Dealing with your dog’s mobility issues can be equally hard on you and your dog.
The list of potential things that can impair your dog’s ability to walk is long and can include:
- degenerative conditions
- metabolic disorders
- endocrine disorders
- heart and blood disease
- immune-mediated conditions
- adverse reactions
- neurological conditions
The potential suspects differ with acute or gradual onset. It is not always easy to figure out what the cause is. But an accurate diagnosis allows adjusting therapy for the best possible outcome.
Raven was a 10-year-old Boxer. He’s a happy boy, although he has had his share of health challenges. When Raven was younger, one after the other, he tore his cruciate ligaments. He had surgery to repair both knees. Unfortunately, Raven suffered from one of the potential complications of this repair—infection at the implanted plate. That meant a third surgery to remove the hardware.
Further reading: Talk To Me About Dog ACL/CCL Injuries
Raven’s physical therapy
Raven was seeing a physical therapist for his knees. He had advanced arthritis and poor range of motion—his knees didn’t bend well.
Physical therapy restored and maintained good function of Raven’s knees.
Everything seemed good and then a new problem cropped up. Raven’s gait became awkward and he seemed to stumble when he turned. This was new and concerning.
As a result, his PT veterinarian recommended further testing and an MRI. He was concerned that Raven might have developed a tumor that was messing with the way he walked.
Nailing down the cause of the recent change would dictate further therapy. For example, if Raven had IVDD, it would alter his exercise. If he had a tumor, he would not be able to get laser therapy.
But Raven had neither of those things. He didn’t have IVDD, and he didn’t have a tumor. Rather, he was suffering from degenerative myelopathy (DM).
DM is a progressive degeneration of the spinal cord. The damage to the nerve fibers leads to loss of communications between the brain and the nerves that control muscles. The first signs are usually progressive weakness and lack of coordination of the hind legs. The problem slowly moves forward and, over time, might lead to complete paralysis.
Raven was stumbling because his brain and hind legs weren’t talking and he didn’t know where his back end was.
Managing Raven’s DM
There is no cure for this condition. The goal of therapy is to slow the degeneration. Raven’s management included:
- physical therapy
- heat therapy
- and acupuncture
Raven regularly visits his rehab center, and his parents work with him at home in between the appointments.
The main priority is to preserve Raven’s muscle mass. His exercises target functional strength and control and include:
- sit to stand
- walking backward
- figure eights
At some point, Raven might need a wheeled card to get around. But for now, he’s doing well.
Canine Physical Rehabilitation – Case Study: Raven
Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs