Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published July 02, 2010, 12:00 AM

Harness, massage may help

Dear Dr. Fox: A neurologist has diagnosed my 10-year-old shepherd mix with degenerative myelopathy, a spinal disease that results in progressive paralysis of the rear legs, eventually moving to the forelegs.

By: Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: A neurologist has diagnosed my 10-year-old shepherd mix with degenerative myelopathy, a spinal disease that results in progressive paralysis of the rear legs, eventually moving to the forelegs. My dog is in the early to middle stages of the disease with rear-end weakness and stumbling. Apparently, the cause of this disease remains unknown, although certain breeds have a genetic predisposition. My dog also received the new melanoma vaccine after cancer surgery last year, and I can’t help but wonder about a causal link.

To retain muscle tone as long as possible, the neurologist recommended walking exercises and swimming therapy. I have also purchased a special harness to help him up and down stairs. On the Internet, I have seen suggestions for dietary changes and nutritional supplements, but the neurologist says these are scientifically unproven.

Do you have any suggestions (nutritional, alternative medicine, sound-wave therapy, etc.) to slow the progression of this devastating disease that has been likened to “canine ALS.” – C.D., Ellicott City, Md.

Dear C.D.: This condition is regrettably all too common in dogs with an Alsatian/German-shepherd genetic background. As the disease progresses, many otherwise healthy dogs adapt well to a K9 Cart – a strap-on harness fitted to a pair of wheels, coming in various designs.

I doubt that sound/shock-wave therapy would help and could cause further damage to the spinal cord. Anti-inflammatory herbal extracts (without the harmful side effects of corticosteroids) such as New Chapter’s Zyflamend may work wonders, along with super-antioxidants like n-acetyl-cysteine, alpha lipoic acid, B-complex (or brewer’s yeast) and lecithin.

Acupuncture treatments may bring some relief, along with the hydrotherapy your vet recommends. Daily massage therapy – as per my book “The Healing Touch for Dogs” – would also be beneficial.


Dear Dr. Fox: I have read several letters in your columns concerning bad breath in dogs. Our experience differed from those you described and might interest your readers.

We had complained for several months that our 11-year-old Scottie’s breath was quite bad. “She needs to have her teeth cleaned” was always the answer. At the same time, we had noticed a lump just behind her jaw. Aspiration of fluid was inconclusive. When she went for a teeth cleaning four months later and the lump had grown, our vet was able to get a piece of tissue to diagnose: salivary gland cancer.

Although I understand this particular cancer to be rare, it was indeed the cause of our dog’s bad breath. Since post-surgery, the problem has gone away. It would have been helpful if we had considered this four months earlier. – A.G., McLean, Va.

Dear A.G.: The lump behind the jaw that you describe is more often a blocked salivary gland. Cancer in this area is not so common. I trust there is no post-surgery spread of the cancer to other parts of your dog’s body.

Your letter is a reminder for all readers to take a good sniff of their dogs’ mouths. If there is halitosis, go in for a veterinary checkup. Many animals suffer from untreated periodontal disease, halitosis being a telltale sign.

Also, if your animal develops a foul body odor, a veterinary exam is called for because the odor could mean kidney disease, liver disease or cancer.


Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.

Tags: