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Other Conditions that can  present similarly to Degenerative Myelopathy

Many times vets can be too quick to make a diagnosis of DM when in fact other conditions can present similarly.  Extensive and often cost prohibitive tests are needed to either rule in or rule out the disease and vets may diagnose DM as a write off. It spares the caretaker expensive tests. Peripheral nerve disease, Lumbral Sacral Stenosis, IVDD, "Discospondylitis, Spondylosis, Tick Diseases, Thyroid Problems, Cushings Disease, Wobblers, Polyradiculoneuropathy, Polymyositis, Granulomatous Meningoencephalomyelitis (GME) and spinal tumors are just a few that can initially present similarly to DM.   Below are a few conditions that are often mistaken for DM. (More to come.  Page is under construction) One important rule to remember is if the signs suddenly appear, then it is not DM.  DM is a gradual onset, progressive disease

IVDD, or Intervertabral Disc Disease is one of the most common diseases that can present like DM. In severe cases, demyelinization of the nerves can occur and the dogs can lose sensation.  http://www.petwave.com/Dogs/Health/Intervertebral-Disk-Disease.aspx

Discospondylitis : Discospondylitis is infection of the intervertebral disc space.  http://www.veterinarysurgicalcenters.com/discospondylitis.html

Lumbrosacral Stenosis (Cauda Equina): Degenerative lumbosacral stenosis is a common cause of cauda equina syndrome and a relatively frequent neurologic disorder in older dogs. If this condition is recognized early, treatment may help alleviate significant morbidity.   http://veterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/degenerative-lumbosacral-stenosis-dogs

Granulomatous Meningoencephalomyelitis (GME): http://addl.purdue.edu/newsletters/2006/Winter/gme.htm

Peripheral Neuropathy (Polyneuropathies): Polyneuropathy is a nerve disorder that affects multiple peripheral nerves. Unlike the central nervous system, which has the vertebrae of the spine, and the bone of the skull to protect it, the peripheral nerves are more exposed to the elements that enter into the body and come into contact with the body, so they are more susceptible to physical injury and toxic damage. http://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/neurological/c_multi_peripheral_neuropathies#.T-dzLqEtHWw

Fibrotic Myopathy: Fibrotic Myopathy is thought to be an uncommon acquired, disorder which probably occurs to some degree after any muscle contusion that heals primarily by scar tissue.  The whole muscle or part of the muscle is replaced with fibrous connective tissue within the semitendinosus and, occasionally, the quadriceps muscles of the hindleg.  When most or all of the traumatized muscle is replaced by fibrous scar tissue that contracts to an inelastic band, it is termed fibrotic myopathy or muscle contracture.  http://www.gsdhelp.info/neuro/fibroticmyopathy.html

Miscellaneous links encompassing many neurological disorders:

  1. Degenerative Disorders of the Central Nervous System (18-Mar-2003)

       K. G. Braund  


It's important to understand what the difference between an X-ray versus an MRI is when you take your dog to the vet for rule out testing. No vet can diagnose DM based on the way a dog is walking, nor based on an X-ray alone, or blood work alone or DNA test alone. At the minimum, to get a presumptive DM diagnosis, an exam by a board certified neurologist and an MRI is needed. Unfortunately, we don't have the corresponding X-rays and MRI's of each dog for a better comparison, but you will get the idea of what an X-ray will see and what an MRI sees. There is a major difference!