap equipment prices. They have a shop crane, looks like it could work like the tylift- a 6 wheel creeper, for use under a car, it has foam padding and vinyl cover, on sale for 13.49. Perhaps this might help move a dog from room to room. What looks very interesting to me is the Hydraulic Table Cart!!!! 199.99 on sale!!!! I can think of several applications for this. One could bolt a larger platform on top ....and? It rises from about 6 inches off the ground to about 4 feet! I found it in the sculpture department and tried it out. It is very easy to use and will lift 1,100 lbs.

Upset Tummy

Blackberry Root and DGL are both good for doggies with upset tummies. Your vet could consult Westlab Pharmacy for the proper dosage information.

Before the Cart

Immediately upon Diagnosis of DM, Jill has made a very good suggestion, which I feel is important to place here, which is to measure your dog for a cart, before the DM becomes too pronounced.... Thank you Jill, for the suggestion

So.....While your dog is still able to stand, it is a good idea to take measurements of the dog, so that when you will need a cart, in the future, should you choose to try one, your measurements will be accurate! It is much harder to get accurate measurements, later in the disease, due to difficulty in standing. The weight can always be easily checked, but certain measurements necessary for a successful cart fit becomes difficult to measure, later on, while the dog is down.

Here are the measurements you will need to have: (all measurements should be done in STRAIGHT lines, NOT following the curves of the body)

**Top of shoulders to the ground
**Distance from hips to shoulders
**Top of hips to the ground
**Width across hips (remember to measure STRAIGHT-not with the curve)
**Width across shoulders (remember to measure STRAIGHT-not with the curve)
**Rear height from top of back to floor
**Length of back from wither(shoulder) to base of tail
**Inside distance from back of front foot to front of back foot
**Girth of chest (circumference) behind front legs
**Groin to floor (inside height of hind legs)

There are other measurements that will be needed, but those can easily be done at the time the cart is ordered, for a better fit. The above measurements would be harder to get, with the dog in a lying down position....

Please visit Doggon Carts and scroll all the way down to the diagram, which illustrates how to take the proper measurments, if you are not certain you are measuring properly.

You can also visit K9 Carts to view how to correctly take measurements.

When your Dog is in a Cart

Check your dog's physical shape and condition frequently with your hands, and adjust and pad your cart harness accordingly.

This becomes more important in the months when the dog's front-end starts to be affected by DM. As muscle mass is lost because of DM progressing up the spine, the vertibrae may become more prominent in the shoulder area (less fat/muscle covering). The same is true for shoulder blades. Harness straps may cause the dog pain as a result. Some harness straps may need to be heavily padded at this time, and frequently adjusted to fit the dog's smaller silhouette.

Padding that works very well: The tubes of "fleece" that are made for horse equipment (halters, etc). These already have velcro on them and the padding is very thick.

Also check for mild skin abbrasions under the dog's coat (areas where the harness goes). These may happen because your dog's coat is not as healthy or thick, and the harness rubs there. If the skin is irritated, pad that area of the harness and check the area freqently.

Lifting a DM dog

Always be sure to keep in mind the position of your arm or wrist when lifting a DM dog. If you lift while your arm or wrist is twisted (not in a neutral position), you can really injure yourself...even your neck or back can be effected.

Vaccinations and DM Dogs

Vaccinations can easily send a DM dog on a downhill spiral. Please discuss not vaccinating your DM dog with your vet. The newer protocols show that dogs probably do not need to be vaccinated every year! In fact, vaccinations may be possibly be good for life, once dogs have received their one yr boosters. Of course, Rabies vaccinations are required, by law. You would need special dispensation to legally avoid giving this particular vaccine to your dog.

Estrogen and DM dogs

If you are giving your bitch estrogen, for incontinence (non- DM related incontincence), you will need to cut back on the dosage of either the estrogen or Aminocaproic acid! Estrogen makes Aminocaproic acid more intense. Please check with Westlab Pharmacy to get the adjusted dose of aminocaproic acid when giving it with estrogen.



Jack Flash, A Portrait
"Jack Flash, A Portrait"

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..

Sign Guestbook Read Guestbook Photos Photos E-mail

Go to Top of Page

Go Back Jack Flash's Home Page Go Forward
Warning Signs
Dog Pools
Jack's Photo Album
Donation to DM Research
DM Links

Go to Top of Page

Thanks to Tom Cammarata for original web design.
A special thanks to William Elliott for making this site available to the public, once again,
and to Vicki Kniss, for her tireless support and help in getting this site operational, once again :)

For Comments or Questions, e-mail the Webmaster at webmaster@mzjf.com.