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The Viewer Viewpoint - The Stages of Degenerative Myelopathy


In late stage DM, this can happen overnight or within the space of a few days. I always counsel people with DM dogs not to wait until the dog goes down to have the appropriate equipment on hand for dealing with what is most definitely, at this point in time, inevitable. I am not a *fan* of towel walking, as it can place pressure on the bladder, causing the dog to urinate. Urinary incontinence and bowel incontinence will occur, inevitably.

Our instincts tell us to try to protect the dog’s feet from bleeding, due to knuckling. However, booties on the feet are NOT a good idea, due to the fact that booties interfere with foot placement and the conduction of nerve impulses. If you place booties upon a DM dog's feet, you can actually do more harm. A DM dog with booties is apt to fall more often suffering consequences such as cruciate ligament tears, knee injuries, disk injuries and further spinal damage. You are better walking the dog on grassy surfaces while using a rear end harness, which will allow you to lift the hindquarters into a position for correct foot placement. The Bottoms Up Leash or the Hartman Harness are some of the items people have found to be extremely helpful. Carts can be successfully used, outdoors. There are many new lightweight carts that have been introduced to the marketplace.

Never, and I do mean never, ever, hold or attempt to hold a DM dog up by its tail!!! To do so, can cause great harm to a DM dog!! Holding a DM dog up, supporting it, or lifting it by the tail can break the tail. Please- do not do this to your DM dog. By doing so, you put your dog in grave danger and in harm's way. DM is a terribly destructive disease without complicating it by ignorant and thoughtless actions. Should a vet suggests this as a method of transporting your DM dog or implies and encourages this as a way to deal with a DM dog- run, don’t walk, to another vet, please!

There are good vets and there are bad vets. There are good vets with bad hearts, bad vets with good hearts, and there are, unfortunately, too many vets who are completely ignorant when it comes to DM! Rear end harnesses were created for the purpose of lifting a DM dog safely! They enable one to lift the hindquarters without harming the spine, the disks or the tail. Please do not listen or give credence to anyone who suggest, "tail walking" a dog as a solution to mobility problems!

If your dog is exhibiting pain, it probably isn’t DM, unless there is a concurrent condition. DM is not painful. There is zero pain because the nerve cells have died.

Myelograms do not rule in DM - they rule out surgical disease. Before a myelogram is undertaken, an Electromyogram should be given. EMG results can differentiate between peripheral nerve disease, inter-vertebral disc disease and myelitis and polyradiculoneuropathy. It is not wrong to rule out the presence of surgical disease (DM is one of the non-surgical diseases), but it can be better to start testing for DM with the least invasive tests, leaving the more serious tests for last.

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