Degenerative Myelopathy, 7 yr old GSD - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-23-2012, 08:25 AM Thread Starter
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Degenerative Myelopathy, 7 yr old GSD

We adopted a female GSD, Violet, from our local shelter almost two years ago and she's been the best dog we've ever had. A few months ago she had an episode that was either a muscle problem or herniated disk. She did fine on medication and strict rest, but lately I noticed her back end weakening and getting wobbly. Not long after we adopted her I noticed that she'd scrape her back nails against the pavement maybe twice a month but her mobility was always fine so I didn't worry about it.
I took her to the vet last night and he said this is most likely one of three things: spinal tumor, DM, or continuing disk problems, but he's leaning towards myelopathy compounded by some scar tissue from whatever was going on with her back a few months ago.
He wants us to see a neurologist for an MRI and complete workup. I understand that knowing for certain has its satisfaction for us as humans, but in this case, given the diagnoses, I don't see what it will do for Violet. If this turns out to be a tumor (unlikely) there is not much hope. If it turns out to be a herniated disk I would not subject her to surgery for a number of reasons. If it turns out to be DM, there is absolutely nothing we can do except keep her comfortable until the end.
I feel terribly guilty not pursuing the diagnostic studies but suppose we find out exactly what this is...then what? It's not going to change the outcome of this situation. My husband is a physician and the more we read about DM, the more convinced we are that that is what she has. Working in human medicine, he is very much against ordering tests that do not change the outcome.
We've had a lot of dogs over the years but this is our first shepherd. I've never had a relationship with a dog like this who is so in tune to my feelings and mood. She's so devoted to me and would do anything for me. It's like having another person around the house. This is going to be rough.

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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-23-2012, 09:09 AM
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I just went through the EXACT same thing with my five year old adopted GSD. Like you, I too work in human health care and have for 30 years. However, I made a different decision and did have the diagnostic studies done and had planned for the removal of a herniated intervertebral disc in my boy.

When he initially had difficulties, the first diagnosis after negative x-rays was a probable spinal cord embolism. He was an otherwise healthy five year old adult GSD. A short tapering course of Prednisone was prescribed and he was improving. One week later, when the steroid was tapered, his hind end stability and coordination worsened. My vet got us a referral to a vet specialty clinic and we got there 3 hours later. Max was seen by the surgeon and I was told that he most likely had a ruptured/herniated intervertebral disc. The plan was for a myelogram in the morning and he would be taken straight to surgery to have it removed. I was told about the post-operative recovery expectations and was mentally ready to go through this for my five year old GSD.

Unfortunately, I got an unexpected call at lunch time that there was a problem with my myelogram results and I needed to call the surgeon right away. My heart sank as I made the call. The myelogram revealed a spinal tumor encircling the spinal cord and there was very little hope of his recovery even with surgical removal and radiation. I agreed to have him euthanized and I am still grieving over the loss of this spectacular dog two weeks ago.

Had it been a ruptured disc, I was prepared to nurse my boy back through the post-operative period because there was a very good chance for the return to his good quality of life. He had been seized from his owner by animal control before I got/adoptedc him and I had already had him diagnosed and treated for inflammatory bowel disease and also discovered significant bilateral elbow dysplasia earlier this year. He had finally just gotten healthy and comfortable when this hit just a little more than two weeks ago.

By having the myelogram done, I know exactly what was wrong and I know that there were very few options. As much as I adored that dog, I know that I did what was best and I will never question my decision. Max was one of my "heart" dogs and I am forever changed by having him for fourteen months. I grew up in a home full of GSDs with a mother whose passion is this breed. Until Max, I never fully understood that and, now that I have had him, I will probably always have a GSD in my life.


Sabra - female GSD - born April 30, 2012
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-23-2012, 09:26 AM
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You can do the genetic test for DM which is somewhat controversial but may give you *some* insight. The cheapest way to go is through the OFA [where it is $65; when the specialist ordered it, the price went to $170] I would at least consider that though read some of the posts on the test......

I have had similar decisions to make on my 8.5 year old guy though he is improving greatly .. I had to retire him though because, while the vet thinks a slight herniation is most likely, the site is more set up for further injury and we will have to control his excercise more going forward to prevent further injury.

IF your dog showed ANY improvement on rest, I would sure consider that! A hallmark of DM is progressive downward change without improving along the way.

I was told surgery for a herniation in the lumbar region is difficult though and that we would have about a 30% risk of doing more damage, about a 30% chance of fixing the problem and the rest=no change....For me, right now, since the dog is improving I decided to NOT risk it. Plans may change if he takes a sudden turn for the worse.

If I did anything it would be both an EMG and and MRI and bypass the myelogram because it can further damange DM dogs. Testing will change the outcome though, a herniated disk requires rest and DM does better with some supplements and excercise.


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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-24-2012, 10:09 AM Thread Starter
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thanks for your comments. She's gotten worse just in the last week. She's still very mobile, but more wobbly and weak. Given my vet's confidence (he's the best doctor I know) in his diagnosis, my husband's assessment as a medical professional and what I've been reading, I am completely convinced by now that it's DM. Her symptoms and behavior are pretty much right out of the textbook. I am just glad this isn't painful for her. She's been in a great mood lately which tells me there's no pain. And when she's painful, we know it because she's the least stoic dog I've ever had.
I've always taken pet diagnoses like this pretty well, chalking it up to just being part of life and pet ownership and happy we could give an animal a good life that would have otherwise not had it (we always adopt misfits and strays). Everything dies and that's just the way it is. But, man, this is just a whole different scene with a GSD.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-24-2012, 01:56 PM
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My dog responded beautifully to stem cell treatment for DM. I preferred to spend the money on treatment rather than testing that may have been inconclusive. I posted videos before and after in the thread and I just bumped it up.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-14-2012, 01:55 PM
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Has anyone on this forum had good results using aminocaproic acid to slow the progression of DM ?
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-15-2012, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by DonnaBurns View Post
Has anyone on this forum had good results using aminocaproic acid to slow the progression of DM ?
My previous dog, Tuco, had DM, and he responded well to aminocaproic acid and the other med that Dr. Clemmens recommends (can't recall the name of it now). He had reached the dragging stage of the disease (meaning he very rarely could stand up) when we started him on the two meds, and six days later he stood up and wanted to walk around the block. The two meds kept him walking (though just barely) for about a year and a half, until he died of a stroke.

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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-09-2015, 04:46 PM
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Il Lupo my 11 year 7 month old GSD died in July 2012 due to DM (Degenerative Myelopathy), I believe. He had over sized front paws and at about 9 years old, developed a limp in has back paws (I believed it to be hip related at the time), how ever I suspect this was a symptom of DM. He was also having an issue with his eye sight causing his guard duty job to suffer. I purchased a Great Pyrenees puppy (Cody) in April an Il Lupo was not to happy having this 16 pound white powder puff trying to get him to play. Anyway in the middle of July I woke up to find my GSD in the living room lying down in a pig puddle of urine and unable to move his back legs. I moved him into the kitchen and he had one meal ad drank water for a two days, On the 2rd day he died.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-10-2015, 12:21 AM
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DM is what finally took my Boxer (Struddell) away from me!

So rampant in Boxers that "quality" breeders have a link:

Supplements are fine but a wheel chair and pee pads are mandatory if you are going to battle the disease!

I was taken by surprise and stunned and confused, we fought for two years with our Struddell 24/7 care! I would do it again but I would get her use to a wheelchair early! I learned about them to late and pushed her to hard!

It's still ultimately a battle you will lose but that time does not have to be "now!"
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-10-2015, 09:20 AM
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Since this is a 3 year old thread...I'll comment...

It's interesting that this is exactly what happens with DM. Majority of people never choose to actually find out if it's DM or not and just read some diagnosis on the interweb, match those symptoms to their dog, and call it DM.

Unfortunately it is exactly this type of fear mongering, when people post their home made diagnosis on the forum, that greatly affects what breeders do in regards to this genetic disorder. There is still so much unknown about it and all that these types of stories do is scare others into thinking this is a much bigger problem than it is, especially without professional diagnosis.
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