Degenerative myelopathy

Other Names:
Canine degenerative myelopathy, DM
Autosomal Recessive With Incomplete Penetrance
Affected Gene(s):
Affected Breed(s):
Airedale Terrier, Alaskan Malamute, American Bulldog, American Eskimo Dog, American Foxhound, American Hairless Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Water Spaniel, Anatolian Shepherd Dog, Aussiedoodle, Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Kelpie, Australian Labradoodle, Australian Shepherd, Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog, Australian Terrier, Beagle, Belgian Malinois, Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Shepherd, Belgian Tervuren, Bernedoodle, Bernese Mountain Dog, Bichon Frise, Biewer, Bloodhound, Bluetick Coonhound, Bohemian Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, Border Collie, Border Terrier, Borzoi, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Boykin Spaniel, Bulldog, Bullmastiff, Canaan Dog, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Carlin Pinscher, Catahoula Leopard Dog, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Cavapoo, Cesky Fousek, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Chinese Crested, Chow Chow, Clumber Spaniel, Cockapoo, Cocker Spaniel, Collie, Coton de Tulear, Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, Dalmatian, Decker Terrier, Deutsch Kurzhaar, Deutsch-Drahthaar, Doberman Pinscher, Dogo Argentino, Dutch Shepherd, English Cocker Spaniel, English Coonhound, English Shepherd, English Springer Spaniel, English Toy Spaniel, Finnish Lapphund, Finnish Spitz, Flat Coated Retriever, Fox Terrier, French Bulldog, German Pinscher, German Shepherd Dog, German Shorthaired Pointer, German Wirehaired Pointer, Giant Schnauzer, Golden Retriever, Goldendoodle, Gordon Setter, Great Pyrenees, Greyhound, Groenendael, Harrier, Hovawart, Irish Red and White Setter, Irish Setter, Irish Terrier, Irish Wolfhound, Jack Russell Terrier, Keeshond, Kerry Blue Terrier, King Shepherd, Komondor, Kuvasz, Labradoodle, Labrador Retriever, Laekenois, Lancashire Heeler, Landseer Newfoundland, Lapponian Herder, Lucas Terrier, Maltipoo, Maremma Sheepdog, Mastiff, Miniature American Shepherd, Miniature Australian Shepherd, Miniature Fox Terrier, Miniature Poodle, Miniature Schnauzer, Mountain Cur, Newfoundland, Newfypoo, Norfolk Terrier, Norwich Terrier, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Old English Sheepdog, Old Scotch Collie, Olde English Bulldogge, Parson Russell Terrier, Patterdale Terrier, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Peruvian Inca Orchid, Pharaoh Hound, Plott, Pointer, Pomeranian, Poodle, Portuguese Podengo, Pug, Puli, Pumi, Rat Terrier, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rottweiler, Rough Collie, Russell Terrier, Russian Wolfhound, Saarloos Wolfdog, Saint Bernard, Saluki, Samoyed, Sealyham Terrier, Shetland Sheepdog, Shih Tzu, Shiloh Shepherd, Shorty Bull, Siberian Husky, Siberian Laika, Silken Windhound, Silky Terrier, Smooth Collie, Smooth Fox Terrier, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Stabyhoun, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Standard Poodle, Standard Schnauzer, Swedish Lapphund, Tamaskan, Teddy Roosevelt Terrier, Tenterfield Terrier, Tibetan Terrier, Toy Australian Shepherd, Toy Fox Terrier, Toy Poodle, Treeing Walker Coonhound, Wachtelhund, Welsh Terrier, Whippet, White Shepherd Dog, Wire Fox Terrier, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, Yorkshire Terrier

Common Symptoms

Degenerative myelopathy caused by mutation of the SOD1 gene is an inherited neurologic disorder of dogs. This mutation is found in many breeds of dog, though it is not clear whether all dogs carrying two copies of the mutation will develop the disease. The variable presentation between breeds suggests that there are environmental or other genetic factors responsible for modifying disease expression. The average age of onset for dogs with degenerative myelopathy is approximately nine years of age. The disease affects the white matter tissue of the spinal cord and is considered the canine equivalent to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) found in humans. Affected dogs usually present in adulthood with gradual muscle atrophy and loss of coordination typically beginning in the hind limbs due to degeneration of the nerves. The condition is not typically painful for the dog, but will progress until the dog is no longer able to walk. The gait of dogs affected with degenerative myelopathy can be difficult to distinguish from the gait of dogs with hip dysplasia, arthritis of other joints of the hind limbs, or intervertebral disc disease. Late in the progression of disease, dogs may lose fecal and urinary continence and the forelimbs may be affected. Affected dogs may fully lose the ability to walk 6 months to 2 years after the onset of symptoms. Affected medium to large breed dogs can be difficult to manage and owners often elect euthanasia when their dog can no longer support weight in the hind limbs. Affected small breed dogs often progress more slowly than affected large breed dogs and owners may postpone euthanasia until the dog is paraplegic.


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