View Full Version : Worried about Lucy's ear scratching

22nd January 2008, 03:56 AM
Hi all,
I am starting to get a little worried about my 1 year old F Blenheim, Lucy. I have noticed that she scratches her ears a lot. She doesn't do the air scratch thing and she doesn't seem to be in pain, but she scratches for a good amount of time in the morning and then sometimes during the evening and lately I have noticed the scratching sessions seem to be a bit longer. She scratches on both sides (the right a little more than the left) She never scratches on her walks, but I have never walked her on a collar and use a harness exclusively. She came from a VERY respected breeder in California, although I know that isn't a guarantee of perfect health especially in these dogs. Should I be concerned about SM? I am totally freaked out that she could have it. She is my baby and I can't even imagine her being in pain. Any input would be appreciated.


22nd January 2008, 12:07 PM
Have you taken her to a vet? There are many things that could cause itchy ears and most of them can become extremely uncomfortable or painful for a dog. She should be checked thoroughly right away. In general any time you see a behaviour that is not normal, ring your vet to ask if the dog should be brought in. :thmbsup: In this case: she needs to be seen by a vet to start eliminating possibilities as to what is making her so uncomfortableand I am sure your vet will confirm this.

The symptoms for SM are varied and not all dogs scratch, nor do all dogs air scratch. Symptoms and more information including what to do if you think your dog has SM here, on my SM website: www.smcavalier.com. A common misconception is that dogs with SM only have SM if they do several things or one particular thing (like air scratching) but all or any of these things may indicate SM. My Leo only scratches and only has ever scratched. At least half of SM dogs do not scratch at all as a symptom, according to one key researcher.

Although it is gradually changing, very few cavalier breeders actually MRI scan their dogs and thus know whether their breeding dogs are affected and to what degree (studies have shown some severely affected dogs are asymptomatic but nonetheless one wouldn't want that level of affectedness passed to puppies as chances are eventually there will be affected offspring). Did your breeder MRI scan and give you information about the MRI grades for her dogs? That would be about the only way to get some insight into the likelihood of parents passing SM on to puppies. There is already good evidence that dogs with A grades are far less likely to produce SM affected puppies and matings of low graded dogs will produce mostly low graded puppies.

This study is discussed and lots of general background and insight into the condition is available on this CD set from the most recent SM conference, and is directed at the general listener (pet owner or breeder). If you want to learn more about SM that's a good place to start, along with the website information:


For now I'd get your cavalier to the vet right away and start trying to determine what is bothering her ears.

22nd January 2008, 09:06 PM
Thanks for the information. She has a scheduled vet appt. for a vaccine tomorrow and I am going to have the vet check out her ears, skin etc...to rule out other issues. I only recently noticed her increase in scratching and then I started reading the posts here and that got me concerned. I am hoping that it is something else or at least something less serious.

I don't think that our breeder did MRI's on her dogs, although I can email her to find out for sure. I actually read somewhere that dogs from champion lines can actually be more likely to have SM because the gene pool they came from is smaller and therefore it is more likely that both sire and dam would carry the gene for SM. Her parents are both clear of heart murmurs and I have copies of OFA and CERF documents on both of them, but I don't see any MRI documents with my stuff. My guess is they haven't had MRI's because the breeder lives in a very rural part of CA and I would guess finding a vet to do an MRI would be difficult and costly. I have already looked into it and I have a few places near me that do veterinary MRI's so that is good should I need her to have one.

Thanks again for the info. I'll keep you posted as to what the vet finds.

22nd January 2008, 10:34 PM
Researchers believe probably all cavaliers carry one or some of the genes involved with SM. It has been so difficult to find clear dogs without the skull malformation that seems to cause SM that the genome researchers are having to use Brussels griffons, which also have CM/SM but fortunately still have many dogs entirely clear.

Probably most cavaliers would MRI with the malformation, in other words, and this has been consistent across several geographies and many lines. To date there are no known clear lines. It is more knowing how affected a dog is and whether it appears likely to develop SM from CM -- so there are a lot of uncertainties for breeders.

There aren't any low cost MRI schemes in California so breeders haven't been able to take advantage of those. And basically there is a lot of resistance to doing MRIs at all. So it takes a lot of work to find breeders who MRI -- either due to cost, lack of access, or disinterest.

Even most SM dogs are not symptomatic so most likely, your vet will find another cause for the scratching. Good luck with the appointment tomorrow. :thmbsup:

22nd January 2008, 11:08 PM
Good luck Aimee! My pack are wishing you well! Lots of positive thoughts coming your way!!! :)

23rd January 2008, 07:49 PM
So, we saw the vet today. Lucy's ears look totally normal and no skin problems that the vet could see. She said that based on the amount of scratching I was describing that she is not overly concerned at this point that it is SM. She did make a note in the chart about my concern and said that if I notice the scratching getting longer in duration or if she seems to be in any pain or exhibiting any new symptoms to bring her back in, but she didn't see a need to pursue the SM thing right now. I am going to keep a journal of when and how long Lucy is scratching and that way I can have a written record so that I can figure out if this seems to be getting worse or not. Of course, last night and today she didn't scratch even once! Figures.

Other good news, Lucy's heart is murmur free and everything else with her seems to be normal, although she is a tiny bit chubby (18.1lbs) so she'll be getting carrots as treats instead of her usual biscuits.

Thanks again for the responses. I will let you know if I start to see a pattern and/or increase in Lucy's scratching. For now I am keeping my fingers crossed that I am just being a paranoid mom.