Managing Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs

Natural Support for Dogs with Degenerative Myelopathy

Source: dogsnaturallymagazine / Wikipedia

Degenerative Myelopathy is a devastating disease, whereby affected dogs develop weakness in the rear legs and gradually become paralyzed. Eventually they can’t control their bowels and lose motor control on the entire rear end of the body. This degenerative process can take anywhere from six months to three years.

The cause for the disease is unknown, but one proposed cause of degenerative myelopathy is that the immune system attacks the spinal cord sheath, breaking it down. This results in a loss of communication between nerves in lower body of the animal and the brain.

The damage typically begins in the middle of the back. The nerve damage results in loss of voluntary and involuntary motor control. Some neurologists compare Degenerative Myelopathy in dogs to Multiple Sclerosis in humans.

The diagnostic tests that are normally performed are blood work (including a thyroid panel) and spinal X-rays. Other tests may include an electromyogram (EMG), MRI or CT.



Degenerative Myelopathy initially affects the hind legs first. The dog may start to drag a foot on walks. Eventually, a lack of coordination and wobbliness in the gait is seen and the reflexes will slow in the hind feet and legs. Soon afterward, the thigh muscles will start to waste away and the tail may become limp.

As the disease progresses, the dog will have difficulty standing for long periods of time and getting up from lying down. Faecal and urinary incontinence are likely to follow. The rear legs become so weak that the dog will need assistance to get up and he will have trouble holding a position to defecate or urinate (affected dogs often walk and poop).

As the disease progresses, the front limbs will start to become affected and weaken as well. Normally, the dog is so debilitated by this point that most patients are euthanized because of poor quality of life.

Thankfully, this disease is not painful but there may be compensatory issues that will eventually cause discomfort.


Holistic Treatments

There is currently no conventional veterinary treatment for Degenerative Myelopathy. Holistic modalities however can be used to improve the quality of life. Treatments that can help include Bowen Therapy, Hydrotherapy and Physiotherapy.

Bowen Therapy offers a safe and gentle body work to stimulate the body’s own healing mechanism and Hydrotherapy is a safe and effective form of exercise for these patients.

Exercise is important for affected dogs, as the nervous system has to be constantly stimulated to keep the nerve impulses firing. Walks and structured therapeutic exercise will help to maintain balance and proprioception, flexibility of the joints, keep muscles toned, and maintain good circulation. Eventually, a cart may enable the dog to remain active and maintain its quality of life once weakness or paralysis of the hind legs sets in.

Besides this, a balanced nutritional diet will support the body and help control inflammation and regulate the immune system.


Affected breeds

There are about 43 breeds that have been found to have the defective gene responsible for Degenerative Myelopathy. The most affected breeds include the German Shepherd, Boxer, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Irish Setter, Dalmatian, Weimaraner, Great Pyrenees, Samoyed, Briard, Siberian Husky, Miniature Poodle, Standard Poodle, Bernese Mountain Dog, Kerry Blue Terrier, Golden Retriever, Wire Fox Terrier, American Eskimo Dog, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier and Pug.


If you have a dog with the above disease and would like to support it with Bowen Therapy and/or Homeopathy please feel free to contact me.


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The information contained in this website is not intended to replace guidance from your veterinarian. Bowen Therapy and Homeopathy are complementary to veterinary treatment and the general care of the animal.