RichTAkes! On Mufasa
No, not that Mufasa, although my daughter did name her new German Shepard Dog puppy Mufasa when she brought him to the farm for the first year of so of his life. What the hell kind of name is Mufasa I asked, and was given the short version of the Lion King. I had somehow neglected to have watched it.
She later moved on with her ex, new husband and I didn’t see Mu for a few years. Somehow things didn’t work out after another three or four years, and my daughter and Mufasa came back. My daughter left after a few weeks, but Mu stayed on, since she couldn’t take him with her. In some kharmic way I guess, Mu was our dog now.
Mufasa was a joy to have around, he was very loyal, obeyed commands without complaint, and of course he shedded constantly. He had a half acre of fenced in playground to romp around in with our other dogs, it must have been pretty close to doggie heaven for him. After three years or more of my not having any contact with him, he recognized and remembered me instantly. He would go into extreme attack mode if he ever saw a young white male with either a shaved head or a tight crew-cut. I think he had some bad experiences with someone fitting that description during the time he was away from the farm.
I have edited a few posts I made at FaceBook concerning our experience with Mu’s case of Degenerative Myelopathy, or DM. We did not discover what his condition was until it was too late, had we recognized it earlier we might have been able to take certain steps to make things better, primarily with diet and exercise. I would advise anyone with a German Shepard Dog to at least become familiar with this disease so that you can recognize the symptoms at an earlier stage. There is a very good chance that your dog will be faced with this devastating, incurable disease one day. It is a canine version of Lou Gehreg’s disease, ALS.
From July 19:
Here’s a shot of Jack and Mufasa, taken about a year and a half ago. Out of the blue, he decided to jump up on the chair with grandson Jack. Mu is ten this year and is showing every sign of having Degenerative Myelopathy, an incurable genetic spinal neural disease. When he first started showing signs of having trouble with his rear legs, we thought he had hip dysplasia, which is also an issue with German Shepard Dogs (GSDs) but not nearly to the extent that I thought. DM, on the other hand is highly likely for GSDs, I’m guessing due to the massive amount of in-breeding just before the breed was recognized in the late 1890s. All GSDs are related to a single male, there is only one line. The gene has been identified in around 40 other breeds, but Shepards, Welsh Corgies and boxers seem to be most afflicted.
DM causes the dog to lose all feeling starting in the rear legs and hind-quarters, eventually moving forward to the front legs as the disease progresses, leading to total paralysis. At least there is little if any pain. Incontinence is also typical, due to loss of feeling back there.
Exercise and love seems to help, and we’re starting him on glucosimine and condrotin, and whatever else we can think of. He is very alert, and I’m sure he doesn’t understand what is happening to him. We didn’t either until last week.
From July 30th:
My eldest daughter’s GSD, Mufasa, started life out at the farm, and four years or so ago, he came back to us. He never forgot me, even after years without contact, and has loved it here. We love him too. Shepards really are in the top three breeds for intelligence, and it shows.
Sadly, Mu has a genetic disease which attacks the spinal cord called DM for short. He has no feeling or control over his rear legs now, and it has started to move to his front legs. Any pure-bred German Shepard Dog has an 80% chance of carrying this gene. Mu is quite alert, he just can’t feel or control his hind-quarters, so he is basically paralyzed. I brought him a fresh bowl of water, and another bowl of food which he enjoyed. It was his last meal, Mu will be going to sleep and to a better place tomorrow. I cried for a half hour tonight, and I’m still crying now.
From August 1st:
Sunday morning came, it was time to take Mufasa for his last car ride to the emergency animal clinic about two miles away. I tried to sling a towel around him near his hindquarters to help him up, but it wasn’t happening. The disease was beginning to affect his front legs now, and his belly and ribs were becoming tender. It is shocking to see how fast his condition has deteriorated, just last week I used a towel to help him walk about 500 feet down the drive, and he wanted to keep going!
We retrieved his leash and he attempted to get up, he knows that was a cue for a car ride, and he has always loved car rides. No dice, so we tried to get him on a comforter to lift him. That didn’t work either, it just wasn’t happening.
We called a farm Vet who came from about 20 miles away to help Mu. Here we are enjoying our last few minutes together while we waited an hour or so for the Vet’s arrival.
If you have, or are thinking of acquiring a German Shepard Dog, please become informed of the risks of Degenerative Myelopathy and some potential steps that you can take to help stave off the disease. It was first identified in 1973, here is a piece from 1998 with loads of good info. Since it seems to be an auto-immune disease, exercise, diet, vitamins, and even herbal therapy may all be employed to stave off the advance of the disease.
Wiki reports that there is now a saliva test for Normal/Abnormal DNA markers, which should be helpful in breeding the gene out someday in the future.
Had I known at least some of this six months ago, even three months ago, Mufasa might have lived a longer and certainly happier life during his later days. He was still quite alert, and otherwise normal, except that his muscles forgot their function, due to losing the neural link with the spinal cord.
Even the Heartworm med you give your GSD can play a factor.
These two articles were last updated in 2002, so be sure to consult your Vet, but at least you will have a good starting point.
R.M. Clemmons, DVM, PhD. Associate Professor of Neurology & Neurosurgery
Canine degenerative myelopathy, also known as chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy, is an incurable, progressive disease of the canine spinal cord that is similar in many ways to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Onset is typically after the age of 7 years and it is seen most frequently in the German shepherd dog, Pembroke Welsh corgi, and boxer dog, though the disorder is strongly associated with a gene mutation in SOD1 that has been found in 43 breeds as of 2008, including the wire fox terrier, Chesapeake Bay retriever, Rhodesian ridgeback, and Cardigan Welsh corgi. Progressive weakness and incoordination of the rear limbs are often the first signs seen in affected dogs, with progression over time to complete paralysis.