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View Full Version : Tail Chasing a secondary Symptom of SM (one neurologist maybe another no)



anniemac
23rd August 2011, 07:05 PM
First let me say that I do NOT think that Elton has SM but I have been wanting to post this for some time. When I first met Elton, I commented to some off the forum that he was chasing his tail along with barking. One person said they thought this was a symptom of SM which another agreed (who I will not name but knows a lot about Cavalier Health).

Anyway, I read a lot where people say they can tell my the eyes (which don't ask me but I totally understand) and his eyes were bright eyed and full of energy. Even though they mentioned this, I felt I could pick up on it pretty good and nothing screamed CM/SM. I felt it was behavioral.

Before I was going to agree to adopt him, I took him to make sure of some things and I also wanted to look into the tail chasing. Even though I knew in my heart he did not have CM/SM (symptomatic), when it was mentioned I wanted to contact a neurologist. I know there are no guarantees with a Cavalier and even if Elton does not have symptoms now, it doesn't mean at 7 years (I think the age of Rebel) or later they can develop. Also I know that a number of things can always happen but I wanted to get him checked out anyway.

I emailed Ella's neurologist and he said it sounded behavioral but tail chasing CAN be a symptom of Sm (secondary whatever that means). Ella's neurologist is no longer in Charlotte, so I took him to see his former partner. I didn't have to get a referral or anything because I have met him and also told Dr. Brofman that I wanted to see his former partner if I needed a referral could he contact him.

So this neurologist did the squeeze (don't remember name) and did some physical exam in the back and came back and said he is extremely confident Elton did not have COMS (I bit my lip because I don't know why COMS instead of CM or CLM bothers me). He said there were several things Elton did like shaking his whole body and other things that would be painful for a symptomatic Cavalier. He said it doesn't mean that when he is 12 it can not happen but he saw a 14 week old the week before. He told me that he seemed extremely healthy.

*I then mentioned the tail chasing which he said this would be very painful for a symptomatic cavalier??:huh:*

I have read recently that butt dragging on another thread is an SM symptom (never heard of it) and two very conflicting statements about this symptom from specialists which leave me to think which is right? I know everyone thinks of scratching but like I said, I could see the pain in Ella's eyes and the most tell tale thing was everyone thought she was really old. I remember they look older than they are but what additional symptoms than the ones that are most common are there?

Are there any additional that are not listed on Karlin's website?

http://sm.cavaliertalk.com/diagnosing/diagnosing/symptoms.html

Thankfully, Elton does not chase his tail much anymore (he is adjusting) but I immediately think this was behavioral but are these what are primary symptoms and why Ella's neurologist said it could be a secondary symptom?

Zumie05
23rd August 2011, 08:13 PM
I have also wondered if spinning in circles, not necessarily chasing the tail, is possibly a symptom? I have noticed a lot of cavaliers do a little spin now and then, especially when excited (Coco included).

Pat
23rd August 2011, 08:52 PM
I emailed Ella's neurologist and he said it sounded behavioral but tail chasing CAN be a symptom of Sm (secondary whatever that means).

So this neurologist did the squeeze (don't remember name) and did some physical exam in the back and came back and said he is extremely confident Elton did not have COMS (I bit my lip because I don't know why COMS instead of CM or CLM bothers me).

*I then mentioned the tail chasing which he said this would be very painful for a symptomatic cavalier??:huh:*

Thankfully, Elton does not chase his tail much anymore (he is adjusting) but I immediately think this was behavioral but are these what are primary symptoms and why Ella's neurologist said it could be a secondary symptom?

My understanding is that tail-chasing, obsessive licking and fly catching can be symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. This isn't well understood in dogs and it's never been clear to me if this is a neurological condition, perhaps related to epilepsy, or if it is a biochemical condition similar to OCD behavior in people. I've read different opinions by different clinicians. I know of a lot of fly-snap dogs that are treated with epilepsy drugs such as phenobarbital. I've heard neurologists say that these behaviors MIGHT be secondary symptoms of SM, but I don't think there is a consensus of opinion.

