When to Euthanize a Dog with Degenerative Myelopathy?

Degenerative myelopathy, which is also known as chronic degenerative myelopathy, is an irreversible, progressive disease in the spinal cord of your dog. It’s often found in breeds of dogs like German shepherds, Boxer Dog and Pembroke Welsh, Corgi, Wire Fox Terrier, etc. Loss of coordination of the back limbs and extreme weakness are often the initial symptoms of degenerative myelopathy in dogs. Let’s move on to demystify the questions most dog owners tend to ask about Degenerative Myelopathy and how it concerns their dog:

When to Euthanize a Dog with Degenerative Myelopathy?

The decision to euthanize a dog is always extremely tough for dog owners considering how much they love and care for their dogs physically, emotionally, and financially. Most times, a dog with degenerative myelopathy is euthanized within 6 months to 3 years after diagnosis.

More importantly, your vet is in the best position to advise you on the decision to euthanize your dog. Once your dog is already at the advanced stage of the disease, euthanasia is often recommended. But if detected early, there are some personalized treatments and measures that your vet can recommend to improve the dog’s condition and survival rate. 

Read more: When to Euthanize a Dog with Kidney Failure?

Causes of Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs

Factors like breed, age, and genetics make your dog more likely to have this disease. For example, age is a key factor. Degenerative myelopathy is often found in old dogs between 8-9 years old. The breed is another important factor. The disease is common among these breeds of dogs: German shepherds, American Eskimo dog, Golden Retriever, Corgi, Shetland sheepdog, Poodle, Burmese Mountain dog, etc.

Symptoms of Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs

Initially, degenerative myelopathy affects the back legs and brings about a loss of coordination and muscle weakness. Another symptom is that your dog will tend to drag one or both back legs when he walks. Note that this dragging can make the nails of one foot worn down, it could also result in complete paralysis of the back legs. As the disease develops, symptoms like incontinence and difficulties with both walking and balancing begin to set in.

In a case where the disease is not discovered and treated in time, your dog is most likely to develop far-reaching muscle atrophy and paralysis as well as front limb involvement. Finally, symptoms like respiratory muscle involvement or cranial nerve might compel a dog owner to opt for euthanasia or long-time palliative care. The development of the disease is typically gradual. Your dog may become crippled within a couple of months after diagnosis or may live for about three years more.

Read more:When to Euthanize a Dog with Hemangiosarcoma?

Treatment Options of Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy is an incurable, progressive disease that cannot be reversed. There are no treatments, steroids, or other drugs that have been able to cure or stop the progression of degenerative myelopathy. However, there are a couple of natural measures and approaches that can enhance your dog’s quality of life, mobility, and survival rate. They include exercise, acupuncture, homeopathy, walks, diet, and nutraceuticals.

Also, the use of a “dog wheelchair” or” 2-wheel dog cart” can help to maintain and enhance your dog’s activeness once symptoms of the paralysis of the hind limbs or weakness are detected. Use of a hand-held harness or baby sling for your dog helps to provide support to your dog’s frail hind legs.

How Long Can a Dog Live With Degenerative Myelopathy?

With good personalized treatment and care, some dogs can live with Degenerative Myelopathy for many years. But without treatment, lifespan can drop to around 3-4 months. The disease develops faster, causing complete paralysis of the hind legs of your dog. It’s often at the advanced stage that your dog will begin to show symptoms of the disease. However, some dogs seem to be fighting the disease on their own, doing exercise, and walking on their own.

Read more: When Do You Have To Euthanize a Dog with Cushing’s Disease?

Canine Degenerative Myelopathy Treatment Options

As stated earlier, there’s no traditional treatment for degenerative myelopathy in dogs. However, there are certain personalized treatment options for your dog that can help go improve his health condition and extend his life. These treatments cannot cure or kill the disease in your dog. These options include water therapy, exercise, swimming, a good diet, and the like.

Should You Walk a Dog with Degenerative Myelopathy

Going on a walk with the affected dog is a very effective therapy for degenerative myelopathy in dogs. Studies reveal that exercises can help ease off the symptoms, improve your dog’s mobility, and prolong their lifespan.  Walks also prove helpful in maintaining the flexibility of your dog’s joints and muscle tone.


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