When To Put Down A Dog With Degenerative Myelopathy? [Know The Right Time]

When To Put Down A Dog With Degenerative Myelopathy

Does your dog feel difficulty in walking? Do your dog’s hind legs get weaker and weaker? Do you feel your dog drag its legs mostly rather than putting weight on it? If yes, these symptoms are enough to set alarm bells of a devastating disease, Degenerative Myelopathy. Unfortunately, this progressive disease would end up in death whether it’s natural or unnatural. In this article, we’re going to cover when to choose unnatural death for your dog suffering from DM.

When to put down a dog with degenerative myelopathy? The exact time of putting the dog down with this ailment differs considerably in each dog. This duration varies with age, stage of the disease, health condition, and mobility factor in your dog. Considering these factors,  dogs should be put to sleep within 6-months to 3- years after diagnosis. Your Vet would suggest the right time finally.

Though it’s not a painful disease yet its final stage is extremely hard to endure. It would be an emotional and physical disaster for both pet and owner. Before we move on, let’s know what actually Degenerative Myelopathy in dog stands for.

Keep going to know more facts!

What Is Degenerative Myelopathy In Dogs?

The medical term for this disease is Chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy (CDRM). It mainly affects the spinal cord. As a result, the spine would no longer support hind limbs that may further lead to paralysis. Another short abbreviation of this condition is DM which stands for Degenerative Myelopathy. In this disease, the white matter of the spinal cord starts to degenerate resulting in loss of support to hind limbs especially.

Until now, it is an untreatable condition. But if diagnosed at an early stage, there are certain therapies that can restrict its side effects. In humans, similar diseases of the spinal cord do exist with the name of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Its early symptoms resemble arthritis. In large breed dogs, hip dysplasia can also be the early sign of this chronic disease. It is more common in old dogs with age above 7 to 9.

Should You Put The Dog Down With Degenerative Myelopathy?

Dog owners often get confused when they hear about DM diagnosis in their dogs.  After knowing the sad fact that they can do nothing for their furry friend in this case. This progressive disease will slowly kill their pet. However, it does not mean that right after diagnosis your pet will die. But euthanasia is the only resort in the end. It would be upto you to do this without delay or wait until the last stage of DM

Before euthanasia, consider the factors below:

Get Vet Opinion

Ask your Vet to determine the possibility of putting the canine down. Discuss normal life expectancy in your canine according to his condition. Each dog has a different health condition with this diagnosis. In many cases, dogs take a lot of time to get paralyzed fully. During the early stage, your Vet would never suggest euthanasia.

Check dog Overall Health

This condition is not painful until other organs stop doing proper functioning. If your pet is healthy, the survival expectancy would be longer than one year after diagnosis. One more thing, overweight dogs are prone to suffer more from this disease. So, it is advised to keep a double check on your dog’s weight gain factor.

Check the Stage of DM

Your Vet would further test your dog to determine the stage of DM. If the final stage is so close, he would advise you to go on for euthanasia. Because in the last stage your dog will have to face partial or full disability.

Causes Of Degenerative Myelopathy

When we call MD a progressive disease, it means that it is not likely to occur by chance. It develops gradually in the body for years. Below are a few considerable causes of MD in dog.

It can be genetic as its exact reasons are still unknown:

Few causes of DM :

  • Genetic mutation can be responsible for DM. Matted Dogs with SOD-1 gene copy in both males and females can have high chances of developing DM. However, there are cases in which both pairs with the SOD-1 gene may not develop DM. So, we can’t say only genetic factors are the sole reasons.
  • Secondary causes of this disease are spinal injury spinal tumors, lumbosacral stenosis, fibrocartilaginous embolism, myasthenia gravis, and discospondylitis.
  • The breed factor is also responsible for MD. At first, it was thought that only German Shepherd suffers from this disease.However, after more studies, it is proven fact that it can occur in other breeds as well.

Symptoms Of Degenerative Myelopathy

It’s challenging to diagnose MD at an early stage in large breed dogs. Its early symptoms resemble hip dysplasia or joint pain or sometimes arthritis. 

Below are a few major symptoms of MD in dogs:

  • Weakness in hind paws and joints
  • Trouble feeling when getting up from sitting position
  • The hind paw seemed as if it was a Kunkle. Dog’s walking position will change. 
  • When a dog tries to stand upright its hindquarters would wobble
  • The hind paw will no longer be able to carry the weight of the body. It will drag along the floor.
  • Frequent falling while standing up or walking

Diagnosis Of Degenerative Myelopathy

Diagnosis of myelopathy requires breed history to show is this breed genetically inclined towards this type of disease or not?

During the early stages clinical diagnosis will include:

  • Physical examination
  • X-rays
  • Hip Dysplasia 
  • Arthritis symptoms

During the progressive stage, the diagnosis will include the following steps

  • Cerebrospinal fluid analysis
  • MRI
  • Tissue Biopsies
  • DNA testing to verify SOD-1 gene presence
  • Histopathology of spinal cord

The final diagnosis of a DM is no doubt challenging and time-consuming.

The right time to euthanize a dog with Degenerative Myelopathy

To determine the right time to put your loyal friend down with the DM depends on so many factors. Ask yourself the following questions to know the time is close or not:

  • Does your dog growl ith pain most of the time even if he is not showing much activity.
  • Does your dog hurt alot when trying to walk or rise up?
  • Does your dog seem to lose interest in the world around him?
  • Do you feel the weight of your pet is declining considerably?
  • Do you feel lost in bowel and urination control?
  • Do you feel your pet is anxious and aggressive?
  • If you are a caregiver, you are about to lose all hopes of your pet recovery.
  • If you as a dog owner feel emotionally or physically tired

But before taking this decision, ask some third party opinion. You can also consult the Vet. They will guide you about the procedure of euthanizing and the possibilities of normal life with this difficult disease.

What are the final stages of Degenerative Myelopathy?

It would be hard to witness your dog dying slowly with DM. You may not be able to read helpless notes in his sad eyes. That’s why never wait for this stage. Take the decision of euthanasia right after movement in pet stops.

Below are the symptoms of the final stages of degenerative myelopathy

  • Difficulty in holding front legs
  • Shaky shoulders
  • Complete loss of coordination
  • No interest in life or activities around
  • Even your canine may not be able to drive away flies or other  from its body
  • Hind legs will be totally paralyzed
  • Malfunctioning of internal organs 
  • Shortness of breath or other respiratory issues
  • Lack of interest in eating and drinking

If you delay euthanasia, they will move towards more and more pain gradually. So, it’s better to take a hard decision rather than having no-decision.

How long can a dog live with Degenerative Myelopathy?

The life expectancy of dogs with DM varies considerably in each individual. Typically dogs can live 6 months to 3years after diagnosis. It depends on the breed, age, and overall health of the dog. The survival range in this disease can be extended after therapies and possible treatments. 

But all these treatments will work as long as your dog shows mobility. Once the movement stops, the dog will never return to a normal healthy life. For this reason, vets often recommend euthanasia right after mobility stops.

Below are the key factors that can increase life expectancy with DM:

  • Treatment at an early stage
  • Low age  factor below 6 years
  • Normal weight and good health condition of the dog
  • Extra care

Is It Possible To Treat Degenerative Myelopathy?

Sadly, there are no treatment options available in veterinary science to correct DM. However, the treatment of initial problems such as arthritis and hip dysplasia can provide temporary relief. 

For this, physical therapy is very effective. You can also use this portable sling for back legs. It would help your dog to manage weight. It can prolong early disability.

 By controlling obesity in your pet, you can delay the severe symptoms. For this, you must schedule fat-free meals, exercise, and a regular walking plan. You can also get help from this dog training program.

If you keep your dog physically active, you can slow down the progression of physical signs. It is also good to add a vitamin supplement to relieve arthritis and hip dysplasia.

Final Thoughts:

In the end, I would say it would be an individualized decision about putting the dog down with Degenerative Myelopathy. But you should never do this without getting the final opinion from your Vet.

Death is always hard to accept. Putting down your lovely pet can be rather harder than accepting natural death. But it’s not a merciless act as many dog lovers think about it. Always try to control the disease in its initial stage. Never skip your pet appointment with the Vet. Just like your kids, regular physical check-ups of your pet can ensure a healthy and happy company with your furry friend.

Being a dog owner, have you thought about euthanasia? Share your feelings with us!

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