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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 18129
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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I took in a rehomed GSD of 14 months during August 2014 (he

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I took in a rehomed GSD of 14 months during August 2014 (he is now 2yrs 9mths) and immediately noticed that his rear toenails were extremely short. On hard floors you can hear his rear toes scraping the ground as he trots along. He doesnt have any sores.
He has a low rear action and his spine has a slight curve in it. I never see him canter slowly along, he either trots or gallops at speed.
I started training him for working trials but he is unable to jump more than 2ft 3ins high (3ft required) and no more than 5ft 6ins longjump (9ft required), although he loves doing general Agility training too with no apparent problems jumping around 2ft high, tunnels, A-frame, see-saw etc.
He doesnt stay in his basket for long, and frequently moves to different positions at night (appearing restless).
My vet diagnosed him with Degenerative Myelopathy without doing any tests at all. I read that this usually happens with dogs of 5+ and the disease accelerates within about 3 years to paralysis. My GSD already had scraped toenails at 14 months old and there has been no further progression. WHAT ELSE COULD IT BE AND IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO ABOUT THIS PROBLEM? He has been on glucosamine since 14 months old daily and has good quality food (his coat is very shiney and he is not overweight by any means). Thanks.
Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I am very sorry to hear about your girl's rear leg weakness/lameness.Has she ever had radiographs of her spine or hips? If you pinch her toes on her rear feet does she feel it?If you support her standing and flip her rear feet so the topside is down does she immediately right them?It is important to find out whether she is too painful or too weak to be able to do the things she should be able to do It is very possible that she is dysplastic. Sometimes it is simply too painful or her joints are too stiff to allow her to place her feet properly. Symptoms can happen be consistent or worsen suddenly if a piece of the arthritic changes in her hip breaks off and is free in the joint.If she is dragging her toes that can also signify neurologic problems, such as an intervertebral disc(s) (cushions between the bony vertebrae) that are out of place or an instability of the caudal spine called lumbosacral stenosis.Rotties and German Shepherds are prone to a disease process that affects the rear legs called lumbosacral stenosis (LSS).It causes neurologic symptoms too. It is caused by weak spinal ligaments that allow the bones in the spinal column to move and place pressure on the spinal cord or it can be due to inflammation of the ligaments inside the spinal cord canal causing pressure on the spinal cord leading to loss of function.LSS can be painful on and off until the spinal column is stabilized and the pressure is taken off the spinal cord permanently. Another possibility if she seems not painful is a condition called ascending myelopathy. This is a progressive degeneration of the spinal nerves that begins with incoordination of the rear legs then progresses to loss of urine and stool control (continence). This seems very unlikely with her as her symptoms came on at such a young age according to your history. She really needs radiographs to look for a collapsed disc space or arthritis of the spine and hip dysplasia would be helpful. We need to know what the problem is to treat it successfully.If those look fine then an MRI of her spinal cord in the back of the body will be helpful. Pain and inflammation in these conditions is controlled with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like Deramaxx or Rimadyl as well as Tramadol and/or Gabapentin.You can use these with the omega 3's and glucosamines if arthritis or hip dysplasia is diagnosed. These nutraceuticals help improve cartilage and joint fluid health as well as reduce inflammation. I recommend using a combination of a glucosamine/chondroitin product (examples are Dasuquin or Cosequin) and an omega 3 fatty acid (like 3V Caps or Derm Caps). I recommend an omega 3 fatty acid dose based upon the EPA portion (eicosapentanoic acid) of the supplement as if we do that the rest of the supplement will be properly balanced. Give her 40mg of EPA per pound of body weight per day. For example an 40 kilo dog could take 1600mg of EPA per day. Omega 3's and glucosamine/chondroitins work synergistically and improve cartilage health and joint fluid quality and quantity as well as reducing inflammation. They can take several weeks to see full improvement.Another option is a product called Duralactin. This is an anti-inflammatory product derived from milk proteins and it also has omega 3 fatty acids incorporated into it which can be very helpful. See this link for further information: There is no treatment for myelopathy, unfortunately. We can only truly diagnose that condition after death because it requires a biopsy of spinal cord tissue. We usually rule out everything else and with a history of little to no pain and a gradual onset then we assume it is myelopathy. There is a blood test that looks for genetic markers for the disease. If you want to test her for the disease there is a blood test available which is pretty accurate. Here is a link to a website which will give you information about how to get her tested: I think that more diagnostic testing should be done. An MRI of her spinal cord will help diagnose intervertebral disc disease or lumbosacral stenosis. Hip replacement can be very helpful for dogs with hip dysplasia. Those conditions can be treated surgically. In the meantime try to hold off on too much agility training. With spinal instability the more they do, especially jarring activities like running and stairs, the faster the condition can progress. Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi, firstly, I mentioned "his" and "he" throughout my question but you strangly refer to "her" in your response.
He is full of energy with high prey drive. He is not stiff to get up or lay down. He has a very well muscled back and is around 35 kg. He is slow to "right" his rear paws when you turn them over and has been like this since BEFORE
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
.....continued.... BEFORE the age of 14 months. He jumps in the are for balls and chases my GSD bitch and chases the ball launcher with enthusiasm. His official hip score was 13/16 and his elbows were 0/0. That was the only X-ray he had at 1 year old.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
....continued....further, he has not been lame at all. When he was a new-born puppy a few vertebrae had to be chopped off the end of his tail as his mum trod on it and damaged the tail. His tail is very stiff, unlike our bitches tail. He never holds the tail up high like dominant signals, but holds it either midway or lower. He doesnt like his tail being touched and tucks it under when someone touches it although there is no sign that it hurts him as he doesnt squeal so maybe that he is just not accustomed to having his tail held in any way. He walks over our legs and frequently treads on us if we are sitting on the floor and he is the clumsiest dog we have ever owned. His spacial awareness when jumping for a toy is not controlled. He jumps forward, our bitch jumps upwards using her rear legs and controls where she lands. He jumps forward and crashes into whatever is in front of him.
My apologies on calling him "her". You original information had him listed as female under sex, not that anything that I wrote was sex specific so it really doesn't matter.His hips scores 13/16 (I am assuming scores for right & left hip) were indicative of mild changes but compared to his breed (average 19) were pretty good. However if these were done at 1 year that's too early to know about final conformation. That must be done at 2 years of age.Elbows were very good, and given his history I wouldn't expect them to be playing a part in what you are seeing.The way he holds his tail is strange. Perhaps when mom trod on him he suffered a tail pull injury, stretching and perhaps even breaking some of his caudal spinal nerves. That would explain much of what you are seeing, including tail sensitivity, incoordination and inability to jump properly. Because this injury was when he was very young the way he feels is "normal" to him, and thus he is less likely to perceive this as pain so much as discomfort, or just the way life is for him, and tries not to let it slow him down. But with nerve damage he may not be able to do the things that most dogs can do.LSS would also explain what you are seeing. I would recommend that his hips be re-radiographed, but I would also recommend that he have an MRI of his caudal lumbar/sacral spine to look for lumbosacral stenosis and evidence of nerve damage/injury from his injury as a youngster.Please let me know if you have any further questions.
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