Degenerative Myelopathy/Radiculomyelopathy DM (Exon 1) Health Testing for  the Bernese Mountain Dog

Degenerative Myelopathy/Radiculomyelopathy DM (Exon 1) Health Testing for the Bernese Mountain Dog

Health & Safety

The Bernese mountain dog is a large breed that falls within the Kennel Club’s working group, reflecting the breed’s history as herding and cattle dogs in their native Switzerland. Dogs of this breed are both tall and stocky which gives them an imposing presence and noble appearance, but the breed’s large size is complimented by their incredibly kind and gentle temperaments, and loyalty to their owners.

Bernese mountain dogs tend to be patient, calm and slow-moving dogs that are quite ponderous and very gentle in nature, and they also generally get on very well with children. Dogs of the breed do, however, need quite a lot of exercise, and although they are not among the fastest and most excitable of breeds they still need plenty of play and walks.

Bernese mountain dogs also have thick, heavy coats that tend to shed prolifically for most of the year, which means that dogs of the breed need a significant amount of brushing and grooming to keep this shedding under control, and investing in a powerful hoover is a good idea too!

One trait that many large and giant dog breeds share is that they tend to live rather shorter lifespans than their smaller counterparts, and this is true for the Bernese mountain dog too. Dogs of the breed tend to live for an average of seven to eight years, and there are also a number of hereditary health conditions that dogs of the breed can be prone to inheriting too, which can compromise their longevity and quality of life.

One of these is a particular type of degenerative myelopathy/radiculomyelopathy that has been narrowed down to the specific gene mutation that causes it, and which is unique to dogs of the Bernese mountain dog breed. This specific type of degenerative myelopathy in the Bernese mountain dog can be identified by DNA testing, and a breed-specific DNA test called DM (Exon 1) is available to owners of dogs of the breed to find out their own dog’s status.

This information is important for Bernese mountain dog breeders, as it helps them to establish prior to breeding if the litter will be affected by the condition.

In this article we will look at degenerative myelopathy/radiculomyelopathy DM (Exon 1) in the Bernese mountain dog breed in more detail, covering what the condition does, how it is inherited, and how to get a dog DNA tested for the markers of the condition. Read on to learn more about degenerative myelopathy DM (Exon 1) in the Bernese mountain dog breed.

What is degenerative myelopathy/radiculomyelopathy DM (Exon 1)?

Degenerative myelopathy comes in a range of different variants, some of which can be traced back to a certain genetic mutation that causes the condition. This means that even though any two dogs with degenerative myelopathy may display the same or very similar symptoms, the root cause and genetic problem that caused the condition can vary, which is why it is important to recognise the different variants of the condition and the type of dogs that they affect.

The Bernese mountain dog breed has elevated risk factors for a type of degenerative myelopathy/radiculomyelopathy known as DM (Exon 1), and this refers to the gene that causes the condition within this breed specifically.

Degenerative myelopathy in Bernese mountain dogs is a progressive and chronic health condition that affects the dog’s spinal cord, and which usually develops in mature dogs over the age of around seven.

The condition begins with ataxia or loss of muscle coordination in the hind legs, which gradually progresses over the course of either months or years to result in full paralysis. This means that as the condition worsens, affected dogs won’t be able to get up and down or walk around normally, and they may also suffer from urinary and faecal incontinence too.

Degenerative myelopathy cannot be cured or reversed, and once the paralysis has progressed to the point that the dog’s quality of life is significantly affected, a decision is usually made to euthanise the dog to prevent further suffering.

How is degenerative myelopathy in the Bernese mountain dog inherited?

Degenerative myelopathy in the Bernese mountain dog is a hereditary health condition that can only be passed on from dog to dog by means of inheritance.

Degenerative myelopathy DM (Exon 1) is passed on by means of autosomal recessive heredity, which means that whether or not any given puppy inherits the condition depends on the status of both of their parent dogs combined.

  • Two affected dogs will have an affected litter.
  • Two clear dogs will have a clear litter.
  • Two carrier dogs will have a litter of 50% carriers, 25% clear and 25% affected.
  • A clear dog and an affected dog will have a litter of carriers.
  • A clear dog and a carrier will have a litter of 50% clear pups and 50% carriers.
  • A carrier and an affected dog will have a litter of 50% carriers and 50% affected pups.

How can you get your Bernese mountain dog tested for degenerative myelopathy?

Because degenerative myelopathy in the Bernese mountain dog breed doesn’t tend to develop until the affected dog is mature, the risk of the condition spreading is higher as such dogs may already have had litters by the time they show symptoms and are formally diagnosed.

For this reason, Bernese mountain dog breeders are strongly advised to have their parent stock tested prior to deciding on a mating match, to ensure that the condition is not spread. In order to do this you just need to ask your vet to take a DNA sample from your dog, which is then sent off to one of the approved laboratories that can test for degenerative myelopathy DM (Exon 1) in the Bernese mountain dog breed.

When the test has been performed, a result is returned of either clear, carrier or affected respectively.

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