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      Degenerative ​Myelopathy

Degenerative Myelopathy is a progressive degenerative disease of the spinal cord in older dogs of many breeds. The disease has an insidious onset typically between 8 and 14 years of age. It begins with a loss of coordination (ataxia) in the hind limbs. The affected dog will wobble when walking, knuckle over or drag the feet. This can first occur in one hind limb and then affect the other. As the disease progresses, the limbs become weak and the dog begins to buckle and has difficulty standing The weakness gets progressively worse until the dog is unable to walk The clinical course can range from 6 months to 1 year before dogs become paraplegic. If signs progress for a longer period of time, loss of urinary and fecal continence may occur and eventually weakness will develop in the front limbs. Another key feature of DM is that it is not a painful disease. There is no treatment for this disease.   Some researchers feel that this is a form of Lou Gerrick Disease that is seen in humans.  Recent canine genetic research has identified a mutation in a gene that confers a greatly increased risk of developing the disease.  This gene is recessive so a dog carrying one copy of this gene is unlikely to  develop this disease.  A dog with no copies of this gene is extremely unlikely to develop Degenerative  Myelopathy while a dog with 2 copies has a dramatically increased  chance of the disease . For that reason, testing is strongly suggested only breeding a "Carrier " (a dog with one copy of the gene) to a "non-Carrier" ( a dog with no copies of the gene)  or 2 non-Carriers.  While there are still some variables that are not understood, this is a VERY good start ar reducing the number of  affected animals.