Caring for a dog with degenerative Myelopathy


How do I know if my dog has Degenerative Myelopathy?

There are no definitive tests to confirm that a dog has Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) until post-mortem when a necropsy is performed to examine the spinal cord under a microscope.  A presumptive diagnosis of degenerative myelopathy may be given after all other conditions that can cause similar symptoms is ruled out.

If you are noticing that your dog is dragging a hind paw, showing loss of proprioception, knuckling, or hind leg weakness, but is not acting as if in pain, then the first step is to determine the Risk factor for DM.  This is done through an easy, inexpensive DNA test that can be performed at home to see if your dog carries the SOD1 gene mutation.  This is an important step towards receiving a presumptive diagnosis, because if the DNA test were to come back as Clear (meaning your dog does not have the genetic mutation), or Carrier (meaning your dog only has one copy of the gene), then it is unlikely that your dog has DM. But, if the test results are At Risk, then the chances are more likely. For a full explanation about the possible test results, please go to 

Stages of Degenerative Myelopathy

Dr. Coates & VetVine Explain the stages of DM 


Where to order the DNA test kit

We encourage that you order the DNA test kit from  The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). The OFA has partnered with the Veterinary Genetics Lab at the University of California–Davis and the Animal Molecular Genetics Lab at the University of Missouri as a DNA repository for a variety of canine genetic diseases. If we are ever to fully understand the impact of degenerative myelopathy in different dog breeds, we need to have as much data being collected through the OFA as possible.

To order a DNA test kit from the OFA, please click here.

If you prefer to order the test kit from another source, please make sure to request that the test results are sent to the OFA.

Gensol Diagnostics also provides genetic testing (including a popular saliva swab), please pay the extra few dollars to request that the results be recorded into the database.


Books about Degenerative Myelopathy

  • Corgis on Wheels: Understanding and Caring for the Special Needs of Corgis with Degenerative Myelopathy or Disk Disease    by Bobbie Mayer 

       Available at 

Corgis on Wheels is the complete guide to caring for the mobility-impaired Pembroke or Cardigan Welsh Corgi, from diagnosis to decision-making. You will learn what to expect if your corgi is diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy (DM), as well as how to handle the sudden onset of intervertebral disk disease (IVDD). The book is packed with helpful information on keeping your corgi happy and engaged, choosing a cart and helping your corgi learn to use it, finding boots to fit, physical rehabilitation therapy, incontinence, and many other topics. It includes many “how-to’s,” such as instructions for making belly bands, boots, wheelchair skis, ramps, lifts, and para-agility equipment. Whether you are already facing the challenges of caring for a disabled dog, want to be prepared if your dog becomes disabled, or simply want to learn more about all that is possible for dogs with DM or IVDD, this book is for you. 

  • Another New Normal: Coping and caring for a dog with a degenerative condition      by Miriam Valere

        Available on Amazon

When the author first adopted a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, she never anticipated that she would become a full-time caregiver to a paralyzed dog. But a year later, her dog received the presumptive diagnosis of Degenerative Myelopathy, the canine equivalent of ALS. This fatal genetic disease causes gradual paralysis of the dog, starting in the hind legs, moving to the front legs, and finally to the respiratory system, causing respiratory and wide-spread organ failure. This personal and intimate story shares the highs and lows of caring for a dog with Degenerative Myelopathy, and how to find joy when faced with this heartbreaking disease. 


Harnesses, carts and boots for your DM dog

Caring for your DM dog will require different tools to help your dog remain mobile.

Harnesses and slings  (in alphabetical order)

Cart Makers  (in alphabetical order)

Loaner Cart Programs

No-Knuckling/Toe-Up Boot

Boots  (Available at most major pet supply stores or on Chewy or Amazon)


We have developed these Custom Log Books to help you keeyp track of all of your Pup's needs (Sections of logs include Vet Care, Therapy/Conditioning Schedules, Nutrition, Medication Charts, and much much more!) These are extremely handy for you to hand over to your caregiver, for boarding, evacuations, etc.


Support Groups

Caring for a DM dog can get overwhelming. Please join our Facebook page #ShadeOutDM and ask questions! We will do our best to help you! 

In the United Kingdom - "Breed Out DM" 

In the Netherlands  -