Canine Degenerative Myelopathy

Canine degenerative myelopathy (CDM), also known as chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy, is inflammation of the spinal cord that it can result in lameness and extensive paralysis of the hind legs. The animal could be crippled within a few months, or may survive up to three years. Under any scenario, the disease severely hampers the quality of life, culminates in euthanasia, and is devastating for pet owners and breeders alike. CDM initially causes muscle weakness and lack of coordination. The dog may scuff its one or both rear paws when it walks, which can cause the nails of one foot to be worn down.1 Breeds most often affected include the German Shepherd Dog, Welsh Corgis, Ibizan Hound, Labrador Retriever, Bernese Mountain Dog, Boxer, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, German Shepherd Dog, Kerry Blue Terrier, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Standard Poodle, terriers.6

Several causes of CDM have been suggested, including immune diseases, genetic mutations and vitamin B12 and vitamin E deficiencies. DM has been clinically reported in the Labrador Retriever and confirmed by histopathology in the Golden Retriever, but the mutation has not yet been reported in these breeds. Considering the debilitating nature of the disease and the lack of proven therapies, the identification of genetic markers to permit the identification of animals that are predisposed to developing CDM would be very beneficial to breeders and pet owners alike.1 A free DNA test is offered for dogs who have been diagnosed with CDM at the University of Missouri. Dogs must meet certain criteria to be eligible for a free DNA test.

Canine degenerative myelopathy cannot be cured, although it may be possible to maintain the dog's quality of life for a short time through a proper program of exercise and nutrition. Dogs with this condition benefit from a wide range of resourceful home care items such as runner rugs for a slippery floor; ramps for the stairs, bed and car; slings for assistance while walking; chest and rump lifts to help larger dogs stand up; canvas suspension hammocks; wheel carts, soft bedding, and so on.3 Although not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), aminocaproic acid (EACA) and n-acetylcysteine (NAC) may slow the progression, but this treatment is still experimental and controversial.1

Bernese Mountain dog


  1. Prediction and diagnosis of canine degenrative myelopathy. J. Coats, K. Linblad-Toh, C. Wade, G. Johnson. US2009239225 (A1) 2009-09-24
  2. A practical guide to canine and feline neurology. Curtis W. Dewey, Anton G. Hoffman, Carol Rudowsky
  3. Canine and feline geriatric oncology: honoring the human-animal bond. Alice Villalobos, Laurie Kaplan
  4. The genetics of the dog. Anatoly Ruvinsky, Jeff Sampson
  5. Measurement of myelin basic protein in the cerebrospinal fluid of dogs with degenerative myelopathy. Oji T, Kamishina H, Cheeseman JA, Clemmons RM. In: Vet Clin Pathol. 2007 Sep;36(3):281-4
  6. Degenerative Myelopathy Research. Ongoing and Additional Research University of Missouri-Columbia, College of Veterinary Medicine
  7. The Prevalence of Nine Genetic Disorders in a Dog Population from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany


Arnold-Chiari Malformation

Progressive Axonopathy

Canine Degenerative Myelopathy

Canine Wobbler Syndrome

Cerebellar Abiotrophy

Cerebellar Hypoplasia

Cerebellar Purkinje cell degeneration


Degenerative Myelopathy

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