Degenerative myelopathy is a common cause of
neurological dysfunction of the rear limbs (posterior
paralysis) of dogs. Other causes include intervertebral
disk disease, spinal tumors, hypothyroidism, and cauda
equine syndrome. Most commonly, middle-aged to older
larger breed dogs, especially German Shepherds are affected.
The disorder is slowly progressive and often confused
with hip dysplasia; many pets mistakenly diagnosed with
hip dysplasia in fact have degenerative myelopathy. (To
complicate things, some dogs have both hip dysplasia
and degenerative myelopathy at the same time!) Changes
in the spinal cord causing the neurological signs include
demyelination (destruction of the myelin sheath surrounding
the spinal cord) and degeneration of axons (nerve tracts).
The exact cause of degenerative myelopathy is unknown.
However, many doctors feel this is an autoimmune disorder
in which antibodies are formed by the dog against spinal cord
protein. Holistic veterinarians propose that since vaccinated
dogs have higher levels of autoantibodies, there may be an
association with over vaccination. Definitive proof of this
theory is lacking, although the suggestion is plausible. The
disease mimics multiple sclerosis in people.
Diagnosis is made by ruling out other causes of similar
clinical signs, including intervertebral disk disease, spinal
cord tumors, hip dysplasia, cauda equine syndrome, and
Principal Natural Treatments
The main natural treatments are designed to reduce
inflammation in the spinal cord. The natural treatments
are widely used with variable success but have not all been
thoroughly investigated and proven at this time. As with any
condition, the most healthful natural diet will improve the
pet’s overall health.
Definitive proof of the effectiveness of any therapy for
degenerative myelopathy is lacking. However, the following
therapies have been recommended and anecdotally used
with variable success in some dogs.
Spinal cord glandulars and myelin specific protein,
N-acetylcysteine, and aminocaproic acid are used. Two
particularly useful products are called Antiox-Q and
Antiox-QCB. Antiox-Q is a mixture of the vitamin regimen
recommended for dogs with degenerative myelopathy. This
is a convenient form of medication, because it enables the
dog to get all the correct amounts of the vitamins in a single
dose instead of many doses of each individual vitamin.
Antiox-Q is given 5 ml twice a day if your dog weighs
more than 50 pounds, or 2.5 ml twice a day if less than 50
pounds. Each 5 ml dose of Antiox-Q contains all the following
vitamins at their recommended dosages:
Antiox-QCB contains all of the previously mentioned vitamins
in addition to curcumin (500 mg) and bromelain (200 mg
supplying 2400 GDU per gram), which are natural anti-inflammatory
agents. Taken together, these two herbs assist
in the absorption of each other from the gastrointestinal
tract, which increases their effects. It should be administered
on an empty stomach or the curcumin and bromelain will not
have their natural anti-inflammatory effects. These products
have been formulated in consultation with Dr. Roger
Clemmons, one of the leading researches on degenerative
myelopathy, by Westlab Pharmacy, 1-800-493-7852, email at
Other Natural Treatments
Other natural treatments include natural diet and L-carnitine.
There are no approved conventional therapies for the
treatment of degenerative myelopathy. Many pets,
incorrectly diagnosed as having hip dysplasia, are treated
with corticosteroids or NSAIDs, which will not correct
degenerative myelopathy (although rare patients will show
minor improvement with corticosteroid therapy).