Mizzou Study for Treatment of DM

Published July, 2017

COLUMBIA, Mo. – In 2009, Joan Coates, a veterinary neurologist, along with other researchers at the University of Missouri and the Broad Institute at MIT/Harvard, found a genetic link between degenerative myelopathy (DM) in dogs and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease in people. Now, MU researchers Coates and Michael Garcia, an associate professor in the Division of Biological Sciences, have found that a biomarker test that helps diagnose ALS also can assist with determining a diagnosis for degenerative myelopathy.

Coates is seeking clinical trial participants to evaluate a treatment for canine DM.

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 coatesj@missouri.edu.

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.



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: www.acvim.org)

  • 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.