CDRM in Dogs
Is there anything I can do?
There may be a glimmer of hope. When this diagnosis is made, it is usually a body blow. However, things just may not be totally as bad as they at first seem.
CDRM is a progressive and non-painful degenerative neurological disease of dogs, affecting mostly the German Shepherd breed. We have also seen it in ageing Rough Collies and Golden Retrievers.
It affects the spinal cord, causing gradual loss of control of the hind legs, later ascending the spinal cord to affect other levels of the body. It is likely to be of 'autoimmune' origin.
There is no known conventional treatment. Families with an affected dog are usually advised that the decline is of variable speed but inevitable.
In alternative (holistic) medicine, there may be some extra insights and possibly some chance of slowing, halting or even partially reversing the signs. A significant number of patients have shown improvements and a return to a capable lifestyle.
Progressive loss of control of the back legs
The full name of the disease is Chronic Degenerative RadiculoMyelopathy. This refers to the part of the spinal cord which is affected and the first nerves to suffer loss of function are those of proprioception (position sense). It is also known as Degenerative Myelopathy (DM).
An affected dog will start almost imperceptibly to drag one or other or both hind feet. Later signs are failure to control the back end when turning sharply, tendency to fall at the back end, unconscious tangling of the legs and, eventually, loss of use of the back end. Affected dogs sway at the back end, can knuckle their back feet and can damage the toe nails, nail beds and upper surfaces of the feet. If the disease progresses unchecked, it will go on ascending the spinal cord, eventually affecting the abdomen then the chest.
The pathology appears to be an autoimmune attack on the myelin sheath (insulation sheath) of the nerves and those of proprioception are the finest and the most susceptible, thus being the first to show the effect.
Diagnosis is effectively a process of elimination, since there appears to be no definitive means of diagnosis in the live dog. However, the dog will willingly stand with an inverted hind foot. A normal dog will not even allow an inverted foot to touch the ground.
Other diseases which can show some similarity of signs are Hip Dysplasia, Spondylosis, Arthritis and Disc Disease. Each of these can be accurately diagnosed so they are usually eliminated during investigations.
ACUPUNCTURE - HOMEOPATHY - DIET
After many years of failure to help dogs with this problem, despite owners persisting in forcing the effort so that we were for ever trying many different techniques and protocols, we had a breakthrough in the early 80s. An ageing German Shepherd male was showing signs of CDRM, which had reached a degree that prevented him from jumping into the car and he showed characteristic swaying of the back end. After two treatments, improvements were noticeable. He went on to enjoy his life and even joined in beach holidays until his eventual death at 14 years old.
Because of this apparent success, clients were offered a slightly less gloomy outlook and more successes followed, using a broadly similar protocol. However, it soon became clear that dogs who developed the condition younger than 8 years of age were very unlikely to show any improvement, whereas those older at onset paradoxically have been seen to have a better chance of success.
While by no means every case shows improvement, an integrated combination of homeopathy, acupuncture and natural feeding has resulted in a great number of improved patients.
In failed cases, some dogs in some circumstances accept, enjoy and benefit from being supplied with wheels, in the form of a specialised tailor-made two-wheeled cart. This can return good mobility until the disease progresses too far.
I believe that a natural diet (preferably all organic) is of importance, in increasing healing capability. Natural Feeding Information
We also use the following therapies, depending upon the case and individual circumstances:
An immune-mediated disease
We do not know the precise cause of this very distressing disease but we have suspicions that it is auto-immune in nature and that repeated vaccinations may play a part in triggering this condition. This suspicion is reinforced by the observation that we have seen many cases arise very soon following the administration of two successive vaccine boosters two weeks apart, given because a dog's annual boosters have lapsed for a few years. This is a practice without scientific support and is, in my opinion, very dangerous.
We know that German Shepherd Dogs have a particularly susceptible immune system, showing many immune-mediated diseases.
Have you had or seen a dog with CDRM?
What was your experience?
CDRM is thought to be an immune mediated disease (autoimmune).
There are suspicions that repeat vaccination boosters can play a part in causation.
Diet, Acupuncture and Homeopathy, in an integrated therapeutic protocol have apparently brought about improvement in a number of cases.
Experience has shown that dogs older than 8 years at onset are more likely to show positive responses.
Wheels (cart) can help return a quality of life to suitable dogs.
The author is independent of commercial interest or sponsorship and cannot endorse any products or advertising material attached to this lens.
For more information, visit AVMC's information website (over 600 pages).
Chris Day - holistic vet - runs the Alternative Veterinary Medicine Centre in Oxfordshire (AVMC) in Oxfordshire, UK.
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