Degenerative myelopathy in dogs is a progressive disease affecting the white matter of the spinal cord. It is similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in humans. Symptoms in early stages of the disease include progressive weakness, stumbling and loss of muscle, especially in the rear legs. As the disease progresses, paralysis and organ failure can occur. While the condition can occur in any breed or mixed breed, certain breeds show a predisposition.
Degenerative myelopathy most often occurs in German shepherds and Welsh corgis. Other breeds predisposed to degenerative myelopathy include American Eskimo dogs, Bernese mountain dogs, borzois, boxers, Chesapeake Bay retrievers, golden retrievers, great Pyrenees, Kerry blue terriers, poodles, pugs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Shetland sheepdogs, soft-coated wheaten terriers and wire fox terriers.
Researchers have identified the DNA mutations responsible for degenerative myelopathy. DNA tests are available to identify if a dog is clear, a carrier or are at increased risk for disease development. Talk to your veterinarian about the benefits of DNA testing.