View Full Version : Could this be SM? Kinda long.. sorry

23rd September 2010, 10:40 PM
Hey everyone.... So I have suspected my pup may be affected with SM since I brought him home. Ever since I put his 1st collar on him he has itched and itched although at the time I assumed it was just the new collar thing. Then my vet assumed he might have food allergies and so on. Well he is going to be seeing a new vet the first week of October in hopes she will be a little more helpful but I wanted some other opinions to see if I'm just over worried and maybe there is a better explanation. I made a list of some of the symptoms I have seen:

* He itches at his shoulder/neck area a LOT (dozens of times a day). He is on frontline for fleas and I have not found on any fleas on him. But the itching is not always the same spot or the same side (although more often then not its on his right side.) Some times he just scratches air other times its his fur. A few of the scratching fits have been so bad that if I call him or try to get him to walk he has fallen over on his side still scratching. But most of the time he can stop after 10-30 seconds and go about what he was doing. On days where he is scratching the most he also butt scoots a LOT!

*Paw licking.... this is one thing that drives me nuts sometimes. He licks his paws so much it's a wonder he even has fur left on them! Its mostly his front paws. He will lick so much that when he gets up from the chair there will be a huge wet spot where he feet were! I try and nicely correct him so he will stop but he just looks sad and keeps doing it. Sometimes I will put my hand over his paws and he just keeps licking my hard where his paw would be. He paw licks most every night when we are sitting on the chair together or laying in bed.

*Lip licking.... sometimes I find him sitting with his head up in the air just licking his lips and the air.... Not sure if this is even relevant since I remember one of my grandparents poodles always doing it but just thought it might be.

* Every now and then he seems to have what I would call an "off" day. He just wants to sleep and doesn't really want to do anything. These "off" days almost always seem to start with a yelping fit. When he has these yelping fits (1-4 yelps) he usually sits or lays down and holds his head back. His back leg will sometimes seem "twitchy" and kicks for what seems no reason. He can't seem to control or stop it. Last time it happened he seemed a little freaked out and was trying to run on 3 legs. When he layed down his leg kept twitching for a good minute. To make things worse on these "off" days he sometimes dribbles pee as he walks. He has "dribbled" randomly on 4 different days all which were almost a week apart. (Other then these "off" days he has no problem peeing outside and doesn't usually have accidents in the house. ) It's like he has no clue he is doing it. Also on these off days he acts hungry and wants to eat but when I put his bowl down he just sniffs it and walks away. Since I got him a few months ago I would say he has had 7-8 of these "off" days. Usually these "off" days start later in day and he just seems to want to sleep (very deeply) and then by morning he is totally normal and playing. Just last night he was FINE when we went to bed. I noticed threw the night he kept moving around a lot in bed (Not normal. Usually he plants himself next to me and doesn't move.) Then some time during the night he woke me up yelping several times. When I turned the light on he was across the bed laying down and his poor little back leg was just trembling. I got up with him and in just a couple of minutes he seems fine. In my opinion these off days seem to slowly be getting worse. They also seem to be spaced out. Usually its a good 5-10 days in between them. After he has had his yelping fit and seems to calm down he sleeps VERY VERY deeply. It is very hard to get him to wake up and when he does he just moves away and goes back to sleep.

Now I know after reading about his "off" days your probably wondering why I haven't rushed him to the Emergency vet. For 1 the nearest one is a good 45 min to an hour away and second the episodes where you can see something if wrong don't last very long... usually less then a minute or so. Then he just wants to sleep. By morning when he wakes up he is totally normal playing and happy. It doesn't happen very often. Like i said the "off" days have only happened 7 or 8 times in 3 months.

*Some other random things I see him do: He rubs his head a lot on the floor but I'm not sure if its a puppy thing or not. Sometimes I can tell he is doing it because he is happy and playing but other times he seems serious and determined when he does it. He used to dig a lot in the carpet like he was trying to dig something up but he seems to have outgrown this. And he barks at nothing a LOT! I don't know HOW many times he has been barking at the carpet or the wall and NOTHING was there... I think that's just silly puppy but I could be wrong.

He has been to the vet and checkout. She did a skin scraping and checked him over. Her comment was it must be a food allergy to change his diet. She also commented on a "some kind of neck scratching in the breed but she had never seen it and didn't really know anything about it" even though she had "many years of experience" with the breed. But over all she found nothing wrong with him.

I have printed out a LOT of info on SM and PSOM for the new vet and I'm dropping it off on Monday so she has a good week to read up on it before my pups appointment.

Is there any other info you would recommend printing out? Its a little country vet so I really wonder if they have even seen a Cavalier in person before.

The weird thing about all of this is how young it started. I see most dogs don't show any symptoms until they are at least 6 months old. Mine was showing around 3 months and they just seem to be getting worse. He will be 6 months in a few weeks.

If you have any experience with SM does this sound like it could be? Could I just be over worried? All the other dogs I have raised we large breeds have never had any issues of the sort.

Also IF the new vet can't find anything wrong with him I'm going to push to see a neurologist. Hopefully she will refer us to one if she can't find anything wrong. I have not found any neurologist near where I am. Just wondering.. I found a neurologist I would like to take him to but they are a good 3-4 hour drive away. They are recommended on the neurologist page of Cavalier health so I feel confident in them as well. IF there is one in town who is a smaller clinic I have not heard anything about them.
My question is would you travel the 3-4 hour drive to one that you KNOW has at least seen a few Cavaliers before or stay closer to home to one that may not have seen many Cavaliers if any at all? I'm not sure if all neurologist are similar? Or would traveling 3-4 hours be silly and unpractical?

Just wondering what other peoples opinions on all this would be... I'm really disappointed and unsure about vets right now after my last experience. The last vet I saw was unable to give me much advise with my Cavalier (AND my cat). Sorry for the long post... Just a worried Cavalier mommy!

Cathy Moon
24th September 2010, 01:58 AM
I would take him to a neurologist who knows something about SM in cavaliers. You shouldn't need a vet referral to see a specialist.

We've been taking Geordie every 3 months to his neurologist (and cardiologist every 6-9 months), and it is a 2.5 hour drive. It's worth the drive to be working with someone you trust.

Our Charlie was showing similar symptoms when he was very young, and he had a suspected diagnosis of SM without an MRI well before he was a year old. We adopted him when he was nearly two, but I have his old vet records from his first owner, including the descriptions of his behaviors.

If the neurologist doesn't suspect anything, then I think I would look for a dermatologist and pursue the allergy route.

24th September 2010, 06:44 AM
I also forgot to mention that lately he has started chancing his tail a bit more right before and sometimes after a scratching fit... does that ever happen with SM or just a playful puppy?

Also if I touch him anywhere between his ears down to just past his shoulders it usually causes him to start scratching...

I was FINALLY able to catch a small episode on video. I have come to predict that it almost always will happen right before he eats because he gets excited with I start mixing the food bowls.


In this video he is actually scratching but right before I took the video and right after he ate he was just scratching air. Notice how he makes weird movements with his mouth and yawns.... sometimes he will lick the air instead or snap at himself.... He almost always does something with his mouth when he itches and I can't tell if its from pain or if maybe his mouth is bothering him too...
I also added at the end some of his licking.. when he licks he will lick anything that is in front of him... I had picked up his front legs when he was licking and he didn't stop... just started on my hand... if you look closely you will see the wet spot starting on the chair. I'm hoping to get a collection of these videos to take to the vet and neurologist with me!

I know this is probably a silly question but how do I know I am dealing with a "good" neurologist vs someone who doesn't really understand the breed? Is there anything specific I should look for or ask? It says he uses a 1.5T MRI.. are all MRI's the same?

I'm going to try and find out tomorrow if I can skip the vet and go straight to the neurologist... that would be nice!

24th September 2010, 09:11 AM
I have just read your postings all the way through and am very concerned for your puppy. If he were mine he would be straight to the Club recommended neurologist for a full scan as opposed to the short one.

I must say quite honestly that I am by no means any kind of experienced person of having dogs with SM and knowing what the symptoms and treatment turn out to be. Of my five Cavaliers only Rebel has been scanned positive for SM and Chariari, plus curvature of the spine as an additional bonus.

Rebel is coming up to 8 years old with no symptoms whatsoever, except for the constant licking. When he was a puppy the licking started and has continued throughout his life. I raised this with the vets many times as I thought it above normal, even had him anaesthetised so that his ENT areas could be checked, but nothing was found. I am now convinced that the licking is a symptom of SM, but it is not severe enough to warrant treatment.

Returning to your puppy, I watched the video very carefully. The main thing that worries me is the prolonged scratching. I have kept multiple Cavaliers for getting on for 30 years which tells me that this is extreme behaviour which should be checked out. From what I have heard and read about SM the screaming and air scratchings are also symptoms, although I believe it is also possible that there are other spinal and disc problems which may present similar symptoms.

So far as a three hour drive to the neurologist is concerned, don't you feel responsible for this little life you have brought into your home to sleep on your bed? Personally, in the past, I have gone hungry to feed my dogs and have vivid memories of travelling 24 hours on a round trip in mid winter just to show one of the dogs at a Championship show. You are not worrying about nothing, you are worrying about a living breathing puppy that you love and have responsibility for and of course you want the best for him, so please go ahead and find out what is troubling him so much.

You are both in my thoughts and prayers and I will watch this thread to see what is happening whenever I can. Please keep us all updated.

Kate H
24th September 2010, 11:52 AM
Has your vet checked your youngster's anal glands - because a lot of these symptoms could indicate a temperature from infected anal glands (especially the scratching and scooting). An easy thing to check, but doesn't explain everything, and I would support what others have said about going to a neurologist.

Oliver's neurologist is 4 hours' journey away and I don't have a car - 2 buses, 3 trains and a taxi to get there and the same back. When he first started having mild symptoms (2 years after he was diagnosed) we did this journey 3 times in 6 weeks. Enough said.

Kate, Oliver and Aled

24th September 2010, 05:58 PM
I would definitely take him to the neuro vet to get a full clinical evaluation and possible MRI. A lot of the symptoms do sound like SM. I know my pup who has the malformation and pre-syrinx does a lot of licking (especially of his feet) and has the back leg spasms as his most prominant symptoms. Initially it was the scratching that led me to take him for an MRI. He has since been put on meds to alleviate the majority of symptoms.
I think in retrospect, I noticed the sx's at 6 months old. I didn't become concerned until about a year old when they intensified. He is now going to be 2yrs in December and is managed on medication.

I think the long drive is well worth getting a proper diagnosis, which in return will start the ball rolling on treatment for your little baby. In the end this will make you both feel better:o
Good luck and I hope it turns out to be nothing more than an allergy or anal glands.

24th September 2010, 10:37 PM
I would take his harness off, as well. I have a girl with SM and I don't keep a collar or anything on her unless we are going for a walk. She cant stand anything or anyone touching her chest and that is right where your boys harness is.

If you don't need the vets referral, maybe consider getting an appointment with the neurologist and skipping the vet? That would save you the money of the vet visit and let you know whether you can rule out SM, especially if you aren;t sure whether she is knowledgeable about SM.

Good luck to you.

Pamela Warrington
27th September 2010, 02:19 AM
Please do not under estimate the symptoms you are seeing in your Cavalier. They are all definite sign of SM. The best thing for peace of mind, and for the health of your puppy, is to get the help and proper diagnose you need from a neurologist specialist. They can give you the answers and a solution to the problem. You can avoid so much pain and heart ache on your little one. Also if they find that it is SM, the sooner you can start your puppy on the proper medication will be better for her, It is vital to the progression this disease can cause. We need to give our pets the productive life that they deserve. We have been blessed to be their care givers please do not ignore the signs, My dog was doing alot of what your puppy is doing, and I feel so bad that she was not given the proper diagnose and that I let my regular vet give me the whole allergy treatment which was a waste of time and money. If I knew of this site then or read about Sm I would of been able to use the wisdom God has given me to get the help I needed for Isabelle sooner. I hope you see everyone here cares enough to write you and give you wonderful loving advise to help you take these serious. May the Lord guide you and may you find the proper medical attention your Cavalier puppy needs.


29th September 2010, 03:15 AM
SO frustrated! I have been trying to get an answer from our insurance company for days and have yet to get anywhere. I'm trying to find out if my insurance will let us go straight to the neurologist without a refural. The people I have spoken to have all said they don't "think" I can go without a referral but they would have to talk to there higher up. This "Higher up" person has NOT returned any of my calls and is always "unavailable" when i call. :-X
I have been calling my vet every day to see if I can get a sooner appointment. She said she would try and squeeze me in on Friday at the very latest between other patients if no one cancels before then.
It is very upsetting to see him having more symptoms almost daily. I'm very scared as to what the neurologist will say. He has a new episode again tonight while we were having dinner. He started yelping and was going in circles biting and licking his feet. I got down to calm him down and sit with him for a few but as soon as I got up it started up again. Went on for about 10 minutes total. Now he is crashed out asleep. I almost wonder if an Emergency vet could do anything? The episode is over.... I'm debating taking him in anyways. I'm really skeptical that they could be of much help. I have never had luck at emergency clinics before. They actually did more damage then good to one of my ferrets! He ended up losing his leg and his normal vet told me if the emergency vet hadn't done what they did he probably wouldn't have.
It seems like its taking so long to see a vet... I guess I never really realized how long my vet could take to see us!

FloSin: Yes I do feel VERY responsible for this puppy. All of our animals are members of our family and VERY spoiled. I spend more money on my animals then I do myself. But I do have a toddler to think about too. Packing a 22 month old in a car for a 7-8 hour drive round trip + wait time at a clinic is not as easy as it sounds! Plus I have to figure in gas for the total trip.... Gas here is almost $3 a gallon and we are talking about a 500 mile drive round trip. I am currently looking for a closer clinic that is familiar with Cavaliers and SM. If I can't find one then I DO plan to go the distance but I have to figure in all possibilities. I have to figure in getting my car checked out before going on a long road trip! As a mom alone on the road with a toddler I don't need to break down on the road somewhere I don't know! My car has been a little fritzy with coolent problems and I need my tires checked. First priority is my child and our safety.. then our pup is next on the list!

Thanks everyone for there kind words and advise!

BTW: I have JUST gotten in contact with a Cavalier group that is in not too far way! (About 1 1/2 hours) A member is putting me in contact with a Cavalier rescue that is pretty close to me as well that might be able to recommend a closer neurologist! I REALLY hope this might be the break I've been praying for! *Fingers crossed*

29th September 2010, 04:34 AM
Maybe the vet will give you some type of a painkiller, such as Tramadol, to give him when he has these episodes until you can get him into the neurologist? I had to take my SM girl to the ER in the middle of the night because she was having so much trouble (and she was on SM meds-- it was just a bad night for her). He gave me Tramadol to keep on hand when she has worse than normal symptoms.

29th September 2010, 08:14 AM
I do hope you get a diagnosis on your puppy very very soon for his sake. He must be suffering a lot of pain. It's such a shame that he is so young and having to put up with such distressing symptoms. Good wishes to you both.

3rd October 2010, 01:54 AM
I am so sorry to hear that you think your puppy has SM. I know how distressing it is, as I have been there. I noticed the symptoms in my dog as soon as I brought her home at 12 weeks old. My husband thought I was crazy, and refused to believe anything was wrong with her. It started with the yelping for no reason at all, then the scratching, face rubbing, lip smacking and scooting. She has never done the bunny hop. Her symptoms actually started to decrease as she got older, and by a year old, she only had occasional scratching episodes, and the yelping was less frequent as well. I began to think that it was all just puppy behavior. By the time she was almost three however, the symptoms all began anew and more frequently. My husband could no longer deny that this behavior was normal. We both loved her so much, it was hard for him to accept, but a Mother knows when something is wrong, and I was with her all day.

We decided to bring her to Auburn University, our vet school, about 2 hours away. She did need a referral that my vet was happy to give. She had an MRI, and a complete work up. She did have SM, and PSOM, along with a grade 2 luxating patella. She was diagnosed with mild SM at that time, but she has recently started to progress with more frequent episodes, along with some new symptoms affecting her balance. I will be taking her back to a neuro this week.

I hope you are able to get to a neuro soon, to give you some answers, and to start some treatment if your puppy does have SM. Good luck, and try not to worry too much.