Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)

What is DM and how does it impact a dog's mobility?

What is DM?

Degenerative Myelopathy is a progressive spinal cord disease in dogs. As the spine degenerates a dog's mobility is impacted, leading to eventual paralysis. The way DM progresses and impacts pets closely resembles the disease, ALS in humans. 

DM impacts the German Shepherd breed more than any other. Other breeds impacted by the disease include: Boxer, Corgi, Husky, 

Understanding DM Guide

Stages of Degenerative Myelopathy

Early Signs of DM

DM onset typically occurs between the ages of 8 to 14 years of age. Some of the very early symptoms of degenerative myelopathy can occur slowly, and some of the earliest signs may not be noticed right away. Early symptoms of Degenerative Myelopathy include: 

  • Hind leg weakness

  • Rear paw knuckling

  • Dragging feet

  • Uneven wearing of back toenails
  • Scrapes and wounds on paws caused by dragging

6 Months After Diagnosis

Within 6 months of being diagnosed with DM most dog's symptoms will worsen. Most dogs  within 6 months will experience worsening weakness in their back legs, difficulty standing, and slowly lose their ability to walk. By this stage of the disease, most DM dogs will rely on a dog wheelchair to help them get around. As the disease progresses weakness and paralysis will travel up the spine towards a dog's front legs. Eventually impacting leg strength in all four legs. 

Late Stage DM 

Within a year of being diagnosed there will be significant changes to a dog's mobility. In later stages of the disease, the DM will have moved up the spine and now impacts the front leg strength as well as the back legs. Most dogs in this stage will now need a full support, quad wheelchair to provide strength to the back and front legs.  Eventual paralysis is very likely with all DM dogs.