I previously wrote a two part article on DM (Degenerative Myelopathy) in the German Shepherd Dog breed. Since that time, there has been some updated information that is now known.
My original article can be viewed by clicking on this link: DM in the German Shepherd Dog.
More recently, the DM DNA test has become somewhat controversial among breeders, owners and professionals. There have been a few cases where dogs that DNA tested as carriers/clears have been confirmed to have DM upon death. This is a rare situation, but it has been proven to be possible. In addition to that controversy, we have also found a handful of dogs who receive different results when tested by different laboratories. There has not been a good answer for this yet, other then the possibility of a faulty test when handled by certain labs. Again, these situations are rare, but have happened on that rare occasion.
There is a group who feel that there are different types of Degenerative Myelopathy and the current DM test does not test for the type that often affects the GSD breed.
With these current controversies over the test, some breeders and owners now feel the test is not important. That can be understandable, as it can be frustrating when you read all of the different opinions. With that said, while this test has shown that it is not perfect, that does not mean that it is useless. It is a simple, one time, somewhat inexpensive test that you can easily do with your dog. Once you have the results, you can use them to help breed the dog with the goal of not producing any more ‘at risk’ puppies. Even with the issues surrounding this DNA test, no one can dispute that it seems most dogs who have DM, do test ‘at risk’. Due to that information, our goal should be to avoid producing ‘at risk’ puppies if at all possible.
Within the GSD breed, we have a somewhat small gene pool when it comes to well bred, health tested, titled dogs with good pedigrees. Because of that, we do not want to throw carriers and at risk dogs out of the gene pool. It is important that we do not make breeding decisions based solely on the DM test. You can still breed a carrier or at risk dog to a clear mate without any of the resulting puppies being at risk. While that may not guarantee 100% that the pups will not go on to develop DM, it does greatly increase the chances that they will not.
It is also important to remember that DM is just one disease that affects the GSD breed. Unfortunately there are many more health issues which must be taken into consideration. Hips and elbows should always be certified before breeding, there is absolutely no excuse for not doing these tests. In addition to health, temperament and nerves are a very big part of the dog and an extremely important part! We must do our best to breed good all around, sound, healthy dogs.