View Full Version : Syringomyelia in 8 week old puppy

31st October 2006, 02:03 PM
I am new to forum, and just picked up my new baby last Saturday. The breeder told me that both parents had been to a cardiologist and opthamologist and both were clear. I did ask her about Syringomyeli and she seemed to not know what I was talking about. I couldn't remember the name but explained to her the symptoms that I read about.
Both parents were on premises. One 5 and one 4, both beautiful dogs and the breeders pets. Since we have been home with Lily, we put a collar on her an she began scratching around her neck. I thought she just didn't like the collar, but she is still scratching and has had it on for 3 days Not excessively, just intermediately. She has let out little whimpers, and her back legs seem to be clumsy. She seems to chew her back legs and lick her front paws. We brought her to the vet when we picked her up, and his only concern was that she was not akc registered, but cksusa registered.

Am I just being paranoid, and these are just normal puppy things? Could the signs of Syringomyelia begin showing at 8 weeks old? If she does have it, does it mean that it will be the sever type since it presented so young, and is it fatal? Any information will be greatly appreciated!

Shay and Lily

31st October 2006, 02:20 PM
I'm no expert, but it sounds like you have an 8 week old puppy! She is doing all the things that puppies do! :)

31st October 2006, 02:36 PM

I've had two young puppies and both scratched at their collar for much longer than 3 days! Rio ALWAYS staggered backwards when she was doing a poo right into the middle of it :roll: She had wet feet constantly from me washing them :lol: 8 weeks is very young and I'd say it's quite likely her muscles are just not developed yet & thats why she looks clumsy (think of a child - their motor skills take a long time to develop)

Well done on getting a breeder that cardio tests. Very odd that she hadn't heard of SM though?? Considering almost half of all cavs have it

31st October 2006, 02:40 PM
As far as the collar goes, my Chester scratched at his for at least 2 weeks on and off. Just leave the collar on and don't take it off at all and Lily will get used to it. The clumsiness is just typical uncoordinated puppy stumblings and nothing to worry about.

Please, please, PLEASE read all the info on this forum about SM and if you have any questions you can always PM Karlin and she will help you out. Most of all enjoy your floppy, silly, clumsy little baby and give her lots of love, plenty of training and the best food possible and everything will be fine!

31st October 2006, 03:00 PM
Thanks to all! My husband said what you all said. He won't hear of anything being wrong with her. I have never seen a man love a puppy more. It is so funny to see my big, burly 200 pound husband with this little 5 pound baby. When he is home, her little paws don't touch the ground.

I was surprised too that the breeder didn't know what I was talking about, I couldn't pronounce it, but listed the symptoms, and she seemed clueless. I did ask her too about luxating patella, and she said well, all dogs can have that. My vet just loves Cavs, and said they are the best dogs in the world, and that an excellent job is being done to try and stamp out all these genetic issues that Cavs are afflicted with.

I have never seen a more loving puppy, and I have had dogs my entire life. My Old English Sheep Dog, was I thought the most loving dog in the world, but this little girl, at only 8 weeks old, has her beat. All she wants to do is love and please you, and be loved. It would break my heart to see her sick or in pain.

31st October 2006, 03:23 PM
It is hard to image a breeder not having heard of Syringomyelia (SM). AND very few breeders only register CKCSC, USA because it isn't a recognized registery around the world. Enjoy your lil pup-- they don't stay little for long. FWIW- Sandy

Cathy T
31st October 2006, 03:30 PM
Just to reassure you...I agree with all of the above. You have an 8 week old puppy who isn't used to a collar. No biggee. Definitely enjoy her puppyness because before you know it she'll be all grown up. The time just flies by!

I don't think it's unusual your breeder didn't recognize sm. It could be that she knows what it is but prefers not to acknowledge it. Unfortunate...but that's what it is. I spoke with a breeder at one point who told me that "MVD is not nearly as bad as it sounds...it's been blown out of proportion" :yikes Needless to say...I didn't go back to her.

When I told my breeder about Shelby's luxating patellas I had to educate her. Not a good sign...but what's done is done.

I love that your puppy has turned your hubby into mush! Isn't that the best?!

31st October 2006, 05:13 PM
....Since we have been home with Lily, we put a collar on her an she began scratching around her neck. I thought she just didn't like the collar, but she is still scratching and has had it on for 3 days Not excessively, just intermediately. She has let out little whimpers, and her back legs seem to be clumsy. She seems to chew her back legs and lick her front paws. We brought her to the vet when we picked her up, and his only concern was that she was not akc registered, but cksusa registered.

Am I just being paranoid, and these are just normal puppy things? Could the signs of Syringomyelia begin showing at 8 weeks old? If she does have it, does it mean that it will be the sever type since it presented so young, and is it fatal? Any information will be greatly appreciated!
Shay and Lily

I am just learning about cavaliers in the past year and have just scratched the surface, and have so much to learn, but from what little i've learned, i would say at this age, even if the scratching, yelpking and incoordination are not normal, even if she has a problem, there are many things that could explain the symptoms other than SM. While SM can start at any age and is more severe if it starts early, the things you describe may be normal behavior or may be signs of any number of things. Obviously one thing that can cause frequent scratching, biting paws and legs, could be fleas, even fleas that aren't seen, it only takes one.

And skin allergies can cause scratching. Allergies in puppies and dogs can be caused by lots of things, environmental things in a new home, things in their food. Some pups have what may be reactions to vaccinations which have allergic kind of symptoms.

You did right, having her checked by a vet, and it sounds like there is no sign of anything abnormal.

About leaving the collar on, my daughter Lisa's breeder told her to leave the collar off except when going out for a walk, just because she said it would be better for the coat and fur, the look of it. In getting a puppy used to a collar, it does make sense to keep it on them.

I've never kept a collar on Zack except when we go out, and it's not a collar, it's a halter. I choose to avoid a collar to avoid any possible risk of aggravating any tendency toward SM, a disease that originates from a skull malformation that originates in the area where a collar pulls against the neck. I understand this is a fairly common practice among cavalier owners, to avoid using a collar in favor of using a halter, also because of small dog trachea injury risks.

Other than going for walks, i'm not sure what would be the purpose of having a collar on a dog, unless there's a risk of them escaping and they would need to be wearing their tags at all times.

When i first met Zack, at the home of the woman i got him from, he wasn't scratching but i did see a flea on his belly and mentioned it to her. It wasn't until another occasion that i brought him home. She said she uses Advantage on them and that he had recently had advantage. At first, i didn't notice a lot of scratching, but when i did see him scratch, i thought it was from those fleas i'd seen on him, although i was no longer seeing any.

Zack had bloody diarrhea the day i got him. He otherwise seemed fine, happy, playful, energetic. He was seen by a vet and said to be fine, and was given medication for the diarrhea which cleared up the next day completely. I'm not sure, because i didn't write it down, if he continued to scratch that week.

A week after he saw the vet, because the diarrhea had stopped and he seemed well, i took him to have the last of his puppy shots. Soon, the diarrhea returned, and he was scratching a lot. I was worried about SM because Advantage didn't help with the scratching and i wasn't seeing any fleas. He had one episode of suddenly starting to shriek in the middle of while he was scratching his neck, and while screeching, he got up and ran into the house. I was very worried and upset about that.

He continued to scratch a lot for the next 3 weeks and also started vomiting, and continued to be receiving medications for diarhhea, vomiting, colitis, with no improvement.

Finally he was treated for worms, although he had been previously dewormed, he had three negative stool samples, and no worms were seen by me in any stools or vomit, but immediately after the first dose of the worming medication, the vomiting stopped, the diarrhea cleared up permanently, and the frequent neck scratching stopped.

