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.

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.
Some authors have suggested an autoimmune basis for the disease, and depressed cell-mediated immunity may be present in some individuals.

Breed Occurrence
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 discomfort.

Trauma 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.


Updated January 2016