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Degenerative Myelopathy   Health, Nutrition and Exercise

Started Sep-8 by BigbyIsMyBoy; 183 views.

From: BigbyIsMyBoy


Hello all,

I am new here. I had 2 German Shepherds and I recently lost one (6 years old) on a whim. I'll never know the true cause because I didn't want to send her across the state for a necropsy. But I've been keeping a closer eye on my other one just in case.

My Bigby boy just turned 10 and I've been keeping him mostly indoors because of my other shepherd who passed away. This has been over the last month. We've also had excessive heat where I live and I never take my eyes off him when he's outside. 

But he's started to lose balance in his back legs. He's "wobbly" as my husband says. And I'm scared it's very late stage DM. I ordered a blood test from the vet to see if he has the two gene mutations for it. They said there's no hip displasia, but he's old. And without running more tests that could cost thousands, the gene test was the way to go. He doesn't seem to be in pain, and that scares me more that it's not arthritus. 

I watched my mom's boxer go through DM and she kept him alive until he passed on his own. He had the wheelchair for dogs and everything. 

But my question is: have you ever experienced this? And if so, did you have the vet euthanize? If you did, when did you know it was time?

I know DM can be a very quick onset thing for GSDs, but I've never had to put an animal down before. They are as close to me as my family. But I saw what my mom went through with her dog and he suffered. Not from lack of care for him, my mom was excellent, but just seeing how his happy demeanor declined. He hated the back wheel thing.

DW (GSDogwalker)

From: DW (GSDogwalker)


Welcome. I’m sorry for your loss.  6 is young to lose a dog. What were the symptoms you saw? It may have been hemangiosarcoma which is serious and sudden. It’s not contagious so your other dog isn’t going to get it just because one dog died from it.

When your dog is standing try turning a back paw under so he’s putting weight in the top of his paw instead of on the pad. Does he try to put it back into place or does he just stand there with the paw bent under? That is a quick way to test for DM.  Being wobbly could be due to things other than HD or DM.  Older dogs can have disc compression in the spine or swelling due to injury or arthritis. There is also a rare condition called Wobblers. A good vet should be able to look at your dog and examine before they even start testing to give you an idea of what they suspect.  10 is considered senior but it’s not the end of the line.  I have a dog that is almost 14 who is slow but still getting along.

If your vet can’t do that try a teaching hospital. They may have less expensive testing or specialists who can help diagnose your dog.

If you decide you want to add a dog to your family this is a good time to do that. Shelters are bursting at the seams with purebred German Shepherds and no one seems to know why.


From: BigbyIsMyBoy


The emergency vet said it was heat stroke, but we only let them out to potty at the time and brought them right back in. They said there could have been some underlying infection that caused a fever. Add heat to that even just enough to let them potty, and it was a recipe for disaster. I opted not to have a necropsy, though. They would have had to ship my dog's body across the state and I didn't feel comfortable with it right after losing her. 

Yeah, I'm looking for a new vet right now. This one used to be great, but the guy who originally owned it retired and prices have gone up/customer service down since then. They weren't really able to tell me anything up front.

I will try the paw trick and see what he does. He doesn't act like he's in pain, and he keeps trying to run everywhere even though his back legs are a bit wobbly. He's still got the heart of a puppy, so if he had DM, it would probably break both of our hearts.

Thank you for the advice!!


From: Kazell


One of my GSDs as a child got very wobbly and weak in the back end as he aged. It didn’t progress as you would expect with DM and wasn't hip dysplasia. He was just very weak in the rear end and would sway a bit as he walked. He actually did better in the winter as the snow seemed to give him added stability. I wouldn’t be surprised, depending on structure, with many GSDs going weaker in the rear due to to excessive rear angulation and losing the muscle strength to keep everything working smoothly. 

Ours ended up passing due to bloat so it never progressed to needing to decide based on quality of life. But once life is hard for them to enjoy I personally won’t keep a dog alive and let them pass with dignity. If they are only alive because you are intervening not because they want to be, I feel it is unfair to them. I like to give my dogs a great last day before they go and so I prefer to euthanize while they still have good days where that can happen.  Not all dogs despise wheelchairs and they also make support slings for their rear ends that you can use as another option if that’s something you want to look into.

If it isn’t DM water therapy and the sling could help him quite a bit if he likes water or you have any bodies of water available. 

In reply toRe: msg 3
DW (GSDogwalker)

From: DW (GSDogwalker)


AC isn’t natural for dogs and a cause a drop in body temperature. When they walk outside into a hot yard, it can shock their bodies and cause heat stroke.  You are better off not keeping your house too cold.  I let mine get as hot as 80 during the day.