There was never anything seriously wrong with him--but he was sick for weeks because no one guessed at first what was wrong with him, and scratching was a major symptom which at the time was not taken seriously as anythig abnormal.

i hope your girl is just having normal things going on, and at the same time, i support your maternal instincts and your efforts to become informed about the possiblities. SM seems so unlikely, there's no reason to worry about it at this point because if she has any problem at all, it's likely to be any number of benign simple things.

31st October 2006, 06:19 PM
Thanks for your concern! I am probably just being overly paranoid. My last dog a Lhasa Apso was a very sickly dog and I literally spent a fortune on her medical problems through the years. She was at deaths door more than once in her and had it not been for the wonderful Vets I use, she would not be here today. She is now 13, and lives with my 80 year old Mother who would not survive long I'm afraid without Chole. They are inseparable. Even though I did a lot of research on Cavs, and my Vet highly recommended them, I don't think I really grasped thier medical problems. But my thoughts are that all pure breed dogs have thier issues. My Lhasa certainly does. The only pure breed that I have owned that was very healthy was my Old English Sheep Dog who lived to the ripe old age of 14. Old for such a large dog. As my vet said, "if you want a very health dog, adopt from a shelter" He's right of course, but I had my heart set on a Cav. I'm not complaining and I'm ready for any medical problems with Lily, I just don't want to miss anything that could be a sign of something more serious. She does not have fleas as I can tell, but the Vet said she was too young for Advantage. She does drag her butt, but she was tested for worms and he didn't say she had any. I haven't noticed any in her stool, but I know butt dragging is a sign. I thought she may butt dragging due to the rectal exam. She also licks her wee-wee and grabs at her rear a lot. She is scheduled for her next round of shots next week and I will ask the Vet more about SM then and the butt dragging/licking and rear grabbing. He didn't mention SM at all when I was there on Saturday, but did talk a lot about MVP and eye problems with the breed. He was relieved when I told him both her parents had been checked out by specialist. This is a great site for Cav parents, and thank you all for your insight. You are right about there being a lot to learn about these special dogs.

31st October 2006, 06:40 PM
Like others have said, an 8 week old pup is just getting used to a collar and getting used to all kinds of new things. My Pixie is a shrieker. Such a little wimp. Anything out of the ordinary can cause it...if she's snoozing on the floor and a cat zooms past, she'll yelp...if a sheepdog sets foot in our driveway...she yelps, the first few times she went to scratch and her foot touched her harness...a yelp, an acorn falling from the tree and landing near her...a yelp. :roll: :roll: :roll:

BTW, here's an audio of syringomyelia


Congratulations on your new puppy! You're in for a world of love. ;)

31st October 2006, 11:59 PM
Sm in an 8 week old is very rare -- generally it is progressive and I only know a few puppies that young that have shown any symptoms.

If the other registry is CKCSC that is a perfectly acceptable registry for cavaliers. Make sure it IS CKCSC though. No good breeder in the US will register a cavalier with anything but CKCSC or AKC and sometimes both (there are quite a lot of overhanging politics between the two clubs but either is a good club) -- HOWEVER a proper registration is not a sign of a good breeder just as a driver's licence isn;t the sign of a good driver -- finding a good breeder begins with one that registers properly, but requires lots of other research. More important than the issue of luxating patella clearances for example is whether the breeder showed you the cardiac certifications for both sire and dam and perhaps those for grandparetns as well. They should both have had clear certs within a year of having this litter.

Many breeders do not know about SM -- but I'd be a bit concerned if a club registered breeder that has any real familiarity with the show and breeding worlds did not even know what it is at ALL. It is now pretty widely known across the clubs, the clubs have held seminars and fund research, and it is a common topic on the breeder discussion lists. Also if the breeder keeps up with any current discussion on the breed in the past two years it would be really hard to see how she wouldn't know about SM -- it has been in the club bulletins, is on the club websites, and in the breed magazines. That wouldn't make me worry about the puppy's risks of SM, but would raise some questions about the breeder, at least for me.

The scratching is most likely discomfort with a collar. Puppies do tend to drag their butts sometimes and generally need to be wormed a couple of times -- follow your vet's guidance. If it keeps sapping at its hindquarters though I'd want the vet to check for rabbit motes perhaps -- a lot of puppies have this and for some reasons some vets aren't familiar with it. Mine came home from the breeder with them and had a lot of these signs at the time. They are quite large mites, and the pup will look like it has dandruff flakes you can scratch up off the skin.

If you feel concerned still, try keeping a diary that tracks the behaviour you are concerned about -- that will give you a sense of whether it really is frequen, as you can share this with your vet for a professional opinion.

I have an extensive list of symptoms at my SM website, http://sm.cavaliertalk.com, along with ,ots of other info and a video of my own SM dog, Leo. You will see there that it is unusual for puppies to show symptoms before 6 months. And in general there are so many things that could cause all the things that you describe that I'd really just focus on enjoying your puppy, looking for other causes if the behaviour continues, and only really consider SM if the behaviour fails to change at all over time and the vet cannot find anything else to cause it. I think you will find there's nothing to be worried about though. :)

BTW your vet is wrong about healthy dogs being mixed breeds from shelters. All research shows only the first generation cross between two breeds has the benefit of what they call 'hybrid vigour' -- but can also get all the BAD genes of BOTH breeds too! After that -- and most crosses are several generation crosses, not a PB to a PB -- they have all the same risks as any dog. One of the advantages of PBs from a good breeder who is health focused is that temperament will be reliable and consistent, too -- with mixes you never know what you are getting. That isn't necessarily an issue for many people but in my case I wanted a particular type of personality and a dog known for getting along well with cats. :)

1st November 2006, 12:59 AM
The paperwork she gave me just says Continental Kennel Club and lists the Sire and Dam with thier CKC #'s and has a stamp that says "Purebred" with a Bar Code and an application number. My vet was concerned about this as well, and wondered why she did not register with AKC. I wasn't that concerned about this because I was not going to show or breed her. I wanted her just as a pet. I am now concerned about health issues if she is not a reputable breeder. How concerned should I be? She said this is the first litter she has bred with her 2 Cavs and she has only had Cavs for 5 nd 4 years (her two). No, she did not show me the health certificates from the cardiologist or the opthamologist that she said gave them an all clear. But I didn't ask to see them either. I took her word, I was so in love with the puppies. This was my mistake. Her dogs were beautiful and looked very healthy at least for the hour I was there. Her house was immaculate as were the puppies and her dogs. She and her husband seemed to truly love these animals. This is the first time I have ever seen Cavs listed for sale in our paper and I have been looking for over a year. I did see many on line, but I was unsure about buying a dog on line. I agree with you about her not knowing about SM. I only researched the bred and know about it. I have never owned one or known anyone who did. It does seem strange, unless she didn't want me to know, for what ever reason , or I didn't explain it properly. But still...... Oh well, here's to hoping for the best, and that Lily is fine. I will go over all of this with the Vet next week. Thanks for all of the information. I have a lot to learn about this breed.

1st November 2006, 01:11 AM
OK that is NOT good. That is a backyard breeder registry I'm afraid, used by breeders who are breeding simply to make money from the pet market... see:


Please don't be upset with yourself, as many on the board have been there when they got their first cavalier and didn't realise how many people out there present themselves as responsible -- but are not. Hopefully she has actually done the heart testing she claims in which case you are on somewhat better ground (her patella reply would have had me suspicious too -- what she says is nonsense) -- but if and when you opt for a second cavalier, you'll know the things to watch for from backyard breeders and brokers. It is very frustrating there are so many like this, but they prey on people's innocence and trust. :x

Generally this is what you are looking for in a good breeder:


Please enjoy your puppy without worries, as I am sure she is a lovely little thing and will bring you much pleasure, and medical conditions are not common. But with such breeders, you cannot believe anything they will say or claim... and it doesn;t surprise me that she hadn't heard of SM. :?

