DM (Degenerative Myelopathy) Testing

DM which stands for Degenerative Myelopathy is a inherited disease that can affect Chesapeake Bay Retrievers as well as some other breeds. It is often compared to ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It is a slowly progressive neurological disease that affects the myelin and spinal cord of dogs which leads to rear leg weakness, muscle atrophy which then may lead to paralysis. It occurs slowly over a period of months and usually doesn’t affect dogs under the age of five but can be seen in dogs between 8-14 years. The first signs of a problem are difficulty in the hind end when getting up and when gets worse the dog will drag his hind feet resulting in wearing of the back nails.

Before 2008 there wasn’t a mutation that causes dogs to be at risk for DM identified nor a test, as of July 21, 2008 a DNA test has been available for breeders and pet owners, along with information about what the test can and cannot tell them. The test clearly identifies dogs that are clear (have 2 normal copies of the gene), those who are carriers (have one normal copy of the gene and one mutated copy of the gene), and those who are at much higher risk for developing DM (have 2 mutated copies of the gene). However, having two mutated copies of the gene does not necessarily result in disease.

Being a breeder I test my own dogs for DM so I know their status when picking a breeding partner. I feel this is being a responsible breeder. Testing for DM and having the results is another tool when looking at available dogs out there to breed to. You want to make the most informed decisions when it comes to breeding and you want to pair up the dogs correctly so that you can breed hopefully genetically sound dogs. When pairing two dogs for breeding you want to pair either clear dogs together, clear with carrier or clear with at risk. You wouldn’t want to breed two carriers together, a carrier to a at risk or two at risks together, by doing those breeding’s you are knowingly breeding dogs that could produce a dog that may come down with DM.


I tested Glory for DM and she tested clear. I could pick any stud dog with any DM result to breed to. I used all the tools I had and picked Thunder from 2browndawgs to be the stud. He tested carrier but that was ok because as I said earlier you can breed a clear to a carrier and the results of the puppies will be either  clear or carrier. Being that I am going to keep a puppy from this breeding as a future breeder of Sand Spring Chesapeakes I would like to keep another clear female for breeding. In order to know which puppy(s) are clear I need to test all the females, since I was testing all the females I went ahead and tested the males also because I wanted to know what they were and then I could also tell the new puppy owners the results so they would have them.

First I needed to order the test kits from OFA (Orthopedic Foundation For Animals) you can order them here.

Once I got the test kits I then needed to test each puppy. When testing the dog/puppy shouldn’t have anything to eat or drink for about a hour.

The test kit comes with a sterile swab for collecting saliva which contains cheek cells and a FTA test card designed to capture and bind DNA samples for future processing. You take the swab and put it in the side of the puppies mouth rubbing the swab around the cheek pouch for about 5-10 seconds, you can rub each side of the swab along the cheek.

Once collected you want to press the swab within the circular area on the FTA card making sure the saliva is transferred onto the card, to make sure this has happened the card when dries a bit will turn white. Each card is also identified with a number for each puppy. You want to make sure you don’t touch the swab to any other substance where contamination may happen.

The cards should be set aside away from any wind and allowed to air dry for about a hour before you package them up and put them in the mail.

You can read the full instructions here. It may take 2-3 weeks to get results. I won’t be looking at a potential puppy for me to keep until I get the results.

10 thoughts on “DM (Degenerative Myelopathy) Testing

  1. that was interesting and it’s as easy as that daddy-test :o) You are a super good breeder, it’s great how much things you do that the new families of Glory’s pups get a healthy new friend who is on their side for many years. a hug and a big thank you to you for being a breeder with a heart for dogs :o)


  2. DM is very prevalent in Corgis, the Pembrokes more so than my Cardigans. Cardigan breeders are doing their best to breed it out of their lines like they did with PRA. It will be hard to conquer it in the Pems as they are unfortunately very popular in the puppy mills, who of course will not test for it. It’s a tough and sad disease.


  3. That was very interesting! Especially since my hubby works for the company that makes the machines that they do all these tests on. It’s great that you are such a responsible breeder, and it will be pawesome for the lucky moms and dads of these pups to have that info available to them.


  4. It’s so interesting, and so great that they now have tests like this available. I think it is wonderful all the extra things you do to be sure these puppies are as healthy as possible, and that their new families have so much information. I hope if we’re ever looking for another purebred dog we can find a responsible breeder like you in our area!


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