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Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is a neurological disorder, usually affecting dogs in their senior years. Loss of hind limb coordination is an early sign of disease, and as the condition progresses the hind limbs of affected dogs become increasingly weak.

Found in

2 in 10 dogs

in our testing

Key Signs

Proprioceptive deficits, Knuckling hind feet, Muscle wasting, Paresis, Incontinence

Age of Onset

7 + yrs

Senior to geriatric onset


Autosomal Recessive

For autosomal recessive disorders, dogs with two copies of the variant are at risk of developing the condition. Dogs with one copy of the variant are considered carriers and are usually not at risk of developing the disorder. However, carriers of some complex variants grouped in this category may be associated with a low risk of developing the disorder. Individuals with one or two copies may pass the disorder-associated variant to their puppies if bred.

Likelihood of the Condition

Low-moderate likelihood

At risk dogs may show signs of this disease in their lifetime, although many will not develop the condition due to absence of additional risk factors.

What to Do

Here’s how to care for a dog with DM

Partner with your veterinarian to make a plan regarding your dog’s well-being, including any insights provided through genetic testing. If your pet is at risk or is showing signs of this disorder, then the first step is to speak with your veterinarian.

For Veterinarians

Here’s what a vet needs to know about DM

The onset of DM is usually in a dog's senior years. Affected dogs first begin by exhibiting muscle wasting, proprioceptive deficits, and knuckling of the hind feet. Though the condition is not painful, affected dogs will eventually require assistance walking. As the condition progresses, it moves up the spinal cord and the dog's neurologic deficits mirror the progress, losing fecal and urinary continence and eventually involving the front legs and the brainstem.

The wellbeing of dogs suffering with degenerative myelopathy should be monitored closely as the disease progresses. Euthanasia is usually elected on welfare grounds when clinical signs become severe.

For Breeders

Planning to breed a dog with this genetic variant?

There are many responsibilities to consider when breeding dogs. Regardless of test results it is important that your dog is in good general health and that you are in a position to care for the puppies if new responsible owners are not found. For first time or novice breeders, advice can be found at most kennel club websites.

Please note the DM mutation has only been associated with disease signs in some breeds, and this should be considered when making breeding decisions. This disease is autosomal recessive meaning that two copies of the mutation are needed for disease signs to develop. A carrier dog with one copy of the DM mutation can be safely bred with a clear dog with no copies of the DM mutation. About half of the puppies will have one copy (carriers) and half will have no copies of the DM mutation. A dog with two copies of the DM mutation can be safely bred with a clear dog. The resulting puppies will be all carriers with one copy of the DM mutation. Puppies in litters which are expected to contain carriers should be tested prior to breeding. Please note: It is possible that disease signs similar to the ones caused by the DM mutation could develop due to a different genetic or clinical cause.

Technical Details

Gene SOD1
Variant G>A
Chromosome 31
Coordinate 26,540,342

All coordinates reference CanFam3.1

References & Credit

Credit to our scientific colleagues:

Awano, T., Johnson, G. S., Wade, C. M., Katz, M. L., Johnson, G. C., Taylor, J. F., … Coates, J. R. (2009). Genome-wide association analysis reveals a SOD1 mutation in canine degenerative myelopathy that resemblesnamyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106(8), 2794–2799. View the article