1st November 2006, 01:13 AM
At this point, it seems that further concern over this breeder will probably not lead to any useful conclusion. You're head over heals for your pup, and you'd never give it back, I imagine.

Just love your pup and handle whatever comes up. If you ever get another puppy, you'll have a better understanding of what you should ask a breeder.

1st November 2006, 01:21 AM
So right! She's ours now and a sweeter puppy, I've never seen. She has my husband totally wrapped around her little paw. He just came home with presents for her. LOL

1st November 2006, 01:50 AM
I have 2 cavaliers from the same litter, a boy and a girl. My girl was the smallest and my boy was the largest. They were brought up beautifully in the kitchen, with attention anbd socialization. But, the breeders were first time breeders also. the pups were registered, and the parents had health clearances. Everything appeared to be great.

Then: My pups scratched, scooted, and had red eyes shortly after I brought them home and let them play in the my gardens. They were 9 weeks old when we brought them home.
I made myself, the breeder and their vet crazy. I also thought that they had SM. Now, when I look back on what I did I was over reacting to everything they did and did not do.

The first thing that helped was to change the diet. After I eliminated corn , soy wheat, etc and put them on Solid Gold a holistic kibble most of the problems stopped. Also over vaccination of a puppy can cause some of the problems that you have described. Make sure the collar is soft. My two hardly ever scatch anymore and they wear a halter on leash. She will be much happier and healthier with a halter.

Good luck!!!!

1st November 2006, 02:59 AM
As I stated in previous posts, I have a 13 year old Lhasa, who has severe medical problems. Right now and for the past year, she has been fighting a yeast infection on her tummy, ears, and vagina. It has also affected her muscles, and she has arthritis, and her hid legs will give out from time to time. The Vet has told me that it will never be cured, as her immune system is shot from all her previous illnesses and medication. All we can do is treat the symptoms. I have asked him many times if she is suffering. He will always ask the same questions. Is she eating? Does she still want to play some? Always the answer is yes. He tells me that there are signs when a dog is suffering and near the end, but tells me that he will not tell me what they are, because we will constantly be staring at her waiting to see the signs. Now I understand why he said this. Sure, knowledge is power, but sometimes too much information is worse than none at all.

Cathy T
1st November 2006, 04:54 AM
Sure, knowledge is power, but sometimes too much information is worse than none at all.

You couldn't have said it better! When I was researching Jake's cancer I just had to stop....everything I read was so distressing...and we ended up no having to deal with any of it.

I had a cat who passed shortly after we got Jake. She had abdominal lymphoma. We spent 18 months wondering if today was the day. My vet told me to enjoy each and every day and said that as well as we knew her (she was 13 years old) we would know when it was time. Sure enough that day came and we let her go that night. She let us know she was done fighting and we were able to let her go before she lost her quality of life.

1st November 2006, 02:02 PM
Karlin wrote:
OK that is NOT good. That is a backyard breeder registry I'm afraid, used by breeders who are breeding simply to make money from the pet market.

I was feeling pretty foolish, but thanks to you Karlin, and all of the wonderful members who have replied, I am feeling much better. I did not realise that back yard breeders could be as bad as puppy mills, and pet stores. I paid $1800.00 for Lily, but I knew that these little dogs were expensive and I was prepared to spend that amount. I was really mad at myself for not asking her more questions, and being uncomfortable with some of her answers. I was so excited that I only had to drive 2 hours from my home and this was the first time I had ever seen this breed so close to home, where I could actually see the puppies and the parents. Once I was there, there was no way I was leaving without this little dog. She chose me, and wouldn't leave my side the whole time we were thier. So, I guess it was meant to be.

I will be taking pictures of Lilly today, and will post.

Thanks to all of you for your words of encouragement and sharing your stories with me

1st November 2006, 03:36 PM
It is very hard to walk away from puppies you have seen -- that is what pet shops, brokers and backyard breeders count on. I hate how they take advantage. Most breeders of this sort are just ignorant and deliberately stay that way. In other words, they like their cavaliers and decide it would be fun to breed them and they'd make some 'easy money'. They are not involved with the breed or care about it beyond these aspects of instant gratification. They are stymied to encounter a puppy buyer like you who actually asks any questions as undoubtedly, they never did any research when getting their own cavaliers and just bought to breed or bought and decided to breed. As you found yourself, doing even a modicum of research on cavaliers on the internet would have thrown up all the health issues. So a breeder who really, truly isn't aware of any of this must deliberately avoid learning or ignore information they know is out there. Certain types of people want to fool themselves and believe that while careful breeding might be a consideration for other breeders, what they are doing is 'just' producing a few puppies for friends and family, or to earn a little money. These are the most dangerous people for the breed and the most delusional, for their puppies are exactly those which spread their potential bad genes further and faster into the general cavalier population, for they probably do not care too much who gets their puppies, and won't ever require spay/neutering.

One thing everyone really needs to remember -- as this is the point many raise about why they want to breed their own 'special' dog -- is almost any cavalier is beautiful, especially in the eyes of the beholder. :) We *should* all feel our dogs are beautiful -- but also understand that unless we have specific knowledge and training in the breed, show regularly and fully understand the breed standard and how it is interpreted, our cavalier may be way off the breed standard and totally unsuitable for breeding from that aspect alone. His or her coat may be lovely, the face adorable, the personality beguiling -- but if you were sold a puppy as a pet, YOU DON'T HAVE A CAVALIER CONSIDERED TO BE BREEDING QUALITY. No good breeder would have sold such a dog to a pet home except in the most unusual circumstances and unless you have all the knowledge of genetics and health issues, required, the dog still shouldn't be bred. Most first time breeders fall into the delusional group that feel their cavaliers, because they are special to them, are of a quality to be bred. They almost certainly will not be.

Likewise, if anyone thinks they have a dog worth showing, get in touch with your local club, get involved with club events, get to know others in the club, and see if you can bring your dog along to an event to be evaluated by an experienced breeder and show person. Most of the time you will come away disappointed with a pro evaluation, but you will learn much about structure, movement, and the various things that go into making a show quality dog or breeding quality dog. And it might well set you on the road to acquiring that show quality dog and a new hobby! :)

1st November 2006, 03:40 PM
Shay, regarding your difficult issues of deciding on quality of life with an older dog: this might help; I know from emails I get that this person's essay has helped many others in a similar situation:


1st November 2006, 11:59 PM
Karlin: Thanks for all of the information. It was invaluable. Now can I bug you and anyone else who may have suggestions with one more question? The breeders were feeding Lily, Science Diet dry puppy food. The Vet recommended the same thing. Both Vet and breeder said to feed her 2/3 cup 2x per day, although the bag said to feed a 5 lb. puppy only 1 cup a day. She doesn’t eat it well. Takes her all day to eat it when I put it out in the morning, and until it’s time for bed to eat what I put out in the evening. She is pooping about 6x day. I was reading some of the posts about a lot of food having filler, and this would make them poop more. The Science Diet has Corn listed as the first ingredient. Is there a better food that I can get in the States that she may eat better and maybe cause her not to poop as much? How much should I be feeding her? I always thought Science Diet was good food. That is what my Lhasa has always eaten, but was on the Ultra Allergen due to severe allergies. I am willing and ready for other suggestions. After joining this forum, I have learned so much that I didn't know

2nd November 2006, 03:18 AM
There are many, many threads on food. Just use the search feature at the top of the page, and you'l have hours of reading!!

