View Full Version : Need advice on living with sm

24th November 2009, 02:36 PM
I thought I had posted this yesterday but don't think it showed up...I am the mommy of Sophia,a female Blenheim CKC. She's 8 years old. She was diagnosed with sm about 2 months ago. She's on meds and is doing well.Her symptoms are mild to moderate. If someone can help me, my question is, the doctors have told me to give her therapy to make her legs and spine stronger because at one point she could not use her hind legs. I have and she uses them well. But when she does some exercise like short walks or even if she gets excited she begins to scratch and rotate on her hind end as if she is hurting. I do not want her to be in pain.If she doesn't move around and get some exercise she gets stiff but if she does get exercise it seems to make her hurt. Help me...what do I do? :confused:

24th November 2009, 02:50 PM
It sounds as if she isn't on a high enough dose or the right mix of medications if mild exercise is causing this reaction as it isn't managing the discomfort. I also am not too sure that exercise is going to help her leg weakness -- I have never heard this said by any of the researchers in this area -- this would be a neurological problem, not an exercise or strength issue I would think?... unless there are other additional problems. Has she seen a neurologist or are the doctors regular vets or in some other speciality? I'd definitely go back to talk about adjusting her medications as while some scratching is common when on walks, constant scratching is a sign of real discomfort. Also try some different harnesses to see if one works better than another. General advice is not to walk on a collar at all. I don't even keep a collar on my worst affected dog as it caused extra scratching throughout the day.

Also if she is overweight I'd immediately work to get her fit -- get her on a diet right away. The extra weight is going to make her heart work much harder which in turn will cause more symptoms (as well as not being good for this breed which has heart problems anyway) -- the flow of her CSF (fluid in her skull and spine) is in sync with her heartbeat and if you overwork her heart due to her being overweight, you cause the fluid to keep speeding up, causing more discomfort. Also for every pound of extra weight a dog (or person!) has to push blood through a mile or more of additional blood vessels, a lot of extra strain that again will affect her CSF flow. She should have a clearly visible waist when seen from above. You might talk to your vet about managing weight loss. :thmbsup:

24th November 2009, 03:23 PM
Thank you so much Karlin for your advise. She does not scratch constantly after all walks or exercise, just sometimes. And yes it could be an issue of needing to adjust her medication because we are still in that stage of getting the meds adjusted right. She does have regular visits to the doctor, so we are still working on getting everything right with her. I will try a different harness. Come to think of it, when she has scratched after a walk she was wearing her collar not her harness. So that could be the problem. I do take her collar off when she is in the house just in case it bothers her. She is over weight and the doctors has advised me to put her on a weight program. We are working on getting some weight off. She has lost some but has a few more pounds to loose. It has been a slow progress (well just not fast enough for me) and Sophia does not like it! She acts like she does not get enough to eat...you know the sad eyes and the begging. I tell her it's the best thing for her...in the long run. I mix cooked veggies with her food that either has no sodium or very low in sodium to help fill her and give her raw veggies for treats. Gotta say she does like them, but she has always liked vegetables. Again, thanks for your advise.

24th November 2009, 03:33 PM
I am not qualified or experienced enough to give you advice. However, from my own experience living with an sm dog, it sounds as though the medication is not quite right. Since Molly was diagnosed with sm, we have got a lot of weight off her. As well as her medication, I firmly believe the weight loss has made a massive difference. From being very lame and unhappy she is doing amazingly well. I am always concerned excessive exercise will create more pressure in her head, therefore we have devised a little trolley for her when we go out walking so she can hop on and off as she pleases. She has aids for jumping on and off furniture and I always carry her up and downstairs. Trying to get the balance right is difficult, the right medication, the right amount of exercise and the right weight. The most important thing is Sophia is not in any pain or discomfort. I wish you well and hope you can resolve this.

24th November 2009, 03:50 PM
Thank you Tania :)

Love my Cavaliers
24th November 2009, 04:02 PM
Riley is my SM dog. Unfortunately there are so many of us who have been affected by this. Riley is not overweight - in fact is very petite - but she also has weakness in her legs. For her, prednisone is the miracle drug. It seemed to really help most of her symptoms. We tried all the typical medications for her and tried prednisone almost as a last resort. It is unbelievable what a better quality of life she has on steroids. I know there are side effects from long-term use, but i will take quality of life right now. By the way, it took about 6-8 months before we figured out which meds were right for here and the right dosage. So there were a lot of visits to the neurologist during that period. If your vet doesn't know a lot about SM, Clare Rusbridge has a flow chart of medication use. I believe Karlin has posted in on the SM forum. You could probably find it by doing a search.

Like Tania, I have stairs to help Riley get up on furniture. Her back leg weakness made it difficult for her to jump. It is so cute to see her just climb right up them. I also don't keep a collar on her at all and I use a step-in harness from Up-Country for walks. It's a good harness because it doesn't get near her neck. I do have to say that once you get them comfortable through the right meds, you tend to worry less about them. I was always looking at Riley with such desperation and pity - imagining she's going to die soon from the SM or just be so weak that she can't function anymore. Now that she is pretty comfortable (and she still has some days that are worse than others), I am able to treat her more like my other dogs and count every day I have with her as a blessing. Good luck to you and Sophia as you figure out her meds. There are a lot of us on this board with SM dogs and there is no question that is too trivial to ask. We all want to help you get through this and manage it as well as you can. It certainly helps to have the support.

24th November 2009, 04:54 PM
Thank all of you for your help. I am so glad I joined this group. I had no idea about sm before the early hours of the morning when my precious cavalier was struckin by this condition. I also did not know that so many cavaliers are affected with it and the owners and loved ones of these sweet and wonderful animals. I pray to God that there will be an answer soon to stop syringomyelia from spreading in this breed or any other breed for that matter. It seems to be so cruel and unfair. I have been telling people about sm just so they will be a where of it. Most people have no knowledge of sm. That's why I believe it is so important to spread the word!
Thank everyone for their support!
Sophia's mommy,

Margaret C
24th November 2009, 06:54 PM
That's why I believe it is so important to spread the word!
Thank everyone for their support!
Sophia's mommy,

I won't say welcome, as the SM cavalier owner's club is one that nobody wants to join.
There is however a lot of support & knowledge here.

As you say it is important to spread the word, and one of the most useful things any owner of a syringomyelia cavalier can do is tell the breeder, the pet shop, rescue organisation, or wherever else they got their pet from.

You may get fobbed off, they may be rude and nasty, but if you don't tell, then they won't know they have a problem, and it is not going to remain hidden.

25th November 2009, 03:37 PM
We are working on getting some weight off. She has lost some but has a few more pounds to loose. It has been a slow progress (well just not fast enough for me) and Sophia does not like it! She acts like she does not get enough to eat...you know the sad eyes and the begging. I tell her it's the best thing for her...in the long run.

I have three spaniels, two Clumbers and our Cavalier BudBud, and believe me this is a spaniel thing, although my Clumber girls have yet to master the "oh, woe is me" look to quite the level of perfection as Mr. BudBud.

Our BudBud also has SM and we too are in the process of trying to find just the right combination and dose of medications for him. The best advice I have is to be very observant, noticing even small differences, to record your observations (or least I have to!!) and to have frank, open discussions with your veterinary neurologist.

Best of luck to you.

1st December 2009, 11:36 AM
I'm feeling a little angry about SM over the last few days.

Our man was a rescue dog & originally in 2001, our vet said that as a result of the beatings he had previously, he had a lot of scar tissue in his ear and was deaf on that side - he went on to become totally deaf, but was a master at hand signals ;)

If we tried to stroke him on the right side of his neck or head, it would make him scratch.... if his collar buckle was on that side of his neck, he would scratch.... still trying to walk down the prom, he would be contstantly scratching & it was a relief for him to get on the beach & off his lead so that he could actually walk without scratching. I tried a harness, it made it worse :rolleyes:

So.... fast forward a few years & we swapped Blackpool for Ireland - and got a new vet as Charlie developed a cough - yep, medication for a heart murmur followed and I found some sites on the web about SM. He had started falling over when out for a walk, sometimes on his front legs, sometimes on his back legs - quite distressing.
I asked the vet about SM & had printed the info off to show him. He brushed it off & commented on how the internet was a dangerous thing :mad:

This vet isn't an 'old' vet - such comments I would expect from someone who was deemed to be 'stuck in the mud' so to speak. This vet is a young chap who should have known better.

So... 18 months later & because we moved yet again to our forever home, we got yet another vet. This vet is really a typical country vet, & took the time to give Charlie an x-ray of his heart because the murmur was still there, but deemed to be mild. The x-ray showed that his heart was absolutely HUGE! It was so enlarged that we were advised to just bring him home, continue with new medication, but make sure that his last few months were as comfy as possible. Very sad.
I never mentioned SM to this vet because of the previous reaction, but on Charlie's last day, we thought he had a stroke - and maybe he did - his head had pulled right round to his right side & he was stiff as a board with bulging eyes.

In future, I shall be VERY vocal if I think I am right - I am so cross with the vet, but even more, I'm cross with myself.

Rant over.

13th December 2009, 02:42 AM
The reason she is worse after exercise is that the spinal fluid flows faster and with SM they usually have sphrnix either in the cervical or dorsal region of the spinal cord, hence the feeling of discomfort as the fluid flows "rapids" as my neurologist called it through the spine. I can only say what I now believe and that is to allow your dog the freedom of play and exercise. They will do what they can do and quit when they are uncomfortable. Hug them when they are scratching, it usually helps them stop, and then they will rest. But....knowing that they choose to play should let you know that our fur friends know best and life, even for them, should be their choice. I don't regret allowing Ollie to play even in his last few months. I'm so glad I video'd him playing as I know, in spite of the pain, there were moments when he was able to forget he was uncomfortable. My heart aches for you. Let him be the best he can be. I can't speak much about winter since I live in Southern Florida but...maybe a heated pad for him to lay on might help. just a thought. Some SM dogs like the cold tile floor. It's just like usl Some aches feel better with heat, some cold.

14th December 2009, 01:35 AM
To be honest, even if a vet had said he might have SM with the heart problem they probably would not have put him under and anesthetic anyway for the MRI. You treated the heart and it did not enlarge from the SM. it enlarged because he had MVD, even though the first diagnosis said mild. They had not done an x ray at that time and from what you said, the falling over, sounds more like MVD than SM. And as far as the sudden death, well from what I know the dogs do not die suddenly from SM. They suffer and usually when it get really bad they have to be put down.
You treated him properly. Most vets that are not neurologists and expecially those who have no access to an MRI don't know much about SM. As for the predisone that is being used. Well it acts like a miracle drug for awhile but you just can't keep them on the doses of predisone as it destroys their organs, heart, liver, kidneys etc. It also destroys muscle just like in humans. My Ollie was put on it by the neurologist five times in seven months. It worked wonderfully the first few times but didn't do much the last few.
Life isn't fair and this disease isn't fair. We can only do so much and eventually we will loose are beloved fur babies from one thing or another. Don't blame yourself or the vet. They are no different than human doctors. Try going into one of them with info from the internet and you will get the same reaction. Don't believe what you read.
Hopefully the information and awareness will spread but we need owners and breeders to talk talk talk and write about this . We need breeders to admit to the problme. We need low cost MRI's at least a few times a year for breeders to get the bitch and studs MRI'd for a reduced fee and stop breeding those who show positive signs of SM. Maybe they will loose their breeding stock but if they care about the breed they will purchase another stud and bitch from a breeder who can prove her dogs have been scanned and are clear and supply certification of MVD clearance and eye clearance. The little dogs may cost even more but the healt screenig will be worth it. And we will weed out the breders just looking to make a buck with no regard for the little cavaliers they are selling to unsuspecting buyers.
It's all so painful but lets work together to get things changed. then our little ones will not have died and suffered in vain.