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Any one else here have a DM dog?

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  • Any one else here have a DM dog?

    (I'm posting mainly to vent...) I had never heard of DM (degenerative myelopathy) until my German Shepherd, Mischa, was diagnosed with it last year at just barely 8 and I hate this disease so much...

    Shortly after the vet gave us her initial suspicions in January of last year, Mischa tore her ACL (CCL?). Then we took her to the emergency vet to get an idea of what surgery would cost. They referred us to the only neurologist in the area due to some of the neurological symptoms she was presenting (the DM). By the time the neurologist got her in & did an MRI it was May. His end diagnosis was she had DM and surgery could cause additional issues so he referred us to a PT place which also had a water treadmill.

    With the help of PT, by mid summer she was able to go for walks again and things were happy. Then fall came and the DM started to noticeably progress. By Dec she needed support from her hind-end harness to walk comfortably. By Feb we were basically carrying her hind end.

    Around this time I got her a "cart" so she could start going for short walks again. I wish I had bought it for her sooner, I just didn't think she'd take to it as well as she did...At this point she's still going to water treadmill 2x a week and I'm watching as she loses more and more control of her back legs and can't control as well when she poops...

    Now I'll jump to recent days. She can't squat very well to pee, she can't empty her bladder completely on her own, is getting more and more incontinent, but she still wants to play with her ball, still wants to go for walks, still wants to "go swimming", still is so very much "her", and yet the vet keeps telling me I need to make a decision. So here I sit on the couch crying my eyes out thinking about the possibility of life without her.

    I hate this disease so much

  • #2
    Poor you. I lost one of my dogs to this disease, she was 8.5. Together with my vet I decided to let her go as soon as she loses too much of her independence (cart for this dog was not an option). As she was tortured as a young dog in her previous home all I wanted for her was having a good life with as less stress as possible. DM is evil because we fight windmills.

    Making these decisions is never about my own grief. I send you my best wishes and the strength to decide well at the right point.


    • #3
      "That" appointment is the hardest one to accept as necessary. "That" appointment is not easy. Last Friday I made "that" appointment for my dog because he was suffering from syringamyelia, causing neurological pain. It wasn't easy, he went quietly and I realize without regret that it was the last kind decision I made for him. I find comfort in that poem about the Rainbow Bridge. He left me with many, many happy memories. Comforting thoughts coming your way.
      Last edited by rubles; Jun. 13, 2019, 08:31 AM. Reason: Spelling


      • #4
        I'm so very sorry you're going through this. It's not easy. I've also lost one to this, my sweet GSD.

        Some things I did that I thought helped to slow the process down. You can't really stop the end result but you can try to make the dog more comfortable.

        I kept my dog on good multi-vitamins just for better over all condition. I read everything I could on the DM websites, mainly so I would know what to expect.

        You take it a day at a time. The dog may seem to stabilize for a while and then suddenly go downhill.
        I used many joint supplements and even Adequan for a while, some of which helped depending on what stage they're in.

        Understand the process is not painful as such but the dog's inability to control their body is uncomfortable.

        It is a cruel disease and heartbreaking.
        "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin


        • #5
          So sorry. Just put down my sweet boy yesterday. He was pretty miserable so I knew I had to make that call. It is more difficult when it is not clear-cut.

          I think that first, you have to put your feelings aside. Of course we want our beloved pets to stay, but their feelings are what are important.

          Next is, of course the amount of pain or discomfort. Sometimes it is obvious, but, unfortunately, there is a grey area. Some of that in-between area depends upon your dog's attitude. My old cocker mix went deaf and lost much of her sight. It did not seem to bother her at all. She lived happily until other issues arose. My old Aussie lost his sight rather quickly. He couldn't cope. He was anxious and would circle and cry. He didn't even accommodate to small, familiar spaces in spite of my efforts. He was stressed and unhappy and I had to make the call. (I also suspect he had something else going on neurologically)

          So I guess it is up to you and those you trust to decide when she is no longer enjoying her life. I am not familiar with this, but I would also consider if any progression would result in a painful or distressing episode for her (UTIs etc?). That would be a reason to help her avoid that.

          Sorry. Sucks.


          • #6
            So sorry. We lost two GSD's to this in 3 years...unrelated to each other in any way. As long as they seemed happy and could function fairly well...we dealt with their problems. It's hard when the patient weighs over 100 pounds, though.
            Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma


            • #7
              I am so very sorry. My GSD also had this disease. It progressed rapidly - he was knuckling occasionally behind in October and then six months later we were having The Talk with the vet. Some days I think we should have held on, tried with a cart... but I could see he was so sad he couldn't keep up with the farm chores anymore. He was a dog that loved his job and I think he felt so confused about his body failing him. He seemed to upset he couldn't do his job and I think anyone with a GSD understands that drive that is innately there; I think he felt like he was letting us down..

              I second what another person said about it seeming to stabilize and then go downhill.. we had a few months were it was okay, then a few days where it just went downhill rapidly.

              I still have a hard time looking at our last picture together because he just was not the same dog as before the disease got to him. I don't think we waited too long... but we were close.

              Lots of hugs. No advice, but you and Mischa have all my sympathy.
              AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012


              • Original Poster

                I've read all the replies back in June, at that point couldn't bear to respond, the vets words had hurt too much. Thank you all for your replies. Now we're to almost August and she's still here, doing about the same. I think despite her being so her still, I'm going to make plans for this fall, before the winter weather can make things dangerous for both of us, provided she doesn't have a fast decline sooner. She's still eating pretty well and wanting to play/go for walks in her cart so I think QoL is ok for now.

                The tech at her water treadmill place mentioned one of their clients had the awful luck of 3 GSDs in a row with DM. For anyone else with a dog suffering this disease, I will say the water treadmill has really helped to keep her front end strong and get her some exercise, but can't really say if it kept her hind end mobile any longer than w/o. She enjoys it though, despite not being a "water dog".


                • #9
                  I'm so sorry you're going through this, but glad you've a little more good time with your girl. It's been a year and a half since I lost my little old lady - a GSD mix - to old age and DM. Hate the thought of anyone else - much less her dog - going through it. Hugs, and hoping for many wonderful times til a peaceful passing.

                  PS Because my stomach still knots at the recollection of making plans, I hope you have a vet who'll come to your house when it's time. Still grateful that we do, and don't know how common it is.


                  • #10
                    Started mynDM corgi in wheels 2weeks ago and he’s adapted very well. He’s completely down in back but bright and cheerful. We use the wheels for potty breaks and short walks, building up to longer time each day. I ca not imagine dealing with a really large dog with DM. FB group Corgis on Wheels has wonderful support and info. Maybe there’s a similar group for GSD?


                    • Original Poster

                      I have luckily found a vet who will come to my house and contacted them that this is coming down the road...

                      Haven't seen any sort of support group for GSD, though it seems this board isn't a bad place to be. Her size has definitely presented some additional challenges. At her peak, she was 91 lbs and all muscle (and constantly mistaken for a boy). I'm 5'4 and small...the help 'em up harness has been a godsend and especially useful for getting her up/down the deck stairs and into the car. I can only imagine the struggle if the barn didn't keep me in as good of shape as it does.

                      Not sure if this will work but here's a pic of her with my brother's husky last year (before the torn ACL) and her at a a bit over a year old.


                      • #12
                        So Sorry for all who have lost dogs with DM. 1 1/2 yrs ago I had to humanely euthanize my horse who had it! It was a terrible year chasing the diagnosis, until the last few weeks where he dramatically declined and the necropsy was definitive. Not as easy to diagnose in a horse I think.
                        As a retiree vet tech I have a slightly different view on euthanization possibly. I think "better a week too soon than a week too late" And I am Thankful it's the last gift of love I can give the animals that love me unconditionally.
                        It is so very hard to make the decision, I know. When you think he has no quality of life you will know it is time.

                        Hugs to you!
                        Happily retired but used to be: