First I want to say that Cardigans are one of the most healthy, hearty and disease free breeds. BUT, the nature of being a living creature with a limited gene pool as a breed, means that 'things' can creep in, and so we need to be aware and protect the overall health of our breed.
Before the genetic marker test for DM in Cardigan Welsh Corgis was available,very few even knew what DM was or that it even existed in our breed. When an older dog 10+ years started to loose control of their rear legs, we simply attributed it to "just something that happens to old dogs". We now know that it is DM, degenerative myelopathy. DM is a spinal cord degeneration which starts in one rear leg and slowly progresses to the other rear leg and then forward. It only affects dogs that have the gene from both parents, which makes the individual 'At Risk' for DM. The disease itself is not painful. Pain and discomfort can be involved in the dog trying to move itself with the rest of it's body or from what ever organ systems may be affected as the DM moves forward toward the brain. The dog is usually quite alert and healthy in all other regards. So, when the time comes to having to decide on euthanasia because of quality of life, the dog is usually perfectly healthy otherwise.
Soon after the marker test was available (2008), I tested the dogs that would give me the most complete information. Also some of the offspring in other homes had been tested which gave me exact information as to genetic status of DM in some of my dogs. Very helpful. I had also gotten dogs from other breeders with various DM status. As 'fate' would have it, my foundation bitch was at risk. It seemed I had produced carriers from her, so evidently the sires I bred her to were clear. BUT when those carriers were bred, at risk pups were produced. In keeping the top quality offspring they happen to be DM 'at risk'. I had a kennel full of 'at risk' dogs and some carriers. Even after the test was available to Cardigan breeders, many do/did not think it is an issue to be considered when breeding. The thought is, that since it is an old dog disease and an 'at risk' individual may not have symptoms ever because it may die of other causes first, many disregard bothering with DM as a consideration when breeding. I went along with that ...for a short while.
So far, all my 'at risk' dogs have actually been affected. They lived a healthy life so other diseases did not end their lives before the DM caused their lack of a quality life to make ME have to decide to end it for them. I have now had 3 dogs with DM that I had to put to sleep after caring for them through some pretty difficult physical time. My Cardis do not accept the wheeled cart. They have too much self ability, dignity and drive to allow such a thing. This is a very labor intensive situation to deal with especially in a multi-dog household. Out of my current dogs, I have one at risk, which I'll likely have to deal with at some time. She is part of my breeding program and I will only breed her to clear dogs. As health conscientious breeders, we can eliminate DM at risk dogs from being produced. Before we had the marker, we bred blindly in regard to DM (not even knowing it was an actual disease that caused our dogs to loose control of their back ends in old age). I have been in the breed since 1990 and I have bred some pretty top winning quality dogs. So I understand not wanting to loose quality in trying to eliminate a 'problem/disease', but challenge in breeding Cardigans is not something new to me. I have always been a 'blue breeder', so finding the right black to blue or black to black has always resulted in a lot of research.I am willing to go forward with continued challenges that include DM in the list. We have a simple genetic test that is a tremendous gift. Since DM 'at risk' dogs are out there and some are still being produced AND the symptoms may only begin to show at old age (10+), this disease will be with us for a long time unless we take serious responsibility and consider the dogs today that will/may become affected in 10+ years. As breeders, we can, with a little more effort, eliminate yet another disease for a better future for our Cardigan Welsh Corgis and their owners.
- Rita Hellegers 9/8/12
Based upon the current testing and information available on DM (degenerative mylopathy), and my personal experience with dogs at risk, I will ONLY be doing breedings that result in N/N (clear) or N/A (carrier). N/N being clear(2 normal genes), N/A being a carrier, A/A being at risk for symptoms of DM