What Is a DM Health Certification for Boston Terrier

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Boston Terriers, just like other breeds are susceptible to different kinds of disorders. Some of those diseases are hereditary and some may just develop due to poor lifestyle. One of those diseases that can be inherited is Degenerative Myelopathy. It can be detected through tests and get a health certification. So, what is the DM health certification for a Boston Terrier?

What Is a DM Health Certification for a Boston Terrier?

The DM Health Certification for a Boston Terrier is a result given after the genetic and laboratory tests. These tests are done to identify whether your Boston Terrier is clear or unlikely to develop Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), a carrier, who has a little chance of getting the disease or is at risk or more likely to have DM.

Graphic image of a Boston Terrier and checklist with a text that explains what is a DM health certification for Boston Terriers

However, genetic testings may not at all identify and confirm the development of degenerative myelopathy since it can develop later in your Boston Terrier’s life or even after they die. But, what is degenerative myelopathy? Is it painful for my Boston Terriers? Let’s talk about the causes and symptoms of DM.

What is Degenerative Myelopathy?

Degenerative Myelopathy or DM is a disorder that affects the spinal cord of Boston Terriers and other dog breeds that may lead to paralysis. DM is a progressive degeneration of the dog’s hind legs due to a portion in the spinal cord that is not functioning properly.  After progressive degeneration comes total paralysis.

I have mentioned above that genetic testing cannot confirm DM development. To confirm the disease, you can go to a veterinary neurologist to look at the portion of the spine under the microscope. DM typically starts at the age of 8 and older. Though this disorder is not commonly found in younger Boston Terriers, in rare cases, DM can be detected and start at the age of 5.

Causes of Degenerative Myelopathy in Boston Terriers

The definite cause of degenerative myelopathy is unknown, yet it is highly associated with a genetic mutation and abnormality found in the spinal cord. The genetic mutation usually happens in the protein that is responsible for destructing and removing free radicals in the dog’s body. 

In a study published in the Veterinary World, that gene code is called superoxide dismutase or SOD1 gene. Only Boston Terriers with two copies of this mutated gene will likely develop DM. In rare cases, some dogs who have SOD1 mutated genes have not developed DM. 

Boston terrier lying on a rug

Genetic testing can be done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) to identify whether your Boston Terrier is clear, which means there are no SOD1 mutated genes found; a carrier, one of the pair of genes are mutated or affected; and, at risk, their SOD1 protein gene is mutated and will cause degenerative myelopathy early or later in their life.

Identifying which one of those results is your Boston Terrier can help you give it a life safe from the complications and early onset of the disorder. It is important to know if your Boston Terrier is either a carrier or at risk before breeding to prevent passing the gene to their offspring. 

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Signs of Degenerative Myelopathy in Boston Terrier

The cause of degenerative myelopathy might be blurry as of now, yet the signs of it are very visible. In the beginning, DM seems to show symptoms similar to arthritis or hip dysplasia, which makes identifying the real problem challenging.

Here are some other signs of degenerative myelopathy in Boston Terriers. 

  • Your Boston Terrier may seem to stumble more
  • Moving the hind legs might be difficult
  • Standing in four legs can sometimes be impossible
  • Your Boston tries to walk on its knuckles
  • Hind legs may sometimes shake
  • The surface of the feet may become irritated and hairless due to repeated falling or bruising
  • Trouble standing up from a lying position
  • After six months to a year, paralysis may be noticeable in the hind legs
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Inability to control defecation 
  • Weakness of front limbs due to continuous use
Boston terrier walking with a leash

Prevention and Treatment for Degenerative Myelopathy in Boston Terrier

In the present, there is no discovered treatment for degenerative myelopathy yet. No treatments have shown any evidence to slow or stop the degeneration once it kicked off. Through the discovery of the gene causing DM, there are lots of studies being conducted to help dogs prevent having this kind of disorder.

Nowadays, to provide ease from pain and discomfort brought about by DM, the treatment for arthritis and hip dysplasia are sometimes used for the affected dogs. Physical therapy and activities are also encouraged to prevent wasting away of muscles easily.

Boston Terriers affected by DM should be kept healthy and physically active. Avoid overfeeding your Boston, and prepare some mild and short activities like walking or swimming to exercise his legs. Good nursing and monitoring can improve the quality of life of your Boston Terrier with DM. The use of a harness or cart can also help him walk and move normally.

Related Questions

Is Degenerative Myelopathy Painful For Boston Terriers?

Degenerative myelopathy is not considered painful. Boston Terriers may seem to be in pain because of the way they move and carry their body. However, the slow degeneration process is not as excruciating in the beginning. It may be painful once other complications arise or the pain is caused by other illnesses, such as arthritis.

Do You Need to Euthanize Your Boston Terrier With Degenerative Myelopathy?

Generally, Boston Terriers with degenerative myelopathy are suggested to be euthanized 6 months up to 3 years after the diagnosis. Depending on the signs, symptoms, and complications of the degenerative myelopathy, your vet may suggest putting down your dog to save him from other illnesses and pain, and you from expensive bills. However, the owner has a choice and will be the one to decide.

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Degenerative Myelopathy can come like a thief if not detected early in your Boston Terrier’s life. A health certification that you get from testings can be a great start to know the possibility of DM happening to your Boston Terrier. Since there are no known treatments yet, it is best to prevent it by practicing a healthy lifestyle through a good diet and exercise.