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.
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 :