Last week I introduced you to a brave dog named Skye who was diagnosed with Degenerative Myelopathy, a progressive disease of the spinal cord that leaves dogs paralyzed. Today I want to introduce you to her equally brave pet parents, Dorri and Karol, who are dedicated to taking care of Skye.
Skye’s illness has been going on for two years. Her disease started with the typical warning signs. First she stumbled and fell down the steps outside her house. Soon after, her family noticed that her back legs were wobbly and knuckled or dragged when she walked.
Today Skye is paralyzed in the lower half of her body. She’s also incontinent and recently started having trouble sitting up on her own. Despite her increasing disabilities Dorri and Karol are dedicated to taking care of their dog.
“Every day Skye wakes up with a big smile and can’t wait for us to lift her up with the harness and serve breakfast to her,” said Dorri. “We’ll keep going until that day changes.”
Skye’s care begins with placing her on a big vinyl mat for a daily bath to keep away “urine burn”. Her bladder and bowels are expressed and a fresh diaper is put on. Then breakfast is served.
Last year when Skye was stronger her care also included frequent trips to a friend’s pool. Swimming was a great way to keep Skye strong without putting too much stress on other parts of her body.
Skye also took daily walks in her wheelchair. She loved being outdoors with her family.
Now Skye gets around in her new doggie stroller. It still lets her enjoy the sights and smells of her neighborhood. The routine also includes expressing her bladder and bowels two or three more times and regular visits to the veterinarian and holistic vet for check-ups. At bedtime there is a new diaper before Skye curls up in her orthopedic bed.
DM is a hereditary disease that slowly kills off the outer coating of the spine (myelin) that protects the inner white matter which communicates with the brain to control movement. DM is similar to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in humans. German shepherds between 8 – 10 years-old are most commonly affected.
The good news is that researchers have identified the gene responsible for DM and offer a DNA test that can prevent future generations from suffering.
Dr. Joan Coates and Dr. Gary Johnson at the University of Missouri along with Dr. Kirsten Lindblad-Toh and Dr. Claire Wade at the Broad Institute at MIT/Harvard identified a mutated gene that causes dogs to be at-risk. They found that dogs with two copies of the mutation are at the greatest risk. The DNA test can be given at home and is ordered from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
Early Warning Signs of DM:
- Progressive weakness in the hind legs
- Nails in the rear paws that wear down unevenly
- Stumbling or crisscrossing of back legs
- Knuckling of the rear feet
- Scuffing rear feet when they walk
Late stages of DM:
- Urinary and bowel incontinence
- Front leg weakness
- Inability to stand or sit up
- Organ Failure
Breeds Most Susceptible to DM:
- American Eskimo Dogs
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Cardigan Welsh Corgi
- Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
- German Shepherd Dog
- Golden Retriever
- Great Pyrenees
- Kerry Blue Terriers
- Pembroke Welsh Corgis
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers
- Wire Fox Terrier
DM is close to my heart because Sophie’s symptoms and illness was very similar. Talking to Dorri and Karol brought back so many memories of my own dog. It made me think that I talk a lot about the amazing pets on Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog who are living with disabilities, but it’s their families that are the truly amazing heroes.