Note for Pet Owners:
This information is provided
by Provet for educational purposes only.
You should seek the advice
of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly
advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most
appropriate for your pet.
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Chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy (CDRM) has been described as the most
common cause of progressive hindlimb dysfunction in older German Shepherd Dogs.
Some authors have suggested an autoimmune basis for the disease, and depressed
cell-mediated immunity may be present in some individuals.
The cause is unknown. The degeneration occurs in the dorsolateral funiculi in
the white matter of the spinal cord, and in the dorsal spinal roots.
CDRM occurs almost exclusively in the older German Shepherd Dog, although other
large breeds may also be affected.
Affected dogs gradually lose the use of their hindlegs 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. Paresis (weakness) and loss of
proprioception (positional sense) results. 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 (abducted), or moved inwards towards the body
(adducted) the dog does not immediately replace it in correct alignment
with the body.
Dogs with CDRM do get frustrated when they find that they
can not jump up (eg 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
ComplicationsTrauma to the feet can lead to bleeding.
The diagnosis is made based upon clinical signs and the absence of another
cause. The definitive diagnosis is confirmed by postmortem histological
examination of the spinal cord.
There is no known treatment for this condition.
Vitamin E (2000iu/day)
and aminocaproic acid have been administered by some authors in the belief that
their respective anti-inflammatory and antiprotease activities might benefit
patients. This treatment is not generally accepted as being effective.
The rate of progression varies greatly from one dog to another. Once they are
unable to get up management of large dogs becomes a problem for many owners. A
canine cart can help provide mobility to immobile patients. Fortunately, dogs
with CDRM rarely develop incontinence so many dogs can live for several years
with this condition.
Long term problems
Trauma to limbs and extremities, and callus formation due to
long periods of recumbancy.