View Full Version : Worried about new dog

13th February 2012, 08:28 PM
Please help. My story is quite a long one, so please forgive me if I may sound as if I am rambling.

My mothers dog died a few months ago - Not a cavalier. We looked around for a suitable dog as she was very lonely without one. She is 83, but quite active. I spoke to vets, friends, the kennels and anybody I thought I could get advice from as to whether to get another dog and if so, which breed. We eventually found a cavalier, nearly 2 years old, from a couple who were both out at work, and felt that the dog was on his own too long. Their story seemed genuine and we did not want a puppy for my mum. As far as I could found out about cavaliers from people I know who had them, heart disease was the biggest problem, but usually not until they were older, and to make sure that they were not overfed.

However, after getting Thomas, a tri colour, my son bought my mum a book about the breed for Christmas. In there I read about SM, and consequently researched it on the net, and found your site.
We have had a real bad run of luck with our own 3 dogs healthwise (all big dogs)- one is epileptic, one has recently developed a heart problem, and one, after a knock on the beach by our other dog, landed up in the emergency vets, where it was discovered she had a very rare tumour that had ruptured. She had major surgery as they felt that she could survive and have a good quality of life, if it was succesful. Touch wood, it is now 3.5 months on, and she is doing pretty well. Because of our own problem dogs, and my mother's dog dying very suddenly from a brain tumour, I have become very paranoic.

At first I convinced myself that Thomas' scratching was nothing, and that I was letting the paranoia get the better of me. However, a couple of weeks ago he was out playing with our Golden Retriever (the epileptic one)for the first time, as previously we had kept their play contained somewhat. Suddenly after taking a flying leap down some steps over a clump of heather, he screamed out in pain, and ran in. He kept screaming on and off for about half an hour. We rushed him to the vets, and she gave him a Metacam injection. He calmed down quite a lot, but he squealed when she did something to the bottom of his back. She said that she felt he had not been exercised enough with his previous owners and rushing about like an idiot (which he defintely was - he was almost flying), had caused him to pull
something in his back.

Anyway 2 weeks on and with Metacam every day, he now seems,fine but we had him neutered last Friday and the vet took an x-ray of his spine and a slight narrowing of 2 veterbrae showed up in exactly the same spot that he appeared to hurt.

Anyway to jump to today, he had his post operative check this moring, and the wound is healing very well. He has had a 'lampshade' on all weekend to stop him licking the wound, but the vet said it could come off when we are around, and just on when we are not for the next 2 days. Tonight though, he started to scratch very badly on both sides of his head and rubbed his head on the floor. He was quite excited at the time, playing ball with one of the other dogs. I have seen him do it a good many times on the last few weeeks, but tonight it went on for ages. I know a lot of his syptoms are normal behaviour as I have seen our other dogs do the same, but I tonight in particular was defintely excessive. I have put the lampshade back on, as I thought it might help. Since Friday I had not seen him scratch at all until this evening.

I am going sick with worry, as I know my Mum cannot stand all the worry of this, and having all 3 of our own dogs with various problems, I feel that I am not going to cope.

Any advice from you experienced owners would be most appreciated.

14th February 2012, 08:50 AM
To add to my first post, Thomas has not shown any sign of 'air scratching' when walking but does tend to drool when walking - all the smells I presume,- and then shakes his head afterwards. He can do this half a dozen times out on a walk, but only for a second or so each time.

Last night he waas a bit subdued but I had put his 'lampshade' back on. He did not seem that keen for his food, until I took it off, and then he ate the lot. He then chewed his tug rope for about an hour. He did scratch a few times again, but only for a couple of seconds each time.

We kept his 'lampshade' on him over night, and have taken it off this morning, and up to now, only an hour after getting up he has scratched 2 or 3 times but only briefly each time. He is runnng about quite happily.

I have mentioned my fears to our vet, but she seems to want to wait and see, and has said to not let him run about with the Retriever for a good while but build up his strength.

14th February 2012, 10:45 AM
Hi pipsqueak, I totally know what you're going through and also joined this board to get support after my 4.5 month old pup started showing signs of SM (and was diagnosed via MRI the day after her first screaming episode last week). I completely understand the feeling of being paranoid and just being sick with worry. In your case, you're worried he has SM and in my case, I'm worried if/when my pup will get worse. Just know you're not alone.

Not sure where you're located (probably Europe like me), but if it's possible and you have the resources, get an appointment with a neurologist and see if you can get an MRI. In my case, I wasn't given the option to MRI or not because of the emergency nature of our visit. But if you can push for it, it'll at least confirm or deny the SM with 100% certainty. In my case, I couldn't bear wondering and being paranoid, so we just went to the neuro, so if you can do the same, it may help you to know one way or the other if your mom's dog has SM. And trust your gut. Mine has never steered me wrong.

