View Full Version : 8 mth Crying in pain when scratching his neck?

3rd November 2007, 10:43 PM
Hi everyone

I'm sure i am being over fussing about my babies as normal but our 8mth old puppy Guinness over the last few weeks has started to cry out in pain when he scratches his neck - it only seems to happen every few days but he will be sat on his own and all of a sudden he is really yelping! It stops as quick as it starts and then nothing again for a few days but has been happening on and off for a few weeks now.

I wondered if he nails for too long and he was catching himself???


Sonja x

3rd November 2007, 11:56 PM
Have you taken him to your vet and have they found any cause for his scratching? You'd want to do this right away and work through all the possibilities. If you cannot find any cause, then I am afraid you will want to consider the possibility of syringomyelia, as this type of scratching and sign of pain, especially sudden yelping for no apparent reason, are very typical signs. If he is yelping he is definitely expressing sharp pain so whatever the cause, getting him to a vet immediatey to try and pinpoint it should be a priority. :thmbsup:

You can get lots of information on my SM website here which will help explain the condition, typical symptoms, what to do if you think your dog might have SM, all about treatments, UK contacts to see, etc:


You can download and print out the symptoms document, Clare Rusbridge's introduction to the condition, and her treatment diagram. I would bring all of those with you for your vet when the vets check him for other causes. If no other cause of the scratching can br found you will probably want to immediately get a referral to a neurologist familiar with the condition and have an MRI (NB these are expensive). You can get low cost MRIs done (the only way of getting a definitive diagnosis) however these are not adequate for treatment as they aren't generally detailed enough. But all of the neurologists at those centres would be familiar with SM. The leading expert is Dr Rusbridge in Wimbledon. Unfortunatey if it is SM and he is showing signs this young it is likely to be a more severe, rapid onset form for which the only medium to long term care approach would be decompression surgery as the prognosis is very poor otherwise I am afraid. The prognosis is best in young dogs only just starting to show symptoms that go for the surgery.

Keep in mind there could be many other causes and your vet will want to eliminate all of those FIRST before you even consider SM but I would recommend moving quickly to check this out as time can be of the essence with SM.

4th November 2007, 03:43 AM
Wow, I'd definitely get him to the vets as a point of some importance. There are many reasons why a dog may experience pain like this, some easily rectified, other more sinister... as Karlin has already pointed out.

Do get back to us and let us know what the vet says.

Oh... and you are not being overly fussy. This is very important.

4th November 2007, 08:41 AM
I'm sorry to hear that poor Guinness is having scratching/yelping attacks - please get him to the vet straight away, no dog yelps without reason and this is their way of showing pain.

I reallly hope that it isn't Syringomyelia, I presume you've already checked for parasites? but there are other possibilities that your vet will want to rule out.

5th November 2007, 09:36 AM
Thank you everyone for all your help and advice - i have to say we are very worried now and getting Guinness to the vets straight away!!

I looked at all the information links that you have posted and watched the video's - i am so worried if Guinness has got SM - on one of the videos i lady was showing that if you rub the cav in a certain place his leg went mad in an air scratching motion. Guinness has done this since he was a baby (we always thought it was cute) not realising there could be health implications.....

I have no idea how to look after him or the best thing to do for him to make safe healthy and happy - but again i guess we should wait to see what the vets says and take his advice.

We have not had much luck with our babies, what with Harvey being born with IDD and now this... its all so upsetting! :-(

5th November 2007, 12:05 PM
I'm sorry to hear that poor Guinness is having scratching/yelping attacks - please get him to the vet straight away, no dog yelps without reason and this is their way of showing pain.

I reallly hope that it isn't Syringomyelia, I presume you've already checked for parasites? but there are other possibilities that your vet will want to rule out.

yes, the vet will probably treat Harvey for mites first. No need to panic at this stage.

5th November 2007, 01:09 PM
Most dogs have spots where if you scratch them, their legs will scratch, so don't overly worry on that count. :thmbsup: With SM dogs there's often a spot that starts the SM style scratching. You'll note in that video she is also contrasting this behaviour with the numbness in parts of her dog that means he doesn't even feel her touch at all or react.

The main issue is that he is crying out sporadically in pain and sometimes while scratching. You and your vet will want to start working through all the reasons he could be doing either of these things, and to also see if they are connected in some way. Your vet will want to check ears, skin, joints, spine etc to search for reasons for the behaviour. Early onset SM is the most unlikely option but it is an option so it is a good idea to print and give your vet the various information documents and to talk about this possibility *if no other reason can be found* or *if treating for other isues doesn;t get rid of the problem or it keeps returning*.

You are never being overly worried when checking on a source of pain or discomfort. :flwr:

6th November 2007, 12:54 AM
sending all the best wishes for you and your pup

6th November 2007, 10:12 AM
Guinness has his appointment with the vet today so fingers crossed!

I have been thinking that i will ask the vet to trim his nails as a procaution anyway...

Hopefully it will be good news!

6th November 2007, 01:16 PM
Oh good luck today, let us know how you got on :xfngr:

6th November 2007, 06:36 PM
How did it go?

Ginger's Mom
6th November 2007, 09:16 PM
Wish you and Harvey for the good news.... pls let us know...

7th November 2007, 08:34 AM
Hope everything ok..xox

7th November 2007, 09:27 AM
The vet thinks everything is fine!!!!

He had gunk in his ears which the vet has given us drops for and he has also trimmed his nails - he said he thought the yelping was just because of his ears.... We obviously mentioned SM and he examined Guinness but said he didnt think that was the problem - he even told me off for looking at the internet, he said he was fed up with people going to see him convinced their pet had some major illness that they read about on the net.... I think we caught him on a bad day LOL he isnt normally like that, i have always thought him to be the best vet i have ever used.

So time will tell i guess - if after the drops have been used and his ears are gunk free and his nails are trimmed he starts yelping again i will go back to see him!!!

I would just like to thank everyone on here for all your advise and support - its good to know that there are other people out there that care and love their animals as much as we do ours!

7th November 2007, 10:37 AM
Hmmm, I have problems with vets who think that simply because people find out information themselves, this is a problem. Sometimes it is the only thing that saves a life because vets keep insisting the probem is in the client's mind. Unfortunately about the ONLY way most people find their dogs have conditions like SM is from information ONLY available on the internet -- very few vets know about this problem (which is why I created the SM Infosite, which is *widely used by vets*. I am curious if your vet is indeed aware of the high incidence in the breed? That over 90% of cavaliers have the Chiari-like malformation --meaning their skull is already too small for their brain and placing pressure on the hindbrain -- and that probably 50%+ will develop SM over their lifetime? Most do not and find this quite shocking. This understandable lack of awareness -- because after all, vets are general practitioners, not specialists) -- is why I supply the downloadable sheets that can be brought into them. Just as a case in point -- my main vets that I use are one of the largest in Dublin with some of the most advanced hospital facilities in Dublin and they had never heard of this in cavaliers til I talked to them -- and all the vets in the practice came in to hear me explain it and go through my MRIs. I still know more than they do about the condition because I have read far more widely and keep up with the research. They don;t have time to focus so exclusively on an otherwise rare condition. If I had a vet tell me off for doing research to remain informed -- often better informed than them -- I'd leave that practice in a nanosecond. It is very belittling of your clients to hold that view IMHO and extremely condescending.

I do hope you are only dealing with some basic ear problems. If you get a recurrence of the yelping, and the scratching doesn't go away, you mght want to get a second opinion from another vet. According to Clare Rusbridge the average time it takes to diagnose SM is nearly *two years* because vets keep insisting it is either ear infections or allergies even though the dog does not respond well to treatment for either of those conditions. It is veryimportantfor cavalier owners to be vigilant about this condition and to make sure their vets know what to look for.

Your vet is absolutely right to start with the most obvious possibilities but I think you will need to be very proactive about pushing for further investigation if by some unfortunate chance, this treatment doesn't solve the problem.

7th November 2007, 11:04 AM
Karlin, as usual, you so eloquently put what I wanted to say. Without yours and Rod Russell's websites I would never have know what was wrong with Spencer. I shudder to think that I could have left him suffering had I not been able to educate myself, and my general vet on CM and SM. :(

7th November 2007, 11:25 AM
We're on our 3rd Cav now so are a little complacent sometimes as weve seen it all before. When you first posted about the yelping thing I was tempted to mention our experiences with that. All 3 of them at one time or another have done that and without exception they had an itch near their ear, scratched with sharp claws and hurt themselves- but they didnt understand why it hurt and continued to do it - and continued to yelp!
I know its not very sensitive but it does make us laugh - at how daft they are! However we always check the site of the itch just in case and try to ensure the claws are not sharp. I'm glad everything is fine for Harvey cos you never know but sometimes its a very simple thing!
We had one Cav who used to get his paws caught in his lovely long ears and just sit there waiting to be untangled!:)

7th November 2007, 07:44 PM
Wow. I would be very offended at any Dr. who reacted that way! You are ultimately responsible for the health of those in your care--whether it's your dog, yourself, a child, etc. It's your responsibility to find out all you can, from whatever source, to make sure you are as informed as you can be---any Dr should be encouraging that.

I hope that the ear infection clears up and that you're not seeing further symtoms. If you do though, I would suggest seeing a vet how is more proactive in patients educating themselves.

8th November 2007, 10:00 AM
I am pleased to hear that everything seems to be ok.

But wow, re the vet's response re the internet. It is a fact of life, and all professions now have patients & clients who are educated & often come in with print-outs. In fact there are doctors & vet who will learn things via their patients because of their research.

Knowledge is power!

8th November 2007, 06:19 PM
So relieved to hear that it's just itchy ears! Hope the meds work and quickly!

7th November 2008, 10:14 PM
Oh I'm sorry the vet treated you that way. You're not ever wrong to look things up on the internet and it's his job to help you interpret the things you find. It should be teamwork but it so rarely happens that way.

We're having a similar problem with our current vet and are now looking for a new one with more experience treating cavaliers.

Maggie has awful ear trouble and we do think that much of it is due to allergies. It has so far responded to allergy & flea treatment. But we're in the world of cutting out specific foods and treats to see what's triggering the allergies.

It seems so much simpler to get a skin test, but our current vet decided for us (despite the fact that we have pet insurance and would be willing to figure this out fast) that would be too expensive. He's also now given two cortisone injections without our consent (takes her in the back and inject her without even asking), which means symptoms all disappear and you can't even take her somewhere else for an accurate second opinion for two weeks. So that's the end of that vet.

I don't know if this is okay to ask, but if anyone has a good recommendation for a great vet on the westside of Los Angeles *please* private message me...

And good luck, I hope your lil guy is feeling better in no time. It's hard when they're uncomfortable or hurting... if we could only teach them to speak english. :rolleyes:

7th November 2008, 10:58 PM
I'd strongly suggest you and your (new) vet both look at my website on syringomyelia because given what you are seeing, it is important to keep this in mind as a possibility:


Any time a cavalier is having what seem to be itchiness especially around the head. neck and ears and the vet cannot find any other reason for the problem -- or if there is unexplained pain, or the other possible symtoms listed on the site (and a dog may have only ONE or SEVERAL of those symptoms) -- the owner and vet really must seriously look into SM as a possible diagnosis.

You may wel lbe looking at allergies but you need to be aware of the other possibilities. Cortisone/steroid injections will help SM symptoms as well -- and once the injection wears off, the symptoms will return. The most common misdiagnosis for SM is allergies and ear infections that keep recurring and recurring. A dog on average will suffer with SM for just over a year and a half before a correct diagnosis is made. Most vets remain unfamiliar with this disease and its incidence in cavaliers, especially in the US where the breed is less common.

You are more than welcome to ask for vet recommendations. I would be furious f anyone did things without my consent to my dogs so I think you are right to look for an alternative.

7th November 2008, 11:49 PM
Karlin, thank you so much for your reply. You're doing such important work here, because SM is SO rare outside cavs and vets do treat you like a kook when you ask about it. We've definitely read a lot of the SM stuff and even briefly met with a wonderful neuro who feels there's a possibility of SM. We're waiting for a low-cost MRI clinic to open up sometime in the next couple months.

Mags is 8 months old. We're hoping it's a food related or contact allergy (i'd really love feedback if it sounds like we're in denial or wrong-headed here)

Currently her ears are really red and smelly with a bit of gunk. It seems worse deeper in the ear. The first time brought her in, my head was full of worry about SM, and the vet said her ears were quite red and inflamed. This was the first cortisone injection. We got otomax drops and have been administering them and even outside of the cortisone that seems to give her a lot of relief.

We've also noticed a bright pink belly and lips, and her behavior involves biting her paws. I've noticed a yeasty smell on them, and now we've begun regular baths with Episoothe. The biting paws alone would lead me to think SM. And of course it could be both. But together with the smell and that pink belly I'm hoping it's primarily a itchy allergy reaction.

We've taken away her beef chews / bully sticks to see if this helps, and we're upping the regularity of her frontline dose and baths. The vet said this has been a really rough few months with allergies making up 85% of patients coming in. And of course I couldn't argue at that point.

Anyway - we'd noticed different behavior pretty soon after changing her food. Right now she's on a boiled chicken and rice diet with supplements, and she has stopped faceplowing after eating. And there was terrible air from the recent fires, and so on. We've never once had problems (knock on wood) during a walk, we've always walked her on a harness.

I'm really hoping we do have a little allergic thing, but we're definitely gearing up to do an MRI just as a precaution... and it would be amazing to find a primary vet that took the time to get educated about this problem.

thank you all for the knowledge here, it's really an amazing source of information and support!

Cathy Moon
7th November 2008, 11:52 PM
Maggles, my India had ear problems caused by both food allergies (chicken, potato, grains) and PSOM. I highly recommend going to a veterinary dermatologist for chronic ear problems - they get to the root of the problem sooooooo quickly compared to a normal vet.

Harvey, I would look for a vet who is willing to learn new things! When we brought Charlie (our cavalier who had very severe SM) to our vets (which is a very large group practice), everyone including the vet techs quickly learned about him, as his condition was discussed widely. I even gave them the original MRI CD for learning purposes.

Also, ask your vet to look into PSOM, which is a common problem behind the eardrum. Unfortunately it requires surgery, but both of my cavaliers who had PSOM are fine after surgery. I would try to find a dermatologist who is experienced with PSOM, if surgery is required.

I forgot to ask if you are in the US. If so, I might be able to help you get your cavalier into a PSOM study at a university to help reduce the costs.

8th November 2008, 12:31 AM
I'm sorry I'm only seeing your thread now. I knew Dylan had SM from what I learnt on this forum and the BBC documentary, though I was hoping I was wrong right up until the moment they told me after his MRI. You can tell your vet that :)