2nd November 2006, 12:59 PM

Can I point out to you something..... don't worry about the butt dragging so much (unless the is a problem identified by the vets) this is a common trait of the Cavaliers - they do it for fun I'm sure! Especially for a party trick in front of your friends!

I think Cathy Moon refers to it as the Boot Scoot Boogie! ( I hope I have not misquoted!) :lol:

2nd November 2006, 01:18 PM
So funny!......She is not doing it as much, just ocassionally.

3rd November 2006, 01:29 AM
Please don't beat yourself up over this. I too was very new to Cavaliers when we got Audrey. I did all the wrong things! Backyard breeder, had her shipped, asked wrong questions, you name it!!! We have been lucky so far. She is 2.5 years old and so far is healthy. I had heard about SM when we got her but the breeder's response was indignant, "her dogs didn't have that!". Once she was home safe and sound she was ours- every bit of her- it was sickness and in health! I am sure you will give Lilly a great life. I have learned so much from this board along with Cavalier Connection. Learn all you can, feed her the best diet you can afford, make her part of your family, and you will have an enriched life by her presence in it!

Oh and butt sliding!!!! We roll our eyes as she goes for a ride!! Just have her glands drained periodically. Audrey seems to need hers done about every six months.Best of luck!

3rd November 2006, 02:16 AM
Thanks so much for the words of encouragement. I am feeling so much better with all the kind words I've received from everyone on this site. She is not scooting as much now, but scratching, and every now and then she lets out a yelp. I am just ignoring things like this now, that a couple of days ago before reading all the replies, I would be freaking out over.

24th November 2006, 11:28 PM
Lily is now 3 months old and the weird behavior that started about a week after we get her at 9 weeks is getting worse. My husband who kept telling me that she was fine, is not longer saying this. We are absolutely heartsick and very strongly think she has SM. I watched the 3rd video that Karlin put up a couple of days ago and she points her little hind leg out the same way the dog in the video does. The scratching is becoming more pronounced and more often. She is scratching her head and neck, ears and her sides, also shakes her head a lot. She is doing the air scratch while she is walking. She is chewing at her paws a lot. I changed her food and did not notice any improvement. She is yelping for no reason and when you pick her up. She is snapping at the air and licking her lips a lot. I am praying that there is another explanation for her behavior, but I just feel in my heart that she has SM. I read on another Cav site about a little dog named Odie who died at 10 mos. from this horrible diseases, and I pm'd his Mom who she told me his symptoms started as soon as they got him home. My pet insurance will be effective the middle of December and we will take her to a specialist then. Does anyone know of a specialist in my area who is familiar with SM as my Vets are not? Is it best to get the MRI at first or try to rule out other things first? I don't know what her prognosis will be getting it so young, if it is SM? The scratching is most pronounced when she comes in from going to the bathroom from being on her leach. She is not sensitive to the touch around her head or neck. It mostly seems to be under her arms and close to her sternum. Could his be anything other than SM? We are desperate that it is not SM. We love and adore this baby and will do whatever it takes to make her well. Thanks for any information you can give.

24th November 2006, 11:47 PM
Hi Shay:

I am really sorry to hear this. It is impossible to diagnose without an MRI and a neurologist would need to see Lily, but on the basis of what you describe I think this is almost certainly going to be SM. The reason the symptoms get worse after she toilets is because the strain of going causes an intensification of discomfort -- humans regularly report this.

This list of neurologists also notes those who have been favourably commented upon by people with SM cavaliers:


I note Dr Axlund in Auburn AL is listed in red.

24th November 2006, 11:57 PM
Thanks Karlin.....I thought that Aubrun would be the place. That is our vet school here in Alabama and is only a couple of hours from me. Will she need a referral from a Vet before she sees the neurologist or will they see her without a referral. Should I just call the school to get an appointment?

25th November 2006, 12:01 AM
Her prognosis will depend on the results from an MRI. To be blunt, she will probably not have a very long lifespan unless the decompression surgery is an option. As she is progressing so quickly you would need to make that decision very quickly. If you spoke to a vet about your earlier concerns, and if your vet noted the excessive scratching and so forth at the time, insurance probably will not cover her treatment (and only Petcare in the US that I know of, covers SM treatment at this time). So just be prepared to need to make decisions regardless of insurance coverage. She really, really needs to be on some painkillers at this stage -- even something like metacam might help her. More likely she should be on gabapentin, perhaps steroids, perhaps frusemide to try and reduce the CSF pressure. On my SM website you can download the treatment protocol. The probem is that to treat her you also need to talk to a vet (has a vet seen her with all these symptoms? Again, if so, insurance will not cover her. You need a current vet report on a dog for insurance to cover the dog to eliminate existing conditions). Medications will not help for very long however in most dogs that are affected at a young age and/or progress rapidly in this way.

I am sorry to not have more positive things to say but you need to have an honest picture of choices and really need to think about waiting for three more weeks with no treatment for a dog progressing at this rate and in obvious pain, versus moving now to get her more comfortable and get her assessed. In similar cases neurologists have wanted to do the surgery (when surgery is possible) immediately to halt further progression. I know these are really hard choices but get the neuro exam asap so you know what you are dealing with and what your choices are; don;t base any decisions on my comments which are only an ediucated guess. Please let us know how things go.

You usually need a vet referral but sometimes you can call the neurologist directly.

25th November 2006, 12:05 AM
BTW feel free to PM me anytime or email me; and also, be sure to inform the breeder as dogs producing puppies with early onset SM should not be bred again. But wait til you get a confirmation of what she has. There is always the chance of PSOM; I have info on that too on the SM website. But air scratching is likely to be SM.

25th November 2006, 12:16 AM
When she had her last puppy shots, 2 weeks ago, I mentioned the scratching to the Vet and did not say much about this. This was my dilemma about the pet insurance. I got the PetCare because I strongly suspected she may have it, and I knew they covered genetic/hereditary diseases. She has not been treated for anything yet and her chart has been faxed to PetCcare. The insurance will kick in on 12/15. This is why I am trying to wait until then. Her 3rd puppy shots are due next week and I was trying to wait until the insurance is in effect, which would make her shots a week or 2 late. Then I was going to mention all her symptoms to the Vet so nothing would be preexisting. Does this make sense? She doesn't seem to be in pain except if you pick her up the wrong way, and she yelps. Would waiting 3 weeks so that I will have insurance make having suregery or other treatments not be effective? I am just so confused as to what to do. The insurance will certainly help us financially if we can wait.

25th November 2006, 12:30 AM
You have about a two week window, as I understand it, to do the second shots without having to start all over.

You should have the vet try to to treat whatever else could be causing these things, by process of elimination. Have him check ears, spine, etc. The air scratching is the one thing that would have me concerned as it is a pretty clear symptom unique to SM, amd all these things together are worrying. But you do need to talk to your vet and have him/her examine Lily for any other cause, too. Most likely your vet will want to try a few things to see if these signs resolve. But give the vet the info on SM and ask if you can get a neuro referral.

Can you try to video some of these behaviours for the vet or neurologist?

There are two SM support groups that will also give you a lot of advice IF this turns out to be SM.

It is hard to know what the insurance will say. If your vet says there has been persistent scratching, they may then say it was a pre-existing condition. All you can do is proceed and see what happens. If she isn;t showing much pain then try not to do anything that will cause pain while you wait to get her in -- lift her only when necessary and very carefully, raise her food and water dishes so she doesn't need to hang her head down to eat or drink; try not to have her be too overactive as activity causes the CSF to move more quickly which progresses the condition, maybe feed soft food or add water to her kibble to keep her stools as soft as possible.

