Spinal Cord Degeneration in Rottweilers

PetMD Editorial
April 28, 2010
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Leukoencephalomyelopathy in Rottweilers

Leukoencephalomyelopathy is a progressive, degenerative, and demyelinating disease which primarily affects the cervical spinal cord of Rottweilers. A type of material that form a layer (mylein sheath) around the spinal cord and brain nerve cells, myelin is vital for electrical impulses and resistances in the region.

This disease affects Rottweilers of either sex; typical onset in adults begin between the ages of 1 ½ and 3 years.

Symptoms and Types

The following symptoms are subtle and are generally seen without any history of injury or illness:

  • Unsteady walk
  • Weakness involving all four limbs
  • Exaggerated spinal reflexes
  • Unable to stand or walk (in advance cases)

Causes

The exact cause of leukoencephalomyelopathy is currently unknown.

Diagnosis

You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health to your veterinarian, including the onset and nature of the symptoms. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination as well as a detailed examination of the dog's nervous system. X-rays of the cervical spine are usually non-descriptive, and therefore MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans are best used to rule out other causes of symptoms. 

Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no treatment available for this disease.

Living and Management

Leukoencephalomyelopathy is a slow but progressive disease that may eventually lead to your dog's inability to walk or even stand up. Therefore, much of what a veterinarian may recommend is making the animal comfortable and ensuring it is properly nourished. To prevent your dog from developing bed sores, keep its area dry, clean, and routinely turn the dog over. Often, the disease and associated symptoms become severe within 6 to 12 months after initial onset; euthanasia may be recommended in these cases.