Canine Degenerative Myelopathy - How to Keep Moving On When Faced with DM

By the time you've finished this sentence, another dog in America has been diagnosed with Degenerative Myelopathy or "DM." DM is a disease of the spine usually in older dogs. This disease normally strikes dogs ages 8 through 14 years of age. DM starts as a loss of coordination (or 'ataxia') in the hind limbs. An affected dog will often begin to teeter or drag its knuckles on the ground in the early stages of this insidious disease. Symptoms may first appear in one hind limb and then affect the other. As DM begins its progression, the dog's limbs become weak and he begins to buckle a little bit and will start having difficulty standing on his own. As the dog's weakness gets worse, he may not be able to walk normally at all. The length of time from onset to immobility with Degenerative Myelopathy can range from 6 months to 1 year. Any longer and they may become paraplegic. If these symptoms continue, a loss of urinary-control combined with fecal incontinence may occur and the front limbs may give in as well. About the only “upside” of DM is that it is not a painful disease, and it’s not the end of the road for you and your pet.

Although a dog may have been diagnosed with DM by a veterinarian, there are many treatment options that may deter some of the onset effects, as well as enhance a dog's quality of life during its battle. One therapeutic option to the mobility-challenged pet is a dog wheelchair, such as those made by K9 Carts in Washington State.

Researchers have discovered a marked improvement in a dog's overall health when they are provided a dog wheelchair as part of a strict therapy regimen. The cart not only addresses the issue of the pet’s day-to-day mobility, but, according to Barbara Parkes, owner of K9 Carts, “ it noticeable confidence.” Further health benefits may result due to the cart bearing the weight from the dog’s rear limbs instead of his front--decreasing risk of strain on the two front legs.

There are many variations of dog wheelchairs available today depending on the specific needs of the pet and owner. For instance, a dog recovering from surgery may require that all four limbs be given support--meaning, the dog will need a four-wheeled cart, as opposed to a two-wheeled cart. It is best to ask your veterinarian for suggestions on which kind of cart may be best for your particular pet.

Ultimately, owners of DM dogs are encouraged to maintain close contact with their veterinarian to report the progression of the disease and any positive gains towards staving it off. With proper therapy, love and attention, the pet with DM and its owner can live a very happy life together.

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