Kim Vigsö Nielsen ( WCC breeder & FCI judge)
- I’ve been accused of being unfeeling or some such great evil because I pointed out that degenerative myelopathy is an old-age disease that is painless. And I agree, I AM unfeeling, when it comes to this kind of thing. Not because I don’t adore dogs, but because I don’t think you can answer scientific questions by making yourself cry. So even though I am so incapacitated when one of my dogs dies that I die myself inside, when it comes to asking whether we should stop breeding dogs I try to not change anything until I am not just emotionally but rationally convinced. The argument is that it’s painful to the owner, and all involved, and we’ve GOT to get rid of it. Here’s the thing. Every dog is going to die. And every time a dog dies, it is intensely emotionally painful. Whether the dog is young, old, or in between, it rips your heart out. And yet, every dog dies. If any form of death is a failure on our part as owners or breeders, then we are ALL failures and we are ALL failing EVERY time. So the question is not whether we can keep dogs from dying. The question is whether we can give dogs as long and happy and functional and pain-free a life as they can possibly have. There are a few ground rules we have to follow, HAVE TO, when we talk about degenerative myelopathy. 1) There is no such thing as a DM diagnosis without an autopsy. DM is a disease that looks like other diseases and many other diseases can look like DM. DM is a VERY SPECIFIC disorder that is the result of an autoimmune response. It is NOT “back problems” or “going down in the back” or limping or progressive paralysis. It is not the only nerve disorder and it is not the only thing that makes dogs lose rear function. Dogs can “go down” because of disc disease, a whole bunch of muscle diseases, other nervous disorders, vestibular issues, a huge range of injuries, and even the simple muscle atrophy of old age. Any one of these can mimic DM. So no matter how much it “looks like” or “acts like” DM, until the nerves are examined under a microscope there’s no true diagnosis. Dogs with DM can have normal myelograms, normal bloodwork, and very subtle symptoms. And, conversely, dogs WITHOUT DM can have abnormal myelograms, abnormal movement, very dramatic symptoms. And (KEY): All these other things can happen to a dog with a positive DM gene result. Even if a dog has a gene-positive result, it cannot be diagnosed without an autopsy. 2) THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A DM DIAGNOSIS WITHOUT AN AUTOPSY. So you can’t say “We now know that dogs we thought died of injuries had DM” or “We believe there’s a much higher incidence than we had thought” or anything of the kind. If the dog did not have an autopsy, it cannot go in the disease statistics. Oh, and did I mention that 3) THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A DM DIAGNOSIS WITHOUT AN AUTOPSY. Let’s look at numbers. Most of our good numbers for degenerative myelopathy in corgis are in Pems, because they are much more numerous as a breed and are more frequently affected by the disease. In other words, they have a much bigger problem with DM than Cardis do. Chessies are also very helpful. * Pembrokes have a 60% gene-positive rate for DM. * Pembrokes, when euthanized for DM, die at an average of 13 years. * PWCCA reports an average estimated Pem lifespan of 13 years. This would seem to correspond well with what we see in Cardigans, where 13-14 is our normal end of life for a healthy dog. * Pembrokes do not get clinical DM at a rate that even approaches their gene-positive rate. There are very few good incidence studies out there (one of the big problems in analyzing this disease) but the highest rate of DM Berghaus found was 2%, in GSDs. * Like it or not, the statement “The disease is painless” really is true. If a dog has to die of something at age 13, this is not the worst one. We honestly know ALMOST NOTHING about the connection between this gene and this disease. But we are immediately ready, because we hate the idea of dogs dying, to RADICALLY change the entire genetic makeup of multiple breeds in order to eliminate the gene. When we know JACK ALL about the gene. So yes, I strongly object to the idea of making breeding decisions yet. Because I am pretty dang sure that if we screw around with our existing gene pool this much, cut out this many dogs, we’ll discover that dying at 13 was not so bad after all. We’ll uncover something, or many somethings, that kill them far earlier and far more painfully. These are several posts I put on ShowCardi-L last year. I’ll come back and editorialize later tonight. We ALL KNOW how this works. Everybody promises that we’ll still use carriers, but it becomes “Oh, he’s a great dog, fabulous temperament…but you know he’s a DM carrier, right?” Or “I’d love to use XX dog, but… he’s a DM carrier.” Or, even more deadly to the breed, “I know he’s not perfect, but he doesn’t carry DM.”
I just attended an absolutely wonderful lecture by Francis Collins about DM printed in EUWC.
Read also the summary of all facts around “The terrifying ghost DM” by Doris Duewel
As a conclusion one could say:” 1. do not test in a lab, if my dog is a carrier of DM or not, because DM can only be diagnosed in an autopsy.
2. If your dog will get DM, he is most probably about 13 years old, which is about his lifespan anyhow. If he does not die on MS, he will die on any other reason. The death cannot be avoided…
3. DM is painless for the dog.” The only damage for the breed I am afraid of, is that we cut out many genes, only because we think a dog is as DM Carrier unsuitable for breeding to another carrier. Instead we use a dog, who definitely does not match and whose only advantage is, that he is DM free. This attitude changes the gene pool dramatically.
I am convinced we are in the hands of profit making vets and laboratories, who know pretty well how much we love our dogs and that we are ready to pay nearly every amount to avoid, that our pet is getting ill.
Some said this again is due to some vets who have promoted it, but forgot to tell that in more breeds nore than 90% is homozygot for DM and less than 0,01 % shows signs on DM
Not easy to get rid of as allmost all animals should show illness, but only 0,01 show any signs.
Doris: I f.ex, have never seen a DM ill Cardigan or Pem though I have seen endless many in at least a dozen countries.
Noone gets ill, people are obsessed by DNA and believe blind in a handful vets, who has found the “golden egg”.
As you say, when dead they are diagnosed DM, but actually it can even be Naive owners and breeders are believing in the result of this test. For me it is a crime to make money.
Doris:I am convinced we are in the hands of profit makers vets and labs, because they are sure we love our dogs and pay every amount to avoid them getting ill.