Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)
is a neurodegenerative disease that is progressive and invariably fatal. It occurs most commonly in middle-aged to older German Shepherd Dog, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Boxers. This condition is the result of a genetic mutation in the gene that encodes for the superoxide dismutase (SOD1) enzyme. SOD1 genetic mutation has also been identified as one of the genes implicated in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in humans. With DM the central and peripheral nervous systems are affected with the thoracolumbar spinal cord usually being the first to be affected. The disease progresses to involve the lumbar and cervical spinal cord and the peripheral nervous system. Many other diseases can mimic DM and these can include intervertebral disk disease, lumbosacral disease, and cancer. Diagnosis involves ruling out other underlying causes for neurologic abnormalities and confirmation with a genetic for the SOD1 mutation. A patient with no other causes for clinical signs and tests positive for DM is presumed to have clinical signs of DM.