Degenerative Myelopathy

A large percentage of our business involves building carts for dogs with degenerative myelopathy.  A progressive neurological disease (similar to ALS in humans) for which there is no known cure, carts help to preserve mobility by keeping dogs active for as long as possible.  We have worked closely with veterinary professionals and on-line DM support groups, and have designed a cart that serves the progressive needs of these dogs as their condition deteriorates.

German Shepherds, corgis, boxers, Bernese Mt. Dogs, standard poodles, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers , wirehaired fox terriers and  pugs are among the breeds of dogs who are prone to this painless,  disabling disease.  Up until recently, diagnosis of DM has been a process of elimination involving X-rays, MRI’s and myelograms to rule out tumors or disc disease.

However, now a simple blood test has been developed that picks up a genetic marker for the disease.  For information go to: www.caninegeneticdiseases.net/DM/ancmntDM.htm

In our experience, dogs with DM typically require mobility assistance within 9 months of the first onset of symptoms – toes scratching on the sidewalk, loss of muscle mass in one rear leg, followed by ataxia, scissoring of the rear legs, and dragging.  Many dogs find that they can run, in a bunny-hopping gait, more easily than they can walk.  Here’s a video of Clancy, a boxer, who had DM, struggling to walk without a dog wheelchair.

Retriever with Degenerative Myelopathy in canine cart

This Chessie has a standard large cart with stirrups, and a belly strap to support his long back.

Most dogs start out in standard rear wheel carts that allow them to take a normal stride, and are used as walkers.  As they lose sensation in their feet, start “knuckling”, and lose motor function in their legs, they use the stirrups.  The stirrups move with their forward motion, allowing the leg to swing in reciprocal movements, almost as if they were walking. Older dogs who have been compensating for rear limb weakness may opt for a neutral-balanced cart that is weightless on the shoulders.  Our customer service team will help you choose the appropriate design for your dog.

Some dogs with DM experience weakness in their front legs and have difficulty with a standard cart at which point the cart can be upgraded to a fully counterbalanced cart. This cart removes up to 30% of the dog’s own weight off its front legs, making them lighter and stronger.  We do NOT recommend counterbalanced carts for dogs at the onset of DM because removing so much weight-bearing from the front legs would have the effect of making them lose muscle mass in the front end.

Any standard cart can be upgraded to be counterbalanced with the acquisition of new axles and a support strap.  See what the effect of this upgrade was for Jasper, a corgi with advanced DM :

 

GSD with DM in canine cart.

Abby, a 14 year old shepherd, has arthritis and hyperextension of her carpus (wrists), as well as DM, so a neutralbalanced cart was called for – by moving the wheels slightly forward and adjusting the support strap under her chest, the yoke is weightless on her shoulders. Abby is still using her rear legs, so she does not use her stirrups yet.

 

corgi with DM in canine cart

Jasper in his counterbalanced cart. The addition of detachable front training wheels can be added to counterbalanced carts to give DM dogs at the end of their lives continued stability in the forelimbs. Use them to stand the dog to eat, and to walk on paved roads.

Shepard with degenerative myelpathy in canine cart

Additional Aids for DM Dogs include: Canine massage therapy, hydrotherapy, and a balanced healthy diet, along with regular exercise in a cart will help prolong the lives of dogs with DM. On our links page, you will find information about booties, incontinence aids, and a listing of rehab facilities. We understand that guardians of DM dogs face many challenges and have many bridges to cross in their DM journey. We are here to support you and your dog along the way.

Bernese Mt. Dog with DM in canine cart

Krystall, a Bernese Mountain Dog, with a variable axle cart. As the disease begins to affect her front legs, her owner will move the wheels forward one notch at a time. A variable axle cart can go from the standard wheel position to fully counterbalanced.

Many caregivers of dogs with DM are choosing to order their carts with the variable balance axle.  The variable balance allows the owners to fine tune the cart, moving the wheels forward as the disease progresses to the front limbs.  This option gives the owner the ability to deal with the cart once, and change the balance of the cart without contacting us again for upgrades.