Cerebrospinal Fluid Levels of Phosphorylated Neurofilament Heavy as a Diagnostic Marker of Canine Degenerative Myelopathy

Christine Toedebusch, M. D. Bachrach, V. B. Garcia, G. C. Johnson, M. L. Katz, G. Shaw, J. R. Coates, M. L. Garcia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: No definitive, antemortem diagnostic test for canine degenerative myelopathy (DM) is available. Phosphorylated neurofilament heavy (pNF-H) is a promising biomarker for nervous system diseases. Hypothesis/Objective: Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and serum pNF-H is a detectable biological marker for diagnosis of canine DM. Animals: Fifty-three DM-affected, 27 neurologically normal, 7 asymptomatic at-risk, and 12 DM mimic dogs. Methods: Archived CSF and serum pNF-H concentrations were determined by a commercially available ELISA. A receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) curve was generated with CSF values. Results: Compared with old control dogs, median CSF pNF-H concentration was increased in all stages of DM; old dogs 5.1 ng/mL (interquartile range [IQR] 1.4–9.3) versus DM stage 1 23.9 ng/mL (IQR 20.8–29.6; P <.05) versus DM stage 2 36.8 ng/mL (IQR 22.9–51.2; P <.0001) versus DM stage 3 25.2 ng/mL (IQR 20.2–61.8; P <.001) versus DM stage 4 38.0 ng/mL (IQR 11.6–59.9; P <.01). Degenerative myelopathy stage 1 dogs had increased median CSF pNF-H concentrations compared with asymptomatic, at-risk dogs (3.4 ng/mL [IQR 1.5–10.9; P <.01]) and DM mimics (6.6 ng/mL [IQR 3.0–12.3; P <.01]). CSF pNF-H concentration >20.25 ng/mL was 80.4% sensitive (confidence interval [CI] 66.09–90.64%) and 93.6% specific (CI 78.58–99.21%) for DM. Area under the ROC curve was 0.9467 (CI 0.92–0.9974). No differences in serum pNF-H concentration were found between control and DM-affected dogs. Conclusions and Clinical Importance: pNF-H concentration in CSF is a sensitive biomarker for diagnosis of DM. Although there was high specificity for DM in this cohort, further study should focus on a larger cohort of DM mimics, particularly other central and peripheral axonopathies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-520
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Biomarker
  • Dog
  • Neurodegenerative disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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