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Sunday, August 26, 2018

Degenerative Myelopathy - Cauda Equina Syndrome

 Degenerative Myelopathy or DM happens in some canine breeds and is most prevalent in German Shepherd Dogs. It is an insidious and debilitating disease that is basically not treatable. It is a slow degenerative disease that is thought to have genetic markers but it is not known for sure. It is the slow destruction of the white matter in the spinal column that effects the utility of the back legs loss of use of same. From a dog parents perspective it is simply horrible to see your loved canine slowly - inch by inch - lose control of their back legs. The prognosis is poor and most dogs are euthanized within 6 months to 3 years. Two of our dogs have been diagnosed with DM and it is progressing and will progress to the point that one day they will have an accident (slip or fall) and then won't be able to get up. When that happens it will be a rear support of dog wheelchair. It is heart breaking to see them inch toward that eventual day. 
One of our dogs is worse than the other and when I took him in for an X-Ray to see how it was progressing the vet saw a fist size tumor in an area that was not operable. His prognosis is not good but he remains in good spirits and the vet said to take him home as he was not in pain and enjoy the time we have left together. We don't know how long that will be but we keep activity as normal as possible for him and enjoy our time together.

One of the problems is that they lose their bowel control. He can be laying on his bed sleeping and out will pop a piece of poop that he is totally unaware of it happening. I let him out often during the night but that does not always work out. Just this morning he came back in at 4:30 A.M. and one slipped out as he was heading back to bed. This can be frustrating and annoying but he can't control it and that is no reason not to clean up after him and let him get the best remaining life possible.

He struggles to get around but his attitude is good and we do not want to send him across that rainbow bridge before the appropriate time especially for an annoyance that he can't help. As long as he is without pain and can ambulate (albeit with effort) we want him to enjoy the remainder of his days. When that ultimate day arrives we want to know that he has had all the life has to offer and that the future for him is absolutely bleak and he has no quality of life left. Until then we will enjoy his personality, loyalty, love and devotion all which have been without flaw and unwavering.

We hope between then and now that he will not have an accident that will speed up his demise. His back legs seem weaker each day and his tumor continues to grow slowly. When we adopted him it was much like a marriage 'for better or worse until death do us part', and he is entitled to at least that. Making that final non reversible decision is not going to be easy and when we must we need to know it is the right thing for him and that we have done all for him and not hold regrets.

This ugly disease is going to claim two of our three dogs and until it does we want to continue to give them  the best quality of life possible. Perhaps by writing this it will help someone else who is going through or will go through life with this disease some insight and guidance. My heart goes out to anyone whose dog has or will have this terrible disease as it is so hard to see them degenerate little by little each day. We have tried different so called remedies but none have worked and the disease progresses. Both are very senior dogs and for senior dogs the options are very few.

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