Boris' Story: Fighting Back Against Degenerative Myelopathy

The following story was written in the Summer of 2007 by Boris' owner who is not a veterinarian. The following story should not be taken as medical advice. The Central IL German Shepherd Dog Rescue does not endorse any product or treatment. Please consult your veterinarian about any treatment for your dog.

BorisBoris was 12 years and 3 months when he died.

In March of 2005, he was diagnosed with Degenerative Myelopathy. He was given a prognosis of 6-9 months. Beginning in April of that year, I started Boris on regimens of treadmill therapy, acupuncture, and heavy doses of antioxidants. I discontinued processed foods, such as the Wellness Senior diet he'd been eating, and began feeding steamed vegetables, salmon, and raw or slightly nuked chopped sirloin. I would also boil chicken and load the “soup” with chopped yam, carrots, and garlic. At about the same time, I got 3 preparations from Westlab Pharmacy in Gainesville, Florida: 2 antioxidants, aminocaproic acid and N-acetylcysteine. The 3rd was a multi-vitamin/mineral/antioxidant compound, which Boris refused to eat, either powdered or liquid, either “straight” or doctored with one of his favorite foods. Toward the end of his life, as I became more adept at getting him to eat preparations he didn't care for, I could have returned to this particular compound and gotten him to eat it--perhaps as a powder secreted in clumps of chopped sirloin or in peanut butter. But shortly after failing with this stuff, I broke down the compound into its individual constituents. These included, largely but not exclusively, B-vitamins, flax seed oil, Vitamins A and C, and the antioxidant CoQ-10. This latter supplement I replaced with Idebenone, a chemically similar antioxidant, but one which does not produce, in the oxidation process, the level of free radicals that CoQ10 produces (For a discussion of these 2 antioxidants in particular and the role of antioxidants in the suppression of free radicals attacking the myelin sheath, go to the website VRP. Oxygen, the substance that gives life and sustains it, also destroys life.

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is an auto-immune disease that attacks the myelin sheath, which covers the spinal cord. “Straight”, Western medicine posits that once breached, the myelin sheath cannot undergo restoration (that the resultant nerve damage is irreversible).

I cannot attest, with any quantifiable certainty, the extent to which this regimen of supplementation helped Boris. It certainly didn't hurt. Having said all this about supplementation, I feel that of the 3 regimens, the supplementation was the least effective in supporting Boris' health.

Of prime importance was the acupuncture, then the treadmill therapy, then the supplementation. When I brought Boris to the U of I Small Animal Clinic for diagnosis of his symptoms, he was collapsing frequently, “dog-tracking” severely. He could not walk more than 30 yards without having to stop to rest. His local vet, who recommended that I take Boris to the Univ of Illinois for this diagnosis, gave him 6 weeks! On a scale of 1-10, in March, 2005, Boris was functioning at a 3.

For about 5 weeks after we began his acupuncture treatments, Boris did not in my view improve much--just maintained status quo. But when his new vet acquired a set of electrodes to attach to the acupuncture needles, Boris began to improve immediately. So much for the insistence that once compromised the myelin sheath cannot recover any lost function!! Over the next several months, Boris condition, as evaluated by the rehab technicians at the U of I, gradually climbed to 6-7 levels, and occasionally to 7 1/2. These techs, versed in Western medicine, had never witnessed such improvement in one of their DM patients.

In this time period, the vet began to prescribe 3-4 different Chinese herbal formulas, 1 powdered, the others in tablet form or softgel caps. I believe that these Chinese formulas helped, but as before, I cannot evaluate the extent to which they helped prolong Boris' life. While emphasizing the importance of the acupuncture with electrical stimulus, I cannot ignore the importance of chiropractic manipulation of the spine. Boris had acquired a “hitch” in his right leg. Some days it “dogged” him more than others, but it was always present. At one acupuncture session, the vet had just returned a week earlier from a seminar that taught the attending vets an adjustment in the lower back. The vet made an adjustment of 2 adjacent vertebrae in the lumbar region that had become misaligned in opposite directions (I've forgotten the name for this kind of “subluxation”). When Boris walked out of the vet's examining room, the hitch in his stride was gone--completely.

In mid-October, 2006, the myelopathy began to resurface. It could no longer be arrested. As death approached, the front half of Boris' body was in good health. Heart, lungs, head, all in good condition. But he could no longer walk. When Boris died, April 19, 2007, at 3:15 PM, he had survived nearly 25 months. If

I may be allowed to share one piece of advice, I would say to those owners who are suffering from having received this same diagnosis about their German Shepherds: DO NOT GIVE UP! Your dog won't. Why would you? Do not calmly accept as gospel, as an incontrovertible prognosis, that there is no hope or help for your dog. You owe it to your pet to make every possible effort to “deal” with his or her condition.

- Boris' owner, IL

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