Degenerative Myelopathy German Shepherd Dog

Canine Degenerative Myelopathy- (DM) or Chronic Degenerative Radiculo Myelopathy, is a progressive disease of the spinal cord in older dogs. The disease has an insidious onset typically between 5 and 14 years of age. It begins with hindquarter weakness, rear limb ataxia (reflex to right foot when turned backwards, slow, or non existent), loss of balance, difficulty rising or laying down, knuckling under while walking, limp tail, rear legs crossing under body, rear leg drag, spinal ataxia, hoarseness of bark, leading to paralysis, and incontinence in the final stages, the affected dog will wobble when walking, knuckle over or drag the feet. This can first occur in one hind limb and then affect the other. As the disease progresses, the limbs become weak and the dog begins to buckle and has difficulty standing. The weakness gets progressively worse until the dog is unable to walk. The clinical course can range from six months to one year before dogs become paraplegic. If signs progress for a longer period of time, loss of urinary and fecal continence may occur and eventually weakness will develop in the front limbs. Another key feature of DM is that it is not a painful disease.

The German Shepherd Canine Degenerative Myelopathy -Largely, the German Shepherd dog is the breed that is most vulnerable to Degenerative Myelopathy worldwide. Between 1% to 3% of German Shepherds are affected. Unfortunately in North America (USA) alone, yearly between 14,000 to 42,000 German Shepherd Dogs are diagnosed with Degenerative Myelopathy, DM. Resulting in the USA the proportion of affected GSDs is much higher. Simplified calculation: average 28,000 per year, average 12 years lifespan, 3.5 mio GSDs equals 9.6% affected GSDs! Since DM is hereditary, we as German shepherd Breeders must be cautious in our breeding process and breed responsibly by educating yourself with this devastating disease and have our breeding dogs tested for DM, immediately and exclude breeding affected parents! This will strengthen your breeding program and will tremendously improve the breed and your breeding program as well - This Degenerative Myelopathy, a preventive disease is avoidable, PLEASE have your dogs tested for DM!

Normal (N/N)This dog is homozygous N/N for the mutation that is the most common cause of DM, with two normal copies of the gene. Among the hundreds of dogs studied so far at the University of Missouri, only two dogs with test results of N/N (Normal) have been confirmed to have DM. The N/N (Normal) dog can only transmit the normal counterpart of the common mutation to its offspring, and it is unlikely that this dog or its offspring will ever develop DM.

Carrier (A/N) This dog is heterozygous A/N, with one mutated copy of the gene and one normal copy of the gene, and is classified as a carrier. Carriers are far less likely to develop DM, but we have confirmed DM in a few carrier dogs. They may be used carefully in breeding programs to keep their good qualities while reducing risk of DM in future generations.

At-Risk (A/A) This dog is homozygous A/A, with two mutated copies of the gene, and is at risk for developing Degenerative Myelopathy (DM). Although almost all dogs in the research study with confirmed DM have had A/A DNA test results, recent evidence suggest that there are other causes of DM in some breeds. In addition, not all dogs testing as A/A have shown clinical signs of DM. DM is typically a late onset disease, and dogs testing as A/A that are clinically normal may still begin to show signs of the disease as they age. Some dogs testing A/A did not begin to show clinical signs of DM until they were 15 years of age. Research is ongoing to estimate what percentage of dogs testing as A/A will develop DM within their lifespan. At this point, the mutation can only be interpreted as being at risk of developing DM within the animal's life. For dogs showing clinical signs with a presumptive diagnosis of DM, affected (A/A) test results can be used as an additional tool to aid in the diagnosis of DM. Dogs testing At-Risk (A/A) can only pass the mutated gene on to their offspring.

Equivocal An Equivocal test result indicates that the test results were inconclusive. This is typically the result of poor sample collection. When the test yields an equivocal result, a second punch will be taken from the FTA card and the test rerun. If the second test is still equivocal, the owner will be contacted and asked to submit a new sample.

PARENT (A) PARENT (B) DM results for the offsprings of the 1st generation
Normal (N/N) Normal (N/N) Normal (N/N)
CARRIER (A/N) Normal (N/N) NORMAL (N/N) 50% and CARRIER (A/N) 50%
CARRIER (A/N) CARRIER (A/N) NORMAL (N/N) 50% and CARRIER (A/N) 50% and AT-RISK (A/A) 25%
Normal (N/N) AT-RISK (A/A) CARRIER (A/N)100%
PARENT (A) PARENT (B) DM results for the offsprings of the 2nd generation
CARRIER (A/N) Normal (N/N) NORMAL (N/N) 75% and CARRIER (A/N) 25%
PARENT (A) PARENT (B) DM results for the offsprings of the 3rd generation
CARRIER (A/N) Normal (N/N) NORMAL (N/N) 100%
PARENT (A) PARENT (B) DM results for the offsprings of the 4th generation
PARENT (A) PARENT (B) DM results for the offsprings of the 5th generation
You can use the guideline above for the 2ND thru 5TH generation by adding NORMAL (N/N) to their breeding (pair)  to reduce the CARRIER (A/N) and AT-RISK (A/A) with the process from the chart to control and minmize the unwanted homozygous gene in the generations to come.
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