Degenerative myelopathy is a spontaneous-onset spinal cord disorder that affects dogs and is very similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease in humans.

In degenerative myelopathy, there is degeneration of the “white matter” of the spinal cord and peripheral nerves. The white matter tracts of the spinal cord contain fibers that transmit movement orders from the brain to the extremities and sensory information from the extremities to the brain.

Although the disease is more common in German Shepherd Dogs, Corgis, Boxers, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks and Poodles, but it can also occur in other breeds and mixed breed dogs. The typical age of onset of the disease occurs between 8-14 years of age, and both sexes are equally affected.

Mainly considered a genetic disorder, a genetic mutation has currently been identified that is an important risk factor for the development of the disease.

Degenerative myelopathy by itself is not a painful disease. However, compensatory movements on weak limbs can cause the dog to develop pain in other areas of its body such as the neck, shoulders, and forelimbs.


Frequent signs:

It normally progresses slowly, almost imperceptibly. Symptoms generally initially occur with loss of coordination (ataxia) in the hind limbs, mild weakness in the back (paraparesis), such as difficulty walking and / or squatting to defecate. This weakness may first occur in one hind limb and then the other, the limbs weaken over time where the dog begins to bend and has difficulty standing up, the weakness may progress until the dog is unable to walk with the hind legs. Advanced signs: Urinary and fecal continence, weakness in the forelimbs and in general, without medical intervention, the dog will become paralyzed in the back within 6 months to 1 year of onset of the disease.



Degenerative myelopathy is a diagnosis mainly by ruling out. This means that the vet will first look for other diseases that will affect the dog’s spinal cord, using diagnostic tests such as spinal x-rays, computed tomography, MRI, or myelography.