Canine degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a progressive disease that happens in German Shepherds and many other breeds. It is a late onset disease (onset is usually 5-7 years of age) that affects the spinal cord. It usually begins with muscle weakness and incoordination of the hind legs and progresses eventually to paralysis. Unfortunately, degenerative myelopathy is irreversible. There is currently no treatment to cure it or slow it down.
As a breeder, we are working to eliminate DM from the breed. There is a genetic test available for German Shepherds and each of our adult breeding dogs have been tested. Genetically speaking, a dogs DM test will result in one of three ways. A dog can test C/C (clear for DM), C/A (carrier for DM which carry the gene but will not have the disease) or A/A (affected). If a dog tests affected (A/A), that does not mean that they will have DM for sure, but they are the ones who are at risk for developing it later in life. If we have at least one clear parent in each of our breeding pairs, our puppies will not be at risk for this disease. With that said, we can breed a clear parent to a clear parent and get clear (C/C) puppies. We can also breed a clear parent to a carrier and get clear (C/C) puppies and carrier (C/A) puppies, neither of which are at risk. A clear parent can also be bred to an affected dog and that breeding will produce all carriers (C/A) which, again, are not at risk for degenerative myelopathy. If you breed a carrier to a carrier, a carrier to an affected or an affected to an affected, the puppies that inherit an affected gene from both parents (A/A) are at risk for developing degenerative myelopathy.
As a breeder striving to improve the German Shepherd dog, we feel it is very important to eliminate DM from these dogs and we are working at accomplishing that.