Saying Goodbye: Euthanizing a Dog With Degenerative Myelopathy

Saying goodbye is never easy. The decision of when to euthanize a dog with degenerative myelopathy is another difficult part of this difficult disease. Dogs with DM typically handle the disease well, often times handling it better than their owners who struggle with watching their dogs slowly deteriorate. Deciding when to euthanize is a very individualized process that's based on a lot of factors. Here are a few things to consider.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not a vet and I have no veterinary or medical background whatsoever. This information on degenerative myelopathy in dogs is not meant as a substitute or replacement for veterinary advice. It's meant for educational and informational purposes only, as a starting point for discussing the diagnosis and treatment of degenerative myelopathy with a qualified vet.

Assessing Quality of Life

Mobility

Mobility is clearly one of those things that vastly contribute to quality of life. It's not as simple as being able to go for a walk; there are dogs that are content sniffing around the yard, or laying out in the sun, or playing games instead of going for a walk.

Mobility goes beyond just the ability to walk or play, though; during the later stages of degenerative myelopathy, dogs have a much harder time doing previously easy tasks. For example, he may want to go to the door to indicate he has to take a potty-break; but unable to get up, or get there in time, he might have an accident. This can be very distressing for some dogs. Other previously easy tasks that will become difficult include things like getting up from their beds ... changing positions when lying down... even getting a drink of water whenever they want one.

Pain

The disease of degenerative myelopathy in itself is painless. But pain can result from the dog taking compensatory actions to make up for his mobility challenges. For instance:

  • The progressing hind-end weakness and the dragging of the legs make the dog work that much harder in his front end and his shoulders, in order to keep walking.

  • The wobbly and uncoordinated gait can cause the dog to sprain a muscle or fall and injure himself.

  • Pressure sores can develop if he lies in one position for too long.

  • Other conditions like arthritis can be aggravated by his mobility issues; a dog with arthritis already has more difficulty getting up from his bed ... but combine that with the weakness caused by degenerative myelopathy, that difficulty and pain can be magnified.

Eating and Drinking

Dogs with DM typically still have good appetites. Is your dog still eating and drinking well? Is he maintaining a good body weight? Is he interested in food and enjoys eating? Is he staying adequately hydrated?

Other issues, such as pain (see above) or unrelated medical conditions may cause a dog to lose his appetite.

Comfort and Sleep

Is your dog still sleeping comfortably and well? It can be hard for dogs with degenerative myelopathy to change positions in order to get comfortable. They do need to change positions regularly in order to avoid pressure sores.

Interest In Life

Does your dog still show interest in his favourite activites, and is he capable of doing them? He doesn't necessarily have to be capable of doing them the same way he previously did, in order to be happy. For example, dogs who used to love to take long, meandering walks may still be content to go on shorter walks, provided there are interesting things for him to sniff or friends to socialize with.

When Is It Time?

It's one thing to make the decision to euthanize when your pet seems tired or feels sick. Then, you know that the time is close and the decision is clearer. With degenerative myelopathy, dogs are usually mentally engaged with their families and with life; this can make it feel that much harder to make the decision to let him go.

You know your dog best. During highly-emotional times, it may be helpful to ask for an opinion from a third-party such as a trusted veterinarian who knows your dog.

  • If your dog is experiencing pain that cannot be relieved or managed, it may be time.

  • If your dog is frequently getting hurt or injured despite everyone's best efforts, it may be time.

  • If you feel that a major injury is only a matter of time (due to your dog's weakness and lack of coordination), it may be time.

  • If your dog is frustrated or depressed because his mobility is preventing him from doing what he wants, it may be time.

  • If your dog isn't enjoying life any more and is merely existing, it may be time.

  • Finally, if you (or your dog's caregivers) are exhausted, whether physically or emotionally, it may be time. This is a hard thing to accept. In a perfect world, we would have unlimited physical and emotional reserves to care for our loved ones. That's just not the reality.

The decision of when to euthanize is a highly personal and individual choice. I know that it's often helped me to hear other people's perspectives, so I hope that reading mine may be helpful in some way. I have always felt it best to let my pets go a little early, rather than even a day too late. I don't want to have to say goodbye during a crisis when they're feeling pain or fear or confusion. I don't want them to end their lives struggling with an injury or trying to recover from one. I want my pets to go feeling loved, safe, and happy.

My opinion is that you need to feel physically, mentally, and emotionally well to be able to best care for your dog. Being overwhelmed doesn't help anyone. Your dog doesn't want to feel like he is a burden. Love him well, give him an awesome last day, last week, or last month... and then let him go peacefully, with dignity.

Final Thought

Degenerative myelopathy is a difficult disease. It's hard on the dog, and hard on the people who love him so much. And yet, even had I known back then everything that I now know about the disease ... even had I known back then that my dog already had the disease ... I would have still adopted him. His amazing attitude, cheerfulness, acceptance, and grace of spirit was a bright light for me, even during the most difficult of times. It still is.

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
(A.A. Milne)

 

More information on degenerative myelopathy in dogs:

 

 

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Rob says...

Thankyou so much reading about your thoughts on when to let a dog go with degenerate myelopathy has helped me a great deal xx

Ray Wise says...

Oh Maureen, I’m sitting here weeping reading these comments, and especially yours. Just last month we had to put our beautiful German Shepherd to sleep, over 2 brief days both her back legs stopped working. She was 11.5 years old, but what is wracking us with guilt is she wasnt ready to go, she was still so alert and happy, but she could not walk, could not go to the toilet, and she was getting frustrated not being able to get up and greet people. Our trusted vet who has looked after her for years advised us not to prolong the inevitable, even though her condition has been managed for 2 years, it was time. I couldnt sleep or eat for 2 days after hearing this, this just could not be happening. One good thing with this Covid business is we were all home with her as a family for the last 3 months, that was a blessing. My sincere sympathies and thoughts go out to pet lovers who have to make these horrible decisions.

Maureen Ferguson says...

Despite our intentions, we were not able to euthanize our Boxer yesterday. My husband just could not do it. The dog still eats and sleeps well, enjoys sitting on the porch looking out the window and enjoys being in the yard. we have ordered a wheelchair to give him some mobility in his last few months. It just wasn't time yet, for him or us. We know the time will come, but we want to know we did everything we could.

Maureen Ferguson says...

Our hearts are breaking. Our handsome rescue Boxer has gone down hill from DM in the last 8 months drastically. We adopted him at age 5 from Vermont , and have only had him for 5 years. Started with rear paw dragging, and has progressed to no ability to walk without a sling. This dog doesn't have a mean bone. My husband slept on the floor next to his hiking buddy last night. Vet is coming tomorrow. We will sit with him in the yard, as always. He will smell the mountain air, as always, and look at the green trees and grass. We will hold him as he crosses the Rainbow Bridge. We really cannot bear this.

patricia Hamilton says...

I have a dog 11 years old he has problems for years with his back legs he does have a stent in one back leg from a torn legiment my vet didn't diagnosis my dog but I read up on DM after my dog couldn't walk his legs buckle he drags them and there criss crossed i have to help him up he can't walk at all he does have accidents in the house when I do get him out I have to hold him up he can't stand or squat on his own he can't urinate at all his appetite is ok drinks little water now he can't do his business at all I have made the decision to put my dog to sleep and put him out of pain and suffering this has been a toll on both me and my dog but now he won't suffer anymore I will miss him dearly but always keep him close in my heart I know how it feels to have to decide to put your dog to sleep ill never forget my dog and always keep his memories alive all the time

Nadine Murray says...

Today we let our 11 1/2 year old GSD go. He had DM diagnosed 4 years ago. The last two weeks his face changed - he looked more tired and mobility was worsening. He let us know last night he was done. His eyes told us. His passing was peaceful, but our hearts are broken. This is a horrible disease and my only hope is someday we will have a cure.

Jan FREDRICKSON says...

I am losing my 11 yr old Boxer to DM ..... She was diagnosed about 8 months ago, and back legs are very very weak, mostly dragging them with a few hops when using them together. Front legs seem to be getting weak now. She has an enornmous appetite and still does 'Guard Duty' at the front window. You NEED to know... DM has been completely PREVENTABLE for several years with a simple DNA cheek swab and sent to the University of Missouri Ortho Vet Center.

ScamperingPaws says...

DM is NOT preventable at this time, unfortunately (unless maybe through testing / selective breeding). The DNA test can detect whether or not a dog has the gene mutation that causes the disease, although apparently not every dog with the mutation will get it. Search for the website for the Veterinary Health Centre at the University of Missouri for more info (remove the spaces in the URL): vhc. missouri. edu/ small-animal-hospital/neurology-neurosurgery/ facts-on-neurologic-diseases/degenerative-myelopathy/

Jessica Harvey says...

So very hard to decide. Izzy eats and loves her treats. She is 10 1/2 and such a sweetie. She has had DM for 1 1/2 years. We carry her out to the yard and back. She only has use of her front legs and her tail still wags. But sores are on her back legs. She has had no accidents in the house still. But her happiness is beginning to start to show. We want to give her the dignity of a good death. Not when its really to late. Vet says we will know....Im not sure we will.

Dawn says...

I too have found comfort after reading this article & comments. My 8 year old frenchie has DM. It’s been about a year and he is slowly declining. His hind area has reduced muscle mass & he wobbles a lot. Sometimes he also falls. It’s heartbreaking to watch. He can no longer make it thru walks. We have constant problems with his incontinence. He has bowel movements in the house 5 times a week on a good week & urinates frequently as well. He tries to make it to the doggie door but cannot keep it in. His inability to control his body is causing him stress. I’m not going to lie, it’s exhausting. We constantly have to clean up & Yesterday, our roomba vacuum tracked poop thru the house. It’s unsanitary. We love Vader but we’re tired. He seems happy enough but it’s definitely affecting his quality of life. We used to take him everywhere but he has to stay home now & doesn’t understand. We’re torn on what to do

Michelle Hudson says...

Thanks for the information. My 12 year old Weimaraner, Abby, was diagnosed about six months ago. In the span of a couple of weeks, she went from keeping up with me on horseback all day long in the mountains of Virginia, to falling down steps. Ruffwear boots on her hind feet have helped so much. Grips hardwood floors, keeps feet from sliding out from underneath her. She still enjoys life very much although she spends most of her time lying on stacked dog beds wherever her people are. She’s gone downhill a lot this week. Getting wobbly on front end. It’s going to be heart wrenching to put her to sleep but we also feel like she deserves a dignified end to her life. Thanks for the encouragement.

Melanie says...

Thank you for this article and all the comments. Our beautiful GSD is going on 14 yrs old. She has hiked literally thousands of miles with us over the years. In April 2018, she fell hiking and was dragging her right back paw. She was able to hike most of last year without an issue but winter came and made everything difficult. It wasnt until late Dec when she started having signs in her left leg that I realized it was CDM. We tried to start walking her again in spring but she was only able to walk about 5 minutes before dragging her back end. Her world slowly shrank to our yard but she has still been a happy dog. Over the last month, she has become fecal incontinent and in last week, urinary incontinent. winter is again coming and i am scared she will fall down and hurt herself despite our help. She is bright, alert, loving and and i dont how it can be time but dont want her to struggle or hurt. I have scheduled appt and taken time to be with her. I dont know if i can do it.

Barnett Langford says...

Update: The vet had told me, when he diagnosed my Sammie a year ago, that DM was what she was suffering from and he could not cure it. I was stunned. Went for a 2nd, then 3rd diagnosis. Looking back two years ago, I remember now a loss of muscle tone in her back legs and hips. At the time I thought it was just aging. She did actually "tell" me it was the end - she was so sad, listless and resigned looking. I made the appointment and went with my sister, who she adored. My sister took one look at her and said - "No, this isn't like Sammie at all." Sammie looked up at her (I had to carry her into the Vet - she had completely lost control of back legs and almost all of her front legs) and managed to slowly wag her tail at her, then looked at me briefly. I laid down on the mat with her and held her close until the end. So hard. She was an extraordinary friend and companion. I will never forget or stop loving her. How incredibly lucky I was to have her in my life.

Jenny Payne says...

I posted a few weeks ago anout my 15 year old Spaniel. He has had symptoms for anout 4 monthsm Wobbly/difficulty get up and moving around. He is also almost deaf and has less sight now. But he manages short slow walks. Today he has done odd breathing..like gasping...just for a few seconds. Had anybody else had this? He eats his dinner (cooked mince) well but struggled with anything too hard now. I dont think he is ready to go just yet but it is upsetting to see this happening.

Jodi Rygh says...

Reading these comments have been very helpful to me. My heart goes out to all of you. I can read in each of the posts all the love each of you have for your dog.

My 16 year old Gracie struggles with DM. She is not able to lay down or get up without help. She can walk, but she sometimes will fall at times. She is not able to poop without help or she will fall. I have her sleeping by me at night, in case she gets up. There are times I only get 4 hours of sleep but it isn't her fault. Bless her heart.

I have been trying to make the decision to say good bye for the past couple of weeks, but I keep delaying. I just wish I knew what she wanted or maybe it is the strength to say good bye and let her cross the rainbow bridge.

Barnett Langford says...

I am sitting in my armchair next to my living room loveseat where my best friend lies, so confused and unable to now -- just today, move her front legs or even sit up. To say this was fast is an understatement, It's Sunday night -- she hasn't eaten or drank anything all day. She had her first indoor bathroom accident this morning. This is a dog who has never, in the 11 years I've had her, had an accident in the house. She's a Rottie/Beagle mix that I unexpectedly rescued at an unscheduled PetSmart adoption day and her name is Li'l Sammie. It's been just us every since I got her. I'm 71. I had promised her she wouldn't suffer. I have failed. I didn't think it would come so fast. Tomorrow morning I will call the vet and schedule the goodbye.

maryfrances haggerty says...

I rescued this old Aussie Shepherd well over a year ago. Her owner died and i could not bear to see her in a shelter. Took her to the vet, I knew from her symptoms she had DM. Its heart breaking watching her. Ive come to love her so much.

Stephanie says...

After reading each and every one of these comments about DM I don’t feel so isolated .our GS is 11 yrs old has arthritis, and DM which all of a sudden seems to be progressing quickly. We are doing laser treatments,acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal, as well as galiprant desaquin adequan, raw diet, to an avail. Last night she had a nasty episode she sat up and fell over like a bag of rocks hitting the floor. She seemed stunned. Then there is the restlessness. Of constantly wanting to go in and out I’m working with three different vets, two don’t know why she would have passed out like that. I am going to try to set her up with xrays to see what else may be going on. To say the least it’s extremely heart wrenching to watch my buddy who used to walk six miles a day go down to a little walk down the street. I don’t want to put her down,as I have had four other pets I have had to euthanize over the years and the pain is immeasurable and the void like nothing else. I feel for each person here

Dwayne says...

I adopted a German Shepard 3 years ago. He was around 5 years of age and was overweight when I adopted him. Without best efforts we were able to help him lose 20 lb which did wonder for him. About 8 months ago we noticed his hind legs were really narrow and when he ran he would basically bunny hop. Then he started to knuckle his rear paw and eventually started to become unstable while walking. The vet couldn't confirm he has DM. The vet did confirm he has neurological disease-preventing signals to hind legs. He has been on pain and neurological medicine every day since. Though he is still mentally strong and has an appetite and still wants to play with his toys. It has become frustrated as he is confined to the safety of the carpet which he still falls on while turning. He is afraid of stairs and the hardwood floors as he knows he will fall. Additionally, while he goes to the bathroom he can barely hold himself up. I hope we are making the right call.

Jaime says...

Yesterday surrounded by family we let go of our 8 yr old boxer.. MY BABY , MY BESTFRIEND.. DIXIE.. she had DM and had got to the point of no longer being able to walk, we carried her out to potty every time brought her food and water to her For the last 4 days... she went down hill FAST! Just a week ago she could walk though cautiously and slow... it’s all too much my heart is shattered. Back in May she started showing signs and we were told to prepare ... how do you prepare?

I’m struggling with all the should I/ we have done amputation? Wheel chair? Carried her longer? Different vitamins? 3 opinion? I love my girl, I’m truly lost without her! There will NEVER be another Dixie Dew Lil, EVER.

In addition to DM , she had Cancer we had removed twice and it had returned. My girl couldn’t catch a break.

I guess I’m just hurting unbelievably. I know in my heart she’s better and running in wide open fields sunbathing and snoring! I’m thankful no more pain for her.

Im just lost

Cjm says...

We too had our 8 year old boxer Kali put to sleep this morning. She was diagnosed with DM this past summer and also had cancer (mast cell tumors) removed twice. Things progressed so quickly. I keep second guessing my decision, but it became so hard to watch her deteriorate, isolate herself from our two spaniels. Potty breaks were so hard for her as well. She was truly a sweet heart and will be missed greatly. I am thankful that my son was able to go with me this morning as my husband just could not go. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It is truly a sad disease and am hopeful that some day there will be a cure! The next few weeks will be tough for sure, but I know in my heart of hearts we made the right decision. I am not sure the spaniels know what to think at this point...time will tell I guess.

Heartbroken .....

Jenny Payne says...

Such a helpful article. We have a 15 year old Field cocker. Harvey has been fabulous.. He has walked miles and miles with us but is gradually deteriorating with this disease. Currently he is managing short walks and has a good appetite for cooked mince mixed with dry food. He struggles to get up if he fall or sits in certain positions but the worst thing is loss of bowel control. If he falls/struggles to get up or tries to chase a ball the poop seems to fall out. There is lots of cleaning up. Also sometimes when he decides to go he falls back in it so not very nice. We are struggling whether it is time to let him go but then his eyes still have a sparkle with his squealky balls though not bothered other toys. He is almost totally deaf and some vision has gone. I think he also has a touch of dog dementia as he stands and stares. So sad. Any views would help. Thank you.

Sharon Pozner says...

Thank you for this article. It was comforting to read your acknowledgment of the caregivers exhaustion being factored in. I am facing this now, with my 13 year old, who also has heart disease, arthritis, some dementia and now incontinence.

Ross Johnston says...

So grateful I found this site as it has helped me come to terms with the path we chose yesterday.

Our beautiful 10 year-old boxer boy was 18 months into DM and his symptoms were all classic for the disease. Until this past weekend he was able to just stand on his own long enough for our daily short walks. For the past couple months I had to hold him up for his bowl movements because without the assist he'd fall back into his excrement. We tried to keep his food soft so passing it would be easier for him. The vet suggested wet food mixed with canned pumpkin, which he liked.

It seems like in only a couple weeks the worst of this insidious disease kicked in: whining, incontinence, shortness of breath, vomiting, and nearly full loss of use of his hind legs. Still the look in that beautiful face and eyes didn't change until a day before we said farewell. Finally it was the look that said... I've had enough and please help me on to my next great adventure. We did.

Carlos Arroyo says...

I am so glad I found this page and all your comments. Yesterday was the most heartbreaking day for me as I had made the decision to put my GSD to sleep.

He suffered with DM for the past 18 months and it progressively got worse. His appetite, alertness & playfulness was still in fine form.

His favorite thing was chasing motorcycles that would pass by our street. Going from one end to the other end of our yard. I think bikers loved going by our house.

But last week he was dragging his hind legs more and more and I could see the top of his hind legs getting scratched up. He was having more bathroom accidents on his bed and having anxiety climbing up the stairs to get into our house.

Seeing these changes knew it was time. I didnt want him to further injure himself or experience any anxiety for the things he couldn't do or control.

He was surrounded by his family who loved him so much when he took his last breath.

I hope this helps anyone reading this.

Jackie says...

my dog is 15 yrs old. She has had DM for a few months. It’s so heartbreaking to see her like this. She still eats good & drinks, but she stumbles when walking. Her left leg is almost paralyzed. I have been trying to decide what to do. She is my first pet having to make a decision like this. I know she can’t go through another winter. This article has helped me on my decision.

Megan says...

So thankful for this article and the comments. I feel better knowing my corgi wasn't the only one going through this. This made it easier for me to make the appointment to say goodbye. It was a calm process but still difficult, especially coming home after. But, thanks to all who have shared their stories to help me know I made the right decision for her.

Bethani says...

So grateful for this article.

We just put our 15 year old Toby down this past weekend. He's had DM for around 10 months, and Dementia longer than that. The combination of these diseases meant that he wandered around a lot on back legs that were barely working. We helped him whenever we could, but it was getting harder since he moved around so much due to the confusion of the Dementia. It's like he didn't realize his legs didn't work, and he would never give up. I didn't find this article until today, but another article I had read after a particularly hard night with him, stated that it's best to say good-bye in a calm and peaceful and loving situation-vs an emergency situation where it would be scary, and upsetting to your dog. We decided to say good-bye before he fell down the stairs and hurt himself or something similar. These comments have helped me to know we made the right choice for Toby. Blessings to you and your babies....

Jeanmarie Carone says...

Thank you for your touching thoughts. We’ve recently walked this path. I appreciate hearing how you thought through this process.

Irene Kenrick says...

I am having my Cocker Spaniel Bertie put to sleep tomorrow he is 13 and has DM .He is the most delightful little dog who has brought so much pleasure over the years .I can see now he has no quality of life but he has had a very happy life and has been much loved and always will be . last year my husband passed away and Bertie has been my constant companion and has helped me get through it ,now I am losing him. I found the article on Euthanizing dogs by chance and have read it over and over again It has brought me comfort ,especially the line ..better a day too early than a day too late .Thank you .x x

Sera says...

I'm sadly at the decision point as well with my Corgi that just turned 14. She's been getting progressively worse the past month with now her entire back left leg and hip not working and she drags herself with her front paws sometimes. She lays down to eat, but eats and drinks heartily. She's scared to go downstairs so we carry her, but now she is afraid to go upstairs too. I can see it in her eyes that she tries to tell me, "I'm so sorry, mom, I can't make it up the one step to the patio anymore." It is so so sad to see. She is also near blind and deaf but her mind itself seems sharp and she loves to play, or more like attempts to play.

I am thankful for this article because I was always afraid of letting her go too soon, but then again, now I see it would be more traumatic if I let it get so bad she gets hurt or something. I don't want her to go in severe pain or in fear.

Cheryl Waking says...

my GSD, Romeo, started showing signs of DM several months ago. I had never heard of it and found out what was happening to him by reading on the internet. My vet confirmed as she calls it shepherd myelopathy. this is by far the worst thing I have ever been through emotionally. it's to the point that he's losing control and not standing to eat. His back-end collapses. I've had several nights of no sleep caring for him. mentally he's a bit withdrawn and seem down a bit. But still wants to be right by my side at all times. I'm so incredibly sad to say goodbye to him. he's been my rock for 13 years.. but this Sunday at home he'll cross over Rainbow Bridge. My heart is breaking... if it wasn't for the DM I'm sure he'd be with me for a lot longer.

My heart is with all of you...

Michael says...

I just euthanized my American Eskimo. I don't recall when it started but once in a while he would fall while getting up. It was occasional. Later on he'd have a bit more trouble walking but he'd always get up but did notice that the tops of his paws (not the walking parts would get bloodied). Thought it was arthritis.

Things started getting progressively worse. Over the last few months his legs would twist and I'd help straighten them out. We shortened our walks to the corner as he couldn't do more.

More recently he started dragging his legs and seemed uncomfortable at night. I've been treating him for pressure sores from laying in one position too long for about two months now.

last few weeks fecal incontinence became more prominent. we had three accidents in a row while i was putting on his doggie shoes. last time he just looked at me as if to say, 'not my fault' and i told him , ' i know' put to to sleep after that.

Wendy Dieguez says...

Our 12 year old Dash has been suffering more

and more intensely from DM the last 2 months. He used to walk 3 hours every week enjoying minute.

In the last 2 months, we used a wheelchair for him but he could only walk in the front and back yards and he always wanted to head

down the road on his usual walk. He has to be carried from inside to outside, we had to

watch him to know when to help when he

was ready for no. 2.

His hind paws would

bend and he needed help getting his paws flat on the ground.

He got up 2-3 times at

night and never got a full night’s sleep in the last 2 months.

However, we were looking for more

signs from him that he was giving up, but he remained affectionate and steady and had a great appetite.

Your article was essential in our decision to take him to the vet sooner than one day later. It helped tremendously to hear this advice. We gave him a very calm,

peaceful last day in the backyard with us.

It was the right time.

Zoe says...

Lost my lovely boxer this morning to this horrible disease. I have been in turmoil the past few weeks wondering what to do for the best! I could see him slowly struggling but his mind was so alert. He became doubly incontinent and lost all use of his back legs. He started vomiting the past couple days so I decided enough was enough and had the vet put him to sleep this morning. I spent all day with him yest making sure he had the best and lots of love. Such a heartbreaking decision. I will miss him forever.

Diane says...

In tears!

Had to put my beloved German Shepard dog Blitzen down 6 months ago due to DM.

Still so painful. He was so alert and with it.

My heart still aches for him.

He began to lose bladder control and we knew it was time. Blitzen was 11.

cathy says...

Thank you for this well written, sincere, genuine take on a devastating disease that I only recently learned about, as it took my loving sweet bichon-poodle yesterday. I have not nearly recovered from my loss and hope to reach out to others to participate in a benefit or an online manner in which we can promote finding a cure to this relentless horrible disease. It took my Poppy in only about a month's time, leaving him unable to walk or use muscle control, which has me feeling intense guilt in not knowing exactly when to relieve him of his pain. Such a love is rare and he was a lovable family member, so I am struggling now and would love to hear some feedback.

Karen baildon says...

Thankyou for this,my GS girl i think could be 16-17 yrs looking at her,not 100%sure as I adopted her following the death of her previous owner and have had nearly 4years, her previous age was unclear as prior to that she was a rescue.Sometime last year she started with problems affecting her hind legs.The vet told me it was likely to be degenerative myelopathy and the signs she is showing do fit the disease.After reading this account I have been able to pluck up the courage to return her to the vet for assessment and if we are all in agreement,then it may be time to let her go

Vicky Steed says...

Thankyou for this article and i know that i have a very difficult decision to make very soon. Thinking about makes my heart hurt. My golden oldie Casper in coming up to 13yrs always so full of life and loved long walks, and the beach,to see struggling just to move position to get to sleep , or to get up is painful for me to see. He slowed up about 18mths ago Nov 2017 and noticed him dragging one hind leg then the other about March 2018 and progressively he started to lose strength in his hind legs and now struggles to stand for any length of time. His bowl movement has got worse over the last couple of months, he do nothing for 48 hrs then all comes out.. sleepless nights is common place with 2am clean up. But I love him so much and want give the best time possible took him on his last hoorah to Devon beach this week and he loved it with he wheels to help him. I know the time is coming but i do not want to do too soon or worse too late, but it so difficult to know i am struggling.

sue renzi says...

This was the most difficult event in my life with my pet, deciding what was best for him more than for me. He started this disease about 15 months ago when I noticed his foot slightly dragging on the concrete when we went for our walks, . I questioned my decision in letting him go over and over in my mind wanting to keep him as long as I could possibly have him. I realized that was a selfish motive, He didn't seem in pain and was mentally upbeat but his body was wearing out and by evening he was exhausted. Sometimes his mental state seemed far away and then upon my getting his attention he could focus again. He was going to be 14 years old in 2 months which was quite an accomplishment for a boxer. We were just trying to make through the day. I was afraid to leave him for fear of an accident. It was a beautiful sunny day and I arranged it with my vet as to how I wanted it done followed by the cremation person to pick him up soon after. He went with dignity and I was by his side

Pamela M Kearns says...

Our 12 year old German Shepherd has been showing signs of DM for awhile. We tried to convince ourselves that it was arthritis, but she is now losing bladder control and dragging her paws at times, in addition to being wobbly on her back legs and having some difficulty getting up. She is the leader of our group of two German Shepherds and two small dogs. We adore her. She has watched over us all with great care and love for all these years. We are taking her to our Vet this week to see what she thinks, but I would be surprised if she sees anything different than we are seeing. Thank you for this very kind and helpful article. Many tears were shed by both my husband and myself , especially when reading the last section. My heart goes out to all of you.

Lorraine Walker says...

My 10 years old Pug, has DM, and first thought it was IVDD. He no longer walks on his back legs, but he does walk on his front legs. He happy and plays with his toys. He limited to one area of the house (carpet) he has traction there. He also has cushings and epilepsy ( controlled by meds) he is also incontinent - he will not wear a doggie diaper and will not allow us to put him in one of those carts. We tried. His area is covered with towels and pee pads. He does not appear to be in any pain, but there is no way I can put him down. Hes just a love. Since he's little and only weighs 20lbs he easy to carry about. We all chip in to help with the cleaning and making him happy (which he is)

Robie says...

I found this information comforting! My nine-year-old GSD was officially diagnosed with DM in Jan 2019 after taking him in for a vaccination. I had noticed some incoordination after moving into a new house with hardwood floors and dismissed it as he was just not used to walking on the floors yet. Clearly not the case! Once he was diagnosed I immediately was searching for the cure which anyone that has a DM dog knows there is no absolution. However, I have put him on NAC and Aminocaproic Acid and varies other supplements in an effort to slow the progression of the disorder. He also receives lots of exercises to include hydrotherapy. With all that said the disease is still progressing and I fear I will have to say goodbye to me boy way sooner than I ever expected! My goal is to keep him mobile as long as possible and monitor him to ensure his quality of life. Although I have had to alter my life I know he would do it for me. I would give him a kidney if he needed it.!

Paul says...

My Corgi was showing signs similar to DM, he was diagnosed with ivdd and had the surgery back in September. After a month or so recovery he was walking a little better for the past 5 months. He completely doesn't have use of his hind legs anymore. We took him to the same surgeon and they wanted to operate again or put him down after a 10 min evaluation. I don't want to lose him, and have been debating on putting him in a cart. I just wish I knew of a specialist that handles DM cases, since ivdd and DM can be confused. I would hate to put him in a cart with ivdd and it be painful for him. Either way it doesn't seem like a good quality of life for my buddy. I just feel like I'm betraying him.

Mary says...

Thank you for these informative and honest pages. Our Rhodesian Ridgeback (12 yo) has had signs of DM for several months now, and our family is struggling with what is best to do. Our vet had some good advice re: his quality of life: think of his five favourite things, and how many of them can he still do? And also to take a day at a time, but make a note whether it was a good or bad day (there seem to be a lot of 'ok' days which is my euphemism for 'bad' as it's too sad to write that down). He still has use of back legs, but is falling when he poops more often than not, and can not control when he goes. He has gone from a dog that ran more than 10km a day, to one that, on a good day, can walk about 300m. My daughter made the excellent point that there is no perfect time to euthanize - it will either feel too early, or too late! We want his last weeks - whenever those weeks are - to be happy ones, without a loss of dignity, or losing his essence.

Sandra says...

Thank you for this information...you've covered so many of the questions I had. My beautiful 10 year-old border collie, Grace, has just been diagnosed with DM and the most painful part is watching her lose her ability to run like the wind to watch over her sheep. She maintains her sweet and courageous attitude and still attempts to do all that she did before this terrible disease began to show itself. My vet said he is 95% certain she has DM, but that he could refer me to a vet specializing in neurological problems in animals. I would like your opinion - please. Again, many thanks for all this information.

Margo Booth says...

Hi Sandra. My dog is 11 and began to show leg deterioration problems a year and a half ago. In September we saw a big change in him. Just getting up to stumble outside to go to the bathroom was exhausting and he became very depressed. Also, he was going to the bathroom only once a day. A new vet encouraged us to take him to a vet school for evaluation to see if surgery was an option. Due to his age and the expense that was a tough decision. We did proceed with an MRI and surgery would have followed but there was nothing to fix, making the DM diagnosis an almost certainty. What they did do was some PT and strongly encouraged me to get him out of his stroller and into a wheelchair. Today he travels out into the yard (a distance since we live in a condo), and once a day he has an outing in his wheelchair. He plays with other dogs, runs on the beach--even into the water--and gets daily exercise. He is happy and healthy and we treasure every day those tools have given us.

ScamperingPaws says...

I'm so sorry that Grace is dealing with DM. There are things that we can do to help our dogs with DM - some of them can be found in the "How to Help a Dog With Degenerative Myelopathy" link above. I agree with Margo that physiotherapy was a big help. It helped my dog stay as strong as possible for as long as possible. If the costs of seeing a veterinary neurologist are within reach, then it may be worthwhile if it will help to ease your mind that you have the right diagnosis. If not, that is okay too. You could also consider a second opinion from another vet which is less costly than seeing a specialist. I personally got a couple of opinions ... and knowing that there was nothing to be done, other than physio, I had to accept that my goal was to keep my dog happy and safe, for however long I had with him.

Jay says...

Our 11 year 8 month old pug Spencer is coming to the end of Pug Myelopathy. We noticed the first symptoms in July of 2017, when he could not longer jump up to join us on the couch. From there, the knuckling of his feet became apparent, inability to stand for more than a few seconds followed some months later, fecal incontinence in the last few weeks, and now urine incontinence in the last few days. While this is all terrible and the progression sounds rough, we were able to keep him happy and enjoying life by getting him on nutritional support, a wheelchair and making some changes around the house. I am pleased with our efforts, though my young family's heart is crushed as we reach the end of his life. I have never owned a dog before Spencer. Wow! They are amazing creatures, teaching everything from patience, responsibility, and most of all - unconditional love! I am a better man, and now father, for having him join me in this life.

Peter says...

Very helpful article, thank you.

Yesterday we said goodbye to Kayla our super German Shepherd and, at just 8years 1 month old ,FAR TOO YOUNG for this horrible disease. Only diagnosed in June and

took just 4 months to get to the no quality of life stage.

Karissa says...

I noticed my 11 year old boxer having symptoms around June as well, it's getting so hard to watch him every day and I am going crazy just searching for answers on how you when it's time to let go? If you wouldn't mind sharing how you knew, I would be so grateful? I know its very recent, I am so sorry for your loss. Its going to be the hardest thing I have ever done. Thank u.

Lauren says...

We just made the difficult decision to say goodbye to our wonderful pug Winslow. The past 2 years we've watched the DM progress and have done all we can to make him as comfortable as possible, but now it's time. Thankful I found this post and all the comments of others going through this. It gives me comfort. I know saying goodbye will be a great release for him and for us. We love him so and like many of you, we would take care of him forever, but we know it's about quality of life. Just like the author of this post, I would never take back what all he has given our family even if I knew about DM before adopting him. I would do it all over again! Thank you all for sharing your stories. All of you should be proud for giving so much love and care to your furbabies during these difficult situations.

Arlene says...

Joy, my 13 yr old corgi, got her k9 cart in Jan. Sept and she can't move forward in cart so I help keep her moving with a leash attached to k9 cart to assist. Her front legs are getting weak. I think it's time. She still eats, drinks, and interested in what's going on. My 11 yr old corgi Katie, got her cart in july. She progressed quickly and weakness in front legs late sept. She still ate, drank, let us know when she had to go but was depressed more than interested in life. We euthanized her late Sept. It was very hard but I think, the right thing to do. I miss her dearly and watching Joy getting close is hard to watch and hard to decide because of her interest in life. I think I'll know like I did with Katie. Such a tough disease.

RONALD F DOTY says...

My 11 year old Pembroke Welsh Corgi Jasper was diagnosed recently with this DM. His sister Princess from the same breeder and same bloodline passed away last November 13, 2017 from the same disease. I spent her last days doing what I am having to do with Jasper now- picking her up to go lie in the garage while the rest of the dogs went for our walk every day. She was able to crawl like Jasper did up until last week when he stopped being able to crawl even. Like almost everybody else has written all we can do is help them however in their declining days until. So frustrating to be able to afford almost any kind of medical cures that the doctors can cook up but when they say no cure is possible it breaks your heart. Picking up his incontinence pee and poops, spilled water bowls and wet towels from his accidents at least keeps you interactive with him as he knows you are there for him. Also had seizures which at least the meds have taken care of. Thanks to all for their shares.

Doug Long says...

Nice article

Our white German shepherd has had DM for 15 months now. I have watched her deteriorate to the point of needing complete help to go to the bathroom. I have now noticed whining and maybe depression and not quite as comfortable and content. I have waited on her hand and foot. I have carried her, played on the floor with her, and cried way more than I thought I could. She has been a trooper and gave it a good fight in a battle she would never win.

It has been a privilege to take care of her and I never regretted any minute of it. In 7 days we will say good bye, the DM will be gone but the experience has touched me emotionally. It is truly heartbreaking and I can relate to everyone's comments.

God bless and comfort to you all.

Vicki says...

All these stories remind me that I am not alone. My almost 9 year old Saint Bernard was diagnosed with DM a little over a year ago after he slipped and tore his ACL. (Probably from the DM) We have been adding Sanus Biotex to his dinner for about the past 7 months. Not sure if it is actually helping but I feel like I have to try everything. He is complete immobile on his hind legs. We use a hip harness to move him around. Not easy with a 160 pound dog. He also wears a male diaper wrap with a child's diaper inside it. Bathing him has been difficult and has become a thing of the past. He is always in good spirits and eats well. It is so hard to know when the right time is to throw in the towel. Like all of you, he is an important part of our family.

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