Saturday, January 18, 2014

Degenerative Myelopathy

A.K.A. Chronic Degenerative Radiculomyelopathy
 An incurable, progressive disease of the canine spinal cord that is similar in many ways to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Onset is typically after the age of 7 years and it is seen most frequently in the German shepherd dog, Pembroke Welsh corgi, and Boxer Dog, though the disorder is strongly associated with a gene mutation in SOD1 that has been found in 43 breeds as of 2008, including the wire fox terrier, Chesapeake Bay retriever, Rhodesian ridgeback, and Cardigan Welsh corgi.[1][2] Progressive weakness and incoordination of the rear limbs are often the first signs seen in affected dogs, with progression over time to complete paralysis. Myelin is an insulating sheath around neurons in the spinal cord. One proposed cause of degenerative myelopathy is that the immune system attacks this sheath, breaking it down. This results in a loss of communication between nerves in lower body of the animal and the brain ~Wikipedia~
You can see that she has no strength in her hind end.
While it's not entirely clear that Nessie Monster has DM, she does display symptoms that are in keeping with the disease.  Today, I would like to discuss the little that I know about it and give you some resources to help you cope with the disease if you ever find your dog in need of medical treatment for it.
  As Wikipedia states, it is an incurable disease.  It begins to show it's ugly head in the rear end of the dog.  You will see a weakness in the hind quarters and will start to notice that the back legs flail out in odd positions.  The foot will start to drag and roll over and the dog won't be quick to put it right.  Soon, the legs just won't stay underneath the dog at all.  That is where our wee Nessie Monster is. 

 Booties are not recommended for DM dogs.  I can't leave them on her.  But they do help protect the back paws from dragging on rough surfaces and causing injury.
I have taken her to 4 different Vets.  None of them can diagnose her and let me be clear why.  I am not willing to take her in for an MRI.  She is eleven years old.  The average age of a Boxer Dog is ten.  The MRI will cost at least $4,000 and it would tell us that she has it.  Nothing more.  There would still be nothing that they could do to cure her.  DM as explained to me is a really big 'UMBRELLA'  condition that can encompass a variety of different diseases, all of which affect the nervous system.  I hear from my trusted Vet (and this differs from the Wikipedia statement above) that the dogs have to have 2 recessive genes to have DM.  If they have 1 of those genes, they are carriers and should not be bred;  but the disease will not be present in them.  They have to have both genes to have the disease.  On that note, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals at the University of MO is doing genetic testing for dogs and will sell you a $65 in home test that can determine if your dog(s) have these genes.  We have taken the test and have sent it in.  The results can at least tell us that we are barking up the right or the wrong tree.  Knowing that she has the 2 genes will pretty much cinch it that we are dealing with DM.  If she doesn't have these genes, we need to continue to look in other directions.
DM affects the lining or sheath that the nerves are enclosed in.  That lining breaks down and the signals from the brain are lost out the hole, so to speak, and never get to the area where the brain is sending the signal.  My understanding is that there is a Dr. Clemmons in Florida who has developed an herbal concoction that can help to rebuild this lining.  I am still trying to get in touch with him.  There is another treatment called Sanus-Biotex that I found when searching the web.  It could be a 'snake-oil' treatment, I do not know.  I have discussed this with my Vet and he tells me it can't hurt so I have bought some and am waiting for it to arrive.  While treatments may not cure, they can slow down the progression and perhaps help to rebuild the lining.  If it won't hurt, it might help.  I'm trying it and I'll let you know.
Other therapies that we are using are acupuncture, which helps quite a lot and physical therapy including Hydrotherapy and physical exercise.  I walk her twice a day, we do circles and she still goes outside to run and play on nice days.  Inside we do doggie sit ups and we have a doggie exercise ball that the PT loaned us.  All together, there are about 7 exercises that the physical therapist taught me.  We make it fun and she gets lots of treats.  All of this will help keep her muscles from atrophy.  It will also make her think about placement of her hind legs.  When she thinks about it;  she can do it and we have to keep that line of communication going.  There are wheelchairs available for dogs, but my Vet puts it this way;  "If an older person can still walk and you give them the choice of the wheelchair or the walker, and they choose the wheelchair;  you will not see them walking again because they don't have to".  So, with this in mind, I've purchased some booties to help with traction on slippery surfaces, Dr. Buzby's Toe Grips to help her get a grip and a hind end sling so that I can support her and help her continue to walk.
We are doing the best we can for our Nessie Monster but we are also realistic.  She is an older dog.  If it is DM that she has, she will eventually be paralyzed.  We may even have to make that very hard decision to end her misery at some point.  But that time is not now.  We will continue with the acupuncture and physical therapy and as long as she can function, we will be there to help her.

Some of the therapies and websites used are only examples.  The sling I bought is not the sling I listed and I am struggling to keep the Toe Grips on Nessie's nails.  She has worn her nails down so badly that I've had to cut the grips in half and they are not fitting as expected.  I am even trying to hold them on with a drop of super glue.  When they are on, they work well.  Let me also be clear that most of these therapies are helping or I wouldn't have listed them.  Some however, I have yet to try.

1 comment:

Golden girl said...

She's lucky to have such a great dog mommy. Keep up the good work!