Dogs With DM May Help People With ALS

Lately, we’ve all been seeing the ice bucket challenge on social media to raise awareness about ALS in people.  I thought I would use this blog post as a way to raise awareness about a similar condition in dogs: Degenerative Myelopathy (DM).  And no, I’m not going to dump a bucket of ice water on my head or nominate my dog to dump ice water on her head, either!


How are DM in dogs and ALS in people similar?

Hydrotherapy helps dogs with DM by providing low impact exercise.

Hydrotherapy helps dogs with DM by providing low impact exercise.

To learn more about the signs and diagnosis of DM in dogs, click here.

DM in dogs and ALS in people are both degenerative diseases of the central and peripheral nervous systems.

Both diseases cause adult onset weakness and muscle atrophy.

Both diseases are progressive and result in paralysis and death.

Both diseases are associated with a mutation of the SOD1 gene.


What are the differences between ALS and DM?

DM tends to occur in certain breeds; it is most commonly seen in German shepherds, Welsh corgis, and boxers.  This implies a genetic cause.  In 2009, researchers identified a mutation of the SOD1 gene that causes DM in dogs.

ALS can either be inherited (familial) or sporadic.   There is concern that there may be an environmental cause of the sporadic form of the disease.  Mutations of the SOD1 gene are important in the familial form of ALS.


How can dogs help?

Currently, the treatment for DM in dogs is to try to slow progression by maintaining strength.  That means small bouts of low impact exercise several times a day.

Testing for a medication that could be beneficial to both dogs with DM and people with ALS is in the early phase at University of Missouri.  Veterinarians are collaborating with physicians, neurologists, and geneticists to find treatments that will benefit both species, and hopefully lead to a cure for both diseases.



  1. Great info, thanks for sharing!!

  2. It is pretty amazing that not that long ago there was no actual understanding of DM in dogs, let alone a test to identify the mutation. I mentioned to my hubby the other day that the money raised by the ice bucket challenge may someday help DM dogs. We have Chessies so it is something we are familiar with. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing on the hop.

  3. Very informative article! Thanks for posting!

  4. Thank you for adding this to the blog hop. I recently did the ALS ice bucket challenge myself. Both ALS and DM are horrible diseases. In the beginning of this year a vet in our office mistakenly thought Sampson had DM. As you can imagine I was devastated. Thankfully it was incorrect and he was treated for an ACL tear.

    I’m so glad that progress is being made in treating and diagnosing these diseases. I pray someday there will be a cure.

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