Land treadmill for degenerative myelopathy? - Page 1

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by Juno11 on 08 May 2021 - 15:05

My 9 year old gsd is highly suspected of having dm. :( He had an MRI and he has spondylosis and a pinched nerve. The neurologist thinks there is another issue with his gait, that being dm. We tested him for DM and the test result came back as at risk.
He is intact, and on a raw and homemade diet I'm loosely using Dr. Clemmon's diet and vitamin program.
He is going to physio and using an underwater treadmill. He gets daily walks and we have exercises for him to do. We're also thinking of getting a land treadmill to use on an incline. Has anyone used the land treadmill for a dog with dm? Any thoughts would be appreciated.


by Bevsb on 08 May 2021 - 16:05

"Degenerative myelopathy: does laser therapy offer new hope?"

I can't answer your question about the land treadmill but you may find the article above of interest.
I was unable to add a link, but a search should bring it up.

My 9 year old GSD has DM (DNA test at risk and MRI showed some degeneration of her disks but not abnormalities that would account for her abnormal gait). She was referred to Physical Therapy and didn't tolerate the underwater treadmill, but has started laser therapy for 25 minutes twice a week. From what I understand the study showed that the dogs treated with this protocol had slower progression of symptoms (not improvement) but I'll take what I can get. She is also on Rimadyl and Amantadine. She was on Gabapentin but switched to Amantadine when Gabapentin seemed to make her gait worse. Not recommended by the Neurology Vet that saw her, but I give her Vit B complex, fish oil and a supplement called Connectin.

I wish you the best of luck with your dog.

by astrovan2487 on 08 May 2021 - 19:05

I would assume with DM and spondylosis that the dog has at least some loss of coordination or weakness in the hind end. It can take some training for the dog to get used to the treadmill and may result in an injury. There are better options for building muscle and coordination in the hind end with less impact to the joints.
Swimming is good for this as well as core strengthening exercises. Maybe add some swimming in addition to the water treadmill. When I was researching treatments for my dog there seemed to be some success with stretching and massaging the effected areas of dogs who had nerve damage and were paralyzed. I really liked the results of the core strength exercises as well as training rear end awareness. The dog had a lack of body awareness before and after was much more coordinated and agile.


by Hundmutter on 09 May 2021 - 03:05

JMO but I'm not at all sure its about more exercise, whether on treadmills or anything else. Dogs that do not show DM-like ataxias until entering their latter years (and I have had several) are suffering what I refer to as "DM of old age" - that's not a scientific label, its just a term I have coined for the many cases of degrees of this problem which I have seen over a long time in GSDs. If it is indeed caused by degeneration of the myelin sheaths on the dog's nervous system (as in more normally, earlier, appearing DM) then it is more likely to originate in a process of aging. To add more stress at this stage of a dogs life (seeking to build more muscle, rather than simply preserve what is still there) might be a pressure the dog should not be asked to cope with. Particularly if large amounts of pain killer meds are being used. The essence of 'real' DM is that it by its nature is pain-free; if he can't feel where to put his feet, he can't feel them.

Until & unless we achieve a demonstrably accurate test for DM as a disease of the LIVING dog and can move treatment on in a definite fashion, I believe the best solution for the last years of such a dog is a pair of wheels. If your granny needs a wheelchair to get about, you don't say: "No dear you can't have one, take these pills and walk on a treadmill instead". Do you ?

by astrovan2487 on 09 May 2021 - 09:05

To add something, as far as I know there is really no known effective treatment for DM. And at this point its speculation if your dog even has DM. There are known treatments to help a dog with spondylosis and a pinched nerve, which we know for sure your dog has and can cause all of the symptoms you are describing.

With these issues alot of times the dog will compensate favoring one side resulting in atrophy of some muscles which can further strain the pinched nerve and lead to faster deterioration of the joints.
The idea of the exercises is to isolate those problem areas and safely build back the muscles that are atrophied. By building back the muscles safely it takes alot of the strain off the failed joints and discs. If the dog truly has DM, this won't help. If the dog is reluctant to do the exercises or swim then of course you dont want to force him, but if your GSD is like any Ive met, they crave doing something with you and its a great way to spend quality time in his later years and possibly help his quality of life physically.

What does the neurologist say about the land or water treadmill? I wouldn't do anything without running it by the vet first.

by ZweiGSD on 09 May 2021 - 10:05

Had a GSD with presumptive DM. She did underwater treadmill weekly for almost three years before I had to put her down. She was totally down in back for around a year but because of the buoyancy of the water was able to walk on the treadmill.

As Hundmutter said it is a pain free disease and she was never on/needed any painkillers. She did use a cart after she went totally down in back. She refused to walk around in the cart while she could still move herself around (albeit not too well). Once she decided to use the cart it was get out of her way or she would run you over.

In my opinion the underwater treadmill helped keep her going longer. I also tried laser, acupuncture and Hakomed but they did not seem to help. I had access to a land treadmill but never used it as the angle would put too much stress/weight on the hind end. I don't think I ever asked the rehab vets about using a land treadmill but they never suggested it.

If you need a harness in the future I highly recommend a Help Em Up.

by Nans gsd on 09 May 2021 - 16:05

Sent you a PM.

by Juno11 on 10 May 2021 - 10:05

Thanks for everyones input.

The neurology resident, you don't ever talk to the actual specialist, said that since the DM test came back at risk then he has DM. They can't be 100% certain but said the area of the spine that causes the change in gait doesn't have any other issues. He crosses his hind legs at times when walking. He doesn't do this when trotting. He doesn't cross over when walking up hill either.

The physio vet who went over his report had figure 8 exercises for him to do that caused him to on occasion knuckle over consistently but then it went away after 15 min. They said it was due to him being tired but he is in great shape. He's doing the underwater treadmill at max speed and time after 4 sessions with not problem.
The metacam is for the spondylosis I guess.

by Klossbruhe on 10 May 2021 - 13:05

There are two goals for treating DM--stopping muscles from degenerating and managing pain if any. Many treatments have been proposed for treating DM, including underwater treadmilling, acupuncture, diet, supplements, special exercises. There are many anecdotal reports that this one or that one may help, but there is no scientific study showing that any of these do.

Having seen many dogs with late onset DM, all who have in earlier life competed in Schutzhund/IGP, Agility, AKC Obedience and Flyball, it is my considered opinion that older dogs who are diagnosed with DM or pinched nerves etc. are the victims of the strenuous exercise, especially jumping, those sports require and the stress they exert on the skeletal structure of the dog.

There is scientific evidence, however, that failure to regularly exercise muscles leads to their degeneration. So the question becomes what kind of exercise will prevent this. Strenuous exercise such as underwater treadmilling or special exercises on a hill might well have the opposite effect and may damage weakened muscles. Normal walking, i.e. taking the dog for walks, perhaps for half a mile or so, regularly on flat land is the best way to help muscles without putting too much stress on them or the dog's anatomy. There is no reason to use a land treadmill unless either you or the dog are unable to walk outside, for example it is raining, or snowing or there is ice on the ground. A land treadmill without an incline (and many come with a built in incline which cannot be removed) or with only a very modest incline, operated at a speed which replicates normal walking speed of the dog will serve to preserve what muscle strength the dog has. The problem is that most dogs do not walk normally, that is to say, use their muscles in exactly the same way they do when walking on the ground.

As for pain management, should their be any, there are many and you can get dozens of suggestions. From my own personal experience of dogs who have developed DM at an old age, a supplement of Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM (which can be had in one capsule) and also Wobenzyme tablets works the best along with a very small dosage of tramadol.


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