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19 Jan 2004

Degenerative Myelopathy in GSD
My 9 year old German Shepherd has been diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy and I have been told that it is impossible to give an accurate prognosis, but that her condition will only worsen and not improve at all.
I am also told that this is not a painful condition.
I have looked it up on the Internet and I see that in America there seems to be a theory that the illness can be slowed down with certain drugs and a diet which looks very complicated.

Do you have any opinion on this, and can you confirm that my dog won't suffer pain?

Thank you

Answer 690 views

01 Jan 0001

Degenerative myelopathy is a condition of slow deterioration of the spinal cord, resulting in this function of the spinal cord and the loss of effective transfer of messages from the brain to the hind quarters. The rate of deterioration is variable and the ultimate result is hindquarter paralysis, of variable degree. It is not painful. It is, however, important to know that the condition is diagnosed by ruling out any other causes of spinal cord dysfunction. In my opinion, degenerative myelopathy is rather uncommon as compared to other causes of hindquarter dysfunction, however it certainly does occur. These other causes are especially referring to compression of the spinal cord by any cause whatsoever, but most commonly a slipped disk. German shepherds are particularly prone to compression of the spinal cord in the lower spine, as result of a slipped disc or instability of the spine. X-rays and ideally an MRI examination of the spine and spinal cord is used to absolutely rule out other causes of hindquarter paralysis. If pain is present, it is an important clue that one should look for an alternative cause of hindquarter dysfunction.

None of the treatments have been really proven to have made a difference to degenerative myelopathy. You can consider the use of omega-3 fatty acids, and it certainly would do no harm. The use of tranexamic acid/aminocaproic acid or related compounds has not yet really been proven, to my knowledge, and has potential side-effects.

Dr Malan van Zyl
Veterinary Specialist Physician
Cape Town
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