I wonder if the "squeeze" is what Dr. Dewey called the "Beezer Squeezer" at AVMA convention - named in memory of one of his teachers in elementary school who would squeeze the necks of unruly students. If so, I'm fairly certain that Dr. Dewey did NOT say that this would indicate no CM. He said that he has "never known a dog with SM to not react" (flinch or even cry out) when he does this squeeze technique. So this would not be a quick and easy rule-out of CM but it would make him suspicious of SM if the dog reacted to the squeeze. I'll try to check my notes from AVMA to clarify. I don't know of any way to diagnose CM or to rule it out other than an MRI. And an MRI would be the only way to definitely diagnose SM, although one would certainly be suspicious based on behavior, symptoms and neurological exam.


Pat

anniemac
23rd August 2011, 09:11 PM
My understanding is that tail-chasing, obsessive licking and fly catching can be symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. This isn't well understood in dogs and it's never been clear to me if this is a neurological condition, perhaps related to epilepsy, or if it is a biochemical condition similar to OCD behavior in people.


Pat

I think I asked him if this would be neurological or I can't remember if HE mentioned the OCD but it was concluded that if it was then there is a behavioral specialist to see. I really can't be so sure but I do specifically remember OCD being mentioned and I know that if it was something that continued the next option would be not to see him again but the behavioral specialist.

I was concerned with OCD from the obsessive humping and tail chasing but he no longer is humping (maybe once last week) and will occassionally chase his tail but not nearly like before. The barking is still something we are working on but has been doing better once I taught him how to sit and also now that he is used to the routine. He hasn't barked when I left in a couple of weeks but he still will when he gets excited.

"I wonder if the "squeeze" is what Dr. Dewey called the "Beezer Squeezer" at AVMA convention - named in memory of one of his teachers in elementary school who would squeeze the necks of unruly students. If so, I'm fairly certain that Dr. Dewey did NOT say that this would indicate no CM. He said that he has "never known a dog with SM to not react" (flinch or even cry out) when he does this squeeze technique. So this would not be a quick and easy rule-out of CM but it would make him suspicious of SM if the dog reacted to the squeeze. I'll try to check my notes from AVMA to clarify. I don't know of any way to diagnose CM or to rule it out other than an MRI. And an MRI would be the only way to definitely diagnose SM, although one would certainly be suspicious based on behavior, symptoms and neurological exam."

I think this is what he did BUT I mainly was wanting to talk to him about some things and I didn't want to have an MRI mainly because I didn't think he was symptomatic. Sadly, we know that CM can be symptomatic and sometimes severe SM can be asymptomatic. I thought that since I didn't see any symptoms that I thought were something to that might be CM/SM related (minus the tail chasing and humping), an MRI would sadly most likely show at least CM and who knows about SM.

I have wondered if a cavalier has an MRI for something not related to symptoms of CM/SM (a disk issue) and found out they had CM or severe SM how would this be treated? Part of me feels that if I am not breeding Elton, it is not useful for research, or if he is not showing symptoms, then I would not want to have an MRI because I don't know how that would change his treatment. If he is truly asymptomatic at almost 5 would knowing he has CM or mild SM do any good?

I did not know that the Beezer Squeeze was just for SM but I think either way, I am glad he got a good physical examination and that I live in a city with some good specialists and now I found an awesome vet (he has owned Cavaliers for several years). I think they also look at things like their walk and who knows what else but I am glad I was able to have him be examined by a neurologist anyway.

anniemac
23rd August 2011, 09:17 PM
Pat,

OCD is definately in the back of my mind but I really wanted to see if part of his actions were somewhat anxiety related. I know you have had several rescues and part of me did not know if it was some adjustment to getting used to a new environment, however, I know the humping was out of character.

*strangly he was around a female in season and the two males (neutered or as Rod says castrated) at the foster home was going wild but Elton didn't try to hump her at all. He did get overly obsessed with poor Rupert and I don't know if part of the reason he is not humping as much is because I took him away or if there if he has been more relaxed.

Kate H
23rd August 2011, 09:18 PM
I think it is very easy - understandably - for people with SM dogs to lose sight of the fact that their dogs are still normal dogs. Because SM tends to fill the owner's thinking, it's easy to forget that it doesn't entirely fill your dog's life. They are still normal dogs in other ways - and to me butt dragging even in my dog with SM would suggest anal glands or worms, not another symptom of SM. They can get skin problems, ear mites, grass seeds in paws or ears, spinal /muscle/patella injuries, etc, etc, which are nothing to do with the fact that they have SM. Goodness knows, there are enough symptoms of SM without attributing every single thing to it.

Kate, Oliver and Aled

Pat
23rd August 2011, 09:35 PM
I really can't be so sure but I do specifically remember OCD being mentioned and I know that if it was something that continued the next option would be not to see him again but the behavioral specialist.

Sadly, we know that CM can be symptomatic and sometimes severe SM can be asymptomatic.

I have wondered if a cavalier has an MRI for something not related to symptoms of CM/SM (a disk issue) and found out they had CM or severe SM how would this be treated? Part of me feels that if I am not breeding Elton, it is not useful for research, or if he is not showing symptoms, then I would not want to have an MRI because I don't know how that would change his treatment. If he is truly asymptomatic at almost 5 would knowing he has CM or mild SM do any good?

But remember that a behavioral specialist (DVM) may well prescribe meds for serious OCD behavior - possibly phenobarbital or an antianxiety medication. So OCD behavior isn't just treated with behavior modification or training, and severe OCD behavior can be quite debilitating.

I think that reacting to the squeeze technique would be considered a symptom by a neurologist, similar to proprioception deficits, vestibular signs, etc.

When I decided to have Tucker MRI'd (he was not obviously symptomatic to me and also did not show symptoms during the neurological exam) I determined that if SM was diagnosed on MRI, I would do a trial of gabapentin to see if I noticed any difference in his behavior - more active, more alert, etc. My thought was that I could not be certain that he was in no pain/discomfort even if there were no obvious symptoms. Had he been diagnosed with SM, I would have done the trial of gabapentin and I would have started omeprazole. He was diagnosed with mild CM, but since I think that MOST dogs with CM only (esp. mild) do not seem to have pain and since he is almost 9, I did not do a gabapentin trial nor have I started omeprazole. I felt that Tucker's MRI was also valuable for research because of his age and the fact that close relatives are in breeding programs.

At some point, I'll get an MRI for Lissie even though I don't have her pedigree and so an MRI will be useless for research. I don't even know her true age.

Pat

anniemac
23rd August 2011, 09:46 PM
But remember that a behavioral specialist (DVM) may well prescribe meds for serious OCD behavior - possibly phenobarbital or an antianxiety medication. So OCD behavior isn't just treated with behavior modification or training, and severe OCD behavior can be quite debilitating.

Pat

Thinking about this, I might look into this and especially after I read about the DVM in Huntersville.

Have you ever heard of



Gerrard Flannigan


DVM, Diplomate ACVB





http://www.carolinavet.com/docbylocation_detail.cfm?did=47


The website says this about him which is extremely interesting.


"

Professional Accomplishments:


Dr. Flannigan practiced general veterinary medicine for 3 years prior to beginning his graduate work and residency. He is an adjunct clinical professor at NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine and lectures on behavior throughout North America. Dr. Flannigan is the Chair of the American Veterinary Medical Associationís Committee on the Human-Animal Bond, sits on the American Humane Associationís Advisory Board on Behavior and Training, and sits on the Board of Regents of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists."

Pat
23rd August 2011, 10:15 PM
He is in a very elite category along with specialists like Karen Overall and Scott Line - there is a very small group of ACVB certified vets in the country and not all work with small companion animals. If you ever need a behavior specialist, you have a great resource.

Pat

anniemac
23rd August 2011, 10:21 PM
[QUOTE=Pat;400720 He was diagnosed with mild CM, but since I think that MOST dogs with CM only (esp. mild) do not seem to have pain and since he is almost 9, I did not do a gabapentin trial nor have I started omeprazole.
At some point, I'll get an MRI for Lissie even though I don't have her pedigree and so an MRI will be useless for research. I don't even know her true age.

Pat[/QUOTE]

I know some researchers have said "how can you see a headache" when describing CM and SM, but I know Kate H has talked about the headache look and I definately could tell something was off in the expression.

I guess you can assume with 95% of Cavaliers having CM that maybe MOST would not show pain. The same could be said about SM with the % of Cavaliers with SM now showing in research reports, I think a fraction would be said to be symptomatic. (Didn't they do a survey before and 4%) However, I know researchers have said that upon further examination those said to be free of "clinical signs" in fact had symptoms.

I really like this flyer about How to Tell if Your Dog is in Pain

http://secure.aahanet.org/eWeb/images/Trends/PDFs/DogHandout.pdf


I think it is a good referrance for anyone (whether CM/SM or another condition)

Pat
23rd August 2011, 10:22 PM
Here is another entity, but not all of these members are vets:

http://www.animalbehavior.org/ABSAppliedBehavior/caab-directory

Pat

GraciesMom
23rd August 2011, 10:32 PM
I am like a sponge these days on reading everything I can on Cavalier health. I do think two elderly Cavvies down the street are examples of OCD without CM. When I first met them 5 years ago, one of the compulsively licked everything and the other chased his tail alot. Both have been scanned now for spinal disk issues and have no CM at all. But even at age 12 and 14, they both still show some OCD behaviors.

When Gracie was about 7-8 months, she went through a period of licking odd things... table legs, rug, side of bathtub, etc. Has not done it for several months though. Not sure why it stopped....

sunshinekisses
24th August 2011, 03:51 PM
On tail chasing, my first cavalier did this but it was encouraged by us. When she was bored, she would tail chase as it would always get attention. Some puppies will do this naturally and if encouraged can become a habit. I guess anything can also become OCD-ish. Think labrador and a ball. I have no idea how it relates to SM or other health issues, but I do wonder if people try to explain more behavior away than needed. Dog's behavior is learned by cause and effect. A dog will do behavior and if it is rewarded either inside (think of bladder release offering immidiate reward) or outside (praise from owner). Behavior will become habit if repeating gives reward.

Holly
25th August 2011, 02:46 AM
So much conflicting info out there... Scarlett fly-catches quite a bit and I have had two neurologists (Clare R included) tell me that it is not related to SM, but if you read Rod's site it says this on the Fly-Catcher's page:

"Symptoms

The flycatcher's-affected cavalier appears to be watching imaginary flies buzzing in front of its face and then trying to bite the flies. Some affected dogs may compulsively chase their tails or act as if their ears or paws are irritated. Episodes may last for several hours, and in severe cases, constantly. Fly biting behavior also has been identified as a symptom of syringomyelia, a serious neurological disorder more common in the cavalier King Charles spaniel than in any other breed. See Syringomyelia for information about this disease."

http://cavalierhealth.org/flycatchers.htm

From personal experience, I know that when Scarlett is having a pain episode or bad time with her SM, she also fly-catches a lot. BUT... is it due to the stress of being in pain or is it directly related to SM?? I don't know... another mystery.

Dr. Schubert at UF said it is a form of epilepsy and wanted to treat it with pheno-barbital, but she is already on so many meds that I didn't want to add more and the fly-catching doesn't really seem to bother her much.

Karen and Ruby
25th August 2011, 02:35 PM
This makes for interesting reading and I like what Kate said about it being so so easy to attribute all these strange behaviours to SM or CM when in actuality it is just what dogs do.

Charlie is a massive tail chaser and compulsive licker- if you let him he will sit and lick you from head to toe and then start on himself, the sofa, a cushion or sometimes Ruby. FYI (he has symptomatic CM)

I put the tail chasing down to boredom and the fact that if given a chance he will chase ANYTHING that moves, be it a leaf/bird/plastic bag etc etc He is a very high energy little guy.

Charlie being a rescue is quite uncomfortable with closeness and doesn't enjoy a close cuddle like many dogs do and I see the licking as his way of being close with me/anything with out being in his face and he also licks when he is nervous - it is a known Calming Signal of dogs to lick.

But Ruby on the other hand does have a lot of little quirks that I absolutely attribute to the SM, the nibbling, bum scooting, flinching as though something has bitten her in the bum, head rubbing and occasional licking of the air (like fly catching but her tongue goes up and in to the air as though there was a nice bit of chicken hanging in the air)

Its a tough one but I think sometimes we have to look at what else can be causing a behaviour before blaming it on the SM or CM