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Hello,
My 9 year old companion, Roxie, has been diagnosed with early on-set DM.

About 6 months ago I noticed hearing her back toenail scrape the ground every once in awhile, and about 2 months ago she started losing her balance, occasionally tripping over nothing. I live in the mountains and as soon as Spring arrived I took Roxie on brief hikes (she loves to romp around in the wilderness). I was a little concerned when she started severely limping for at least two days after very short and easy hikes (Last summer she was able to handle way longer hikes with no problems). I called her vet and he recommended a regular does of glucosamine; we both assumed the limping to be a normal part of an aging Shepherd. However, about a week ago I grew majorly concerned when Roxie began hesitating to climb our stairs to the bedroom at night. She stood at the bottom, with one paw on the bottom step and whined. Nearly every night since then, I have had to use my arms or a towel as an acting sling to get her settled upstairs at night. I immediately scheduled an appointment for her to see the vet after doing research and coming across DM.

The toenail dragging and being slightly off-balance--symptoms I thought nothing of at the time--seemed to point directly to the disease. Sure enough, yesterday my vet confirmed through an exam and xrays that it looks like a case of DM. The good news is that she has some neurological awareness; when he did the flipping over of her foot test she successfully flipped it back over in response. Her xrays showed that she has severe dysplasia in one of her hips, and some abnormalities in her spine. She seems to have lost a considerable amount of energy as of the past few months, and struggles to stand up after laying down. She is otherwise happy and eating (almost) normally.

It breaks my heart to see her struggle, and it's difficult to think that this is only the beginning. I am hoping the progression of her illness will be slow since her symptoms, up until the stairs issue, had months between their appearance.

Does anyone know of any other cases where the disease was slow to set in? It is killing me to not have any idea of how long she has before losing functions. Any recommendations for activities that help? She loves to swim and I have been searching for the perfect swimming spot, but it's difficult because she is dog aggressive--finding secluded swimming holes that aren't occupied and don't require a difficult hike first are hard to come by in a touristy mountain town.

Thanks for reading.
 

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My Vet said my dog has it about 2 years ago. he still runs, lots of energy. So far it hasn't really impacted him except if I walk him on cement too far, it will quickly wear his nail down to the quick.
I have booties for that reason. On grass he is okay.
Here is a site that hopefully helps your pup. It is a heartbreaking disease. :cry:

Degenerative Myelopathy in German Shepherd Dogs .. Brenda "Rion" Sewell
 

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Thank you! It is comforting to hear that your pup is doing well after 2 years. I hope both of our pups stay on the better side of the disease.
 

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So sorry to hear this! Hopefully it won't get worst! I lost my Boxer to DM two years ago.It was a long two year struggle, she could no longer walk at eight but we did carry her to the ten year mark. It's kinda Par for the course for a Boxer... no matter what shape they are in when they get there I guess. :(

Swimming, actually is the best exercise you can do for her! The towel thing and the stairs is going to get old real fast!

I think this will work better for you in the long run:
Help 'Em Up Dog Harness | Hip Dsysplasia | Dog Carrier

And if incontinence becomes a problem this "might" be a solution:
Dog Incontinence | Sleepee Time Bed | Mesh Dog Bed | Handicapped Pets

Hopefully it won't come down to needing a cart! If it does I can relay my experience with using one.

Good luck, I hope all goes well for you both! :)



The towel thing is going to get old real fast.
 

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It is so very comforting to hear stories about having two years left; it is frustrating to not know how long she will have. She is my first dog and I couldn't imagine a more perfect companion. I bought a sling today to help with the steps. She seems to have her good days and bad ones. Thank you for sharing.
 

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We lost our Molly to DM at age 13. We started to see signs at age 9. Dragging her toenail and doing a bunny hop when she tries to trot. She never appeared to be in any pain and was her normal self mentally. The last year was really difficult because we had stairs, so we used a sling to get her upstairs at night to sleep. The last 4-5 months, one of us slept on the couch downstairs so she wouldn't have to up and down stairs for potty time. We finally decided to say goodbye when she got to the point that she could no longer hold her bowel movements.
Its so hard to see that in someone you love so much. We just tried to make her as comfortable as possible as long as we could. Her mind was still sharp as a tack.

I wish Roxie the best. My prayers are with her.
 

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I encourage you to take your xrays to a vet neurologist (specialist) for a second opinion, just to cover your bases. You may have to go to a state vet school, or travel a little bit as there are not many of them. You can most likely re-use the x-rays already taken and just do a consultation/exam. If they're far away, see if they'll do a phone consultation with the xrays (and maybe video of the dog), which would probably run under $100.

My understanding is that one cannot diagnose DM with xrays. DM is a rule-out diagnosis (you rule out all other possible causes), sometimes supported by info from the DM genetic test (double-positive). If there are spine abnormalities, it's super-important to get an expert eye on those xrays. There are some spinal conditions that cause symptoms nearly identical to DM--and some of these spinal conditions are treatable!

Here's the directory to find a vet neurologist (click on "find a specialist"):
Veterinary Specialists | Find a Board Certified Veterinary Specialist Near You
 

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I encourage you to take your xrays to a vet neurologist (specialist) for a second opinion, just to cover your bases. You may have to go to a state vet school, or travel a little bit as there are not many of them. You can most likely re-use the x-rays already taken and just do a consultation/exam. If they're far away, see if they'll do a phone consultation with the xrays (and maybe video of the dog), which would probably run under $100.

My understanding is that one cannot diagnose DM with xrays. DM is a rule-out diagnosis (you rule out all other possible causes), sometimes supported by info from the DM genetic test (double-positive). If there are spine abnormalities, it's super-important to get an expert eye on those xrays. There are some spinal conditions that cause symptoms nearly identical to DM--and some of these spinal conditions are treatable!

Here's the directory to find a vet neurologist (click on "find a specialist"):
Veterinary Specialists | Find a Board Certified Veterinary Specialist Near You
This protocol gets my vote too. A diagnosis of DM is a procedure of EXCLUSION. If it's not DM it might be something that can be helped by medication and/or a surgical procedure.
 

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SO my shepherd was just diagnosed with DM yesterday. I took her to the vet since she was limping because of a slight lesion on her rear paw pad. She has had these before with obvious discomfort and limped during the healing process.

She did have worn down nails on the foot that had the cut but she always had a habit of chewing her rear feet since she was a pup (I have had her since 10 weeks old). With her dragging the feet she has always done this...so its nothing out of the ordinary. She will still run, jump, play with other dogs and people.

With this diagnosis at just over 8 years old this is a heartbreak. Im going to get in touch with UW Wisconsin and see if they can do the geneti test to see if she is actually a carrier.

It's been a few years and just found this site after hearing about shepherd central going down and just not having time to be internet savvy. So hello all!!!!

Hopefully all of you can send a prayer for my Eva.
 

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Hi there, sorry to hear your vet thinks it's DM and at such a relatively young age. In my experience, I chose to get a genetic test to confirm. The test ended up negative. You can order the test online, they will mail it to you, it's a simple cheek swab and you mail it back, then they notify you of the test results. As previously noted above, because the symptoms are similar to other spinal conditions (my boy had a degenerative disc), there are thing you can do if it is not DM. You might want to look into hydro therapy/water treadmill in your area, or physio and/or acupuncture. Certainly if it is DM, the prognosis is not great, but if not, your girl might benefit from water treadmill to build up some strength in her hind legs. My boy loved it, it was fantastic exercise and low impact. Prayers and positive thoughts sent your way for Eva.
 
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