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The sweet, endearing Welsh Corgi is an energetic and playful dog breed, but what do you do when you notice your once active pup is having trouble walking? Due to their long body structure and a predisposition to specific neurological conditions and spinal disease. Corgis can experience health problems that lead to a reduction or loss of mobility – especially in their older years. If your corgi is suddenly dragging their paws or wobbling while they walk, it is important to know the possible causes of these early symptoms. There are ways to support your pet to ensure they continue to live a happy and healthy life.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) in Corgis
Degenerative Myelopathy is a non-painful progressive neurodegenerative spinal disease. DM causes weakness and lack of coordination in the hind legs and eventual paralysis of all four legs.
In corgis, the onset of Degenerative Myelopathy is typically in adult dogs, between the ages of 9 to 14 years old. But DM can present itself earlier. The corgi is among the breeds that are most often diagnosed with DM.
Both Pembroke Welsh Corgis and Cardigan Welsh Corgis are at risk of developing DM, but it is much more prevalent in the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. The corgi life expectancy after diagnosing Degenerative Myelopathy is generally up to 3 years. However, every dog is unique, and the severity and duration of symptoms can vary.
Corgi DM Treatment
Degenerative Myelopathy is a progressive condition with no cure. Luckily, therapy, exercise, and supportive equipment can greatly improve a corgi’s quality of life and help delay the progression of degenerative myelopathy. For example, a European study has shown that structured exercise and the use of a dog wheelchair can actually extend the life of a corgi with DM. Dogs in the study lived up to three years longer than dogs who received no therapy.
A dog wheelchair is a must for every corgi with degenerative myelopathy. Your corgi’s mobility loss will begin with hind leg weakness, leading to paralysis in the rear legs. As the DM progresses, the front legs will also lose strength. This is why it’s essential that your corgi’s wheelchair can be adapted with a front wheel attachment later—allowing for both rear and front legs to be fully supported. A dog wheelchair will allow your corgi to remain active as long as possible.
Like all long-bodied breeds, the corgi is at risk for back problems and herniated discs. Intervertebral Disc Disease is Intervertebral Disc Disease being a common spinal condition impacting both Pembroke and Cardigan Welsh Corgis. IVDD is a degenerative disease that causes a protrusion of the intervertebral discs, the cushioning between the spinal vertebrae, resulting in compression and concussion of the spine. This, in turn, causes a fast degeneration of the nerves within the spinal cord.
IVDD can present itself at any age, but it generally first affects corgis between the ages of 3 to 6 years. Although possible for IVDD symptoms to emerge gradually, most pets experience a sudden onset of pain and immediate changes to their mobility. IVDD is often triggered by a bad jump or fall whose impact causes an immediate rupture in a disc that has been slowly weakening from IVDD. All corgis should maintain a healthy weight to reduce their risk of a back injury. Obesity will greatly increase the likelihood of a corgi developing IVDD.
What is the prognosis for a dog with IVDD?
“IVDD will impact dogs at varying severities,” says Dr. Stacy Choczynski Johnson, DVM. “I’ve been surprised at the improvement and recovery of pets with mild IVDD, medical management, and home care. In these cases, pet parents have been diligent about enforcing cage rest, giving medications 3 to 4 times daily, effectively expressing the bladder, nursing care, lifting their pet to keep the spine in alignment, checking for signs of improvement like reflexes, checking for signs of decline like dehydration and effective communication with the veterinarian. Home care is time-intensive, and most pets with IVDD will require hospitalization. On the other hand, when a pet loses anal tone, loses the pain sensation between their toes, is paralyzed in both limbs, and surgical intervention is not pursued, the prognosis is poor for recovery.”
Corgi IVDD Treatment
Early action is very important to reduce the risk of severe nerve damage and paralysis in corgis with IVDD. If a corgi is exhibiting signs of pain, inability to stand or walk on their own, get your dog to the Vet immediately.
Medication is often prescribed for IVDD pain management. Additional IVDD treatments may include a period of crate rest followed by rehabilitation to regain leg strength and mobility. In more severe cases, IVDD surgery can be undergone to correct a ruptured disc. The gold standard veterinary exam, according to Dr. Choczynski Johnson, “includes an evaluation with an MRI and consultation for a hemilaminectomy. The best way for a pet parent to help their dog is to be prepared mentally and financially for this emergency. It is important to be ready to authorize emergency care to decompress the pressure on the spinal cord through surgery.”
In cases where surgery is not an option or unsuccessful, or assistance is needed for post-operative care. Pets who do not undergo surgery to correct IVDD need to be kept on strict crate rest. Expect crate rest to last for 8 weeks, and includes limited activity for bathroom breaks and mealtime. A dog wheelchair is a great way to keep your dog active. A canine mobility cart relieves stress off of the dog’s back and hind legs. For corgis who are able to walk on their own, an orthopedic back brace is an additional option to provide back pain relief and stability for the spine.
With the proper treatment and care, your corgi will likely be able to live a full and happy life with their IVDD symptoms managed. It’s important to know that IVDD recovery is also possible.
While spinal diseases and mobility loss are among are common among corgis, know that help is available. It is possible for your dog to continue to do the activities they love despite a spinal condition. Your care, combined with the help of dedicated veterinary professional and mobility equipment can keep your corgi happy and active.