Check Out Some Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs

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I have to be honest: writing about canine degenerative myelopathy (DM) is not at the top of my “fun writing” list. He doesn’t even appear on this List. I wish I didn’t have to write this post, but here we are. And this is important.

Why DM? On the one hand, this is a frightening and overwhelming diagnosis. I want to shed some light on the realities and share some tips on how to make the progression of the issue easier for you and your dog, even if it will never be easy.

On the other hand, we are unfortunately facing our second matter in our family. My beloved Emmett passed away from DM about five years ago, and we recently received a probable diagnosis of Cooper. I have a lot of personal interest in this topic. So I researched like crazy, talked with experts and learned a lot. I want to share, just in matter it helps others.

A quick warning: I am not a veterinarian. I’m not a veterinarian or a therapist or anything useful. I’m a writer. Researchers. A Mother Of A Dog. Everything you read here is for informational purposes only. Always, always, always consult your veterinarian!


There is white matter around our spinal cord and the spinal cord of our dogs. The job of the white matter is to send and process nerve signals up and down in the spinal cord. DM occurs when this white matter degenerates. At first, DM is often confused with Osteoarthritis because the first signs are similar; however, as DM progresses, the spinal cord go-downs and eventually the dogs become paralyzed in the back. It is more common in older dogs – it has rarely been reported that dogs under the age of four suffer from DM – and most dogs are about nine years old. The prognosis is usually six months to a year after the diagnosis. If caught early, maybe two years.

The most common comparison with DM in humans is ALS or Lou Gehrig’s issue.


German shepherds are considered the most frequently affected breed. However, many breeds can be affected. Here is a non-exhaustive list of dog breeds prone to degenerative myelopathy according to clinical data:

  • American Eskimo Dogs
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • Barzoi
  • Boxers
  • Welsh Corgi Cardigan
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Irish Setter
  • Kerry Blue Terrier
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgis
  • Poodle
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Soft-coated Wheaton Terrier
  • Fox Terrier Wire

Why did I call this a non-exhaustive List when it is really quite long? Well, as you can see, the breeds of my dogs do not appear here. Emmett was a Staffordshire bull terrier/Plott Dog mix, and Cooper is an American Staffordshire bull terrier. And although these breeds do not appear on the most common lists of affected breeds, I discovered genetic research that revealed: “degenerative myelopathy is an inherited neurological disorder caused by a mutation in the SOD1 gene known to be carried by Staffordshire Bull terriers.”

If you are curious about your dog and the breed is not on this List, just type in Google: “{name of your dog breed} + degenerative myelopathy” and see what comes out.

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