View Full Version : Basil the large Cavalier

31st October 2009, 01:10 AM
Thanks to Margaret C. for helping me find the New Thread button.

Our Basil is a 2 1/2 year old Cavalier. He is definitely on the large size as he has long legs and weighs in at 32 pounds Otherwise he has all the wonderful attributes. Great personality, beautiful eyes and an ability to get us to do his bidding.

He started scratching a short time ago. I immediately started looking online and found this horrible disease that too many of these wonderful dogs are falling victim to everywhere. We took him to a Neurologist and had him checked out. We tried him on Prednisone and that stopped the scratching for a while. After that he started up again but more consitently. He has scratched off his long beautiful ears, they still have hair but are not as long as pretty as they were in the past.

He still plays, chases his balls, and other than the scratching, occasional biting at his legs and paw he is great.

We have found the cost of the MRI to be very expensive here, 2500+ Also as we are not breeders and after reading non stop for several days, we are not convinced that having that and surgery would resolve the problem. Our goal is to make him as happy and comfortable as we can for as long as we can. We are checking out the skin to make sure it isn't an allergy, but having read the great posts here we are more leaning toward the SM.

Anyway, how great it is to be able to hear from other owners of Cavaliers. I have had many dogs in my life and all kinds of breeds. Cavaliers are indeed special and I hope all of the work you do on this board helps relieve them of this problem.

His symptoms are scratching obsessively on both sides of his head, throat and sometimes on the side. Otherwise is his same sweet self, no personality change or any other signs. He has always had bouts of limping since he was a puppy. It lasts for a day or so and then goes away. He has had one bout of gastritis that caused an overnight stay at the hospital. We learned not to give him anything spicy, never happened again(we felt very guilty).

Any ideas would be welcome, I think people on this board are very knowledgeable. Basil appreciates your expertise too, as his owners are clueless. Thanks.

31st October 2009, 03:02 PM
Was the neuro that you saw familiar with SM? What did he/she mention at the appt? I have not seen a specialist, but from what I have heard, there are things they can do without an MRI that could help you determine if it could be SM---like check for pain responses, muscle & limb weakness, scoliosis, etc.

What was your consult like?

31st October 2009, 03:11 PM
Yes I'd be interested in the same.

Your boy sounds pretty much just like the symptoms for Sm that I have with Leo. He has scratched out the entire top (dark) layer of hair on his ears, even on paid meds (he is a tri so this is noticeable). He has always been 'clumsy' -- limb weakness -- sometimes more so than others. eg now and then he will try and jump on a lap and just topples over. Unfortunately he loves to jump up on chairs, sofas and laps! Fortunately he only rarely slips and I always give him immediate support.

Your neurologist should be able to help you work through the best medication management programme if there's a strong feeling this is likely to be SM, without an MRI. Have you seen the medication diagram on Dr Clare Rusbridge's website? It is here:


Also her website and mine might answer many of your questions:


The FAQ section on sryingomyelia on Clare's site is very detailed.

31st October 2009, 07:07 PM
The neurologist was familiar with it and gave us some history how many dogs were mis diagnosed until the MRI. She did a complete physical workup A funny moment was when she was testing his rear legs by turning the paw under and seeing how quickly he put it back in the correct position. After about the 3rd time she laughed and said to watch him as he was keeping it turned under as apparantly that is what the crazy lady wanted him to do:) I thought that was a good sign she was tuned in to the dog. Basil loves to please.

The final outcome was to have him checked for skin problems and then do the MRI. If we felt by doing the MRI and surgery we would have a healthy happy dog we would most likely do it. We paid around 5000 for surgery on our 10 year old Shih Tzu and had him for 4 more years. Unfortunately, from what I am reading I don't see that it is a cut and dried outcome for dogs with this disease. Do any of them get cured?

31st October 2009, 07:31 PM
Just read through the sites you sent. Thanks, they are great. I feel like when you have a child with an illness you end up being an expert on the problem. I need to read through it again and map out what actual symptoms he is experiencing. Would be great to have a chart where you could score them.

Basil has always been clumsy too. I always thought because he has what we call his long hockey stick legs. I also has one leg that pops out and in, doesn't seem to cause him any problem or pain.

The part I don't understand is he shows no signs of pain. Do all dogs have pain? He scratches his head and throat but acts more like an itch he can't scratch more than pain. In fact he shows no signs of pain. I was glad to read some dogs live out their life with the proper medication. Always like to look on the bright side, he has been such a great dog.

31st October 2009, 07:39 PM
Clare Rusbridge and Dominic Marino among others feel scratching IS a sign of pain for many dogs; at best it demonstrates extreme discomfort.

I respect the neurologist not wanting to make a definitive diagnosis without an MRI but at the same time, there are a range of signs that would give a pretty strong indication and some medications, like gabapentin don't relieve a lot other than neuropathic pain. If you get an improvement that probably tells you pretty well what is going on. Scratching due to SM is almost always helped by gabapentin. Maybe this is one option if the cost of an MRI is prohibitive?

Another possibility is PSOM -- has anyone checked for this?

There is no cure for SM but for many dogs, surgery helps; for others, medication give a good quality of life. It tends to be progressive. Some dogs will have pain due to CM alone.

Many of us choose not to do the surgery but I'd not leave a dog that could have this condition without any kind of treatment. What else does your neurologist think heavy scratching and limb weakness is likely to indicate? The limb weakness would seem to indicate more than skin issues.

She is right to try and eliminate skin problems first of course. :thmbsup:

1st November 2009, 12:47 AM
The Neurlogist didn't find any real problems, he had good response to all of her test. She took about 45 mins to do just the physical exam. The main reason we took him was he had an incident of falling. We weren't sure if he slipped or what happened. The scratching at that time minimal. We live in area with very little humidity so we hadn't really thought anything about occasional itchy skin, we all have that problem here:)

If he was scratching all over and I saw signs of some skin problem I would be more likely to think it was a skin problem. Until he started scratching he had a beautiful coat. He is still beautiful but has some areas where the hair is thin.

I am trying the Prilosec. He weighs 32 pounds so I am giving him 10 mg. We are starting to search for a more reasonable price for the MRI. 2500 is on the high side, I only paid 1200 for mine. There are a couple of vet schools we might try them.

By the way, I love the name Leo.