All purebred and mixed breed dogs are prone to hereditary health problems. The Australian Terrier is no exception. The Australian Terrier Club of America encourages its members to be aware of health issues and carry out responsible breeding practices to reduce or eliminate hereditary health problems.
What is degenerative myelopathy?
Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that affects older dogs. It initially results in paralysis of the pelvic limbs but progresses to affect all limbs. Pathogenesis since first described in 1973 by Damon Averill, DVM, DM has stood for a degeneration of the spinal cord due to an unknown cause. In 2009, a mutation in the gene superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) was described to underlie the cause of DM. Dogs that have two copies (homozygous) of the mutant allele have been shown to be at risk for developing DM. In other words, not all dogs that have the mutation will develop DM so the mutation test is currently a test for risk. Mutations in SOD1 are associated with some forms of human amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is adult in onset, causing muscle weakness and eventually respiratory paralysis.
Degenerative myelopathy is now recognized in many breeds of dogs. Onset of DM is near 9 years of age. In the initial course of the disease, common clinical signs include an asymmetric loss of coordination (ataxia) and spastic weakness in the hind limbs. Owners often report their dogs to be scuffing their nails or toes during walking. In the later stages of the disease, clinical signs progress to paralysis of the hind limbs, urinary and fecal incontinence. Eventually all limbs become weak and swallowing difficulties may also develop. Dogs seem not to show pain during the course of the disease. Dogs affected with DM often progress to becoming non-ambulatory within 11 months of their initial signs. Due to the difficulties in the nursing care of a large dog, euthanasia is often elected when they become unable to walk. Smaller dogs are easier to manage so dogs of this size tend to live longer with DM.
University of Missouri Veterinary Health Center 900 E. Campus Drive Columbia, MO 65211
**DISCLAIMER** No Australian Terrier has been clinically diagnosed with DM via necropsy at this time.
All purebred and mixed breed dogs are prone to hereditary health problems. The Australian Terrier is no exception. The Australian Terrier Club of America encourages its members to be aware of health issues and carry out responsible breeding practices to reduce or eliminate hereditary health problems. If your dog has a health issue, providing us with the information can be an invaluable source of information.
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**DISCLAIMER** Any information contained on this website relating to any medical, health, and fitness conditions of Australian Terriers and their treatment is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to be a substitute for the advice from your own veterinarian. The information shown on this website should not be used for diagnosing your Aussie’s health. You should always consult your own veterinarian.