View Full Version : I'm new. Just realized Lizzie may have SM.

Lizzie's Mom
15th January 2007, 04:45 PM
Hello all,

I'm so glad I found this information, just wish I had realized sooner that Lizzie's quirks could be SM. She's almost 3.5 years and I've had her for almost 2 years of that, having gotten her as an adult dog from a breeder. I feel like a bad mom, but I guess all I can do is start now and try to help her.

She's always been very itchy, especially around her ears. I'm realizing now that she usually scratches on her left side.

She does the funny looking bunny hop, usually while we're out on a walk. I just thought she was multi-tasking, not wanting to waste time while out to stop and scratch an itch.

She rubs her face on her fabric crate, on the floor, or against the furniture sometimes, but it doesn't last long and I didn't find this to be strange behavior until seeing it on the symptoms list.

A few months after I got her, she started the air-biting/fly-catching. I call it her snapping turtle impression. It started during a long car ride and she was relegated to the back seat (I have a barrier that keeps her from climbing into the front seat). She started this snapping/air biting thing and continued to do it practically the whole way. I thought it was her playful way of trying to get to me despite the barrier. She usually does it in what seems like a playful way around me or another person. She doesn't do it when off sitting somewhere by herself.

She also frequently scoots on her bottom along the floor. I've always found this embarassing, but during our two annual exams, she's had full anal glands that needed to be expressed. Though, she'd do it again soon after having visited the vet and getting them expressed which seemed odd. I've seen this mentioned in a couple of the postings, but it's not mentioned in the list of SM symptoms. Is there thought to be some correlation?

A few times, but not many, she's squealed as if in pain and I couldn't determine the cause.

She doesn't like anyone other than me to touch her head. If someone approaches to pat her there, she backs away. But she'll let strangers pat her on the back. She is a very shy dog and I attributed this behavior to her shyness.

I have several questions about what I should do.

1. Does anyone know of an insurance program that covers MRI's and SM medications?
2. If I suspect SM but have had no diagnosis, would I be able to get her coverage?
3. I live in Massachusetts and see several neurologists on the list. Does anyone have any personal recommendations among this list. If that is allowed as a topic of discussion on this list.
4. How much does the medication cost?
5. What are some of the side effects of the medication?
6. How do you know if you're improving their quality of life?

Thanks in advance for any advice you care to share.

Molly's mom
16th January 2007, 11:48 PM
First of all icon_welcome, although I wish it was on another topic I could welcome you :(

I will leave the SM opinions and advice to the experts here as my Molly and I are just beginning to learn about it.

As for insurance, I chose http://petcareinsurance.com/ because it does in fact cover hereditary diseases. They do require medical records before you are covered so you do want to make sure that nothing is mentioned in the Dr's notes about SM.

I have the $50 deductible 100% coverage up to $3000 per one of 12 illness catagories but once you use up your $3000 you are no longer covered for the catagory. I believe they have upped the deductible to $100. My yearly premium was $445 (discount for microchipping). I called before Mollys MRI and they said it would be covered.

I would suggest getting the highest level of coverage you can afford (I wishi I can gotten the double coverage of $6000). At the time, $3000 sounded like alot but my coverage is half gone and with Molly's surgery coming up next month what's left will only cover half.

Molly is on gabapentin 3X a day (it is a human medication). My vet called around and found the price for a months worth was anywhere from $11-53, so it definately pays to call around.

I hope I have been of some help.

Lizzie's Mom
17th January 2007, 01:57 AM
Thank you for replying, Bev (Molly's Mom). It sounds like you're moving ahead full steam. Is it too soon or have you seen any improvement for Molly since she's been on the medication? When is her surgery scheduled? I'll be thinking of you.

I signed up yesterday for VPI (Veterinary Pet Insurance) Superior Plan, because that's who my vet's office said they usually worked with and that there weren't many choices in my state (Mass). I got a confirmation email today.

Thanks for the tip about calling around for the best price on prescriptions. Who had the best price? Was it one of the big chains like Walmart?

Lizzie and I are taking an agility class. She seems to really like the challenge (but most of all the treats). It's a nice distraction for me too from thinking about all this.

Best wishes.

