Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs

By Ernest Ward, DVM

Medical Conditions

December 13, 2008

What is Degenerative Myelopathy?

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This disease, also known as degenerative myelopathy (DM) or chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy (CDRM), is a disease affecting the spinal cord, resulting in slowly progressive hind limb weakness and paralysis. The symptoms result from degeneration of the white matter of the spinal cord. DM is similar to some of the forms of human amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) more commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” The exact cause of DM is unknown. In its early stages, the symptoms of DM resemble those of osteoarthritis (arthritis), which often occurs secondary to hip dysplasia in many large breed dogs, making diagnosis challenging.

In later stages of the disease, the progressive weakness and ataxia (wobbling, stumbling) distinguish it from osteoarthritis of the hip joints. Other considerations for this condition include spinal injuries, spinal tumors, lumbosacral stenosis, fibrocartilaginous embolism, myasthenia gravis, and discospondylitis.

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