Degenerative Myelopathy Tests
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Degenerative Myelopathy used to be a "rule out" disease. That is no longer the case. There are now specific tests to "rule in" DM.
While there remains no one specific test for DM, the combination of tests which helps confirm the diagnosis of DM while also looking for other diseases that can mimic its clinical signs or exist together with DM as additional complications are as follows:
Physical Exam should include:
Suggested Tests: (always start with the least expensive and least invasive!)
CBC (bloodwork) to make sure everything is as it should be, and look for problems which may give a direct lead as to the source of the problem.
Inflammatory Disease Panel - (eg: Tick borne illnesses can often present with the same symptoms of DM)
Thyroid Function - Hindquarter weakness can be a result of a Thyroid problem. Check T3 and Free T4 levels
Radiographs - If this is an older dog, one would wish to do plain non- sedated radiographs of the abdomen and chest, as a start. Often, one can see some of the spinal cord on these radiographs. This type of radiograph may also show potential problems such as certain types of heart problems, or tumors of the spleen. This is also a good way to avoid trouble, in the event that more involved testing, requiring sedation, becomes necessary.
Knowledge of leg position - the dog should right its foot immediately, if the foot is placed toes down, rather than pad down. If the dog does not right its foot immediately, and stands or walks on its toes, this is known as "knuckling".
Gait Analysis - unsteadiness of gait, stumbling, weakness, disproportionate movement of legs ( ie: moving legs too far or too little- also known as dysmetria). The forementioned enables one to view what is also called "proprioceptive functions".
Ataxia - an inability to coordinate voluntary muscular movements
Knee Jerk Reflex should be examined and evaluated to be either present, non-existent, or exaggerated . This is known as the patellar tendon reflex.
Crossed Extensor Response - If one toe is pinched, does the opposite leg extend? If so, this is not normally observed in healthy dogs. It could indicate a possible chronic neurologic problem.
Pain - absence or presence of pain/lack of painful reaction, look for areas of discomfort, and try to locate area of spinal cord which may be involved.
An EMG tests for spinal evoked potential. This is to determine if :
How is spinal evoked potential measured?
a) A myelogram is done when the CSF shows no sign of any active infection. The outline of the spine can be seen radiographically via an injection of a contrast agent.
a) Less invasive than a Myelogram
Hope this helps. Our group is a close knit, caring group. If you have to deal with this disease, its easier with support..... May all our dogs live a thousand years..
Marjorie + Jack Flash
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