Chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy in Pugs
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Chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy in Pugs

Dogs
Health & Safety

Chronic degenerative radiculo myelopathy is a condition that negatively impacts a dog's back legs and is often referred to as Chronic Degenerative Radiculomyelopathy. Sadly, when a dog is diagnosed as suffering from the condition, their spinal cords are affected and the disorder is incurable. There are certain breeds that are more susceptible to CDRM and it generally takes hold when they are over the age of seven.

Breeds most affected

As previously mentioned certain breeds are more prone to developing the condition than others with Pugs being one of them. Other breeds that are more susceptible to developing CDRM over the course of a dog’s life time includes the following:

  • German Shepherds
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgis
  • Boxers
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgis
  • Wire Fox Terriers
  • Bernese Mountain dogs
  • Borzois
  • Cavalier King Charles spaniels
  • Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Great Pyrenean Mountain dogs
  • Kerry Blue terriers
  • Poodles
  • Pugs
  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks
  • Shetland Sheepdogs
  • Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers

Chronic Degenerative Radiculo Myelopathy Explained

The condition does not actually cause dogs any pain even as it progressively gets worse and their back legs become totally paralysed. It is caused by the progressive degeneration of a dog’s spinal cord and ultimately, the prognosis is never good.

Symptoms associated with the condition

The symptoms of Chronic Degenerative Radiculo Myelopathy can be quite mild to very severe and include the following:

  • Progressive weakness in back legs
  • Incoordination of hind legs
  • Complete paralysis

The Causes

The condition is caused by a genetic abnormality that is found in certain breeds more than others. One of the more common types is caused by a mutated gene which is the protein responsible for killing off any free radicals that are found in a dog’s body. These free radicals form part of the defense system, but when too many are produced in the system, they attack healthy cells and the result can be devastating causing several forms of degenerative health disorders. It is the same gene mutation that causes motor neuron disease in people.

What about genetic testing?

Dogs can be tested to see if they are at risk of developing the disorder and dogs that are “at risk” should not be used for breeding purposes. The test would not confirm, however, whether a dog is suffering from the disorder, it would simply identify the mutated gene.

Recognising something is wrong

The condition tends to affect older dogs and in particular when they are 5 years old, but typically when they are 8 years old. Affected dogs do not show any pain, but they are slightly weaker on one of the back legs which can often be confused with some form of orthopaedic disorder. The onset of the condition is subtle and often goes unnoticed, but as the disorder progresses over time, dogs start to walk as if they are “drunk” as their hind legs become unsteadier. Quite often an affected dog will drag their back paws along the ground.

Diagnosing the condition

A vet would ideally need to know a dog’s full medical history before examining them thoroughly. The vet would typically refer a dog to a canine neurology expert who would be in a better position to confirm a preliminary diagnosis. The sort of test that would be need would include the following:

  • Blood tests
  • X-rays
  • MRI scan
  • CT scan

What is the prognosis?

Sadly, the prognosis is never good because eventually an affected dog would end up paralysed on their backends and therefore would not be able to walk about or even support their bodyweight. An affected dog would also become incontinent and as the condition progresses, it will end up affecting their forequarters too which means a dog becomes totally paralysed and therefore it is much kinder to put them to sleep than to let them suffer unnecessarily before their condition reaches this stage of CDRM.

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