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I am positive my 9 year old German Shepherd has DM. Is it…

I am positive my 9...
I am positive my 9 year old German Shepherd has DM. Is it worth taking him to the vets as I understand there is no cure. I don't really want to pay out hundreds of pounds to have scans or X-rays just to confirm it. You may ask how can I be sure, He started going lame in his rear legs a few weeks ago (dragging paws etc) and now it has progressed to the front and his is very unstable. He is being incontinent quite often, but he is not showing any signs of pain. Thanks
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Answered in 5 minutes by:
5/7/2017
Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 18,846
Experience: Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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Hello, I'm Dr. Kara. I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian and I'd like to help. Please give me a moment to review your concerns.

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I am sorry to hear about Samson, and I understand your reluctance to have him seen and a lot of tests run only to find out that what he has isn't treatable.

You are correct that there is no treatment for DM, but this sounds very rapidly progressing for DM. It is a progressive disease but generally over a period of months to years, not weeks. Radiographs look normal and diagnosis is by a blood test to look for genetic markers of the disease. If you want to test him for the disease there is a blood test available which is pretty accurate. Here is a link to a website which will give you information about how to get him tested: http://www.offa.org/dnatesting/dm.html

There are a few things other than DM that can led to rear leg weakness and incontinence that are more rapidly progressing.
The first would be spinal arthritis which can cause inflammation of the spinal nerves that control urine and stool continence. These dogs have obvious spinal arthritis on radiographs and are painful upon examination. They may respond to anti-inflammatories (steroids or nonsteroidals like Metacam, Deramaxx or Rimadyl), pain medications like Tramadol as well as omega 3's and glucosamine/chondroitin supplements like Dasuquin or Cosequin DS. You might discuss trying an anti-inflammatory with your veterinarian to see if it is helpful.

The other disease process would be lumbosacral stenosis and instability. This is an instability between the sacrum (pelvis) and the lumbar spine. It leads to inflammation and scar tissue and places pressure on the spinal cord leading to loss of function in his rear legs and stool and urine incontinence. These dogs are painful and should respond at least somewhat to steroids or anti-inflammatories. Diagnosis is by an MRI of the area. Treatment is surgery but once fecal and urine incontinence occur we cannot always reverse the damage done to nerves. Definitely worth trying though.

Unusual causes can also be a spinal cord tumor or a mass of the vertebrae or supporting tissues.

If he is an intact male, was ever used for breeding and is now running a fever Brucellosis is a possible cause as well.

A bacterial infection of the bones of the spine that spreads from a urinary tract infection or a puncture wound is another possibility, but those dogs are running a fever and are extremely painful and feel horrible.

In order to help your fellow we really need to know why he is the way he is.
An examination and radiographs of his spine are a great place to start. Or based upon his exam your veterinarian can prescribe an anti-inflammatory and pain medication if needed. You can also discuss whether testing him for myelopathy would be reasonable.

In the meantime with fecal incontinence it may help to increase the amount of fiber in his food to help him feel and be more aware of his stools. You can add 2 to 3 tablespoons of canned pumpkin or Metamucil to his meals to increase fiber. Make sure to get him outdoors frequently to pass stools as well so his colon is less likely to overfill causing stools to just drop out.

It may also help to add a glucosamine/chondroitin product (examples are Dasuquin or Cosequin) and an omega 3 fatty acid (like 3V Caps or Derm Caps). These work synergistically and improve cartilage health and joint fluid quality and quantity as well as reducing inflammation. They can take several weeks to see full improvement but some dogs do very well with them added. They are available over the counter.
Another option is a product called Duralactin. This is an anti-inflammatory product derived from milk proteins and it also has omega 3 fatty acids incorporated into it which can be very helpful. See this link for further information: http://www.duralactin.com/products_canine.htm

Other alternative therapies such as cold laser, acupuncture or chiropractic may be of help as well is his problem is arthritis related.
Let me know if you have any further questions.

Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 18,846
Experience: Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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Customer reply replied 1 year ago
Many thanks for your advise

You are very welcome, my best to your fellow.

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Hi Adrian,

I'm just following up on our conversation about Samson. How is everything going?

Dr. Kara
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