ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel


Updated on October 8, 2012

CDRM, which stands for chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy, is a disease most commonly seen in German shepherd dogs. An alternative name for the disease and less of a mouthful is degenerative mylopathy. CDRM is an autoimmune disease, similar to muscular sclerosis in humans. This means that the dog's immune system attacks their own nervous system.

CDRM can strike dogs as young as five years old. Over the course of six months to two years the dog's gait deteriorates with the hind legs becoming uncoordinated, swaying or crossing over. Ultimately the dog will be unable to walk without assistance. Once the disease becomes incapacitating the dog will often be euthanised as it is difficult to maintain a good quality of life for them. When you bear in mind that an adult GSD can weigh 70lbs (5 stone) or more you can appreciate that there is often a physical difficulty for the owner attempting to help such a large dog to walk.

The only good thing about CDRM is that it doesn't seem to be a painful disease,

CDRM affects GSD's and GSD crosses
CDRM affects GSD's and GSD crosses | Source
Old English Sheepdogs may suffer from CDRM
Old English Sheepdogs may suffer from CDRM | Source

Which Breeds are Affected by CDRM?

German shepherd dogs are the breed mainly associated with this disease and it affects German shepherd crosses too. Other breeds can certainly be affected by a spinal cord disease. Research into the canine genome at the University of Missouri has shown up a gene mutation in 115 breeds including boxers, Pembroke corgi, Rhodesian ridgeback and Cheasapeake bay retrievers as well as the GSD which seems to be a cause of CDRM. (Clare Rusbridge BVMS Oct 2012). It is possible to test your dog’s DNA to see whether the gene is present. The gene doesn't guarantee the dog will develop CDRM, but is a predisposing factor. The fact remains however that it is German shepherd dogs who comprise the majority of clinical cases of CDRM. Studies have found 56-82% of CDRM cases are GSDs and as many as 1 in 5 German shepherds may develop it.(Fred Lanting 2012)

Breeds other than the GSD which seem to have a slightly greater risk of developing CDRM are Belgium shepherd, old English sheep dog, Rhodesian ridgeback and weimaraner (R.M. Clemmons)

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Front nails showing normal wearHind nails showing extra wear due to foot dragging.
Front nails showing normal wear
Front nails showing normal wear | Source
Hind nails showing extra wear due to foot dragging.
Hind nails showing extra wear due to foot dragging. | Source

CDRM Symptoms

CDRM usually begins in dogs aged 8 – 14, but there are instances of it occurring earlier or later. For example, Nettle, my German shepherd cross is 16½. He only began showing possible signs of CDRM 18 months ago with an occasional slight dragging of one hind leg. At that point those signs seemed connected with his arthritis and spinal column degeneration.

It often isn’t easy diagnosing CDRM especially in older dogs who may be arthritic and already showing an altered gait because of this. The earliest sign is often the inner nails of the back paws showing extra wear or noticing intermittent slight dragging in one or both of the hind legs.

CDRM can cause hind leg weakness causing the legs to slump intermittently
CDRM can cause hind leg weakness causing the legs to slump intermittently | Source

You might hear this happening if your dog is walking on a paved area or you might just notice the back foot is briefly curled and dragging as the dog moves that leg forward. As this happens more frequently the nails on the hind feet become noticeably worn down.

The vet may test your dog’s proprioception (sense of position) by putting a hind foot in a knuckled over position. If your dog is slow to reposition its foot or unable to do so this is an indicator of CDRM.

As the disease progresses the back legs become weaker and this can include reduced tail movement or a limp looking tail. Bowel and urinary incontinence is quite likely to occur later on.

At the moment a definitive diagnosis can only be given via a post mortem which checks for damage to the myelin sheath around the nerves in the spinal cord. However work is being done to identify changes in the dog’s blood profile which may lead to the development of a blood test for the disease.

