Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs

Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs

What it is: This painless yet progressive disease of the spinal cord usually occurs in dogs 8 years old and older, leading to eventual paralysis and death. The disease advances over a course of six months to one year and is thought to be caused by a mutant gene.


  • Loss of coordination in hind limbs, wobbling
  • Feet dragging in one hind limb, then the other
  • Difficulty standing
  • Inability to use back legs
  • Fecal and urinary incontinence
  • Front limb weakness

Treatment: No treatment has been shown to slow or stop the progression of this irreversible condition. The quality of life of affected dogs may be maintained by physical rehabilitation, nursing care, prevention of pressure sores, and increased mobility with harnesses and carts.

Some dog health insurance plans offer coverage for carts and mobility devices, which could be helpful for dogs suffering from degenerative myelopathy or other conditions that result in limited movement. Many pet insurance plans additionally cover physical therapy, nursing care and hospitalization.

Return to the Dog Health Problems glossary.


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