If your vet is dubious about SM I'd certainly ring the neurologist directly and ask for an appointment.

25th November 2006, 12:36 AM
Thanks Karlin....I will keep you posted.

Cathy T
25th November 2006, 02:16 AM
Shay - My heart is breaking for you. I am going to pray very very hard for you that this is not sm....and that if it is you will be able to properly treat her. Just wanted to let you know I am thinking about you and hoping for a positive outcome.

25th November 2006, 02:28 AM
Shay - I really hope this isn't SM, but I know exactly the devastation and heartbreak you're going through. If she is progressing this rapidly, it might be better to get heer checked out before the insurance kicks in. But if you won't be able to afford anything without the insurance, then waiting might be in her best interests, too...

My thoughts go out too you and your family and I hope she is OK....

25th November 2006, 02:40 AM
Thanks Cathy.....I am praying too that we are wrong and she has something like allergies, or inner ear or anything but SM. She is just so sweet and plays and plays and seems so happy. I just can't get past the scratching and yelping when she is picked up. Other than that she never seems to be in any pain, and she doesn't yelp when she scratches. It is very confusing. As I told Karlin we are tying to wait for the PetCare to kick in so maybe we can get the MRI covered. If I go to the Vet now they will consider anything she is treated for prior to then as pre-existing and it won't be covered. My husband's kids have been here all week and she has played with them like crazy and seemed to love every minute of it. So I sit here and watch her play like a perfectly normal puppy and think she is fine, and then all the wired signs start, and I think it' SM. It is just so frustrating. I appreciate your thoughts and prayers. I just need to get through the next 3 weeks until the insurance kicks in. Of course if she looks like she in getting worse or in pain, we will take her asap.

25th November 2006, 02:51 AM
Thanks Rory...Did you have a Cav with SM? It is just such a heartbreaking disease. When I first thought she may have it, she was so young everyone thought it was just normal puppy behavior, but since then I have read more and more about very young puppies showing symptoms. As young as 8 weeks. She was about 9 or 10 wks when I started noticing the behavior. If she wasn't so young, I would be a lot more optimistic about the outcome if it is SM. She is laying on the floor playing with her toys and looking at me with those big sweet eyes and I just cry, and then she comes over to console me. Can you believe that? Why oh why in a breed as sweet as these precious babies, would they have to have such a horrible disease. It is so unfair.

25th November 2006, 10:03 AM
Shay--this is so frightening and stressful.

About Petcare, do you have a copy of your vet's notes that were sent to Petcare? I routinely always ask for a copy of Zack's medical records for my own file on him. You can ask for a copy if you don't already have one. Then you could look and see what your vet wrote.

Scratching is so nonspecific, even if Lily turns out to be diagnosed with SM later, i question whether the Petcare underwriters could or would link the early scratching to SM. SM doesn't always have scratching, and even if she has SM, she also could've had a skin allergy, caused by such a myriad of things. If the vet wrote allergy down in her chart, all the better.

My experience with Petcare is that they go by what's written down and they don't read between the lines. Also, they go right by what your vet says, if a vet says it, they accept it. If your vet hasn't said SM, i don't think they will decide it was notated retrospectively. If a neurologist later diagnoses SM, i think they probably wouldn't go back and try to say that the earlier scratching was linked to the SM. It doesn't seem to be the way they operate in my experience. They just go by what's on the claim form and your vet's chart notes.

As far as seeing a neurologist goes, i'm pretty sure you don't need a referral. Petcare says clearly in their description of their policy that you can self refer to ANY VET. There is no requirement to get a referral from a regular vet to a specialist. You don't have to consult with your regular vet on it at all. If you want your dog to see a neurologist, you call and make an appointment and if there is a diagnosis of an illness, you submit a claim.

I know a lot of dogs are treated for SM without having MRIs. SM can only be diagnosed for certain with an MRI, but what this means for insurance purposes, i dont know. Apparently vets diagnose SM, at least provisionallly, without MRIs. I'm just wondering if your neuro consult could be covered before an MRI. But you will likely have an MRI so eventually you can claim the consult, one way or anohter, IF there is a diagnosis as a result.

i know you are heartsick and very worried about the medical costs. I hope most of all that whatever is causing the symptoms will not be SM. Whatever it is, i hope your insurance will cover it. my experience has been that Petcare just follows their own rules, and they dont' seem to be going out of their way to avoid paying claims. They are very document oriented, and if things are written a certain way by a vet, they will be covered. And they are not looking for any long explanations or treatises. If you look at their claim form, there is only one or two short lines for a vet to write the reason for the claim. If a clear diagnosis is written down, i think they will just pay it, up to your limit for that illness category. If they want more information, they will contact the vet. Every vet i've talked to about Zack and his insurance, which includes 7 vets, including an ER vet and a radiologist, all of them have indicated a willingness and eagerness to do whatever they can to get things covered by the insurance, several have explicitly said to me that they want to write whatever is necessary to get the claim covered.

One other thing--you might want to consult with a lemon law attorney. Your state may have lemon laws that cover puppies, lots of states do. the different states' laws are similar--in my state, you can sue the breeder if your puppy is sick and a vet documents the illness within a ceratin time after you got the puppy (up to a year for hereditary conditions). You may keep your puppy and have your vet bills reimbursed up to 150% of your purchase price in my state. A lawyer experienced in these laws would have to advise you. Also your state department of consumer affairs. I would also check public interest attorneys in nonprofit agencies. With laws, things change all the time, and the evolutionary movement is toward puppy lemon law coverage. More states pass these laws as time goes by. Maybe it won't be available in your state but may be worth looking into.

I couldn't find anything on Alabama puppy lemon laws on the web just now, but the list of puppy lemon law states may not be the most up to date info--you would need to check with your state department of consumer affairs, and perhaps try a free consultation with an attorney, these are available--just find out if there is case law in which puppy buyers have won restitution for sick puppies.


here's an attorney that says you get a free intake evaluation and also they say that you never have to pay fees for their representation on lemon laws. However, no doubt they take a percentage of what you win.

CLICK (http://www.autolemonlaws.com/alabama/?gclid=CPW7j-7t4YgCFSZmYwodhVuSow)

25th November 2006, 01:26 PM
Judy, you do need a referral to see a neurologist, not because of what the insurance company wants, but because that is the way you go to see specialists. Most people don;t just directly ring a specialist, they need a referral. A neurologist will want a vet to have cleared the dog for other possibilities first -- not least, so that a visit does not waste the owner's time and money. In a real emergency or if the vet is not willing to do a referral, then I recommend to call directly because many vets will not believe the sytmposm can be SM which is very rare normally.

Also, vets and neurologists don't ever treat dogs for SM without having MRIs except under very special circumstances. Vets will generally NOT treat a dog unless a neurologist has diagnosed SM and the only way to do that except in a severely symptomatic dog is via an MRI. A dog that has early onset SM, some severe symptoms, and clear progression at a young age will have to have an MRI unless the owners opt to just give hospice care to the dog for as long as it might live. There are sadly very few options for this condition and for a young dog with rapidly progressing symptoms, decompression surgery is likely the only medium to long term survival option.

It is also very hard to tell what an insurance company will do. Some will not treat for major probelms until 6 months after enrollment or so; some might feel claiming within days raises suspicions and will go back to talk to the vet. Scratching IS a symptom of SM and thus COULD be taking to indicate a pre-existing condition. Companies also have the right to change what they will cover at any time so that needs to be kept in mind, too. Many of us fear that insurance will no longer cover SM before long because it will be seen as too expensive and too common in the breed.


Shay, Rory's mom has gone thru the whole decompression surgery with her dog Rory. There are some long threads with images of Rory in the health section if you do a search. Also Rory is doing really well a year now after his surgery! I am sure Rory's mom will happily tell you more either here or if you PM her for advice.

Back to Lily: I would really try not to have her exposed to a lot of activity like playing with children. Just try to keep her as quiet and low key as you can until you can get a proper assessment. Every time her CSF speeds up (as it does with play or excitement) that can further progress the condition. Try to avoid everysituation in which you need to handle her ina way that causes yelping/pain. The fact that she doesn;t yelp while scratching isn;t relevant -- a lot of dogs scratch, and/or show signs of pain. They don;t necessarily go together because the scratching is believed to be a response to skin crawling sensations while the pain is associated with pressure on nerve endings that the dog experiences as pain, or pressure from the CSF's constricted flow, which causes headaches and pain of many types in humans.

It may be helpful to read this, which describes what humans feel:


And also this:


25th November 2006, 01:33 PM
Some info on Rory:

Surgery: http://www.cavaliertalk.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=947

6 month update: http://www.cavaliertalk.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=2066

12 month update: http://www.cavaliertalk.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=5185

Let us know how things go; hopefully you will find another reason for her discomforts but also, there's lots of info, perspnal experience and help and support here and elsewhere if you are dealing with SM. :flwr:

25th November 2006, 01:41 PM
Shay......did you go with the double illness ? That gives you 6000.00 per category instead of 3000.00 . I have Petcare insurance on 4 of mine and I just have regular illness coverage to keep the cost down ...BUT ........if I ever suspect something major .......I'm switching to double illness .

I think as long as your vet hasnt diagnosed or said SM in his notes ( call and get them to fax a copy to you ) you will be OK with Petcare Insurance.

25th November 2006, 01:45 PM
Shay ..........I also wanted to mention that it is VERY common for puppies .....esp Cavaliers to Yipe when picked up ! Colby did this and still does it if I pick him up the wrong way. I was concerned at first too and posted and lots of people said their babies did the same thing !! That made me feel better !

Also ....... If they arent used to wearing a collar they will scratch at their neck for WEEKS ! Colby did this too .

Its natural for all of us to be paranoid about SM bc of all of the info thats out there .........but many times its not the case . But only a MRI will say for sure . Good Luck !!

25th November 2006, 02:15 PM
Any *indication* of a pre-existing condition, whether diagnosed or not, can be and usually is grounds for refusal of an insurance payment. That's just the way insurance companies work. A vet would never be expected to be able to make a diagnosis of SM so for a vet to actually name it would be extremely unlikely -- only a neuro can make that diagnosis. However if an owner raised the issue of likely symptoms and a vet also recalls having noted those symptoms, they will almost certainly be taken as indicating a pre-existing condition. With luck, they will still pay out or this won't be noticed by the insurance company, but I would not count on it.

Having spent a full day two weeks ago with the leading neurologists and vets working on this condition, as well UK club health committee members, breeders and pet owners of affected dogs, I simply have to emphasise that it is NOT normal for puppies to yelp when picked up. I've handled lots and lots of puppies through general rescue and grown up with a few and spend lots of time with trainers and pet owners. I also have a clear/clear dog who never yelped as a puppy or overreacted to a collar or harness. If a puppy is yelping consistently -- eg more than when a person realises they have done something to handle the pup incorrectly/pinch it -- this should be a *concern* and I strongly recommend people have any continued incidences of this checked out. Few puppies should keep scratching at collars for weeks when introduced to them unless something is really annoying them about the collar -- most puppies accept a collar within a week or two and adult dogs as well. Again, in this breed, on and off scratching combined with unexplained yelping when handling a dog has GOT to be seen as a concern.

I would have a vet thoroughly check any dog that is yelping when handled -- and with this breed, consider a basic neurologist exam where they will handle the dog and look for pain spots/limb weakness etc, but not MRI. Just as a note on how unusual it is for a dog t yelp -- Jaspar, a clear/clear dog, never does and I carry him all the time at agility while waiting for him to do his runs, and carry him quite a lot generally. Leo, who HAS moderate SM, almost never yelps (once every two-three months?). I carry Leo around a lot too. So for a dog to yelp for no reason when picked up and carried -- that would be a concern worth seeing a vet for.

I also have to reiterate that sadly, SM is NOT RARE in cavaliers. Every study so far shows at least 50 % of cavaliers likely have syrinxes by the time they are mature adults, possibly as many as 70%, and over 90% have the malformation which on its own can cause symptoms. Most dogs will not be severe cases or severely symptomatic but likewise this is a painful condition even when dogs do not show outward pain and there are medications to relieve pain for dogs that are mildy symptomatic. Generally clear unexplainable signs of pain like yelping are considered more serious than some other signs like scratching unless the scratching begins to reach severe evels as it was in Leo's video or the video of the cavalier who was pts (clip 2 on my website).

Thsi is a condition that has been known about for a LONG time in the breed -- old time breeders will recall talking about 'the scratching disease' in cavaliers, which back then, tended to never manfest as much more than persistent scratching. many recall seeing this inthe show ring over many years. Something has now changed causing earlier onset and more sever forms of this condition -- and, because of MRIs, vets now understand WHAT this is (if not why it is happening, how it is inherited, etc). Every researcher so far has been shocked at the high level of incidence in MRI'd samples -- so we as owners and devotees of this breed have to realise this isn't about other people's dogs but abput OUR cavaliers. the chance that anyone has a 'normal' cavalier -- clear of both SM and CM -- is extremely small.

That doesn't mean people need to panic about SM, especially as only rarely is it severely symptomatic but that they need to be well aware of symptoms, just as we need to be with MVD, so that we can be sure we keep out dogs as comfortable as possible if they are showing signs of discomfort. I have spoken to one of the leading human neurosurgeons for this condition and he says even a mild malformation tends to cause huge headaches and pain for those who are symptomatic. Most likely this is the case with the dogs as well.

Some key scratching symptoms that are rare for any other reason but common for SM:

1) air scratching
2) stopping and scratching at head and ears when excited
3) discomfort on the lead and collar, perhaps on a harness too

And also:

4) yelping when picked up, touched in some places, all with no other apparent reason and vet cannot find any other reason

More severe symptoms would be scoliosis (twisted spine), head tilt, limb weakness (trembling, falling over, odd walk).

25th November 2006, 03:34 PM
Thanks everyone for your concern and information. I don't want to be a ninny and over react, but I just can not get passed the symptoms. Last night she slept with us and she yelped 3 times when I moved the pillow where she had her little head. To me, this is not normal. This morning she is fine, but yelped when my step daughter picked her up. My husbands kid's are teenagers, and they just love her and she loves them. They will be going home tomorrow, so it will be easier to keep her a little more still. I have been a nervous wreck the whole time they have been here. Poor kids. I have asked the kids not to pick her up, and not to play with her in a way that gets her overly excited. What is so sad is that she wants to play with them as she is a puppy, and can't understand why she can't play and run, which she does unless I put her in her crate. She is completely a normal puppy with the exception of the yelping and scratching. We have been picking her up under her tummy, and she doesn't react to this. If you pick her up further towards her front paws under her arms is what causes the yelping. It has been hard to monitor this and I'm afraid I have been rude to some family when they have picked her up like this. I have asked them not to pick her up, and of course they don't understand the situation, and some just ignore you and pick her up anyway. It makes me so mad. Lily will run to them and jump up and down so they naturally want to pick her up. It is so frustrating. I go back and forth that I am overreacting to watching her like a hawk. I will feel much better when I get her to the Vet and know something one way or the other. I guess the not knowing is the worse. I don't think that her Vet put anything in her chart about the scratching. I just mentioned it to him and he really didn't comment at all. I will get them to fax me a copy of what they sent to PetCare. Regardless of what PetCare will pay, we will get her treatment. It would be financially a strain especially right before Christmas. We paid $1800.00 for Lily and have probably spent another $500 or $600 on doggy stuff, food and shots so far. I will not let her suffer or be in pain, we will do the best for her that we can do. She deserves nothing less. She is just our baby and we love her to pieces. I just have to not cry around her because it upsets her. She wants to comfort me.

25th November 2006, 05:57 PM
Good luck with it all {{{{{{{{Shay}}}}}}}} Hope Lily is OK & that it's not SM. I think if it is though I would definitely see if you've got a 'Lemon Law' where you live.

25th November 2006, 06:05 PM
I know many of us with diagnosed dogs actually felt much better getting the disgnosis than not knowing. So your feelings are normal. If she does have SM, tenderness is more common around the front legs and shoulders because syrinxes form in the neck area first and the pressure points tend to affect nerves going to front leg, sides, etc. Generally you don't want to pick up dogs from the front legs (as you might with a cat) as they don't have a cat's flexibility and this can be really uncomfortable anyway as their whole body weight is then levered off their front legs. A good way to pick up a dog is just what you are doing -- from the belly, underneath, and supporting the front and back of the body equally. I tend to carry my dogs kind of like a football, with my hand supporting their chest, then braced against my body with my elbow supporting their hindquarters. Or I hold them with two arms, equally supporting front and hindquarters. If she is having pain by getting accidentally moved at night she'd likely be better in a crate next to your bed. Those crate pads that have the kind of rolled edge are good for SM dogs as they like to keep their heads elevated higher and they can rest them on the rolled edge.

Shay, if she has SM you are catching it very early when you have the most options. So you are fortunate in that. I'd see if you vet will get you a prescription for gabapentin as soon as you bring her in if he is willing -- this is very good on pain and the scratching. Leo's frantic scratching has stopped and even if we miss a pill or two he is fine now.

One thing you might consider -- though it would involve travel, it may still be cheaper -- is talking to LIVS (www.livs.org) to Dr Marino -- they are doing low cost screenings for cavaliers and also do the most advanced form of the surgery (however, I do not know if the MRI they do on the low cost screening would be adequate for a full diagnosis; it is intended more for breeders to screen breeding stock). They are one of the most experienced centres for doing surgery for SM, and have done it on chihuahuas and yorkies, so dogs that are very small. They are in Long Island though. They charge $500 per dog for three or more for breeders; don't know what they would charge for single dogs or if it would be adequate. However it is one idea.

I do know someone got an MRI in Alabama where the price was quite good -- probably at Auburn -- but that was a while ago.

25th November 2006, 10:54 PM
Thanks Karlin....Today Lily is fine and not so much scratching. I don't know if Long Island will be an option for us at this time. My Vet is a professor at Auburn and is very involved with the School of Veterinary Medicine, however, not that familiar with SM. I mentioned this to him when I first got her when we brought her in right after we picked her up. He was telling me what a great job they are doing in Europe breeding out the MVD, and in his opinion we could do a much better job in the US. I asked him about SM at the time, but he wasn't that afmiliar. I know that I will have no problem getting a referral from my Vets. I have used them for 13 years for my Lhasa and they are the best in the city. All 3 are very active at Auburn. They were going to send my Lhasa to Auburn when they just didn't know what was wrong with her, but the last test finally came back with a definitive diagnosis. I have family who have brought their dogs to Auburn and they have had great success. Auburn is really a great Vet school. I just hope they are familiar with SM.

Maxx's Mummy....I had another member e-mail me about lemon laws, but it appears that Alabama does not have one for dogs. If she has SM I will definitely pursue this matter further. Thanks!

Cathy T
26th November 2006, 12:37 AM
Shay - just know that you are in our thoughts. I've been through some rough times with mine (Jake had squamous cell carcinoma) and it was very rough not knowing. Once we got the diagnose and surgery was recommened it felt so much better that we were doing something. We had a wonderful outcome (the complete opposite of what I expected...I thought for sure I was going to lose him at 2 years old). I know what you mean about looking at her and crying. I did this for a week. Every time I looked at that sweet boy's face and thought I was going to lose him I would break down. So, that is completely normal.

As far as what Karlin said about picking them up....I am so relieved now that both of mine are big enough that people don't pick them up anymore! I can't tell you how many times someone tried to pick them up as puppies by their front (like you would a baby). Neither of mine tolerated this and would shriek. The only way you can pick mine up is to scoop their body and support their front. They still will yelp if picked up wrong.

Hang in there....we're pulling for you!

26th November 2006, 01:36 AM
Judy, you do need a referral to see a neurologist, not because of what the insurance company wants, but because that is the way you go to see specialists. Most people don;t just directly ring a specialist, they need a referral.

Yes, that's true, people will turn to their regular vet for referrals, and hopefully regular vets will make appropriate referrals. i was mainly talking about the lack of insurance policy limitations--but my impression has been that it would not be a problem to self-refer to a specialist, if you needed to, for whatever reason. In fact when Zack had that wrong diagnosis of enlarged heart and i was trying to prove to Petcare that he didn't have it, i called one of the best vet cardiologists around here, Stephen Ettinger's office, and they were more than ready to have me come right in and have an echocardiogram for $500. There was no problem taking him to a skin specialist last summer either.

A neurologist will want a vet to have cleared the dog for other possibilities first -- not least, so that a visit does not waste the owner's time and money. In a real emergency or if the vet is not willing to do a referral, then I recommend to call directly because many vets will not believe the sytmposm can be SM which is very rare normally.

Also, i guess because of the rarity, normally, so many vets seem so unfamiliar with it, and have surprising misconceptions.

Because treating SM can be so expensive and can become a financial hardship if not covered by insurance, trying to work things so that it does get covered is going to be a high priority for many people. From what Shay said in a later post, it sounds like her vet has not notated scratching--he probably encounters countless new puppy owners who report scratching. So hopefully she will get through the 30 day period without a pre-existing condition so that it will be easier to give Lily the best care in the long run. :xfngr:

I have to question whether a report of scratching in a young puppy could be linked to SM by the insurance company if the vet didn't find it to be abnormal in any way and didn't even write it down, much less treat it. But as you say, theoretically they can call the vet and ask for more information about the history if they want. Scratching is so nonspecific and common, it seems like they shouldn't be able to attribute it to SM, but i suppose they can if they want. I will be paying very close attention to what happens with Lily and Petcare.

Also, vets and neurologists don't ever treat dogs for SM without having MRIs except under very special circumstances.

i didn't know that. i follow some net discussions by people with SM dogs and had the impression that there are a number of people who could not readily afford MRIs, but who's dogs were still being treated for the symptoms, so i thought that, while not definitively diagnosed, SM was like a working diagnosis for which the medications were given. Is this not very common? Do most dogs get MRI in order to be treated?

....Companies also have the right to change what they will cover at any time so that needs to be kept in mind, too. Many of us fear that insurance will no longer cover SM before long because it will be seen as too expensive and too common in the breed.

that is scary. If i pay my premiums and uphold my end of the bargain, i expect the insurance company to fulfill their contract. If they can capriciously deny coverage despite it being within what they've promised to cover, that is very scary to think about. It's also scary that SM severe enough to require expensive treatment is expected to increase to a point where insurance companies would not cover it. Petcare does have certain breeds with certain conditions that are so common and so expensive, they exclude them. But apparently their actuaries haven't considered MVD and SM in cavaliers to be something they need to exclude. That things are going in that direction with SM in cavaliers is very sad.

26th November 2006, 03:22 PM
Shay, I don't have any words of wisdom or advice for you. I did want to let you know, though, that my heart and thoughts are with you. :xfngr:

26th November 2006, 04:17 PM
Thanks everyone for your concern for our Lily.....My step kids and Mother-in-Law have gone home this morning, and Lily is zonked out in her crate. I think I can now get her settled into our little routine. She is doing so good with her potty training, and only had a couple of accidents while my company was here. She is sleeping through the night now, and not having to go out until about 7:00 AM. cl*p . The scratchimg has not been so bad the last 2 days, which is encouraging, but when I take her out, and bring her in and remove her leach she gives a couple of hind leg scratches. So we will wait and see. My house is so peaceful right now, the silence is bliss :lol: but Lily seemed a little depressed when they left :( she was going through the house looking for everyone.

27th November 2006, 12:03 PM
The neuro whose name I gave you is definitely familiar with SM and has treated at least one dog with good reports -- that's why he's highlighted on the neuro list. :) So you will be in good hands at the point you may need to talk to him.

27th November 2006, 04:31 PM
Thanks Karlin.......I can't wait to get her to the Vet. I am counting the days. She was better the last couple of days, but last night she yelped a couple of times while laying down. Not screams, just little yelps. She is not scratching when she yelps. She is nibbling her paws more this morning, and scratching a little. The weird thing is she does none of this while on her leach. It is always after I bring her in from outside. The yelping is just random. Can't attribute it to anything, except when she is picked up the wrong way. The other yelps have just been for no resaon. She doesn't seem to be in pain except for the little yelps. Otherwise, she seems extremely happy and playful. Just so frustrating She slept for several hours yesterday after my company left. She needed the rest. We are back in our routine now. She is going to the door now when she has to potty. I am so proud of her. She has learned a couple of tricks. My husband has taught her to sit, and I have taught her to speak when she gets a treat. She is so happy with herself when she does this. She is such a pleaser, and very smart. I know all Mom's say this about their babies, but I just have to brag a little.

30th November 2006, 05:54 PM
So sorry to read of your concerns, Shay.

I have two affected dogs, Rupert was diagnosed from symptoms only and is mildly affected...TedBear was diagnosed by MRI last April and is moderate to severly affected.

It is better to know for sure, I know in someways there is always a part of you that would rather not know, but once it was confirmed I felt more able to manage the condition.

Please keep us posted, sending lots of positive thoughts.

1st December 2006, 02:07 AM
Thanks for your concern, and I am so sorry your babies are affected. Just when I think that maybe just maybe, that I am wrong, something happens to make me sway back to thinking that SM is what she has. Her scratching this week has been relatively mild, and just a couple of yelps, but could attribute that to hubby picking her up the wrong way. Tonight hubby had her out for a walk, and I was siting on the side deck. I could see my neighbors talking to her, next thing I here a yelp. I figured they had tried to pick her up. When he got back, I asked him why she yelped, and he said my neighbor was just petting her. This is very strange, because non of her yelps have been when we are just petting her. I have gone over this dog with a fine tooth comb. I have patted, petted, scratched, combed, and rubbed every inch of her little body. She does not flinch, or yelp as if in pain when I do this.. She will sometime start kicking her back leg when I scratch her tummy, but every dog I have ever had has done this. The scracting she does is never in one spot. Sometimes her neck, rarely her head and ears, mostly her side close to her belly. She scratches on both sides of her body. I am now hoping it is just allergies, and I am wrong about the SM. She plays like mad and never seems to be hurting. She has run into walls while playing, and this does not cause her to yelp. So confusing. Just can't wait for 12/13 so I can start getting her checked out when the pet insurance kicks in.

1st December 2006, 12:09 PM
Shay, there is no clear pattern to SM. You need to remember that pain is not caused by any real damage to the bodily areas that can be sensitive, but is neural damage. Hence the pain may never, ever be associated to limbs, head etc. The single most common type of pain humans with SM experience is excruciating headaches, and this is likely true for dogs as well, and is probably the cause of yelping 'for no reason' (though there is of course a reason). The head is only the most common area for dogs to scratch but sides are also common as is trying to snap at hindquarters. As I note in the symptoms document, as does Dr Clare Rusbridge, symptoms are highly variable and while there are a set of *common* symptoms some dogs show none of them or some or all (Dr Dewey has found less than half of the SM dogs he seesn, many of them severe, scratch at all). The fact that she has been air scratching and yelping would have to be considered two key concerns, regardless of whether she is showing other signs of pain. Please keep in mind that the yelping IS a sign of pain, especially when it is as gfrequent as you are reporting, and you do need to find out what it is. None of this may be related to SM but the fact that she is yelping like this is definitely a cause for concern and should be the first priority when talking to you vet. Yelping would not be related to allergies but could be related to PSOM (though this is unlikely if she isn;t also scratching a lot at head/ears) or a disk problem for example.

I'd try to get 1) video of her behaviours; 2) keep a diary so you know how often, on any given day, she may have a scratching session and for how long; and how many times she might yelp; 3) track air scratching separately from any 'regular style' scratching.

You need to be tracking this because it is very easy to not notice things are worsening -- or, conversely, to not realise there probably isn't anything to worry about if we have become overly attentive to behaviours.

I didn't notice how much worse Leo had become because I'd grown used to his 'occasional' scratching (which had long since gone beyond 'occasinal' but as I lived with him I'd just got used to the slow increase). I also had somehow managed to not notice how much hair he had started to scratch out. And really, until I made the video now on my SM website, I hadn't realised how prolonged and intense those sessions were. I was taken aback by my own video as I watched it, and realised he needed stronger medication at that point. So it really is such a good idea to keep a symptoms diary as this will be helpful to you, to your vet, and if needed, to a neurologist.

I know you will feel much better once you are able to proceed with checking all of this out properly; only a short time now and you will be able to.

1st December 2006, 12:32 PM
I just wanted to clarify that when I said that its common for puppies to yipe when picked up it is when they are picked up more in the front by their legs..........not well supported under the tummy as they should be picked up . Colby never yipes when picked up correctly.

Shaye, did you get the double illness plan with Petcare ?

1st December 2006, 01:12 PM
I found this with both of mine- yelping when picked up under the arms. Now I make sure that my hand is lower down and as soon as I can I support their bums. With Holly sometimes the yelp is because I've picked her up too fast and pulled her hair- with such a profuse coat, it's easy to do!

1st December 2006, 01:33 PM
Karlin....She does snap at her hindquarters too. Like something just bit her . Maybe on average of 2 to 3 times per day. She has no fleas, so that is not the issue.

Roxanne......I don't think I got the double illness plan. Whatever I got is about $24.00 per month. BTW I am originally from New Orleans. I moved to Birmimgham about 13 years ago.

Thanks ya'll!

2nd December 2006, 12:02 AM
Have you got an appointment for the MRI yet? Thinking of you...

2nd December 2006, 12:53 AM
No....I am going to go to my regular Vet first to rule out other possibilities, and then go from there. I will be taking her on 12/13 as soon as the insurance kicks in. Thanks

2nd December 2006, 12:58 AM
*mumble* OOOOHHH yes. Sorry. I'm not American, so the date made no sense when I caught sight of it before. You mean 13/12, don't you? ;)

*whistles innocently* :roll:

Nonsense aside, I really hope that it turns out to be something other than SM.

2nd December 2006, 01:13 AM
Yes....December 13. I forget about the difference in the way we write the date. My assistant is from England, and we had to work through this at first. Thanks for your concern, I hope it is not too. Just hope my Vets will not put her through too much before they will agree to send me to a neurologists. I think thy will be o.k. with it. Have been using them for many years.