View Full Version : Worried about Amber's ears......

7th January 2008, 03:41 PM
Ever since I've had Amber, she's always scratched at her ears alot. Now when she first arrived, she had ear mites and a mild ear infection, the vet put her on Revolution to kill the mites, and Otomax to treat the ear infection. Her ears don't look or smell infected anymore, and I'm not getting any black goo out when I clean them, so I think the mites are gone, yet her ears still seem to bother her.....Could it be just a habit, or should I take her back to the vet and see if something more is going on? Is there something that I can put in her ears to help sooth them? She doesn't shake her head like she did at first, but she still scratches at them an awful lot!

8th January 2008, 12:33 AM
The head shaking is typical of something like ear mites but if she has stopped doing that they are probably gone. However if she is still scratching she definitely needs her ears checked to see if they have returned or there's some other obvious cause. If the vet is unable to find any other actual cause, you definitely need to explore the possibility of PSOM or syringomyelia. Persistent scratching at the ears is one of the common possible symptoms of SM. A lot of cavaliers may have ear disease (PSOM) to a degree which can cause similar symptoms. It will take an MRI to accurately diagnose SM but a neurologist can sometimes give a likely guess/diagnosis on the basis of a clinical exam.

I have a lot of information on SM and a section on PSOM here:


You can download and print out the information sheet from Dr Clare Rusbridge, my symptoms sheet, and Dr Rusbridge's treatment diagram for your vet. Most vets are not familiar with this condition and are not aware of the high incidence in cavaliers.

Vets commonly will misdiagnose SM in cavaliers for a long time as ear infections and allergies, so it is important to really focus on finding a real cause, not an assumption that it might be allergies, etc -- on average Dr Rusbridge says it takes over a year and a half for her client dogs to finally be diagnosed correctly.

Hopefully you will find there's just a persistent ear infection there that can be easily treated.

8th January 2008, 04:47 AM
Thanks Karlin, I'll definatly have her re-checked, and see if I feel I need to get to a neurologist. I do have a holistic vet I use as well, I think I'll make an appt with her and see if she can lead me in the right direction with Amber. She's so wonderful, I'd do anything for her!! I don't want to assume this is nothing until I know it is!

8th January 2008, 03:25 PM
After reading that site, I'm not thinking that's what Amber's problem is, aside of her bothering her ears, she shows none of the other symptoms. She shows no signs of pain anywhere on her body, I've never notice "air scratching" or any signs of weakness, the only one of those signs she has is the scratching at her ears.....I'm going to look into it further and do alot more research on SM, as I'm not 100% convinced this can't be the problem, but I'm really thinking it's an ear problem......I've got a really good vet that has a special interest in orthopedics and neorology, I'm going to be taking her there Friday and have him give her a very in depth physical and see if he can lead me towards the problem :)

8th January 2008, 03:38 PM
I do think that once you eliminate all other problems you do need to seriously consider these options as a cause of persistent scratching. Often only one sign is ever apparent with SM (asis noted on the SM site and in Dr Rusbridge's info sheet) and scratching is the single most common lone sign and may be the only outward sign the dog ever shows. This is why a clinical exam by a specialist (not a vet) can be important --neurologists know how to check for signs the dog keeps hidden from the casual observer and can test the appropriate reflexes and responses -- and check for pain. Dogs will tolerate an extraordinary level of pain without showing it, as those of us with SM dogs have learned. Scratching BTW is all Leo does and all he has ever done at age 4.5 and he has moderate grade SM and is on daily painkillers. Lily also only scratches and is on CSF-pressure reducing medication.

Scratching IS a sign of pain with SM -- damage to the dorsal horn region of the spine, according to Clare Rusbridge. The constant discomfort is what causes the persistent scratching. It is not necessarily the type of pain that will make the dog flinch or react if you press on the area but it is pain nonetheless.

This is why I consider scanning breeding stock to be so crucial -- most dogs scan with the malformation, and from 30-70% of research samples have also scanned with syrinxes the owners never knew were there. But this rate of affectedness also suggests that once all other obvious options have been eliminated, there is always a good likelihood that SM-like symptoms are actually caused by SM and/or the skull malformation compressing the back of the brain and blocking the opening into the spinal cord.

It is very important for the vet of anyone with a cavalier to be familiar with this condition and its symptoms and treatment so if nothing else at least bring the appropriate documents in to your vet as it may benefit another cavalier, if not one's own. :thmbsup:

9th January 2008, 04:56 PM
I'll have to see what I can do to find a specialist then! Now keep in mind Amber has only been here 1 month now, so it could still be residual effects from her ear infections and mites, but I'm going to try to find a specialist who can do an exam and see what he tells me. After reading that as many as 70-90% of cavaliers are affected with CM, it really makes me thing again about having her tested!