Menu Menu

Degenerative Nerve Disease in Dogs and Cats / DM in Dogs and Cats

Degenerative Nerve Disease in Dogs and Cats / DM in Dogs and Cats
Natura Petz supplement for Degenerative Nerve Disease in Dogs and Cats

Herbal treatments to help support symptoms of Degenerative Myelopathy and to help limit the progression of nerve disease in dogs and cats.

Animals can experience a disruption in their body systems, including the Central and Autonomic Nervous systems, requiring a nutritional correction to support healthy cells support, to help promote relaxation and reduce nervousness, to restore emotional balance, and to balance mood and provide feelings of comfort and security.

Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a progressive degenerative disease of the spinal nerves and spinal cord that causes loss of coordination, weakness and paralysis of the hind limbs. Eventually, the disease can also affect the front limbs. Multiple Sclerosis disrupts the neuro communication pathways between the brain and spinal cord and primarily affects purebred dogs.

Degenerative myelopathy involves degeneration to the white matter of the spinal cord, which are fibers that transmit movement and sensory messages from the brain to the limbs. The progressive degeneration includes the stripping away of the area that protects the fibers. Lesions in the white matter pathways can also destroy the protective myelin tissue that covers the nerves.

The symptoms of Degenerative myelopathy start gradually, usually affecting senior dogs, but can begin in adult dogs over 5 years of age. When the disease first presents, dogs will start to lose muscle coordination and balance in their hind legs, called ataxia. The dog will develop slight or incomplete hind end paralysis, called paraparesis, which will progress to total rear end paralysis, called paraplegia. The condition is usually characterized by urinary and/or fecal incontinence.

A number of other disorders mimic the signs and symptoms of MS, including intervertebral disk disease, myelitis, degenerative lumbosacral stenosis, spinal cord neoplasia (cancer) and hip dysplasia, among others.

Some owners mistakenly assume that their older pets are developing arthritis, when DM is actually the problem. Affected animals usually become incontinent in the later stages of the disease, although it does not seem to be accompanied by pain. One of the key clinical features of canine degenerative myelopathy is the absence of any localizable spinal pain.

As the dog loses its ability to stand and use its hind legs, it may develop bed sores (ulcers) and wounds from urine scalding, which can be extremely painful. The time frame for full pelvic paralysis to present is approximately between 6 and 12 months for full pelvic paralysis to develop in dogs with DM.

The ability to chew and swallow may also be affected. When all 4 legs are paralyzed, the condition is called “tetraplegia.” Tetraplegia usually occurs within several years of the diagnosis. The dog’s sensory perception abilities are unaffected by this disease, and most affected dogs do not suffer from pain.

Symptoms of Degenerative Myelopathy:

Dragging rear paws

Knuckling-over on rear toes

Sores on top rear paws

Abnormal wear of the rear toenails



Spastic, long-strided rear movement

Difficulty jumping, running, rising or walking

Balance abnormalities 

Coordination abnormalities

Muscle wasting of the hindquarters from lack of use

Incomplete paralysis of the hind legs (paraparesis)

Complete paralysis of the hind legs (paraplegia)

Inability to stand or walk

Incontinence (urinary and/or fecal)

Urine scalding

Bed sores

Incomplete paralysis of all legs (tetraparesis)

Complete paralysis of all four legs (tetraplegia)

Difficulty chewing swallowing

Difficulty swallowing

Difficulty breathing

More information:

Researchers have discovered that Degenerative myelopathy is caused by a specific mutation of the genes; specifically in the superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) gene. Mutations in the SOD1 gene have been shown to cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig’s disease. Because degenerative myelopathy shows up most commonly in certain purebred dog breeds, there probably is a strong hereditary component to the condition. Dogs with MS should not likely be bred to prevent passing on of the mutated SOD1 gene

Degenerative myelopathy is most often diagnosed in aging German Shepherds. Other breeds that have been reported with DM include the American Eskimo, Belgian Shepherd, Bernese Mountain Dog, Boxer, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Collie, Giant Schnauzer, Golden Retriever, Great Dane, Irish Setter, Irish Terrier, Kerry Blue Terrier, Kuvasz, Labrador Retriever, Miniature Poodle, Old English Sheepdog, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Pug, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Siberian Husky, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, Standard Poodle, Weimaraner and Wirehaired Fox Terrier. Mixed breed dogs have also been diagnosed with this disease.

The mean age of disease presentation is 9 years, with males and females being equally affected. It is extremely uncommon for young dogs to develop Degenerative myelopathy.

Once a dog is diagnosed with DM, a pet owner can do a number of things to manage the consequences of the disease, which include urine retention (owners can manually express their dog’s bladder), urinary tract infection, weight gain from inability to ambulate and skin lesions from urine scalding.

It is critically important that dogs affected by degenerative myelopathy receive meticulous supportive care and good hygiene, especially in their “rear end” area, to prevent accumulation of waste products, bed sores, urine scalding and secondary bacterial infection.

There is no cure or effective treatment for Degenerative myelopathy, and the long-term prognosis is poor. Most dogs will lose the ability to walk normally within 6 months of being diagnosed. With early detection, diagnosis and supportive care may be helpful. Owners must provide continual supportive care to maintain their pet’s quality of life, especially once it loses the ability to stand and move independently. Smaller dogs may survive longer than larger dogs, likely because it is easier for their owners to provide supportive care.

Once an affected dog starts losing its ability to stand and walk, its owner must do a number of things to maintain its quality of life. Moderate exercise and other forms of physical therapy are encouraged, to delay muscle deterioration and atrophy and help maintain mobility and strength in the pelvic limbs.

Range of motion exercises are helpful for the pet where the owner stretches, extends and flexes the dog’s rear legs. This sort of activity seems to slow the progression of MS and helps the dog to maintain strength, balance and the ability to walk for a longer period of time. Swimming exercises, underwater treadmill use and other water-based techniques (hydrotherapy) also can benefit dogs with DM.

The dog will need well-padded bedding, such as an air mattress, waterbed, lounge chair pad, human bed mattress, fleece, sleeping bags, blankets, straw or other lofty, soft and comfortable things to lie on. The outer layers of bedding will need to be changed frequently, and the dog will need to be cleaned and dried regularly to prevent bed sores, urine scalding, skin ulceration and other lesions caused by urinary and/or fecal incontinence. The hair under the tail and around the anus should be trimmed in long-haired breeds.

Owners should manage their pets diet to prevent excessive weight gain. Dogs should be turned frequently to prevent pressure sores and possible lung collapse (atelectasis). A wheel cart, which is basically a wheelchair for dogs, can be used for dogs that have lost mobility in their hind legs. As long as the dog is able to use its front legs normally, a wheel cart will keep it comfortable and mobile.

Organic Remedies - (listed in order of relevance recommendation by holistic vets)

Herbal remedies provide plant and marine based pain relief and help to limit progression of Degenerative Myelopathy; to limit pain and inflammatory response; provide relief for joint pain, muscle weakness and degenerative conditions; support the cartilage matrix and renew synovial fluid to help correct degeneration of cartilage and bone; support bones, blood vessels, joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves and tendons; support joints and connective tissue and relieve stiff and aching joints.

Joint Ease Super Dog & Cat – (learn more) contains a synergistic blend of plant and marine extracts that promote preventative and reparative support to rebuild tissue, joints, bones and muscles; supports balanced immunity and limits whole body inflammatory response while promoting systemic healing; as a holistic, natural treatment for rheumatism; for arthritis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, rheumatism, Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), Intervertebral Disk Disease (IDD), Degenerative Myelopathy, arthrosis and related inflammation and pain; for muscle pains, strains, injuries and other degenerative joint related diseases; as a pain reliever for swelling and lack of mobility; for overall optimal health and function and as a natural alternative for tumors and cysts. Contains herbs and marine extracts recognized by the World Health Organization as some of the most important ingredients in the natural treatment of all forms of arthritis. 

Bionic Body – (learn more) is used holistically for its adaptogenic (read, repair and restore funcions) immune boosting and anti-inflammatory support; as an antioxidant and for its free radical scavenging (disease preventing) actions; for its nutritive content which may help to nourish the body and strengthen and revitalize bones, eye, teeth, skin and coat; works to stimulate collagen production, a primary building material of bones; may help prevent dental disease; for its plant actions to help strengthen bones, cartilage, joints, muscles, connective tissues & blood vessels & helps to reduce joint inflammation, while activating a cartilage-protective biochemical, potentially helping to preserve healthy cartilage in aging joint; for its anti-allergen natural plant chemicals which may help to fight off allergies and infections; for its prebiotic and probiotic content to help support native gut flora and healthy digestion.

