When is the Right Time to Put a Dog Down with Wobblers?

canine-degenerative-myelopathy when to euthanize

When I received the heartbreaking news that my brother’s German Shepherd had degenerative myelopathy (DM), it felt like a heavy weight on my heart. The timing couldn’t have been worse, just two days before Thanksgiving. Our family gathering that year was filled with tears, grief, and overwhelming sadness.

So, when exactly is the right time to put a dog down with wobblers? Generally, a dog diagnosed with canine degenerative myelopathy will be euthanized or put to sleep within 6 months to 3 years. The decision is based on the stage of the disease and its impact on the dog’s quality of life. To determine the appropriate timing, it is essential to consult with a veterinarian.

It’s important to note that every case of DM is different. Early-stage symptoms can often resemble arthritis or hip dysplasia. To differentiate between these conditions and rule out other possible causes, check out our article on when to put a dog down with hip dysplasia.

In this article, I will share my family’s personal experience with euthanizing our beloved dog who had degenerative myelopathy. I will discuss what degenerative myelopathy means for a dog’s quality of life, when is the right time to make the decision, and how to gauge how much time your pup may have left.

But first, let’s understand what degenerative myelopathy is and how it affects dogs.

What is Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs?

Degenerative myelopathy, also known as chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy (CDRM), is a progressive disease caused by a gene mutation that affects the spinal cord and nerves. This mutation leads to hind limb weakness and gradual paralysis as the white matter in the dog’s spinal cord deteriorates, resulting in the loss of nerve impulse transmission.

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This debilitating disease primarily affects older dogs between the ages of 8 and 14. It typically starts in the thoracolumbar spine, located in the middle of the dog’s back, and then spreads to the top and bottom of the spine, eventually leading to hind leg paralysis or paraplegia.

Now that we have a basic understanding of degenerative myelopathy, let’s explore the common symptoms and causes.

Common Symptoms and Causes of Degenerative Myelopathy

The symptoms of degenerative myelopathy can vary depending on the stage of the disease. Some common early-stage symptoms include weakness in the hind limbs, a swaying motion while walking or standing, walking on the knuckles, and difficulty rising after lying down. As the disease progresses, symptoms can include hind paws knuckling under while walking, dragging of hind feet and toenails, muscle loss, lack of coordination, and panting.

The main cause of degenerative myelopathy is genetics. If a dog’s parents have medical conditions related to DM, it is highly likely that the dog will develop the disease as well. Certain dog breeds, such as German Shepherds, are more susceptible to degenerative myelopathy. Age is also a factor, as the disease commonly affects senior dogs between 8 and 9 years old.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options for Degenerative Myelopathy

If you notice any troubling signs in your dog, it is crucial to consult with a veterinarian. They will be the ones to diagnose the disease based on factors such as breed, past conditions, and overall health. The vet may need to run various tests and imaging scans like X-rays, CT scans, and blood tests to rule out other possible causes.

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Unfortunately, there is no cure for degenerative myelopathy. However, there are treatment options available that can help manage the symptoms and improve the dog’s quality of life. Physical rehabilitation therapy, assistive equipment like wheelchairs or harnesses, and holistic modalities such as acupuncture and laser treatments are some of the treatments that can be considered. The choice of treatment depends on the individual dog and should be discussed with a veterinarian.

Euthanizing a Dog with Degenerative Myelopathy

Deciding when to euthanize a dog with degenerative myelopathy is a deeply personal and difficult choice. It is essential to consider the dog’s quality of life and overall well-being. Some questions to ask yourself and discuss with your veterinarian include:

  • Is the dog’s quality of life still good?
  • Is the dog in pain or discomfort?
  • Has the dog lost control over bodily functions?
  • Are there treatment options available that can improve the dog’s condition?

In our case, as our German Shepherd dog, Rocky, progressed through the stages of degenerative myelopathy, his quality of life deteriorated rapidly. He experienced significant pain and discomfort, and it became evident that euthanization was the most humane choice. Euthanizing Rocky saved him from further suffering and allowed him to peacefully pass away without pain.

It is important to involve your family in the decision-making process and have open discussions about euthanization. Saying goodbye to a beloved pet is never easy, especially for young family members who may have grown up with the dog. Providing support and comfort during this time is crucial for everyone involved.

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Dog euthanasia is performed by a veterinarian, who administers an injection of sodium pentobarbital. This anesthetic drug quickly induces unconsciousness and painlessly stops the heart. After the procedure, you can choose to bury your dog in a pet cemetery or cremate them, allowing you to keep their remains in an urn as a cherished memory.

In conclusion, deciding when to put a dog down with degenerative myelopathy is a challenging decision that requires careful consideration of the dog’s quality of life and well-being. Consultation with a veterinarian is crucial in determining the right time to euthanize. Remember that you are making a compassionate choice to end your dog’s suffering and provide them with a peaceful passing.

For more informative articles on various topics, check out 5 WS!

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Always consult with a qualified veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment options for your dog.

Related Questions

Q: What is the life expectancy for a dog with degenerative myelopathy?
A: Dogs with degenerative myelopathy typically have a survival time of 6 months to 3 years from the time of diagnosis. However, this can vary depending on factors such as the stage of the disease and the treatment options chosen.

Q: Are there any treatment options available for degenerative myelopathy?
A: While there is no cure for degenerative myelopathy, there are treatment options available that can help manage the symptoms and improve the dog’s quality of life. Physical rehabilitation therapy, assistive equipment, and holistic modalities can all be considered in consultation with a veterinarian.

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Q: How can I best support my family and children during the process of euthanizing a dog?
A: It is essential to provide emotional support and open communication within the family during this difficult time. Be honest with your children about the situation, answer their questions, and help them cope with the loss. Consider seeking professional advice or resources on helping children understand and cope with the loss of a pet.

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