View Full Version : HELP! head bobbing in my CKCS!

12th October 2010, 03:27 AM
hi everyone,
i have a 7 1/2 year old cavalier male with no hx of serious health problems (occasional ear infections) but he has recently been diagnosed with a grade 2-3 heart murmur (what a surprise right :rolleyes:)

i am currently away at school and my sister and mom really aren't the best at cleaning my dog's ears when i'm gone...since i'ts been like 3 weeks since i've been home, his ears weren't cleaned once and it was very wet and rainy pretty much thsi whole week so when i came home for the long weekend his right ear was inflamed and red and yeasty (poor thing). so, with the advice of the internal medicine vet that i work for, started him on mometamax (which seems to be helping, his ear is definitely not as red or inflamed anymore)

there's no blood or anything.

his appetite/drinking is normal, urinating/defecating normally, etc. he had bloodwork checked a few months ago and everything was normal. he had a dental performed in july with one extraction.

BUT starting yesterday, i noticed him having these head nodding/bobbing episodes of about MAYBE 5 seconds. it's very strange -- he snaps out of it when i distract him...and he doesn't have any neuro symptoms like nystagmus, head tilt, loss of balance, stumbling, droopy eyes, excessive drool or anything. he really seems fine other wise AND he doesn't seem to be in pain.

he isn't taking any other medications besides omega 3/6 capsules and monthly interceptor and frontline.

i did recently change his food from Holistic Select to Taste of the Wild.

at first i was suspecting maybe a middle/inner ear infection, but since he doesn't really have any head tilt my vet doesn't really suspect a deeper ear infection.

also, my vet doens't suspect SM since he doesn't have any severe neuro symptoms.

the internal medicine vet that i work with also said that an ear infection can definitel cause head bobbing/nodding.

i've done a little research online and discovered "idiopathic head bobbing syndrome" which is apparently common in english bulldogs and boxers?

also, i read that low blood sugar levels can sometimes cause this? he is usually without food for about 12 hours (fed in early morning and late at night) because my mom and sister are gone the whole time because of school, dance and work (mom has 3 jobs, sister is in school then dance all day)-- could this be causing his head bobbing?

anyone experience something like this with their own pets and can offer some insight?

vet did say that if his ear infection doesn't improve and he keeps head bobbing she thinks it's work it to do an inner ear examination and a neurologist consult (all of which i really can't afford but am so totally willing to do for my baby)

thanks everyone...i'm just so concerned about my little man :(

12th October 2010, 09:32 AM
Sorry to hear of your concerns for your wee fellow :(

It might be to do with the ears - obviously they are connected with balance.

There is a mild form of epilepsy where they have focal seizures see http://www.canine-epilepsy-guardian-angels.com/partial_focal.htm for a better description

Have a read through this thread http://www.cavaliertalk.com/forums/showthread.php?8786-Epilepsy for some suggestions for help.

12 hours is a very long time to leave a Cavalier :( - they are very sociable and do need to be around people. Is there no way he could be with you? Or could you arrange for someone to come in and take him for a short walk, just to break up the day a bit? Does he have access to somewhere to toilet? that's a long time to expect a dog to go without being able to toilet.

12th October 2010, 10:59 AM
I'd say your vet's advice is the right track -- a lot of things could cause the bobbing, and they tend to fall into either a middle ear problem or a neurological problem. I think if the problem continues after the outer infection clears, then the route the vet suggests is the right one. YUnfortunately there is a high rate of neurological conditions in the breed from SM to epilepsy to episodic falling to obsessive-compulsive behaviours like fly-catching.

The bobbing would not be behavioural but I do agree that 12 hours would be an impossible stretch for many dogs to manage without toiletting and is a very long day for this particular breed to be entirely alone every day given that a cavalier's quality of life is so predicated on actually being close to people. Though it may solve the toiletting problem, being left outside is also very problematical for this breed -- they often do get behaviour problems when left alone for huge stretches as they are bred primarily as a companion dog and have a hard time being left alone -- outside in a run or alone in a garden in particular, or crated for long stretches (which I believe is cruel, anyway, in line with most trainers) -- also quite risky as this is one of the most stolen breeds internationally. As he is getting on in years it will be increasingly hard for a dog not to need to relieve itself -- the max to leave a dog is really about 7-8 hours and that only on occasion. I always say: could a person hold themselves comfortably without using a toilet for a full day? For most of us a toilet break every 4-5 hours maximum would be the norm and it is the same for dogs to be comfortable.

I'm not sure what the answer would be for you -- I certainly would try to use a walking service or have someone in the neighbourhood let him out midday in a secure garden area for a while for some mental stimulation and a toilet break, or consider daycare a couple of days a week. If this is likely to be the norm for months or years, I'd certainly try to change your own housing to enable him to be with you or consider whether he could be rehomed to a friend or family member where someone would be around. As he ages -- and if he has a neurological issue or the heart problems increase -- he really could not be left on his own for half the day any longer as he would need to be supervised, and given what you are seeing I think probably this is going to be a serious issue needing to be addressed. As no one sees his activity at all duringmost of the day now and then he is asleep for 8 hours or so it means he goes unobserved for probably 20 hours or more a day -- and family members may already be missing key neurological symptoms. For example he could be having day seizures or SM pain sessions at times when no one is there -- many dogs would tend to get these at particular times of the day after activity, not first thing in the morning or during sleep.

It sounds like there are probably a lot of considerations ahead and getting a diagnosis on the head bobbing will be a help to weighing up wider issues. It can be a challenge for owners especially if home circumstances have changed for family members, but dogs, which are very social animals, really don't do well working around an owner's long workdays without some sort of care structure in place that means they aren;t entirely alone for 8 hours+ each day. Then too, older dogs do start to get problems and have weaker bladders and really do need someone around most of the time, ideally, or at least need someone checking in one them and letting them out for toiletting around every 4 hours. If that cannot be put in place then I think the big issue is whether it is humane for the dog to leave in such isolation especially as it ages -- as you hardly see your dog if away now, and given family activities and work, he has only a couple of hours now each day of actual contact and companionship. It is a difficult situation.

12th October 2010, 06:19 PM
i know i know i know that leaving him 12 hours is terrible...but under my family's circumstances, there's really nothing else we can do - we are SO financially tight right now my mom has to work 3 jobs and there's no way that she can cut down on her hours. i'm away at school in philadelphia, i can only come home every weekend at the most. he is not left 12 hours EVERY day though, monday - thursday usually, so i'm pretty sure that if he had day seizures or SM episodes we would notice them, for example, on the weekends when they're home all day with him.

i'm thinking of bringing him with me to school next semester...as i hate what's going on at home but i can't do anything about it when i'm away all the time.