17th January 2007, 02:25 AM
VPI will NOT cover SM or anything associated with it as it is a hereditary condition, which they don't cover. Petcare is the only insurer who will, at time of writing , cover this in the US as far as I know. Vets probably would not realise this but this is what those with SM dogs have reported back.

Be cautious about agility with a potential SM cavalier. When dogs are really active it increases the rate of flow of the cerebro-spinal fluid (fluid in brain and spine) and that acceleration is known to exacerbate symptoms and probably worsens the condition in many cases. So keep her activity to a minimum -- eg no really fast running around and so forth. I know a mildly affected dog however that is a champion agility dog and it doesn;t seem to bother her. I'd try to get a diagnosis if you think there's a the possibility of SM. While most cavaliers but scoot and face rub and these are not necessarily symptoms they can be -- but the air scratching is quite a tell tale symptom for this condition.
Because of that I would recommend having her checked by a vet for any other potential causes and then see a neurologist. Or ask to be referred to a neurologist on the basis of some clinical symptoms.

These would be the two best neuros in MA from reports I've heard back from others -- both very familiar with SM:

Dr. Dominik Faissler
Tufts University
Tel: 508-839-5395 ext.84696
Email: dominik.faissler@tufts.edu

Dr. Philip Anderson March
Tufts University
Tel: 508-839-5395
Email: philip.march@tufts.edu

You need a neuro's diagnosis to start medicating for the condition and you need to have a neuro go through the possible options. Not all medications work for all situations and none are a cure. The condition can continue to progress (it usually does if the dog was symptomatic before age three, espeically if before age two) or may never progress. But an MRI, if advised by a neurologist, will give you clear insight into her current status.

My SM dog is on Neurontin and this costs about $50 a month or so. Side effects of the different medications all vary. Neurontin tends to be well tolerated but its effectiveness can wear off over time. Steroids have lots of side effects. Frusemide causes increased urination and requires testing blood electrolytes a couple times a year. Others have other possible effects.

The goal is decreasing pain and if scratching slows or halts and yelping stops then you are decreasing discomfort and pain. But you need to weigh that against whether surgery is an option or a better option (it is the only choice that halts progression though existing damage will be permanent), your own feelings about the various choices, the overall condition of your dog, the advice of your neurologist -- there are lots of variables and as Dr Clare Rusbridge says, no one can make those decisions except you, after weighing up the options and learning all you can.

Some neurologists lean very strongly towards surgery -- if I were in the US and considering surgery I would probably go to LIVS in Long Island -- www.livs.org. But Tufts is also very good. LIVS seem to be having more sucess with the techniques they are pioneering.

Lots more info: www.sm.cavaliertalk.com

If you do unfortunately get a positive diagnosis, be sure to inform the breeder as this is important information for breeding programmes.

17th January 2007, 02:32 AM
Sarah....I also opted for VPI when I got Lily, as it was offered through my hubby's work and we got a discount. I then started noticing Lily had some of the SM behaviors. I asked around on the board, and found out a lot of the members in the US had PetCare because it covers hereditary and genetic conditions. I canceled VIP the next day. VIP does not cover any hereditary or genetic conditions. You have 10 days to cancel VIP. I have not had Lily MRI'd yet. My Vet wants to rule out some other things in the next few months before he refers me to a neurologist, and she is not showing any signs of pain at this time. She is only 4 1/2 months old. When I fisrt talked to my Vet about SM, I did so off the record because my PetCare had not kicked in yet (it takes 30 days). You have to have your dogs medical records faxed to PetCare within the first 30 days. If there is anything in the file that reflects any SM symptoms they can say it was pre-existing, if Lily does have it. I was very careful not to mention scratching or any of the other things she was doing, so they wouldn't put it in her file. I just basically talked to him in general about SM. With the high rate of MVD and SM, among other conditions, VPI, would not have been a good option for a Cav IMHO.

I hope this helps.

Lizzie's Mom
17th January 2007, 05:09 AM
Thanks for the good info everybody. Hopefully all will be unnecessary, but better safe than sorry.
Thank you also for the tips about agility. It's just a beginner course and requires no running around since it's in a tiny space. So far, the hops are about 4" off the ground.