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Why We Need Tissue Donors:

The University of Missouri states:


What is canine degenerative myelopathy? Canine Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), is an inherited neurological disease that leads to progressive deterioration of the nervous system. Early clinical signs emerge around age 8, and include muscle weakness and loss of coordination in the hind limbs. End stage signs include paralysis of all limbs and signs of difficulty swallowing. Ultimately the disease is fatal.   

DM is known to occur in many dog breeds, but is most prevalent in Boxers and Pembroke Welsh Corgis. In 2009, our group discovered the mutation responsible for causing this debilitating disease. We currently offer a DNA test ( or ) for determining presence of the risk factor.

Interestingly, the same genetic mutation that causes DM is also associated with some forms of human ALS (known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). Therefore, DM research is likely to aid in research for human ALS as well.

When an owner decides to have their dog euthanized, we would like to have the opportunity to further study the dog’s tissues. Tissues obtained at any stage in the disease process will contribute to our research. We also need tissues from older unaffected dogs of these same breeds so that we can determine which tissue changes are specific to DM.

What are the benefits of DM research? Currently there are no effective treatments for DM or ALS, and both diseases are progressive and ultimately fatal. In order to develop more effective therapies, it is essential to conduct further research to understand the underlying mechanisms causing these diseases. We also are trying to find ways to follow disease progression and need biological markers.

Because DM and ALS share similar characteristics, investigating and generating therapies for DM affected dogs could translate into helping human patients diagnosed with ALS. Thus, this research could help scientists develop therapies for dogs affected with DM and as well as people affected with ALS.

These archived tissues will be used for future research studies at the University of Missouri and will also be shared with other researchers of DM and ALS.

How can I help the cause?  We are requesting samples from Boxers and Pembroke Welsh Corgis (and other breeds) older than 9 years of age and that have presumptive signs of DM.  In order to conduct our study, we require spinal cord, muscle, and nerve tissues from DM affected Boxers and Pembroke Welsh Corgis.  We also need these same tissues from older dogs (> 9 years) that are being euthanized for

other reasons to serve as controls.  We have a kit that can be expressed mailed over-night. The kit will contain vials of liquids that specially preserve the tissues. The kit will need to stay refrigerated until use. The sample submission process will also include DNA testing on blood submitted with the tissues. Also enclosed in the kit is a return express mail label that will allow payment of shipment of tissues back to the University of Missouri.  Tissues will undergo an archiving process and also a sample of spinal cord will be submitted for histopathology by a board-certified veterinary pathologist for diagnostic determination.  If the euthanasia and autopsy are performed at the University of Missouri, we will take care of individual cremation and return the ashes to the pet owner at study’s expense.   If you, as a veterinarian or pet owner, are interested in helping with the study, please contact the study director, Dr. Joan R. Coates ( or Dr. Martin L. Katz (, for information on sample submissions. 

Thank you We would like to thank you in advance for your consideration in helping us with this study. Donated tissues will advance our understanding of DM and in the development of therapies. These achievements could also benefit the ALS community.

If you have any questions about Degenerative Myelopathy or this study, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Contact Information: Joan R. Coates, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM (Neurology) 900 East Campus Drive, Clydesdale Hall College of Veterinary Medicine University of Missouri Columbia, MO 65211 Phone: 573-882-7821 Fax: 573-884-5444 Email: 

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