Cardigan Health: Degenerative Myelopathy

CWCCA Degenerative Myelopathy Study

Degenerative Myelopathy is a progressive neurological disease that affects many dog breeds including Cardigan Welsh Corgis. The purpose of this study is to determine definitive diagnoses of Cardigans with progressive spinal cord disease.


All dogs that develop DM will eventually become completely paralyzed and at this point there is no known treatment. In 2008, the University of Missouri developed a genetic test that can predict whether or not a dog is “at risk” for developing the disease. So far it appears that the incidence of this gene is relatively low in Cardigans. The most recent statistics from OFA state that of the 503 Cardigans tested, 50% are clear, 36% are carriers and 13% are at risk.


Not every dog that is “at risk” develops clinical DM and there are other neurological diseases like intervertebral disk disease that can be mistaken for it. DM can only be definitively confirmed by microscopic examination of spinal cord samples collected during a necropsy. Although there have been a number of suspected cases of DM in Cardigans, very few have been confirmed.


Please contact Barbara Merickel DVM, if you have a dog that could be included. You and your veterinarian will need to complete a medical history/physical findings form. We will assist you in arranging for a necropsy (autopsy) which will need to be performed shortly after your dog had died or been euthanized. If you wish, your dog can be cremated with the ashes returned to you. The tissue samples will be sent to Dr. Joan Coates at the University of Missouri.


This study is open to all Cardigan Welsh Corgis, not limited to CWCCA Members.


Additional information and sample submission forms are available at 


Coates is conducting clinical trial research for treatment of DM. The goals of the therapies being tested is to slow the progression of neurologic signs of DM and improve quality of life. These therapies are in collaborations with other ALS researchers and funded by the ALS Association and National Institutes of Health. The clinical trials are taking place at the MU Veterinary Health Center (VHC) Small Animal Hospital. To inquire about enrolling a dog, contact Coates at


Currently there are two ongoing treatment studies at the University of Missouri.  Below are the inclusion criteria.  Based on disease suspicion and early disease stage, the study may be able to pay for the MRI screening.  The diagnostic testing highlighted are to be done by the primary care veterinarian prior to referral to the University of Missouri because we need to make sure the dog is in good health.   


Both studies will be blinded with few dogs randomly assigned to a control group.  In other words, the study candidate has a 70-80% chance of getting the treatment.  Once the dog is selected as a candidate and assigned to a study, the specific details of the study will be thoroughly discussed.

Inclusion Criteria


Slowly progressive loss of coordination over 1-3 months, no signs of waxing or waning, and the owners do not perceive their dog to be in discomfort


Neurologic examination

EARLY DISEASE: Progressive asymmetric general proprioceptive ataxia that is considered mild. Breeds Included

  • Boxers approximately 9 years of age or older at the time of initial examination
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgis approximately > 10 years of age at the time of initial examination
  • Other breeds older than age of 9 years old at the time of initial examination

Diagnostic Testing (Performed by a board-certified veterinary neurologist:

  • No significant abnormalities on bloodwork, thoracic radiographs and abdominal ultrasound
  • Genetic testing results for SOD1:c.118A mutant homozygotes (A/A – AT RISK)
  • Normal entire spinal cord MRI (thoracic, lumbar, sacral)
  • Normal CSF analysis
  • Normal electrodiagnostic testing results

Treatments and Follow-up Testing

An informed consent will be signed by the owner and Dr. Coates. The owner must be compliant and return to the MU VHC as directed based on study protocol

Necropsy Confirmation

Following death or at time of euthanasia, the dog will need to be brought to MU VHC for necropsy.  A histopathologic confirmation of DM is required.