Abbey's Rehabilitation Story

Abbey was one of my own dogs and the second German Shepherd that I had owned, who subsequently developed the condition known as degenerative myelopathy.  This is a progressive neurological condition that is often seen in this breed and at one time was thought to be exclusively a German Shepherd problem.  However, today it is recognized in many breeds of dogs, including Boxers and Corgis, though it is still seen primarily in shepherds and shepherd mixes.

In most cases the disease progresses over a 6-8 month course, starting first with weakness in the rear that is often mistaken initially for another problem such as arthritis or hip dysplasia.  Eventually the dogs develop neurological signs in the rear limbs, such as the knuckling over of feet when they walk or walking with a swaying gait called ataxia.  There is currently new research being conducted on this condition, but at the moment, some of the recommended treatment options are no longer considered valid yet no new options have been determined.

Abbey was a unique personality, coming from a long line of dogs with a Schutzhund background and a ‘never give up’ attitude.  We were able to successfully manage her condition with a combination of pain medication (for her concurrent arthritis, which made it harder for her to walk), acupuncture, Chinese herbs, heat and massage as well as twice weekly swimming and the medications recommended by Dr. Roger Clemmons for the treatment of DM in dogs.  She was diagnosed at 11 years of age and she was finally euthanized at almost 14 years of age—a long life for any German Shepherd, let alone a dog with DM.  We never did put Abbey in a cart; she was able to ambulate on her own right up to the very end.  These results are not typical at all for DM dogs, but it is my belief that the ability to swim Abbey twice a week in warm water was a large factor in why she did as well as she did for so very long.

I owe her a great deal.  She was a marvelous teacher.  Thank you, Abbey.