If your dog is is suffering from a neurological condition, such as degenerative myelopathy, he may display symptoms such as weakness or paralysis in the limbs, balance problems, tremors and muscle atrophy. Symptoms may be mild at first, but progressively worsen.
Degenerative myelopathy is a condition that causes progressive degeneration of the dog's spinal cord. The condition is not painful for your dog. The cause is unknown and there is no cure. It can occur in any breed, but is most common in German shepherds and Welsh Corgis.
Early Signs and Symptoms
Degenerative myelopathy affects the hind legs during the early states of the disease. Dogs may be weak in the hind end and have muscle loss and tremors in the rear legs. They may knuckle over as they walk and have worn nails from dragging their feet. Dogs may begin to have difficulty rising and need help changing positions.
As the condition worsens, dogs continue to lose function and feeling in the hind end. A dog's tail may hang limply and he may begin crossing his feet as he walks.
Late Stage Degenerative Myelopathy
In the late stages of the disease, dogs begin to experience loss of bladder and bowel control. The front legs begin to lose muscle mass and become weak. In the final stages the dog becomes completely paralyzed. Secondary problems include pressure sores from the inability to move and systemic and urinary tract infections.
Degenerative myelopathy eventually results in organ failure, although many owners choose to euthanize their dog before this occurs. Most dogs diagnosed with the condition are euthanized within 6 to 36 months when quality of life declines.