Degenerative Myelopathy

Lately Katie has had more trouble walking than usual. She has been arthritic for a while and had two knee surgeries, but things have gotten worse. A couple of times she has just fallen down. She doesn’t seem to be in a lot of pain, her back legs just don’t seem to work correctly. I took her to the vet today and they ruled out a couple of things and said they would try increasing the dosage of an anti-inflammatory that she takes already. They also said it could be neurological rather than arthritis and they could refer me to a neurologist, but the tests get pretty expensive. I asked would there be that many treatment options after going through all the expensive tests and the vet wasn’t sure. Katie is 12 years old, which is getting pretty old for a black lab.

Later I was reading about a condition called degenerative myelopathy. It is a disease of the spinal cord and nerves in older dogs where the myelin sheath of the nerves starts to degrade and disrupts the communication of signals from the brain to the muscles. It isn’t painful like arthritis, but it does cause dogs to fall down and affects their back ends usually. The degenerative aspect means it gets worse and worse and the back legs of the dog can be completely paralyzed in months and even spread to the front legs. If Katie has this, it is not good. But the decline has been pretty sharp lately making me think it isn’t just arthritis, though it could also be a ruptured disk. I am thinking that if I take her to the neurologist they may be able to narrow it down quickly or maybe just start treatments as if she has the condition and see if that works, skipping the expensive tests and hoping the treatment isn’t that expensive.

In the meantime, since her legs don’t work that great, I thought I’d get her some shoes and my vet recommended some good ones from These will give her better traction on the floors indoors and can protect her feet if she drags them while we are on walks (I got the summertime/indoor type instead of some of the cold or wet weather ones). David helped me trace her foot so we could order the correct size. They cost about as much as my shoes, but I am only getting them for the back legs. Exercise is actually supposed to help slow the effects, so if it helps her exercise that will be good, even though it won’t do anything for the overall weakness and collapses. They also make those wheeled carts for the back ends of dogs that could work, including one that lets them still walk but the wheels keep them from collapsing. Fish oil tablets, which I would give her sometimes anyway, are also supposed to help, along with Vitamin E (3V Caps is a brand of fish oil tablet for dogs that has Vitamin E added). Changing her flea and heartworm medication may also help, and the brand Revolution is recommended by one site, so I may order some of that.

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