Pet Illnesses

Degenerative Myelopathy (CDRM)

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This disease is characterized by a slow, progressive degeneration of the fibres carrying messages up and down the spinal cord. It is commonly seen in older German Shepherds. Affected dogs gradually lose control over their back legs and have a swaying wobbly hind leg gait.  Causes

Possible causes that have been looked at but not proven include:


CDRM is the most common cause of pelvic limb paresis in middle-aged, German shepherds and German shepherd mixed breeds
It is rare in other breeds of dogs and in cats.

Breed Predilections

Most commonly affected- German shepherds and German shepherd mixed breeds
Other large and medium breeds are occasionally affected.

Mean Age and Range

Mean age of onset: 9.6 years
Range: 4–14 years
German shepherds: two cases reported at 6 and 7 months old.

Predominant Sex



Differential Diagnosis



Surgical considerations

No effective surgery available

It is possible for a dog to have concurrent type II disk protrusion; unless the spinal cord compression caused is extreme, surgery should not be done until a therapeutic trial of corticosteroids is completed; if marked improvement is seen, then decompressive surgery is warranted.

Drugs of choice

No proven effective treatment available

Proposed treatment—suggested by one author; combination of exercise, vitamin supplements, and epsilon aminocaproic acid (Amicar, Lederle, NY; 500 mg PO q8h mixed with a hematinic compound); apparently slows the progression in 50% of patients; 15%–20% of patients do not deteriorate further if treatment is maintained; no controlled trials have been done.


Corticosteroids—do not use; not beneficial in the treatment of this disease.
Steroid myopathy—may worsen muscle atrophy and pelvic limb weakness, hastening the onset of a non-ambulatory state.

Possible complications

Pressure sores and urine scalding once a non-ambulatory state is reached.


CDRM is is a non-treatable disease that progresses slowly and steadily.
Euthanasia is recommended once a non-ambulatory state is reached.
Most affected dogs gradually lose function in the pelvic limbs, reaching a non-ambulatory state within 6 months to 2 years after onset.
Non-ambulatory patients eventually lose thoracic limb function and may develop urinary and faecal incontinence.