December 11, 2017

Degenerative Myelopathy in a Family of Siberian Husky Dogs

This article is about three Siberian Huskies within a colony that was meant for sled racing that were eventually diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy. Originally, twenty Siberian Huskies were obtained from non-related sources. From this colony, two littermates and their dam suffered from degenerative myelopathy, which resulted in euthanization. After death, examination of cerebrospinal fluid, plain radiography of the spine, and contrast myelographies was conducted.Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive condition of the spinal cord. Ones who are affected by this condition lose coordination of their motor functions and leads to paralysis of limbs and bladder control between the years. The average onset of this condition is in between the ages of eight and fourteen years old.

All of the specimens had previously experienced some type of loss of motor function before being diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy.  The 12-year-old, male littermate had been previously treated for epilepsy, since the age of three; this treatment was seen as a success. Yet, he began to show symptoms of the condition around age eleven, when he began to lose coordination of his hind limbs. This condition further progressed as he began to lose control of bladder function. The attending veterinarian tried to treat with anti-inflammatories, which had no effect on the condition; resulting in euthanization a year after symptoms began to show. The 12-year-old, female littermate had been previously treated for stiff hind limbs as well as pain in the spinal cord area at the age of five that was correlated to an injury sustained during a race. However, around the age of eleven, the owner noticed the female beginning to drag her hind limbs, which progressed into difficulty with urinary capabilities. Her vet was unable to check reflexes due to aggressiveness caused by the pain she experienced. A myelography and a spinal tap came back as normal, but ultimately due to the severity of the pain, the vet had to euthanize the female. The fourteen-year-old female had a history of progressive weakness of the hind limbs. The vet performed a radiography, myelography, and a spinal tap, which all came back normal. However, a few weeks after this examination, the fourteen-year-old ultimately had to be euthanized for humane purposes.

 In these autopsies, examiners found that the three sustained similar lesions on their spinal cords. They were all widely spread, mostly on the ventral and lateral columns that mainly consisted of vacuoles of white matter.In addition, the thoracic channel was much more involved than other segments.  This condition was very interesting to find in three Siberian Huskies because of the time it was found.Degenerative myelopathy in dog breeds in the United States was not diagnosed until 1973. Therefore, since these cases were diagnosed around 1983, it made these cases rare, especially since German Shepherds were the only known dog breed known to be typically at risk for this degenerative condition.


Reviewed by: Danielle Folkerts

Bichsel, Pierre, et al. “Degenerative Myelopathy in a Family of Siberian Husky Dogs.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, vol. 183, no. 9, 1 Nov. 1983, pp. 998–1000.

link: /files/pages/imce/dogbreeds/download_file.pdf