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Degenerative Myelopathy

  • 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 hypothyroidism.

    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 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    Other Natural Treatments
    Other natural treatments include natural diet and L-carnitine.

    Conventional Therapy
    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).