As dedicated pet parents, seeing our furry friends struggle with health challenges is heart-wrenching. Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is one such condition that can affect our canine companions, progressively weakening their back legs and hindquarters.
However, despite the difficulties DM presents, it’s essential to remember that this diagnosis doesn’t mean an end to your dog’s happiness or quality of life. With love, patience, and the right tools, you can provide your pet the care they need to continue living a joyful, fulfilling life. In this guide for how to care for a dog with degenerative myelopathy, we’ll guide you through steps to ensure your beloved pet remains comfortable every step of the way.
Understanding Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs
Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a progressive and incurable neurological disorder that primarily affects the spinal cord of dogs. This disorder leads to a loss of coordination in their hind limbs and eventual paralysis. It commonly occurs in breeds such as German shepherds, boxers, and Pembroke Welsh corgis.
While DM is a serious and life-altering diagnosis, it’s important to note that it isn’t painful for the dog. With proper care and management, dogs with DM can continue to enjoy a good quality of life.
Recognizing Signs and Symptoms of Degenerative Myelopathy
The onset of degenerative myelopathy in dogs often presents as simple clumsiness or uncoordinated movements in the hind legs. You may notice your dog stumbling occasionally or showing difficulty when rising from a seated position.
As DM progresses, these symptoms may become more pronounced, with the dog showing a wobbly walk or drag in their back legs, often scraping their paws along the ground. These symptoms typically worsen over time, eventually leading to a complete inability to stand or walk without assistance. It’s crucial to consult with your vet at the first sign of these symptoms, as early intervention can significantly improve your dog’s quality of life.
How To Care for a Dog With Degenerative Myelopathy
Creating a Supportive Environment for Your Dog
A fundamental aspect of caring for a dog with degenerative myelopathy is providing a supportive environment that caters to their evolving needs. As your dog’s mobility decreases, modifications in your home can make a significant difference in their comfort levels and independence.
One practical change is to replace smooth, slippery surfaces with non-slip mats. These mats will give your dog better traction, reducing the risk of slips and falls and facilitating easier movement around your home. These mats can benefit areas such as the kitchen, bathroom, and any place with hardwood or tiled floors.
Additionally, consider setting up ramps at any locations where your dog commonly needs to climb. Stairs and high furniture, such as beds or couches, can pose a challenge for a dog with DM. Ramps can make these areas more accessible, allowing your dog the freedom to move around their favorite spots without assistance.
Remember, the goal is to preserve your dog’s independence as much as possible while ensuring their safety and comfort. These changes, although simple, can drastically enhance your dog’s quality of life as they navigate degenerative myelopathy.
Regular Exercise and Proper Nutrition
Ensuring your dog receives regular exercise and proper nutrition is crucial in managing degenerative myelopathy. While DM limits your dog’s mobility, there are several ways to help your dog stay active and maintain muscle tone.
Use a mobility device for your dog during walks. This device will allow them to enjoy their regular outings and continue exploring their surroundings.
Consult with a canine physical therapist. They can devise a customized exercise plan to help slow down muscle atrophy and improve your dog’s balance and coordination.
Hydrotherapy is an excellent low-impact exercise for dogs with DM. The buoyancy of water reduces stress on their joints, while the resistance helps maintain muscle mass.
When it comes to nutrition, a balanced diet is key to supporting overall health and well-being. Dogs with DM can benefit from a diet high in antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids, which can support nerve health. It’s also essential to monitor your dog’s weight. Excess weight can put additional pressure on your dog’s already weakened hindquarters, making mobility more challenging.
Consult with your vet for specific dietary recommendations or modifications that might benefit your dog. Remember, each dog is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. The goal is to provide the best care possible to ensure your dog with DM continues to live a happy and fulfilled life.
Schedule Regular Vet Checkups
Regular vet checkups are a vital part of managing degenerative myelopathy in dogs. These regular appointments allow your vet to monitor your dog’s condition closely, assess the progress of the disease, and adjust treatment plans as necessary. The vet can observe subtle changes that may not be immediately noticeable to you, such as alterations in gait patterns, slight shifts in weight, or slight declines in muscle tone.
Moreover, regular vet visits also offer an opportunity to discuss any concerns or questions you may have. This ongoing dialogue ensures you always have the latest knowledge and resources necessary to provide the best possible care for your dog. Remember, your vet is a valuable partner in this journey, and regular checkups are essential in navigating degenerative myelopathy’s challenges.
Invest in Support Devices
Investing in support devices such as dog wheelchairs for back legs can significantly improve the quality of life for dogs with degenerative myelopathy. These devices provide the necessary support for your pet, allowing them to maintain mobility and independence despite their condition.
A dog wheelchair can essentially serve as an extension of your dog, providing support where it’s needed. It reduces the strain on the weakened hindquarters, enabling your dog to move around freely and comfortably. This mobility aid promotes physical health by allowing continued exercise and fosters emotional well-being by providing a sense of independence.
Moreover, these wheelchairs are often adjustable, and a veterinarian can tailor it to fit your dog’s specific size and weight, ensuring a comfortable and secure fit. Most designers keep ease of use in mind, making their wheelchairs a practical solution for everyday walks and outdoor explorations.
Life with DM will present challenges, but it’s important to remember the joy and companionship your furry friend continues to offer. Their spirit remains unbroken, their tail still wags with excitement, and their eyes still light up at the sight of you.
With your dedicated care, your dog can continue to live a happy, meaningful life, proving that DM is merely a condition they have, not who they are. Continue to cherish the precious moments and celebrate the enduring bond you share. After all, the love between you and your dog is a force stronger than any diagnosis.