Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs



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Understanding the DNA Test for Degenerative Myelopathy

DM – Degenerative Myelopathy – The DM test is available for any breed, and is specifically recommended for Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Boxers, Standard Poodles, German Shepherds, Cardigan Welsh Corgis, and Pembroke Welsh Corgis.  For information on DM testing other breeds,  ordering the test, please click on the link below

THREE TESTING FACILITIES ARE AVAILABLE NOWADAYS!  why wait!    is the least expensive with only $45 per test, and fastest with their turn around time 48 hrs from the time of receipt!. You can submit FOUR Q-tips to collect your dogs' cheek cells, place in a PAPER envelope, fill out the forms online & pay, send it the sample to their Tallahassee Florida facility.  Its that easy!   $58 per test with usually some good rebates offered on additional DNA test you may want to do as well

Order OFA DNA Test  from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals  $65 per test


    Normal (N/N)

This dog is homozygous N/N, with two normal copies of the gene. In the seven breeds studied at the University of Missouri in depth so far, dogs with test results of N/N (Normal) have never been confirmed to have DM. This dog can only transmit the normal gene to its offspring, and it is unlikely that this dog or its offspring will ever develop DM.

Carrier (A/N)

This dog is heterozygous A/N, with one mutated copy of the gene and one normal copy of the gene, and is classified as a carrier. In the seven breeds studied at the University of Missouri in depth so far, dogs with test results of A/N have never been confirmed to have DM. While it is highly unlikely this dog will ever develop DM, this dog can transmit either the normal gene or the mutated gene to its offspring. 

At-Risk (A/A)

This dog is homozygous A/A, with two mutated copies of the gene, and is at risk for developing Degenerative Myelopathy (DM). The research has shown that all dogs in the research study with confirmed DM have had A/A DNA test results, however, not all dogs testing as A/A have shown clinical signs of DM. DM is typically a late onset disease, and dogs testing as A/A that are clinically normal may still begin to show signs of the disease as they age. Some dogs testing A/A did not begin to show clinical signs of DM until they were 15 years of age. Research is ongoing to estimate what percentage of dogs testing as A/A will develop DM within their lifespan. At this point, the mutation can only be interpreted as being at risk of developing DM within the animal’s life. For dogs showing clinical signs with a presumptive diagnosis of DM, affected (A/A) test results can be used as an additional tool to aid in the diagnosis of DM. Dogs testing At-Risk (A/A) can only pass the mutated gene on to their offspring.


An Equivocal test result indicates that the test results were inconclusive. This is typically the result of poor sample collection. When the test yields an equivocal result, a second punch will be taken from the FTA card and the test rerun. If the second test is still equivocal, the owner will be contacted and asked to submit a new sample.


By: Joan R. Coates, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM-Neurology

We have discovered a gene which is a major risk factor for degenerative myelopathy (DM). In that gene, the DNA occurs in two possible forms (or alleles). The "G" allele is the predominant form in dog breeds in which DM seldom or never occurs; you can think of it as the "Good" allele. The "A" allele is more frequent in dog breeds for which DM is a common problem; you can think of it as the "Affected" allele.

Summary: "A" allele is associated with DM; "G" allele is not associated with DM.

Since an individual dog inherits two alleles (one from the sire and one from the dam) there are three possible test results: two "A" alleles; one "A" and one "G" allele; and, two "G" alleles. Summary: Test results can be A/A, A/G, or G/G.

In the five breeds we studied so far (Boxer, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, German Shepherd Dog, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, and Rhodesian Ridgeback), dogs with test results of A/G and G/G have never been confirmed to have DM. Essentially all dogs with DM have the A/A test result. Nonetheless, many of the dogs with an A/A test result have not shown symptoms of DM. Dogs with DM can begin showing signs of disease at 8 years of age, but some do not show symptoms until they are as old as 15 years of age. Thus, some of the dogs who have tested A/A and are now normal may still develop signs of DM as they age. We have, however, found a few 15-year-old dogs that tested A/A and are not showing the clinical symptoms of DM. Unfortunately, at this point we do not have a good estimate of what percent of the dogs with the A/A test result will develop DM within their life span.

Summary: Dogs that test A/G or G/G are very unlikely to develop DM. Dogs that test A/A are much more likely to develop DM. Our research will now focus on how many A/A dogs can survive to old age without developing DM and why.

The "A" allele is very common in some breeds. In these breeds, an overly aggressive breeding program to eliminate the dogs testing A/A or A/G might be devastating to the breed as a whole because it would eliminate a large fraction of the high quality dogs that would otherwise contribute desirable qualities to the breed. Nonetheless, DM should be taken seriously. It is a fatal disease with devastating consequences for the dogs and a very unpleasant experience for the owners who care for them. Thus, a realistic approach when considering which dogs to select for breeding would be to consider dogs with the A/A or A/G test result to have a fault, just as a poor top-line or imperfect gait would be considered faults. Dogs that test A/A should be considered to have a worse fault than those that test A/G. Dog breeders could then continue to do what conscientious breeders have always done: make their selections for breeding stock in light of all of the dogs’ good points and all of the dogs’ faults. Using this approach over many generations should substantially reduce the prevalence of DM while continuing to maintain or improve those qualities that have contributed to the various dog breeds.

Summary: We recommend that dog breeders take into consideration the DM test results as they plan their breeding programs; however, they should not over-emphasize this test result. Instead, the test result is one factor among many in a balanced breeding program.

Joan R. Coates, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM-Neurology

Associate Professor Veterinary Neurology/Neurosurgery

Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery

900 E. Campus Dr., VMTH-Clydesdale Hall

College of Veterinary Medicine

University of Missouri

Columbia, MO 65211

Phone:  573.882.7821

FAX:  573.884.5444

Click here for more information on DM for other breeds

A free DNA test for DM is available for some dogs. Click here for details

Explanation of DM DNA Test Results

Breeder Guidelines for dogs who test DM Carrier (N/A) or DM At Risk (A/A)

DM Test Result Statistics


 Prevent TICKS AND FLEAS Naturally!

My homeopathic vet is adamant against the use of FRONTLINE and the poisons we use on and in our dogs.   He recommended an all natural spray which I won't name, as I nearly passed out myself due to the strong smell, and instead,  I experimented with GARLIC, granulated minced or fresh, and NO Ticks and NO Fleas on any of them.  I distribute a good sprinkle on each meal morning and night.  And no worries, their breath or body won't smell of garlic either.   

& NO expensive and poisonous frontline and / or advantage :)

Links below are about the benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar


"Zyflamend" works for Dogs Too!  Arthritis and Degenerative  Myelopathy

Zyflamend, grown and distributed by New Chapter,  was one of those searches I did on the internet.  That was several years ago.  In 08 and 09 I  faced  "degenerative myelopathy"  in the older dogs, plus, of course, arthritis.   I lost both these wonderful dogs when they were not ready to go yet, nor was I ready to let them go.  For them, Stella and Dian, I will continue to spread the word of this silent killer of many dog breeds.  

Since Zyflamend helps me so much, I figured that due to its REgenerative properties, I should try and give it to the ol' dogs.   I saw immediate improvement in their movement.   Now, it didn't fix them, but it seemed to slow down the degeneration where it was when I first started giving it to them.   Eventually no dog beats DM.   

I had tried "amino caproic acid" but that was not doing anything for them.  Zyflamend is more cost effective too.  I give it to them twice a day, am/pm and I hide the pill in some canned dog food. 

I do like TRAUMEEL pills for them as well.  Not as comprehensive as Zyflamend, but inexpensive and no taste so easier to give to the dogs in their food. 

All the best to you and  yours with  your aging four legged friends.   Try and treasure them with quality of life as long as we can! 

More info on DM with a forum to answer your questions as well

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