It’s heartbreaking for pet owners to see a beloved pet suffering from progressive muscle weakness and loss of coordination due to canine myelopathy. Unless you miraculously find treatment, the condition will only worsen, resulting in poor quality of life.
As a veterinarian who guides families in in-home euthanization, I’ve seen how giving the procedure serves as a way for both owners and pets to end the pain. I’m going to explain how to decide when to euthanize a dog with degenerative myelopathy.
When to Euthanize a Dog With Degenerative Myelopathy
You can euthanize a dog with degenerative myelopathy within six months to three years after diagnosis. However, this can depend on the disease’s impact on your dog’s quality of life, mainly if the severity of symptoms only results in uncontrollable pain. Likewise, consider your physical, emotional, and financial ability to care for the pet.
While most veterinarians have a recommended time to euthanize pets with this condition, it’s still a matter of personal preference. As the primary caretaker of a sick pet, you’re the best person to analyze the situation.
Factors to Consider for Deciding When to Put Down Dogs With Degenerative Myelopathy
You can try to make your pet’s life as comfortable as possible, especially in the disease’s early stages. However, it’s better to prepare and weigh the factors that can help you decide the best time to consider in-home euthanasia.
Older dogs between eight to 14 years of age are the most at risk of getting canine myelopathy. It will begin in the middle of the thoracolumbar spine, with the degeneration spreading to the whole spine.
Eventually, this could lead to paralysis of the hind legs and, inevitably, death. You don’t have to wait for natural death, particularly if your dog’s age is within the range that would only make it harder for your pet to survive.
A DNA testing study conducted by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals shows there are breeds that carry genes causing chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy. Here are some of the breeds at risk of the condition’s genetic mutation.
- American Eskimo Dog
- Blue Nose Pitbull
- Border Collie
- Cardigan Welsh Corgi
- French Bulldog
- German Shepherd crosses
- Great Pyrenees
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- Siberian Husky
You don’t have to consider euthanasia right away due to the breed. However, certain breeds in their mid-age to senior years may suffer the most from the effects of the canine disorder, and this is a reasonable factor for choosing euthanasia.
Without treatment, the early to late stages of chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy may last six months to one year. Meanwhile, you can extend your furry friend’s life up to three years with proper treatment.
During the late stage, your dog’s spinal cord may continue to deteriorate, causing your pet to lose mobility. These are the signs of late-stage DM:
- Weakened front legs and shoulders
- Uncontrollable or jerky tail and leg movements
- Paralysis or complete paraplegia
- Organ failure
- Near to complete loss of balance and body coordination
- Respiratory issues
- Inability to support one’s body
Unfortunately, this condition will only progress until your pet won’t be able to function. From what I see in most of our clients, they don’t wait until their pets suffer from paralysis. Instead, they prevent their dogs from experiencing it by preparing for pet euthanasia at home.
Poor Quality of Life
In relation to the late-stage effects of the disease, things may only go downhill from here. It may be best to consider euthanasia if your dog’s quality of life will continue to suffer because of uncontrollable symptoms.
When deciding when is the right time to consider euthanasia, think about your dog’s comfort and quality of life, even if the condition is still in the early stages.
Finances and Ability to Provide Care
Once you get the test results, your vet will provide a prognosis. Consequently, your dog will need medication and other treatments that cost you thousands of dollars. I saw families struggle with the decision, especially when considering their everyday living expenses.
Dr. Manuel Boller, an associate professor for veterinary emergency and critical care at the University of Melbourne, says having to make the decision to euthanize pets for financial reasons often comes with guilt. I’ve seen how pet owners feel guilty for putting their dogs down due to personal reasons.
This is why I also lead my team of grief support specialists to help you see that this isn’t a selfish act. Thus, you may choose to euthanize your pet if your current financial circumstances prevent your dog from enjoying life.
How Long Can Dogs Live With Degenerative Myelopathy?
The average life expectancy for dogs with degenerative myelopathy is around two years. Depending on the prognosis, your dog may have difficulties moving on its own at this stage. This is why you may euthanize a dog with this canine condition as early as six months after the prognosis.
While I typically recommend treatment alternatives such as pet hospice, acupuncture, or physical therapy, these won’t prolong your pet’s life. However, these can make your dog’s life much more comfortable within the six months to two years of diagnosis.
How Do You Slow Down Degenerative Myelopathy?
You can try to slow down chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy by keeping your dog active through structured exercises and physical therapy. However, this may only be possible in the early and middle stages. Once your dog reaches the condition’s final stages, you won’t be able to slow down the symptoms.
How Quickly Does Chronic Degenerative Radiculomyelopathy Progress in Dogs?
Chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy has a progression rate of six months to two years, making it the usual timeframe to opt for pet euthanasia. Some may reach up to two to three years when a dog’s health will severely decline.
Is There a Cure for Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs?
Sadly, there’s no cure for canine degenerative myelopathy, which is why I recommend euthanasia for severe cases within six months to two years after the diagnosis. While there’s no cure, you can still provide care through therapy and a proper diet. In some cases, dogs can also use wheelchairs to move.
Once your dog enters the final stages of degenerative myelopathy, prepare yourself for the possibility of euthanasia within six months to three years. Even though there’s no cure for this canine condition, you can give your furry friend a loving farewell by ending its suffering through in-home euthanasia.