What is Degenerative Myelopathy?
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is a neurological disease that affects the spinal cord in older corgis around 8-11 years old. DM begins with the loss of coordination in their hind legs and later paralysis.
When the symptoms become too much to handle owners will get a special wheelchair for their corgi to help with quality of life.
Since this is a progressive disease it will worsen as the corgi ages. They may lose the ability to control when they go to the potty. Paralysis can spread to the front legs if the disease progresses further. Luckily DM is not painful, but it is painful to watch.
What Causes Degenerative Myelopathy?
It is unknown as to what causes DM, but what multiple research studies have found is it's partly a genetic issue. If a corgi is genetically tested and found to have the SOD1 gene passed on by both parents then the corgi will be considered "At Risk".
While being at risk for DM it does not mean the corgi will show signs of the disease. There may be other genetic or environmental factors that come into play to have DM expressed in the corgi.
Research is still ongoing to discover more about what is the root cause of this disease.
How is Degenerative Myelopathy Diagnosed?
There are multiple diseases that show similar symptoms to DM. Only a veterinarian can make a diagnosis. Typically DM will be diagnosed by eliminating other similar diseases due to the fact that diagnostic testing is lacking for living corgis.
There are 3 test results for DM:
Clear - A (Normal)
Carrier - B (Carrier)
At Risk - C (At Risk)
If a puppy is clear then it shouldn't get DM. If it's test result is carrier then there is a very small chance they could develop DM later in life. If they are at risk for DM then the chances are higher, but that does not mean they will develop DM.
Breeding out Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)
As breeders and corgi owners it's our responsibility to genetically test for diseases that affect Pembroke Welsh Corgis. Not only to loosen the grip that DM has on the breed, but to improve genetic diversity.
There are multiple genetic factors to consider when breeding. We cannot simply test and breed solely on DM status. We must not pigeon-hole the genetic makeup of the breed. In doing so we will do more harm than good.
More research is needed for DM to help prevent the pain that comes along with watching a corgi go through it. Getting a corgi from a responsible breeder will improve you and your corgi's chances of never experiencing a preventable disease.
What Can You Do?
Find a breeder who tests their corgis for diseases like Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), ask what other testing is being done, ask them to see the test results. You must assess the risk and advocate for you and your puppy.