Canine degenerative myelopathy (DM) is an adult-onset fatal neurodegenerative disease that occurs in many breeds. The initial upper motor neuron spastic paraparesis and general proprioceptive ataxia in the pelvic limbs progress to a flaccid lower motor neuron tetraparesis. Recently, a missense mutation in the superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) gene was found to be a risk factor for DM, suggesting that DM is similar to some forms of human amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease). This article reviews the current knowledge of canine DM with regard to its signalment, clinical spectrum, diagnostic approach, and treatment. The implications of the SOD1 mutation on both diseases are discussed, comparing pathogenic mechanisms while conveying perspectives to translational medicine.
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