Skip to main content
Updated date:

Degenerative Myelopathy in Corgis: A Personal Story

Author:
My Corgi's First time in wheels

My Corgi's First time in wheels

Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive condition that affects the nerves of the spinal cord and is often seen in corgis. Affected dogs develop a gradual loss of mobility which progresses into paralysis of the hind limbs with loss of functionality. The age of onset is typically around 8 years and upwards, and therefore is more commonly seen in senior dogs. Following is a personal story of a dedicated owner, Caitlin Netzer, dealing with this devastating disease that affected her beloved corgi.

A dog with back pain may lose sensation in the rear legs.

Back legs crossing is a sign of DM

First Signs of Trouble 

When we first started seeing signs of degenerative myelopathy in my corgi, the symptoms were similar to a back injury. Earlier in the year my dog had back surgery for a blown disc and two other discs that were slipped. Back issues are extremely common in corgis and typically make for a long recovery.

Common issues while corgis are recovering include problems using their back legs and maneuvering. You’ll notice them struggling to steady their balance and walk flat-footed. However, these symptoms continued well after her recovery.

Months after my dog recovered, her back left foot was struggling to properly function. What we came to realize is that her foot was “knuckling,” a term used to describe when the dogs foot and toes curl over. She was essentially walking on her knuckles.

[otw_is sidebar="otw-sidebar-1"]

Knuckling can happen from back surgeries, but as time progressed we realized it was getting worse. When my dog initially hurt her back we learned about a disease called, degenerative myelopathy (DM).

Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs

Wearing the Help Em Up harness for dogs

Wearing the Help Em Up harness for dogs

Degenerative myelopathy is very similar to human ALS. It is a slowly progressive degenerative disease, which attacks the spinal cord. It is typically found in older dogs and begins in the hind legs. An owner with a dog who has DM will begin to see a loss on coordination. A dog will typically begin to drag their feet, wobble, or tip over.

In the case of my dog, it never really spread to her right foot—to this day we are unsure if she passed away from complications from DM or if she possibly had cancer.

Discover More

bernese

Discovering the Bernese Mountain Dog's Coat

The Bernese mountain dog is blessed with a heavy coat that requires some extra care. If you are planning on adopting a puppy or dog of this breed, it's important knowing more about the characteristics of this dog's coat and what type of care it needs. So let's discover more about the Bernese Mountain dog's coat!

setters

Discovering Different Types of Setter Dog Breeds

There are different types of setter dog breeds out there and each of them are blessed with their own unique characteristics. There are setters and setters in the dog world! Discover the different types of setters and what sets them apart so that you become a pro in identifying them.

liverwurs

Is Liverwurst Bad for Dogs?

Whether liverwurst is bad for dogs is something dog owners may be wondering about. You may have heard of dogs being trained using liverwurst and dog owners obtaining amazing results. You may therefore wish to give it a try, but you need to know first whether liverwurst is good for dogs.

DM is a heartbreaking disease to witness, as you’ll find your dog unable to do the things they used to do. They can no longer walk, properly run, or jump. DM takes a dedicated pet parent and a determined dog to make the rest of their lives comfortable. As the symptoms progress, dogs typically lose the ability to walk in both legs, where they will then have to drag themselves around.

After they lose the ability in their legs, the disease continues. The horrible disease continues up the spine, which eventually reaches the lungs and makes it difficult for the dog to breathe, eat, and go to the bathroom. These symptoms are the last stage of DM and when an owner must make a heart wrenching decision.

 Caitlin watches her corgi as she exercises her legs.

Caitlin watches her corgi as she exercises her legs.

Working Through the Disease

Genetic testing is available to see if your dog possesses the gene found in DM. We tested my dog and found out she did in fact have the gene. There are no treatments available to stop the spread of DM. However, there are several things we did to comfort my dog.

Although my dog was inflicted with DM, she was determined and willing to work through the disease. Winnie passed away on April 14, 2015. Leading up to the days she was still willingly dragging herself around the house, excited to use her wheels, and seemed comfortable from all of the resources we provided for her.

A dog can live a long and happy life with DM. By following the recommendations for providing comfort and understanding the symptoms, your dog will be able to better adapt and live a wonderful life.

No one should ever turn their back to a disabled pet, because there are ways to cope. Following are ways you can provide comfort.

Things You Can Do 

• Purchase a wheelchair – both K9 Carts and Eddie’s Wheels provide great support.
• Help ‘Em Up Harness is available to help lift up the dog’s backend, which makes it a great support for exercise and walking.
• We purchased a treat ball that we filled with treats, so my dog would chase it around in her wheels, while supporting and exercising her legs.
• Exercise may help provide comfort and strength.
Know the signs and symptoms:
• Weakness in hind legs
• Rugged and worn out nails
• Stumbling and unbalanced
• Knuckling
• Loss of muscle in back legs
• Worn out hair on the feet and scuffing

Degenerative myelopathy is a challenging disease to understand. Through patience and hard work, an owner will be able to overcome the initial struggle. As time goes on, the disease will become easier to manage for both you and your pet.

Additional resources:
http://www.caninegeneticdiseases.net/DM/basicDM.htm
http://www.petmd.com/blogs/fullyvetted/2012/june/degenerative_myelopathy_in_dogs-25037

Disclaimer: the above is a testimonial only. If you suspect your dog is suffering from an orthopedic problem, please see your vet for diagnosis and treatment.

[otw_is sidebar="otw-sidebar-1"]

Related Articles