Many factors may make your dog more prone to contracting degenerative myelopathy. This disease attacks the white fluid present in the spinal cord and depletes it, which then causes the dog’s hind legs to become paralyzed. The most prevalent cause is a genetic mutation in the dogs. So what are the symptoms you should look out for?
1. Wobbling and Falling
Due to the weakness that transcends in the hind legs, it is easier for the dog to topple over and fall when slightly pushed. Your dog will also have excessive sway and mostly wobble as it walks. This disease causes weakness in the ligaments. The weakened leg muscles will limit how stable the dog is and thus making them more prone to falling.
Falling is more common when the dog is initially diagnosed, and as the disease worsens and attacks the spinal cord, the dog will become paralyzed. It would be best to get a back brace for dogs when the symptoms worsen, and they can no longer support themselves upright.
2. Toenails and Pneumonia
Another common yet subtle symptom is overgrown toenails. The dog’s claws tend to grow very fast and cause the dog to walk improperly or even stand straight for short periods. Regularly trimming the dog’s claws will help you not if there is an abnormal growth and take the appropriate actions when need be. After this illness progresses, the dog will become less mobile and eventually paralyzed. This makes the dog more susceptible to contracting infections such as canine pneumonia. Continuous pneumonia attacks can be fatal to dogs who suffer from degenerative myelopathy, which hinders breathing correctly.
3. Knuckling and Sepsis
The muscle degeneration on the dog’s paws will make them too weak to hold up in the downward direction. This will cause the dog to scrape the ground as it walks, referred to as knuckling. Another related sign is that the dog’s legs will become less hairy from scrapping and trauma to the paws. Due to the constant bruises, the wounds may expose your dog to sepsis. When the dog has degenerative myelopathy, the immune system is already weak, and thus, the dog’s body cannot fight inflammation effectively. This inflammation will eventually lead to septic shock, which damages and causes liver and kidney failure when left untreated. Some signs of sepsis include excessive panting and a lack of interest in food by the dog.
4. Running and Standing
Your once very active dog will all of sudden refuse or refrain from activities they used to enjoy, such as running. If playing fetch is becoming increasingly difficult for your dog, you may want to take them for a degenerative myelopathy test. The weak leg muscles also make it very hard for the dog to do simple exercises and walk. Sometimes even when the dog is well-rested, you will notice that the dog struggles to stand up on its own from the ground. Again this is due to the lack of control in the weakened ligaments.
5. Muscle Atrophy and Pain
This condition is described as the wasting away and reduction of muscles. The signs of this condition take a long while to notice and thus will have caused quite some substantial damage to your dog’s bones. The consistent injuries to the bones will lead to severe pain when the dog tries to walk. The more the disease progresses, the more the white substance is used up, the more the disease progresses, and the joints experience more friction. The constant rubbing will cause wear and tear at the point of contact, and this will eventually cause pain for your dog.
6. Stomach Incontinences
During the more advanced stage of degenerative myelopathy, your dog will start having difficulties controlling urine and fecal matter. This lack of control in bowel movements is a common symptom when there is an injury to the spinal cord. This is more common if the lesions are located in an area of the spine directly linked to the bladder. This can also lead to other hygiene-related issues and diseases.
It is important to note that certain dogs and cross-breeds will have a higher chance of getting degenerative myelopathy. There is no treatment yet, but you can slow down the degeneration when the disease is still in its infancy stages. Some veterinarians will also want to discuss end-of-life care options as the disease worsens. If you see suspicious symptoms of degenerative myelopathy, you may request the veterinarian to do a DNA check to see if there are any superoxide dismutase 1 gene mutations.