Hepa Protect – (learn more) supports proper liver function, metabolism, bile production and flow, rehabilitates the performance, health and repair of the liver, kidneys, bladder and gall bladder, detoxifies the kidneys and liver, tones and balances the connective tissue of the liver, kidneys and bladder, normalizes liver enzyme levels, regulates kidney acid/alkaline levels, for all types of stones and gravel of the liver, kidneys, bladder and gallbladder, reduces uric acid, for gall bladder inflammation, gall stones and gallbladder infections, for renal colic and renal calculi.

Seal ‘Em & Heal ‘Em – (learn more) promotes healing for all types of wounds, including hot spots, abrasions, bites, cuts, scrapes, skin irritations, infections, bleeding & hemorrhaging conditions, ulcers, GERD, esophaghitis & other degenerative conditions of the larynx & throat; provides cellular support of tissue, skin & coat; for gastrointestinal distress; as a neurasthenic that blocks the activation of nerve fibers & tissue response to inflammation, supporting the body's tissue repair mechanism to stop mutations (important in the treatment of all types of Lyme disease, including Lyme borealis, burgdorferi, borreliosis & Chronic Lyme disease (CLD).

Serenity Zen Dog & Cat - (learn more) is used for its multi-level nutritional and plant botanical support to help soothe, relax, calm, balance and provide pain relief to nerves and muscles as well as all bodily systems (Adrenal, Cardiovascular, Digestive, Excretory, Respiratory, Autonomic and Central Nervous Systems); may be useful for stress, anxiety and behavioral disorders, allergies, digestive colic, storms, fireworks, travel, boarding, vet visits, separation, restlessness, irritability, depression, hyper-excitability, aggression, sadness and fear; to help address and reduce pain; to help maintain normal electrical balance in the brain, to reduce neuro inflammation,  and to modulate inflammatory response throughout the animal body.

Conventional Treatments:

A veterinarian will examine your pet for hind limb lameness, lack of coordination, muscle wasting and partial paralysis, ruling out other conditions before reaching a presumptive diagnosis of degenerative myelopathy.

Your veterinarian will take a thorough history from the pet owner, focusing on when, where and how the dog’s symptoms first presented. Your vet will also perform a thorough physical examination, including a neurologic examination to try and localize which parts, if any, of the spinal cord have been damaged or are otherwise involved.

The initial evaluation may include routine blood and urine assessment (complete blood count, serum chemistry panel and urinalysis). The results of those tests typically will be unremarkable if DM is the underlying cause of the dog’s condition.

A comprehensive neurological examination is critical to making a tentative diagnosis of degenerative myelopathy. Dogs with this disease are not painful, and a skilled veterinarian can localize their spinal cord lesions to the upper and lower back (thoracic and lumbar) areas. Survey X-rays of the chest and back (thoracolumbar radiographs) can be taken to screen for primary or metastatic cancer.

The veterinarian will review the radiographs for evidence of lesions or tumors along or around the spinal cord that may be contributing to the dog’s symptoms. Samples of cerebrospinal fluid can be analyzed for evidence of inflammation. Advanced imaging procedures, such as electromyography, myelography, nerve conduction studies, computed tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be performed alone or in combination to rule out other disorders.

A test is now available to detect the presence of the genetic mutation that is responsible for causing degenerative myelopathy in dogs. Normal dogs will have two copies of the non-mutated gene; this is called being “homozygous” for the normal gene. Carriers will have one copy of the normal gene and one copy of the mutated gene, one coming from each parent; this is called being “heterozygous” for that gene. Dogs that have or are at risk for having DM will have two copies of the mutated gene; they will be “homozygous” for the mutated gene. All dogs with DM will have two of the abnormal genes, but not all dogs with two of the abnormal genes will develop DM.

In a living animal, degenerative myelopathy can only be diagnosed by ruling out other causes of progressive, irreversible paralysis. Unfortunately, the only definitive way to diagnose this disease is to examine the dog’s spinal cord under a microscope after the animal has died. This is done at a diagnostic pathology laboratory using a technique called histopathology.

Early detection, diagnosis and supportive care may be helpful. Owners of affected animals must provide scrupulous supportive care to maintain their pet’s quality of life, especially once it loses the ability to stand and move on its own. Smaller dogs may survive longer than larger dogs, because it is easier for their owners to provide supportive care. Owners may want to ask for a referral to a veterinary specialist with experience managing this disease.













Leave Your Comments

How much is: