As pet owners, we all want our furry friends to live long and healthy lives. Unfortunately, certain illnesses can slowly deteriorate our beloved pets’ health until the time comes when we must make a difficult decision.
Degenerative Myelopathy is one such illness that affects many dogs, primarily those of older age. Gradually losing control over their hind legs, these animals experience significant changes in mobility and function, leading to paralysis, accidents, and ultimately, a lower quality of life.
In such cases, knowing when to let go becomes crucial. None of us wants to see our pets struggling or suffering; we want to provide them with the most love and comfort possible as they near the end of their journey.
“A dog may no longer be able to stand or run, but this does not necessarily mean it’s time to put them down.”-Unknown
This article will help you identify some key indicators to consider before making that tough call. It will offer insights into what to expect, how to prepare yourself mentally, and how your pet feels during this challenging phase.
Knowing the right time to say goodbye means peace for your pet and family during an otherwise heartbreaking moment. So sit back and read on – there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Understanding Degenerative Myelopathy: Symptoms and Progression
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is a progressive disease that affects the spinal cord of dogs. It typically presents itself in older dogs (>6 years old), with certain breeds being predisposed to developing the condition such as German Shepherds, Boxers, and Welsh Corgis.
The symptoms of DM usually start out mild and gradually become worse over time. The first signs are often weakness or stiffness in the rear legs, difficulty walking, and dragging of the feet while walking. As the condition progresses, other symptoms such as muscle atrophy, loss of bowel and bladder control, and paralysis can develop.
It is important to note that DM is not a painful condition for the dog and does not affect their cognitive abilities. However, the increasingly severe physical limitations caused by the disease can affect their quality of life.
Causes and Risk Factors
The exact cause of DM is unknown, but it is believed to be genetic. Research suggests that mutations in the SOD1 gene may increase the risk of developing DM. Additionally, certain breeds seem to be more susceptible than others, indicating a possible hereditary factor.
Other factors that may increase the risk of developing DM include age, weight, and gender. Studies have shown that male dogs may be slightly more likely to develop the condition than females.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
If you suspect your dog may have DM, it is important to take them to a veterinarian for an examination and diagnosis. There is no definitive test for DM, so the diagnosis is made based on clinical signs and a process of elimination of other conditions that may present similar symptoms.
While there is currently no cure for DM, there are treatment options that can help manage the symptoms and improve your dog’s quality of life. Physical therapy, exercise, supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin, and anti-inflammatory medications may all be used to alleviate pain and maintain mobility.
There are also experimental treatments being studied, such as gene therapy and stem cell therapy, which have shown promising results in early studies. However, these treatments are not currently widely available or FDA-approved for use in treating DM.
Coping Strategies for Owners
“Loving a dog with DM involves finding new ways to appreciate them beyond their physical abilities.” -Dr. Rachel Barrack
Watching a beloved pet struggle with DM can be emotionally trying for owners. It is important to remember that while you cannot cure the disease, you can still provide your furry friend with comfort and quality of life.
- Modify your home environment: Place non-slip mats on slippery floors, provide ramps or steps to make it easier for your dog to access high areas, and consider changing their bedding to make it more comfortable for them.
- Provide assistance devices: Slings, harnesses, or wheelchairs can help support your dog when they need assistance walking or standing.
- Maintain good nutrition and exercise: Eating a well-balanced diet and getting regular exercise can help keep your dog healthy and may slow the progression of the disease.
- Consider palliative care: If your dog’s quality of life becomes severely compromised despite medication and other therapies, it is important to discuss end-of-life care options with your veterinarian.
The decision to euthanize a beloved pet with DM can be difficult. It is important to work closely with your veterinarian to assess your dog’s quality of life and discuss all available options. Ultimately, the decision should be made with your dog’s best interests in mind.
While DM is a progressive disease without a cure, there are treatments that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Coping strategies for owners involve providing support devices, modification to home environment, maintaining nutrition and exercise, and considering palliative care when necessary. If you do have to make the difficult decision to euthanize, rest assured that it will always be done with your dog’s best interest at heart.
Quality of Life Assessment: How to Determine If Your Dog Is Suffering
Dogs are a beloved member of the family, and it can be devastating to see them suffer. Degenerative Myelopathy is a progressive disease that affects dogs’ spinal cords, leading to hind leg weakness and eventual paralysis. As the condition advances, euthanasia may become an option to relieve your dog’s pain and suffering. Knowing when to put down a dog with degenerative myelopathy may be challenging for pet owners.
If you’re reading this post, chances are you have concerns about your furry friend’s quality of life. Here are some things to look out for on how to determine if your dog is suffering:
Physical Signs of Discomfort
As a responsible pet owner, it’s essential to monitor your dog’s symptoms daily. Observe their movements in detail and take note of any changes in behavior or physical symptoms of discomfort.
Some signs indicating your dog might be experiencing discomfort include:
- A stiff gait
- Incontinence (loss of bladder and bowel control)
- Struggling to stand up, lie down, or change positions
- Breathing problems
- Refusal to eat or drink
- Panting heavily at rest
- Changes in skin appearance like sores, rashes, or deterioration
“When considering euthanasia, we always want to reflect on the quality of the pet’s life,” said Dr. Shea Cox, DVM, DACVIM(N), Medical Director of Best Friends Animal Hospital in Fayetteville, NC. “Assessing pain, mobility, and daily activities are all critical in this decision.”
Behavioral Changes to Look For
Dogs with degenerative myelopathy typically exhibit changes in their behavior that indicate they may be experiencing suffering or discomfort.
Some behavioral changes you should look out for when determining if your dog is suffering include:
- Increased restlessness or agitation
- Lethargy or loss of interest in normal activities such as playing or socializing
- Frequent panting
- Becoming aggressive or biting more frequently than usual
- Diminished responsiveness towards family members or other pets in the home
- Inability to control urination or defecation
- Hiding away from people or seeking seclusion
- Much more whining than usual, even during sleep
“When a pet’s quality of life ends, their purposeful movement fades, and we often start seeing significant declines in appetite and activity,” said Dr. Cox. “Some animals will show rapid deterioration within days to weeks while others take months.”
Creating a Quality of Life Checklist
To avoid overlooking signs of discomfort or disease progression, experts recommend creating a quality of life checklist for monitoring physical symptoms and behavioral changes. Here are some things you can include on your list:
- Appetite & Thirst – Is there any change in eating habits?
- Pain Management – Are medications working for them? Any side-effects?
- Cognitive Function – Does your dog recognize you, play, react normally etc.?
- Bladder & Bowel Control – Any difficulty in maintaining control?
- Mobility Issues – Are they able to walk, lie down, and stand up correctly?
- Social Interaction – Do they still find comfort being around people or other pets?
A quality of life checklist provides insights on how your dog is coping with degenerative myelopathy, making it easier to determine their current situation.
When to Seek Professional Assistance
If you’re unsure when the right time has arrived, seeking professional guidance can assist you in creating a comprehensive assessment for your pet’s overall health status. Your veterinarian can help make an informed evaluation that evaluates whether your dog continues to have a good or poor living experience.
“Many veterinarians are experienced in discussing end-of-life care options,” said Dr. Cox. “Most of us want what is best for our pets and will work to provide a peaceful passing.”
“Euthanasia is never an easy choice, but if the animal is too ill or too uncomfortable, then we must consider relief from suffering as the most kind and humane option,” stated Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM veterinary consultant for Doglab.com
Weighing the decision of euthanasia can be overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that you are seeking the kindest solution possible for your furry companion. Ultimately, this is one last act of love to free them from any pain or discomfort they may endure.
Evaluating your dog’s condition regularly helps track signs of disease progression, allowing you to offer them a high standard of its remaining days. Every dog owner should know the detailed process involved in deciding when to put down a dog with degenerative myelopathy so their beloved pet can leave this world comfortably and with dignity.
Euthanasia: When Is It the Right Choice?
Understanding the Decision-Making Process
Deciding when to put down a dog with degenerative myelopathy can be one of the toughest decisions a pet owner has to make. It’s never easy, but sometimes euthanasia is the kindest and most humane option for your furry companion.
The decision should always be based on what’s best for your dog, not yourself. There are several factors that you need to consider before making this difficult choice:
- Your dog’s age, as older dogs may have more difficulty recovering from surgery or managing painful symptoms
- The progression of the disease, as some dogs may experience rapid deterioration and others may remain stable for long periods
- Your dog’s overall quality of life and wellbeing
- Your ability to provide the care and support your dog needs at home
Talk openly with your vet about these factors and their implications. You should also consult with family members and trusted friends who understand your situation and will offer unbiased advice. Remember, ultimately it is your decision.
Assessing Your Dog’s Quality of Life
An essential aspect of deciding whether to put down your dog is assessing their quality of life. For instance, keep an eye on the following signs:
- Pain- Are they in pain even under medication?
- Energy level – Has your dog lost interest in activities they once enjoyed?
- Mobility – If your pet’s mobility is significantly restricted due to weakness or failure of bladder/bowel control, your beloved friend won’t enjoy his daily routines.
- Appetite – This might be the most visible of all signs. Have they lost interest in food?
If the list above aligns with what you’ve observed, then your dog may no longer be enjoying a good quality of life and euthanasia may need to be considered.
Considering the Financial and Emotional Costs
The costs of end-of-life care for dogs that are suffering from degenerative myelopathy can be extensive; thus, it’s important to consider Expenses related to hospital stays, medication expenses, follow-up appointments, and so on. Although pet insurance typically covers many medical bills, consultations or diagnostic tests that precede euthanasia may not be covered. Therefore, researching options such as loans, payment plans available to help fund treatment would be helpful.
Euthanasia is incredibly emotional for any pet owner. You will experience worry, fear, anxiety, sadness, guilt, and other feelings involved with this process. While making all those arrangements, make sure you have support, family, friends, or a therapist that can assist with emotional preparation and post-euthanasia grieving as well.
Preparing for the Euthanasia Process
Once you’ve made the decision to euthanize Your dog, It’s essential that you spend time preparing yourself and your furry friend mentally, physically, and emotionally. Below are some basic ideas about how to get ready:
- Contacting your veterinarian in advance to ask questions and discuss concerns prior to an appointment gives each party enough time to work through their thoughts before making decisions.
- Choosing to be present during the procedure – Many veterinarians have allowed owners to remain close-by throughout the whole operation to keep pets relaxed and human touch assured.
- Paying flexible attention to Pet Care – You’ll need to prepare yourself for the aftermath of your dog’s euthanasia, including arrangements on how to handle remains (burials or cremation).
Remember, it is okay to be upset and distraught as you go through the process. Your feelings are natural, given the emotions involved in euthanizing a beloved friend- make sure to show him so much love!
“A pet owner who must part with his or her companion due to terminal illness may face profound grief even before the animal passes away” – ASPCA
Alternative Treatment Options: Can They Help Your Dog?
Exploring Holistic Remedies
If your dog has degenerative myelopathy, you may have heard of holistic remedies as a potential alternative treatment option. These remedies are rooted in the belief that healing should focus on the whole body and not just treating individual symptoms.
One popular holistic remedy is acupuncture, which involves inserting thin needles into specific points on your dog’s body to stimulate nerves and circulation. This can help with pain management, musculoskeletal issues, and even neurological conditions like degenerative myelopathy.
“Acupuncture releases endorphins, which help control pain,” says Dr. Narda Robinson, DVM, director of the Center for Comparative and Integrative Pain Medicine at Colorado State University. “It also increases blood flow, which helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues.”
You might also consider chiropractic care, which focuses on manipulating your dog’s spine and joints to improve their overall mobility and reduce pain. Some practitioners use techniques such as massage, stretching, and range-of-motion exercises alongside spinal adjustments.
It’s important to note that holistic treatments are not regulated by the FDA or other government agencies, so it’s crucial to find a reputable practitioner with established training and experience.
Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Techniques
Another possible alternative treatment option for dogs with degenerative myelopathy is physical therapy and rehabilitation. These techniques aim to improve your dog’s quality of life by alleviating pain, preventing further muscle deterioration, and increasing mobility.
Your veterinarian may recommend water therapy, which uses swimming or underwater treadmill exercise to build strength and cardiovascular health without putting undue stress on your dog’s joints. Other types of physical therapy may include range-of-motion exercises, massage therapy, and stretching.
According to Dr. Monique Feyrecilde, DVM, CCRP, a board-certified specialist in veterinary physical rehabilitation, early intervention can make a big difference when it comes to slowing the progression of degenerative myelopathy.
“Physical therapy for DM includes an individualized exercise program that targets the affected muscles,” she explains. “Early intervention with rehab can help slow down muscle atrophy, decrease compensatory issues in other parts of the body, such as pressure sores or urinary tract infections (UTIs), and most importantly – maintain quality of life.”
Nutritional Supplements and Diet Changes
In addition to holistic remedies and physical therapy techniques, you may want to consider making changes to your dog’s diet or incorporating nutritional supplements into their routine. Studies show that dogs with degenerative myelopathy benefit from diets that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and low-carbohydrate content.
You might try giving your dog supplements like glucosamine, chondroitin, or fish oil, which can help lubricate joints and reduce inflammation. Additionally, adding vitamin E to your dog’s food has been shown to increase their overall mobility and improve nerve function.
“MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is also another substance that I have used successfully,” says Dr. Patrick Mahaney, VMD, CVJ, a holistic veterinarian based in California. “This is a sulfur-containing compound found in some fruits and vegetables, which aids in maintaining healthy joint tissue.”
Remember, every dog’s needs will differ depending on their individual condition, so it’s important to work with your veterinarian to create a treatment plan that is tailored to your furry friend’s unique needs, preferences, and lifestyle.
While there is no known cure for degenerative myelopathy, alternative treatment options can provide relief from pain, improve mobility, and slow down the progression of this debilitating condition. By exploring holistic remedies, physical therapy techniques, and nutritional supplements, you can help your dog maintain a high quality of life for as long as possible.
Dealing with the Emotional Impact of Putting Your Dog to Sleep
If you have a dog that has been diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy, a progressive disease that affects the spinal cord, you may be faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to put down your pet. While it’s never easy to say goodbye to a beloved furry friend, sometimes it is the most compassionate decision for their well-being.
Grieving the Loss of Your Beloved Pet
The loss of a companion animal can be devastating and overwhelming, causing intense feelings of sadness, guilt, anger or even numbness. Grief is a natural process that takes time to work through, but eventually, we learn to cope with our loss and find ways to honor their memory.
One way to cope with grief after putting down your dog with degenerative myelopathy is to create a tribute to them. You could plant a tree in their honor or make a donation to an animal charity or rescue group. You could also gather photos and memories of your time together and create a scrapbook or journal to treasure forever.
Understanding the Stages of Grief
Dealing with the loss of a pet involves processing various emotions and stages of grief. These include:
- Denial: Often one of the initial responses to loss, denial allows us to avoid confronting painful feelings.
- Anger: As reality sets in, anger at ourselves, others, or life itself may arise. It’s important to remember that these emotions are normal and necessary for healing.
- Bargaining: This stage involves trying to negotiate or bargain with a higher power to bring back what was lost.
- Depression: A feeling of deep sadness sets in as we come to terms with our loss.
- Acceptance: Eventually, we reach a state of acceptance where we can begin to move forward and find ways to honor our pet’s memory.
Seeking Support from Friends, Family, or Professionals
Grieving the loss of a pet can be an isolating experience, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Reach out to friends or family members who have experienced similar losses, or consider joining a support group for pet owners mourning their furry friends.
If your grief becomes too overwhelming to manage on your own, you may want to seek professional counseling or therapy. A trained therapist can provide guidance and emotional support to help you work through your emotions and start the healing process.
Honoring Your Dog’s Legacy
“Our beloved dogs are more than just pets; they become members of our family and bring joy and unconditional love into our lives.” -Layne Sheppard
No matter how long we have them in our lives, our dogs leave a lasting impact on us. One way to honor their legacy is by sharing their story with others. You could volunteer at a local animal shelter, participate in walks or other events honoring pets that have passed away, or even create a memorial video or website dedicated to your pet.
Another way to keep your dog’s memory alive is by finding ways to give back to animals in need. Donate to an animal rescue organization or foster a dog in need of a home. By turning your grief into something positive, you can continue the bond you shared with your dog while also helping others.
Losing a precious companion like a dog with degenerative myelopathy is never easy, but the love they brought into our lives is something to be celebrated and cherished. With time and support, you can work through your emotions and honor their memory in a way that’s meaningful to you.
Aftercare: Honoring Your Dog’s Memory and Coping with Grief
One of the toughest decisions pet owners will face is when to put down a dog with degenerative myelopathy. Once you make this heartbreaking choice, saying goodbye to your furry companion can leave an empty space in your heart that never fully goes away. It’s essential to remember what made your pet so special by honoring their memory and giving yourself time to grieve.
Memorializing Your Pet
A great way to keep your dog’s memory alive after they pass is by creating a special memorial dedicated just for them. You may want to create a garden or plaque commemorating your pet’s life, perhaps even at the place where you laid them to rest. A photo album or a favorite toy placed somewhere visible in your home can also help bring comfort and good memories long after they are gone.
If you’re artistic or crafty, there are countless DIY options that let you create something unique in honor of your lost friend. Consider painting a portrait of your pet, knitting a small blanket or collage from their things, or creating customized jewelry featuring your pet’s image. These projects will give you something tangible to hold onto while still cherishing the love you shared.
Caring for Yourself During the Grieving Process
The death of a pet can be just as painful as losing a family member. If you’re struggling to cope with the loss, please know it’s alright to be sad–grief is natural and necessary during tough times like these. However, focusing on self-care is crucial to making sure this stag doesn’t drag on too long.
Take some time off work if you need it, seek out support groups online or locally, reach out to loved ones, and do healthy activities that make you feel better, like exercise or meditation. Remember to eat well and get enough sleep, both of which are crucial in times of stress. While your pet is no longer with you physically, they would want you to take care of yourself.
Exploring Options for Pet Remains
If you decide to keep your pet’s remains after euthanasia, there are several options available. Some families choose cremation so they can have an urn to display, while others opt for environmentally friendly biodegradable burial pods that double as planting containers. Still others scatter their pets’ ashes somewhere special or release them into a body of water at the location where their pet enjoyed swimming.
Many vets offer to help arrange these services, including referrals and information about local options. Whatever option you choose, know that it’s okay not to rush into any decision if you need more time to grieve or chose differently later on – this choice is entirely up to you and your family’s comfort levels and preferences.
“Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love… they depart to teach us about loss. A new dog never replaces an old dog; merely expands the heart. If you have loved many dogs, your heart is very big.” – Erica Jong
Saying goodbye to a beloved pet is never easy, but taking time to honor their memory and prioritize self-care helps ease some of the pain. If you’re ever unsure of what to do when facing degenerative myelopathy in pets, talk to your veterinarian – they will be able to guide you through making difficult choices. And remember, just because your furry friend may no longer be physically with you doesn’t mean they aren’t still in your heart, guiding you every step of the way.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Degenerative Myelopathy in dogs?
Degenerative Myelopathy is a progressive disease that affects the spinal cord of dogs. It is caused by the degeneration of the myelin sheath that surrounds the nerve cells in the spinal cord. This results in a loss of coordination and mobility in the hind limbs and can eventually lead to paralysis.
What are the symptoms of Degenerative Myelopathy in dogs?
The symptoms of Degenerative Myelopathy in dogs include weakness in the hind limbs, difficulty standing and walking, loss of coordination, and dragging of the hind feet. As the disease progresses, the dog may become completely paralyzed in the hindquarters. However, the disease does not affect the dog’s cognitive function or ability to control their bowel or bladder.
How is Degenerative Myelopathy diagnosed in dogs?
Degenerative Myelopathy is typically diagnosed through a combination of physical examination, medical history, and diagnostic tests. These tests may include a neurological exam, X-rays, MRI, and genetic testing. It is important to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms before a diagnosis of Degenerative Myelopathy is made.
What are the treatment options for dogs with Degenerative Myelopathy?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Degenerative Myelopathy in dogs. Treatment options are focused on managing the symptoms and improving the dog’s quality of life. This may include physical therapy, mobility aids such as wheelchairs, and medications to manage pain and inflammation. Some alternative therapies such as acupuncture and massage may also be helpful.
When should a dog with Degenerative Myelopathy be put down?
The decision to euthanize a dog with Degenerative Myelopathy is a personal one that should be made in consultation with a veterinarian. Generally, if the dog is experiencing a poor quality of life, is in significant pain, or is no longer able to move or control their bowel or bladder, euthanasia may be considered.
What are some options for end-of-life care for dogs with Degenerative Myelopathy?
End-of-life care for dogs with Degenerative Myelopathy may include hospice care, pain management, and palliative treatments. This may also include providing a comfortable and safe environment, ensuring the dog is able to eat and drink, and spending quality time with the dog. Some pet owners may also choose to work with a veterinary hospice service to provide extra support and guidance during this difficult time.