Degenerative Myelopathy Treatment

Sadly there isn’t a cure for CDRM and it is a degenerative disease meaning that the symptoms get progressively worse. However there is some evidence that a holistic treatment approach can slow down progression of the disease.


Regular exercise, especially walking or swimming, will help build up the dog’s muscle strength and tone and possibly help keep the nerves firing for longer. It will also help maintain your dog’s interest in life. If the dog has not been exercising much or you decide to introduce an exercise like swimming for the first time it is vital to build up exercise very gently. It can be good to let the dog alternate rest day with exercise days to start with.

A dog 'Kart' or 'Wheelchair'

Large Dog Wheelchair Best Friend Mobility
Large Dog Wheelchair Best Friend Mobility

This can help a dog with CDRM to remain mobile


A Dog Body Harness

Our Pets Lift-N-Aid Large Mobility Harness
Our Pets Lift-N-Aid Large Mobility Harness

A harness enables the owner to bear some of the weight of their dog and help prevent the dog falling over.


If the dog’s ability to walk is severely limited due to weakness or falling over a lot it you can try body harnesses which enable the owner to give the dog some extra support or a kart which entirely takes over for the back legs. The kart is a useful option if the front legs are strong and sound, because it can take the physical strain off the owner, but it isn’t something that all dogs take to.

Nettle up until the last six weeks has been walking for an hour or more 3 or 4 days per week. He also had 10 sessions of hydrotherapy 12 months ago. His ability to manage exercise is diminishing now though. Thirty minutes is now his maximum daily amount.


Some people advocate a natural food diet ideally home made for a dog with CDRM. There are many supplements which may help and which even have the backing of ‘good science’ as to why they may help. Unfortunately clinical trials showing conclusive proof for the supplements are thin on the ground. Suggested beneficial supplements include vitamin B, glusoamine, curcurmin (found in turmeric) and omega 3. Please consult with a vet before starting any program of food supplements for your dog.

Nettle has an ordinary locally milled dog kibble diet, but has been receiving a high quality glucosamine supplement for the past 5 years to support his arthritis which may have had some positive effect on the progression of the CDRM too.


Dr Clemmons a vet with the University of Florida, USA is one key person researching into treatments for CDRM (degenerative myelopathy). He states that there are two medicines which either halt progression or result in remission of the disease in 80% of the patients that he sees. These are aminicaproic acid and n-acetylcysteine. You will need to get these drugs by prescription and I understand this is more easily done in the USA than the UK. If your own vet is unfamiliar with Dr Clemmon’s work, it may help to direct them to it.

Veterinary researchers at the University of Missouri appear to be unconvinced by this and state that there is no scientific evidence that any of the cures currently offered for CDRM work. (Missouri Canine genetic diseases)

It is hard for the dog owner to gauge the right course of action, some owners are keen to leave no stone unturned and try everything which is inevitably very expensive, others take a more restrained approach in the absence of conclusive evidence.

Stress Reduction

There is an indication that stress such as undergoing an operation or hospitalisation, can hasten the progress of the disease. Dr Clemmens feels this can be mitigated against to an extent by ensuring that a hospitalised dog continues to exercise.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Nettlemere profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thanks for reading and commenting Marcy - the most dramatic sign to look out for is the back end of the dog swaying like they're a bit drunk, but probably by that stage the dog isn't going out in public all that much.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      6 years ago from Planet Earth

      I hadn't known about this affliction dogs can get - poor things . . . I will watch for these signs when I am around one of these animals.

    • Nettlemere profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thank you for visiting and voting Kashmir.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great information within this well written hub . This information will help dog owners to be on the lookout for any symptoms of CDRM. Well done !

      Vote up and more !!!

    • Nettlemere profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thanks Debs, it's one of those things with a different standard name in the USA to the UK, but devastating for owners particularly when it strikes younger dogs. With Nettle already being over 16 and much older than I imagined he'd get to, I'm quite pragmatic about him having it.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I was not familiar with this, but it s definitely good to be aware of it. Awesome and up.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)