3 Common Canine Degenerative Diseases
We sure do love our dogs. Sometimes it feels like they understand us better than any human ever could. They sense when we’re sad. They feel our excitement. They celebrate our joy and comfort us when we’re unwell.
Most of all, they love us unconditionally.
As pet parents, you want to do everything you can to keep your furry family members healthy and happy.
The best way to do just that is to arm yourself with knowledge. Take the time to learn about potential health problems that may arise.
Today we’ll talk about degenerative diseases you should have on your radar. We’ll explore causes, symptoms, treatments, and even prevention.
Continue reading for answers to these common questions:
We have a lot to cover in this post, so let’s get right to it.
Disclaimer: This article is meant to educate and inform. The information contained herein should not be substituted for medical advice. If your dog shows symptoms of ill health, consult your veterinarian.
What is a Degenerative Disease?
A degenerative disease comes about when the function and structure of tissues and organs begin to deteriorate progressively.
Basically, it begins slowly.
You may notice that your dog is a bit more disoriented than usual. He might stumble or wobble when walking. At first, you may chalk it up to fatigue. But you soon notice it doesn’t improve. Instead, the condition worsens until your dog can barely move without pain or difficulty.
Degenerative diseases can cause permanent disability, and even death, in all dog breeds.
Let’s take a closer look at three common canine degenerative diseases.
Degenerative Lumbosacral Stenosis (DLSS)
DLSS is the deterioration of the lumbosacral disc—a disc in the lower regions of the spine—and is caused by compression of the soft tissue and nerve roots in the lower back.
Compression can be caused by an instability in the spinal column or by a vertebral malformation, which causes back pain and difficulty walking. It is seen predominantly in large breed dogs, like German Shepherds, between the ages of seven and eight.
- Dragging of hind limbs due to pain
- Difficulty climbing stairs
- Lack of interest in exercise
- Discomfort passing urine or feces
- Loss of appetite
Pet parents can choose conservative treatment or decompressive surgery.
Conservative treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is recommended for dogs with pain, and whose lifestyle does not include strenuous activity.
More active dogs might consider surgery to correct the problem.
Seventy nine percent (79%) of dogs in a preliminary study were considered by their owners to be free of symptoms after undergoing this treatment. However, recurrence of clinical signs was reported in 18 – 37% of dogs.
NSAIDs may also cause unwanted side effects.
Cervical Spondylomyelopathy (CSM)
Cervical spondylomyelopathy (aka Wobbler syndrome) is a disease of the cervical spine—the vertebrae of the neck region.
CSM is caused by compressed spinal cord and nerve roots, which can lead to neurological defects and neck pain. No one knows for sure what causes CSM, but we do know it is seen mostly in large dog breeds such as Doberman Pinschers and Great Danes.
CSM usually manifests before the age of three.
CSM (Wobbler Syndrome) Symptoms
- Characteristic wobbly gait
- Walking with a lowered head due to neck pain
- In advanced stages, they may show signs of weakness, have trouble getting up, and may buckle over with front legs
- Acute paralysis in all four legs
CSM (Wobbler Syndrome) Treatment
Wobbler Syndrome can be treated surgically or medicinally.
The surgical approach involves an expensive decompressive procedure to reduce pressure on the spine.
Surgery does not come without risks. In fact, there’s a 1-5% chance your dog will suffer significant complications. Even after the surgery, your dog will need to take medication for the rest of his life.
The medicinal approach requires pet parents to administer oral corticosteroids while restricting the dog’s movement for a minimum of two months.
Twenty five percent (25%) of dogs treated medicinally remain stable afterward.
Canine Degenerative Myelopathy
Canine degenerative myelopathy is a progressive, and ultimately fatal, disease that affects the spinal cord.
White matter in the spinal cord is responsible for transmitting movement commands from the brain to the limbs. The degeneration of white matter causes an interference in this communication.
Degenerative myelopathy is the most common degenerative disease in dogs, and it affects a variety of dog breeds. It is usually seen in dogs between the ages of eight and 14.
Degenerative Myelopathy Symptoms
Symptoms of degenerative myelopathy appear in three stages: early, intermediate and late.
- Difficulty getting up
- Loss of coordination in the hind legs
- Difficulty walking or climbing stairs
- Shaking of the rear legs
- Stumbling about
- Inability to control bowel movement
- Difficulty getting up
- Difficulty walking without support
- Poor balance
- Crossing of hind legs
Late (advanced) stage
- Weakness in front legs and shoulders
- Complete paralysis
Degenerative Myelopathy Treatment
Unfortunately, there is no treatment currently available to stop the progression of this disease. Dogs with degenerative myelopathy will continue to weaken until all four legs become paralyzed.
Without therapy, the life expectancy is six months to one year.
Fortunately, pet parents can take comfort knowing that this condition is not painful.
With good nursing care, physical rehabilitation, and the use of harnesses or carts to increase mobility, you can make your pup quite comfortable. In fact, this sort of therapy may even extend your dog’s life by up to three years.
How to Proactively Prevent a Degenerative Disease
Adding scientifically formulated supplements to your dog’s diet is the most proactive way to keep him healthy. Feeding the right supplements may help prevent your dog from contracting a degenerative disease.
Best of all, there are zero scary side effects with supplements.
Focus on combining daily recommended vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and amino acids to give your pets balanced nutrition and healthy bodily functions.
Remember to pay close attention to your fur-babies as they age. Watch for changes in their mobility and behaviour, as it could be an early warning sign of degenerative disease.
We know you care as much about the health and well-being of your dog as we do.
Here are some supplements used by fellow pet parents ...
For dogs 3+ years old:
For Shepherds & extra large breed puppies: