View Full Version : Stiff neck - Head Tilted

23rd October 2006, 01:06 AM
My 2.5 yearold cavalier has got really ill in the last week. Symptoms - stiff neck, head tilted, right shoulder held high and stiff and lame in right foot. I have taken him to the vet twice. To look at him you would think he has a dislocated shoulder but vet ruled out this immediately as no pain. In fact, vet could not pin pain anywhere. Treating him for inner ear infection. On steroids and antibiotics. It is hard to look at him as he has gone overnight from a fantastic humoured beautiful dog to a lack lustre very ill dog. His spirit is really down but livens up if you mention taking him for a walk. Then suddenly he's almost back to normal. He is eating (quite a bit more now as on steroids) but has got very thin. Sleeping a lot too.

Has anyone come across this before. Vet also ruled out virus as he is not vomiting.

23rd October 2006, 01:35 AM
I've not come across this in dogs but have come across head tilt in rabbits caused by inner ear infections. It can take a long time for things to get back to normal (in rabbits that is) and possibly anti biotics for quite some time. Sorry I can't be of any more help.

Be careful with how much he is eating on the steroids. My sister has a jack russell with a household dust allergy, has to be on steroids and has gained so much weight now that her head looks too small for her body.

I would recommend sticking to the normal amount of food your boy has been on unless the vet tells you otherwise as you don't want him having a weight problem on top of his ear infection.

Hopefully he will recover quicker than rabbits do and won't need the steroids for long at all.

Good luck and again, sorry I can't be of more help.


Cathy Moon
23rd October 2006, 01:48 AM
I'm so sorry your cav boy is not well. It is upsetting when they are ill and can't tell us what hurts. :(

I have not experienced symptoms like you are describing in my dogs, but perhaps another member has. I'm sure others will respond to this post within the next 12 hours.

There is a disease that is prevalent in Cavaliers which affects the head and spine. It is Syringomyelia, or SM. Here are some links to read:



Please print and share this information with your vet. There are varying degrees of SM, from mild to severe. SM can be treated with drugs. If you or your vet suspect SM, you should take your dog to a neurologist, whether it be one in private practice or at a veterinary college. SM is diagnosed with an MRI.

Please don't hesitate to ask questions or for advice; we have several members who have cavs with SM who are very helpful.

23rd October 2006, 02:30 AM
I don't want to scare you at all as this is a long shot, but I used to have a yorkshire terrier named Hairy. He was seemingly fine until one day he started doing that head tilt thing and his legs were stiff and he started walking in circles. Needless to say we took him in to the vet who at first glance could find nothing wrong with him. He didn't seem to feel any pain or anything and then she did a pupil test and found out he was blind (just like that, I am serious he was fine a few days before.) anyways then we scanned his head and found out that he had a very large brain tumor. :(

You say your dog is acting fine and even perks up for walks so I'm hoping it could be nothing like that, but if things have been ruled out you might try a scan.

Good luck and keep us posted ! :flwr:

23rd October 2006, 03:42 AM
Where are you based? If in Dublin or Kildare region, I can give you the name of two vets who are familiar with syringomyelia: Adrienne at Beaufield Vets in Celbridge, and Finbar or Susan at any of the three Anicare branches in Dublin: www.anicare.ie.

These are some very typical signs of SM I am afraid, and if the onset was very rapid you will also want to move rapidly to determine if this is indeed the issue as early action will give the best range of options. The head tilt in particular coupled with the stiffness and immobility is a sign that this is almost surely going to require a visit to a neurologist. You have eliminated many of the usual initial steps in that you have tried steroids with no real relief and cannot pinpoint anything causing this. Hence I would now be moving to talk to a vet that knows about this condition which unfortunately is increasingly appearing in cavaliers.

There's a lots of info at my SM site: http://sm.cavaliertalk.com where you can download and print out the symptoms sheet, Dr Clare Rusbridge's information sheet (she is considered one of the world experts in this condition) and the treatment diagram, which lists her recommendations on how to go about treating depending on the response you get.

I cannot stress enough that I would make a call on this first thing Monday morning. Also, there are neurologists at UCD. Good luck and let us know how things go. I have (like several others on this board) a dog with symptomatic SM so if this comes back as the diagnosis there is a lot of support and experience with the condition here.

23rd October 2006, 08:15 AM
To the vet ASAP please, having lost three Cavaliers with SM I can reconise the symptoms with your little one, inform your vet about SM and ask to be refered to a neurologist.

There is alot of information about SM within the list and on the internet now...I'm sure your vet will be willing to learn more about it.

Alison, Wilts, U.K.

23rd October 2006, 07:13 PM
as you will read, you may find he feeds better if you elevate his bowl.
good luck. so sorry he's sick. :(

23rd October 2006, 07:54 PM
Please keep us posted on this as it does sound like SM and there are a lot of us on the board who have dealt with this and can offer you much advice. Good luck!

24th October 2006, 12:17 AM
I'm so sorry, I've only just seen this thread. I agree with the others, to the Vets immediately armed with a load of info about SM if necessary.

Maybe try and see one of the vets Karlin has recommended. I must admit my first thoughts were of SM.

I have a dog with it as have many others on here as well as many others who have had experience with it, so if you need a shoulder or any help then just holler.

Really good luck to you both and gentle hugs for the little one :flwr:

Let us know how you get on?

24th October 2006, 12:52 AM
Thanks for getting back to me with you replies. It seems the majority of you think it is the dreaded SM. I feared this myself but have not yet ruled out Inner Ear problem. Today he is a good bit better - bright eyed and his neck at times is almost straight. When he gets tired it goes back to the stiff position. This evening for the first time he got a sharp short pain and yelped, but got over it almost immediately. He is now 5 days on steroids and I think they are helping. He is a much hungrier dog and I am watching what he eats but as he's very thin I'm not too concerned about him gaining weight. I will watch him for another few days and hopefully he will recover without further investigation. But if not I will contact UCD as suggested. Many thanks to all of you who responded I will update you all later on in the week.

Cathy Moon
24th October 2006, 01:17 AM
We'd love to have an update. :flwr: It's so worrying when they're not well.

Hugs to your little boy! :hug:

24th October 2006, 02:34 AM
Just be aware that if it is SM or many other conditions the steroids will only help while he's on them and then everything will come back (though this will give you the indication that you need to investigate further if needed). I would still strongly encourage you to talk to a vet familiar with this problem -- there are very few in Ireland. You will need a vet referral to go to UCD at any rate. There is the possibility of low cost MRIs in Wales -- I went there with my fellow. PM me if you want more info and good luck.

The reason I am recommending moving fast on this is that it usually is a very serious sign if many things happen at once -- and with such dogs, the options for any long term survival may literally depend on acting now rather than in two weeks' time. I know dogs that have been referred for surgery immediately with similar symptoms and am just concerned that if you don;t check this out with a neurologist you will lose the opportunity to actually have any choices in treatment. I am sorry to sound so serious but very rapid onset of serious symtpoms like this, if it is SM, is not a good sign. I cannot see how the stiffness, etc could possibly be related to an inner ear problem -- while it might affect balance it will not do some of the things you are reporting nor would it be causing the ylping in response to pain. I would at least ring Adrienne at Beaufield vets in Celbridge -- she has a particular interest in SM in cavaliers -- and tell her what you have noted here.

24th October 2006, 08:04 AM
The pattern of SM is always "ups and downs" :(

One day a dog can be really down, the next as if nothing is really wrong at all...please keep this in mind...

Yelping and stiffness are all SM signs, please do not dismiss it....little yelps, long yelps...they all mean pain to the dog.

Steroids increase appitite make dogs eat far more, watch for an increase in thirst as well.

Alison, Wilts, U.K.

27th October 2006, 07:08 PM
Finally, I got a result - thankfully it is not SM nor Inner Ear Infection. Xrays show he has a damaged disc in his neck. Needs rest and steroids for the moment. Also sleep on hard surface. If it hasn't improved by next week - vet has advised surgery. Bad and all as it is, I'm slightly relieved.

27th October 2006, 08:49 PM
Oh thank goodness...that's great news that it's "only" disc damage...although I'm so sorry that your wee fellow has this and I hope that he won't need surgery.

please keep us posted, sending healing thoughts and prayers.

27th October 2006, 09:39 PM
Better news than it could have been - sorry can't really find the words but I think you'll know what I mean :flwr:

Get well soon little one & hope the recovery is a good and speedy one :flwr: :l*v:

28th October 2006, 06:11 AM
Ouch! poor little guy. But so glad it's not SM. No wonder you're relieved. Did the vet say the surgery can cure the condition if necessary? I hope your boy can be his old happy self again soon.