- Course and Presentation -
Degenerative Myelopathy is variable in
its presentation and course. Generally, there is progression to paralysis
in 3-6 months when untreated. With treatment this can usually be doubled.
Some dogs, of course, do not progress with treatment. Almost all dogs will
progress without it. Once paralysis occurs, there is another progressive
course toward forelimb paralysis and eventually brainstem failure. Each
of these takes 3-6 months to happen. Few dogs will survive beyond 2 years
without treatment. At this time, they are completely paralyzed although
there may be some residual head movement. They cannot get up or remain
sternal at all.
The only organ affected
by DM is the spinal cord and brainstem (although changes are seen in the
white matter of the cerebrum). On the other hand, the ravages of being paralyzed
can result in failure of the kidneys, heart, or lungs. Due to decubital
ulcers, systemic infection can also take place. Death results from multisystem
failure, depending upon many additional factors including the aforementioned
problems. Certainly, the quality of life is less at these latter stages of
the disease. I personally and professionally try to guide clients toward euthanasia
before quality of life is affected. This decision is individual and
personal between the client and the patient. I always know when it is time
for my own pets; they tell me with their eyes and expression. It is never
easy, but, when the time comes, it is our last unselfish sacrifice we can
make for our pets. Many DM dogs develop other problems. Too often they are ignored by their medical team, not wanting to put them through anything else or you through the expense. However, I still
feel it is important to monitor their health and treat those things which
can be treated. To do otherwise doesn't seem fair. DM dogs do get splenic masses
(and even cancer) if not receiving medication like bromelain and curcumin.
Untreated these can lead to problems and death. Being down can also (or sometimes even when
now down) lead to stress on the heart. As animals age, the heart
can loose efficiency and even develop arrhythmias. That can also put dogs off
food. DM dogs can also get additional neurologic problems (unrelated to DM)
including idiopathic vestibular disease which cause imbalance and distress,
IVD disease which can cause signs similar to DM, and neoplasia.
+ Jack Flash
Thanks to Tom Cammarata for original web design.