View Full Version : New member worried about SM - updated

17th October 2006, 12:08 AM

I have just joined the forum to get some advice about SM. My Mum's dog Rex is about 9/10 and has always been itchy and scratchy and we never got to the bottom of it and as far as I know her vets have never mentioned SM. He also suffers from dry eye syndrome and lost his hearing at a relatively early age so he's now pretty much blind and totally deaf poor lad. He also goes off his food regularly, wont eat out of his bowl but will eat if hand fed. Just recently he's had a couple of episodes where he was unable to get up and appeared to be stuck or as if one back leg wouldn't work. When he did get up his back legs were all wobbly. His heart was also racing, suggesting he was distressed or in pain perhaps?

He's been on painkillers (rimadyl) and is much better. Does this sound like SM? How much is and MRI scan going to cost (he's not insured unfortunately) and is the treatment relatively easy? I have not said anything to my Mum as she would be devastated, but he is coming to stay soon and I could follow it up with my vets who are very good. I don't want to worry her needlessly but want whats best for him.


17th October 2006, 07:47 PM
The signs that you discribe do fit with those of SM, the only way that you will know for sure is to seek the advice of a Neurologist and have a possible MRI scan. A full MRI can cost around £1000-£1250, and a part scan, usually the top spine area only are around £250.

Your vet will be able to get you to a Neurologist and you can go from there with his/her advice.

Some Cavaliers manage with SM their whole lives with a small amount of medication and others can be severe enough for it to disrupt their life style enormously...every dog is a different case.

Sadly I have lost three beautiful cavaliers with SM, it is heart breaking.

If you need any more info on Neurologists or scan centres then please feel free to P/M me anytime and I can get you details, addresses and numbers for your vet.

Are you living in the U.K?

Visit this site as well, there is alot of very good SM info inside..


hope this helps,

Alison, Wilts, U.K.

17th October 2006, 07:53 PM
In a 9/10 year old dog with those vague symptoms, I'd be more likely to suspect disc disease or other progressive degenerative joint disease. Stiff joints, weak limbs. Not uncommon in older dogs. Even if it is SM, I wouldn't do an MRI because the main reason too d that would be to absolutely confirm SM for surgery or breeding purposes. In an older dog with not very severe signs, I'd lean towards just managing the pain and discomfort and not stress too much about definitively diagnosing. REally, you just need to speak with your vet and see what they think. They may be able to easily diagnose a managable problem with just palpation or x-rays.

Treatmenet for SM is not easy, not definitive and verry experimental at this point. Surgery is not a cure and is often unrewarding and unsuccessful, with relapses always possible even if they do improve initially. medical management is aimed at decreasing symptoms and discomfort with pain meds, and/or diuretics to decrease cerebral spinal fluid which is thought to be part of the cause of the disease syndrome.

It sounds to me more like your dog is just getting older, having a harder time getting up and moving around. All consistent with age related problems that can usually be well managed with Non-steroidal antinflammatories like Rimadyl. Sounds like he's responding well to it?

17th October 2006, 09:32 PM
Sorry to hear about Rex's problems...I hope it is something easier to manage such as disc problems.

The vet might look at doing x-rays which would show arthritis or disc problems, but sadly not SM.

I presume skin conditions have been ruled out with regard to the itching?

I have two dogs diagnosed with Syringo - one is only 3 and moderate/severely affected, the other is 10, also totally deaf, much more mildly affected. The older one, Rupert, does sometimes have shaky legs when he gets up, but has been battling with arthritis recently, although we now have that under control with homoeopathy and magno therapy.

THe heart racing may well have been anxiety too...has his heart been checked?

It is good that the Rimadyl is helping, we hope he will continue to do well.

There is lots of information on this site and the sister site, http://sm.cavaliertalk.com/

It is worth reading through and maybe printing off the relevant pages to take to your vet, as sadly many vets still aren't aware of Syringomyelia.

17th October 2006, 09:55 PM
I cannot agree that you would only need to MRI a Cavalier for breeding or possible surgery.

All three of mine were scanned, none were used for breeding by myself, none had surgery.

I needed to know if they has SM once they started to show various SM signs and to what extent they were possibly affected, I would rather rule out SM first before I carried out any other further tests, x-rays and many medications over many months/years.

Surely it's best to gain a positive diagnosis in the first place.

Alison, Wilts, U.K.

17th October 2006, 10:15 PM
Surely it's best to gain a positive diagnosis in the first place.

Alison, Wilts, U.K.

I agree. Ideally, yes, it would bbe great to MRI every Cav that is scratching to rule out SM But it's not always practical. Or necessary, IMHO. And it's certainly seems more afforadable there in the UK. But here it's generally around $2000 for the MRI. And then what do you do with that informatioon if you don't plan on doing surgery? Just not a lot you can do for SM so a I guess sometimes it's more important to keep the dog comfortable than to find a definitive diagnosis. Certainly some people will want to know (I did, even though I was 90% sure Rory had SM). But it won't necessarily affect treatment options.

17th October 2006, 10:17 PM
I didn't see the part about him always being itchy/scratching his whole life. This could certainly correlate with SM. It mi ght be worth asking your vet about it and bringing a long some reading materials from Karlin's SM site (as Nicki posted the website) for yourr vet to read up on. He might get relief from Gabapentin if the scratching/itching is from SM.

17th October 2006, 11:50 PM
Thank you for all your suggestions. I will take the info sheets to my vet once he is with me. Once he starts coming off the rimadyl we will see if he starts getting worse again or if he stays well and it was an injury or flare up of some sort. His vets next suggestion was x ray, but I think he will be here by then (next week) and to be honest, my vets will be a lot cheaper due to location! He does have a slight heart murmur (nothing startling) so I will need to check if its OK to give him any kind of GA anyway. I will then follow up the SM route with my vets.

He is such a sweetheart - his tail hardly ever stops wagging so I know he's been feeling pretty bad! Good news is he's much waggier again now and was able to jump into the car to visit the vets yesterday.

Thinking of getting him a harness and have seen puppia mentioned - are they all good? I've seen some on ebay and the proceeds go to dog rescue so it sounds good.

17th October 2006, 11:54 PM
KT is in Wales so I suggested Chestergates for the low cost MRI with Mr Skerritt, in her thread in the Introductions section. But at that point I didn;t know this dog was this elderly.

Given this dog's age, his problems with his legs could certainly be related to a lot of things. And he is too old for surgical treatment for SM. I'd be inclined to give all the info on the links I noted in the Intro thread to your vet and *consider* an MRI -- though again at his age I don't know if I'd put him under for that. If it were my dog, I wouldn't. Instead I think I'd look to try neurontin, maybe steroids, for example -- if other causes for the hind leg weakness are eliminated. Our 13 year old pyrenees just had her hind legs give out from old age eventually, so this isn't necessarily SM related though it could be.

I'd get him to a vet or specialist though with this new info in mind-- he is clearly suffering a bit and you'll want to get professional advice on the best step to take next. :flwr:

I'd also def. put him in a harness -- we all really love Puppias. :)

30th December 2006, 01:56 PM
Hello all and festive greetings

Well Rex has had a few developments since I posted. When he came to me in November I took him to my vets, but because he had such a long history (14 pages by fax :shock: ) she was reluctant to take him on and suggested I take him back to his normal vets. This was understandable as he seemed fine for his whole stay with us.

Unfortunately, just before my mother was due to come here for Christmas, Rex had another turn for the worse. The vets said it was OK for him to travel up here after giving him a painkiller/anti inflammatory injection 2 days in a row. I was very shocked when he arrived as he was unable to hold his head up or sit properly - his legs shaking and slipping out from under him.

We took him straight to my vets, who sedated him and X-rayed immediately (why did her vets not do this?? :x ).

They found evidence of a prolapsed disc - the vertebrae closer together than normal and a little evidence of bony growth below where the disc should be.

He has been prescribed painkillers long term and complete crate rest for at least 3 weeks. Beyond this I am not really sure.

Does anyone have any experience of slipped / prolapsed discs in Cav's?

Please tell me if I should put my question in a different section if its not an SM related problem. Also, just checking, is it possible that the distortion is caused by SM or is this 'case closed' as my vet suggests? Its the scratching thing that makes me ask as its quite severe.

He has improved slightly and appears relatively OK (though very subdued) apart from regular pain episodes where he spins in a circle with his head dropped to one side, cries in severe pain and tries to run off and press himself into any dark corner he can find.

The pain is severe enough that he was so frightened he refused to get out of his crate to go to the toilet and would wet himself with the pain. He does appear to have improved as originally he would just hide under her bed and not come out. Now he comes out of the crate to lie on the floor and can sit up OK again and will walk out into the garden on lead.

Any advice would be gratefully received as I am concerned for him in the long term and don't know what the prognosis is likely to be.

Best wishes to all for the coming year


ps he got a lovely red puppia harness from me for Christmas

30th December 2006, 05:33 PM
My chessie/lab mix had a ruptured disc and was paralyzed from the neck down for a week. It was a good thing that DH was out of town and I couldn't make "the decision" with out him, 'cause after heavy steroid dosages, Kahlua started to regain some sensation. Long story short, she stayed at the vet's until she could empty her bladder with out someone manipulating her bladder, and we did months of water therapy with her...but now she runs like a deer and only has a slight limp when walking. She has a bit of difficulty getting into/out of a sit or down, but is healthy and happy. Keeping her weight down is very important.

You probably will get a lot more advice and input if you post this recent problem in the Health forum.

Good luck and hope Rex is feeling better soon!

30th December 2006, 05:56 PM
Thanks Mic

I'm very interested in the water therapy as I wondered if this might help. My vet said absolute crate rest for 3 weeks and then restricted exercise for 6 months and see how it goes but didnt suggest swimming.

When did you start your dog with water therapy after?

I've posted in the health forum too as i thought it might be a better place for it.

30th December 2006, 06:05 PM
Crate rest and meds may help with the disk problems or may not. It is really hard to tell. This can be a very painful condition for a dog.

The spinning, the head tilt, the leg weakness etc is also potentially connected to SM. I would at least ask to try giving him neurontin to see if that helps relieve those activities and relieves some pain. SM would not cause a prolapsed disk but yu could easily have both conditions or the disk alone might cause all the things you describe. I personally would suspect he has some degree of SM along with the disk problem, given his long history of scratching with no apparent cause and the fact that these additional symtpoms tabulate exactly with some of the more severe symptoms of SM. These could possibly be mitigated through steroid and neurontin use and again I would STRONGLY recommend going to Chestergates, where they are very familiar with SM and could probably give you a diagnosis without an MRI. Yopu need a specialist for this, not a vet, and urgently I think.

You are clearly at a difficult point though where you need to think of Rex, and weigh up whether each day continues to be a day where Rex is happier to be with you rather than suffering through each day. It is very hard to reach such a point, but a dog has no fear of the unknown and lives in the moment -- and living with daily severe pain and discomfort if this is the case is really where you need to consider what is best for Rex and what allows him the most diginity and least suffering, after so many years in which he gave his all as a loving companion to his people. You might want to read through this caring article that deals with this difficult topic:


:flwr: I know I can speak for many when I say our thoughts are with you as you care for this much loved dog and makes decisions about what is best for his future.

30th December 2006, 07:21 PM
thanks for the swift replies

I have passed on the advice to my Mum and hope that she will be able to take Rex to the vets in Wimbledon asap to check re SM before making any further decisions, as they are now back in Surrey.

Rex does seem a lot better than he was before Christmas so we are hoping it is something we can help him with but also bearing in mind his wellbeing and quality of life.

Please keep everything crossed for him.


30th December 2006, 08:23 PM
I had a Lhasa with a ruptured disc and she became paralyzed in her back legs. She was given IV steriods over several days, had to stay overnight in the specialty clinic, and was also given IV antacid/ulcer preventative because that is also a side effect. It took many weeks for her to become active again, and she walked bow legged a little for the next 7 years but appeared to be pain free. She was treated by a neurologist for this .

30th December 2006, 10:28 PM
Ketty - I haven't been able to log on and check my mails, and have only just been able to get in, poor Rex no animal deserves to be in such pain, I am only in Banstead and work in Wimbledon if your mum wants someone to go with her to StoneLion then please ask her to give me a call (you can PM me for number). But I must say that she has got to find out about the price as when we had Ozzy done it came to over £1200.00.

31st December 2006, 02:49 PM
Thanks for the very kind offer Claire - I have passed it on to my Mum. I have also emailed Stone Lion to ask them when they reopen and explaining why in case they say to come in straight away.

Rex was a little better yesterday only having one little yelp of pain and then quiet again. Keeping my fingers crossed that its something we can help him with / that will improve with either surgery or meds.

Very relieved he's feeling a bit better anyway and seems to be lying quietly and scoffing his chicken dinner like a good boy.

I've already told Mum she has free reign to spend our inheritance :yikes (such as it is) on him if necessary, so hoping the vets accept magic beans... :lol:

4th January 2007, 09:04 PM
Well its bad news I'm afraid, but at least we know what we are dealing with now. It is confirmed as SM (he had the MRI today) and I am only grateful that I got all the info I did from this site or we might have put him through a major op for a prolapsed disc when it might have done more harm than good.

Many thanks to all and especially Karlin for insisting we look into it further.

He will now start on nerve specific painkillers asap to see if that helps and we will take it a day at a time and see how he goes.

Please keep things crossed for the little man.


4th January 2007, 09:12 PM
So very sorry to hear this news Ketty - at least you know what you are dealing with now, and that Rex can be started on the appropriate treatment :flwr: :flwr: :flwr:

4th January 2007, 09:15 PM
I'm sorry to hear it was a positive diagnosis but so glad he didn't go through an unnecessary op. That's why this forum is here, and why it is so good to share information and have health issues out in the open and openly discussed -- many times it will be the case that something else is indeed the problem and a dog thankfully won't be handling the discomfort and challenges of SM, but when it is the right diagnosis it means the dog can move to the best treatment possible and suffer less. Don't blame your vets at all; they were doing the right things and trying all the obvious approaches and few would know what to be looking for with this condition, which would be very rare in almost any other breed.

Clare Rusbridge at Stone Lion will be aware of all the best possible approaches so I hope you find, as many of us have, that neurontin, steroids, and/or something like frusemide or the new option Tagamet (which seems to help some dogs without frusemide's side affects) helps.

If you know Rex's breeder (eg if it is someone who continues to breed) please let them know his diagnosis. It is very important for breeders to know if they are producing dogs that eventually become symptomatic as this helps them make future breeding decisions about their lines.

Feel free to post or PM with any questions, any time -- several of us here have SM dogs with different degrees of affectedness. :flwr:

Cathy T
4th January 2007, 11:03 PM
My heart is out to you....so sorry you got this news. Glad you have resources though and are not alone in this. Please know I'm thinking about you and Rex.

5th January 2007, 12:00 PM
I am so sorry to read your up-date.

At least you now know what you are dealing with.

Time and time again others like to dismiss SM, like earlier on in this thread, but I would with a Cavalier, and especially after losing three with severe SM, always think of SM first.

A scan/MRI is relatively easy to perform, unlike years of meds/operations/treatments etc which can do more harm than good to any Cavalier.

Ketty I hope that Rex will be kept comfortable with meds and that you will keep in touch with us regarding his progress.

Please inform the breeder of this outcome, they should be interested to know.

Alison, Wilts, U.k.

5th January 2007, 08:08 PM
{{{{{{{{Ketty & Rex}}}}}}}} I am so sorry to hear of his confirmed SM :(

Like the others have said though, at least now you will be able to start him on the correct treatment.

Will you be able to inform his breeder? I hope he/she takes note and has a conscience :flwr:

As for Rex, I wish him many happy pain free years on medication and that he & your Mum have many more happy days together xxx

8th January 2007, 01:21 AM
I am so sorry for the positive diagnosis. Now you will know what you are dealing with, and be able to treat it. Hope all goes well for your little man.

14th January 2007, 10:17 PM
Well Rex is now on Neurontin as well as the ordinary painkillers, and seems to be feeling a little better day by day. He has gone from a dog who refused to leve his bed to one who yesterday was yapping at the gate to go for his walk - great news.

It does, however, seem to be 2 steps forward, 1 step back in his progress, so I thought I would ask for some advice.

It seems like one day he's feeling better and asks to go out in the garden, then the next he wont go out at all (even for the loo). Then he asks to go for a walk the next day, then the folowing day won't go out at all again.

Is this normal? Do they just have good and bad days? Or shouldn't he be doing too much exercise and are we letting him overdo it?

Any advice would be gratefully received.

I would also like to pass on my mothers gratititude to those of you that helped us find the right answer for Rex, as its clearly making such a difference now he's on the right meds :flwr: .

14th January 2007, 10:39 PM
Glad he is doing better.

Yes this is normal, many SM dogs have good and bad days. I'd take him out only when he wants to -- that is him telling you it's a good day and he can manage the pain.

Often there's more improvement as neurontin gets into the bloodstream ovr time. While it helped Leo from day one, quite dramatically; he now has it well in his system and can go without for a day and do well, if I forget a pill. This isn't true of all dogs; some definitely are ready for that next pill after 8 or 12 hours, but he's proof that they do build up a level in the bloodstream that gets it to work more effectively.

Stone Lion will suggest upping the neurontin dose if it does not work well, probably; be sure to stay in touch and let them know if he isn't responding as well after a while or doesn't seem to get quite enough pain relief. I had to adjust dosage up and down over about two months to settle on a good dosage for Leo. Also neurontin can work less effectively over time, requiring a larger dose. This sometimes happens with people who take it. What is his current neurontin dose?

20th February 2007, 08:21 PM
Just an update on Rex.

He came to stay last weekend and it was the first time I'd seen him since christmas when he was so unwell.

He is now on the SM meds and he is a diffeent dog. You can still see he's stiff / strange in his back legs and he does prefer to stay inside sometimes rather than have a walk, but he's just so much better.

He was very excited to be here and see his lovely lurcher lady-friends and was very waggy and generally a much happier boy.

Thank you again for helping me sort him out - I can't say how grateful I am and its been worth every penny of the MRI when you see the difference in him.

Fingers crossed he stays this way a while.


20th February 2007, 10:10 PM

That is so heartening -- thanks for your update! :)

20th February 2007, 10:34 PM
Wonderful news Ketty. Thanks for giving us an update on Rex - I hope he has many more comfortable years ahead of him :flwr:

20th February 2007, 10:52 PM
That's great news! :flwr:

Cathy T
21st February 2007, 03:16 AM
Great to hear that Rex is doing so much better. Thanks for updating us!

19th March 2007, 08:16 PM
Rex continues to improve little by little - I think some of it is psychological as he stops being scared that he's going to be in pain like that again.

He is now going out for his walk pretty much every day and he is no longer refusing to go out when he needs to so Mum's mop arm is getting a well earned rest!

Best wishes to all


19th March 2007, 09:55 PM
I am so happy thet Rex continues to improve. Thanks for the update and please keep us posted.

Cathy T
20th March 2007, 01:19 AM
Good to hear that he continues to improve! :flwr: