Chronic Degenerative Radiculomyelopathy


Degenerative myelopathy is a serious degenerative disease affecting the hind limbs, it usually occurs predominately in German Shepherds, Collies and Welsh Corgis. It is a non-painful but progressively disabling condition, affecting the spine.

The cause is unknown but genetic factors are suspected, there is a non-inflammatory degeneration of the axons in the white matter of the spinal cord, causing nerve impulses from the brain to fail to reach the hind limbs correctly.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Affected dogs are usually 5 years plus and gradually lose the use of their hind legs with ataxia, they criss-cross their legs and may trip themselves up when turning, they wear down the top of their nails and scuff the tops of their toes. Weakness and loss of positional sense results i.e. If the foot is placed in a knuckled over position the dog fails, or is slow to lift and place it properly. If legs are moved away from the body, or moved inwards towards the body the dog does not immediately replace it in correct alignment with the body.

The outlook is not good, whatever treatment is considered, but there has been some very positive responses in a few cases, especially those who are over nine years old at the onset of signs. Some dogs have gone on to survive a normal lifespan, with good mobility. Dogs with CDRM do get frustrated when they find that they can not jump up (e.g. into the back of a car) or perform normal daily activities (such as getting up stairs), but they do not exhibit signs of pain or discomfort.

Diagnosis is made by examination and the use of Myelography and MRI.


Long term prognosis for CDRM is poor. Hydrotherapy can help to maintain muscle use, enabling the dog to continue walking for longer than would otherwise be possible. Cardiovascular fitness is also maintained along with the strength of the front legs. The mental welfare of the dog is much improved by hydrotherapy, as in the non weight-bearing environment all four limbs are able to work in a normal manner of a healthy animal. This freedom of movement will make for a much happier dog who can exercise more normally in the water. It is only when the disease progresses that the hind limb activity lessens, although the front limbs usually remain strong.

The Use Of Carts

Some dogs can cope well with using a cart and gain better quality of life with one. Some don't cope well so let your dog guide you.

There are some basic guidelines that should be followed when considering a cart:-

  • Look at many manufacturers of carts. There are several designs and one may not be suitable for your dog but another may.
  • Homemade carts are to be used with caution. The stability of these gadgets is crucial to their success, there is a fine line between a cart that works well, particularly at speed or on rough ground and another that tips your dog over causing injury and distress.
  • Pressure sores are also an important factor to consider and must be avoided. This can be difficult if the balance of the cart is wrong, the harness holding the animal is not made of the correct material or fitted correctly. Pressure sores are painful and can lead to infection.
  • Hygiene is another issue to consider. As dogs with hind limb paralysis often suffer from incontinence, be sure your dog can be kept clean at all times and that the design of the cart allows for the dog to go to the toilet easily.

The use of a cart is good as long as it covers all the correct criteria and the dog and owners are happy with its use.