Just know you aren't alone and honestly, people on this board have been great already, so you made the right move posting here. In just a few days' time, I already feel at home here. I know what you're feeling is one of the hardest things ever, but try to keep your chin up.

Kate H
14th February 2012, 01:23 PM
Could your vet test Thomas for Dry Eye? It's a very simple test that can be done in a couple of minutes in the surgery. It's quite common in Cavaliers (it can be hereditary) and very irritating. My older dog has SM but has never scratched very much, but has recently developed Dry Eye and I think this explains why over the last few weeks he has been scratching his ears a lot and rubbing his face on sharper objects (edge of tables rather than the settee). Dry Eye is easily treatable with eye ointments.

Back problems are also common in Cavaliers - especially damaged muscles and disks. Part of the problem with diagnosing SM is that it can look like so many other conditions; but also the reverse is true - so many conditions can look like SM but not be.

All the best for Thomas:xfngr:

Kate, Oliver and Aled

14th February 2012, 02:09 PM
Hi Pips

You have been through a lot with your dogs and I really sympathise. I have got three Cavaliers one has got SM and one has CM but also has 3 degenerated disks. Both of my dogs were diagnosed last year ages 3 & 4.

By the sound of things it could be very well disk or back problems especially if your mums dog is not used to hardly any exercise at all, but I don’t think the scratching is related to disk or back problems.

The most important thing is that if it is SM the lampshade will be driving your dog mad. A lot of Cavaliers can’t even tolerate a collar and have to have harnesses. Even with SM there is light at the end of the tunnel, it’s getting to a neurologist and then getting the right medication. You didn’t say what country your are from and if the dog is insured.
There be other people on here that will be able to offer more advice.

14th February 2012, 09:25 PM
I'm so sorry to hear about Thomas - it sounds like you have been having a horrible time :(

I would suggest you visit http://sm.cavaliertalk.com/ and http://www.veterinary-neurologist.co.uk/ there is info you can print out for your vet. Vets are not good at picking up neurological conditions sadly. However you need to rule out other causes for the behaviour too. Maybe an x-ray to see if all is well with his back?

You can ask for a referral to a neurologist and have just a consultation, but an MRI is really necessary to confirm SM - and also rule out other issues.

If you have suspicions at all about SM, please do not keep him in a buster collar, as Sabby says this could really be causing him problems. Most Cavaliers are pretty good at leaving their stitches alone anyway. We also use baby vests upside down, with a hole cut for the tail - there is sufficient air flow for the wound to heal without the dog being able to access it.

Please keep us informed as to how Thomas is doing.

14th February 2012, 09:37 PM
Hi, thanks for your replies.

I am from Wales. I am a great believer in pet insurance, thankfully, as it has helped immensely with 2 of our dogs. The third one we never insured her when she was young, but thankfully up until recently she has been quite healthy. Having said that the one with a tumour was insured for 10 years before we had to claim.

With regards to the lampshade, he never scratched at all over the weekend, when he had it on continually, which I found very odd. It was only when we took it off for a few hours yesterday that he started again. And yet, when we put it back on for overnight, he still scratched.

We had to go for a check up with our dog who had the tumour today at Chestergates and met a couple whose cavalier had been diagnosed with SM today. I really felt so sorry for them, but they were hopeful that the medication would work. That had gone as a result of starting to limp, but the lady said that he scratched quite a lot and rubbed his nose/face a lot, very often on the grass. Thomas never seems to do it outside, and very rarely scratches outside, but does shake his head.

This evening he has started to scratch again, but not as excessively as last night. Just the odd 5 second scratch now and then. I have not noticed that one side, or indeed any area in particular is involved. We have had him deflead twice since we had him, and have changed his food to a hypoallergenic mix.

I rang the vets this morning but they said to leave it another few days, and see if it continues. I just feel that I have brought more heartache for my Mum, instead of the happiness I intended.

Thanks again for your replies. It is aways so helpful to be in touch with people who have experienced these problems first hand.

14th February 2012, 09:55 PM
Nicki:- Sorry I think our posts crossed. He had an x-ray and 2 vertebrae showed narrowing in the area that the pain appeaard to come from. I wish I had thought about the vest thing. I had a particularly bad night the first night with him, as the collar was really too big for him, and he stayed in the one position for several hours and then started to whimper. Eventually I could not stand it any longer, took it off at which point he ran out of the room, and stopped whimpering. I stayed awake for the rest of the night and kept a close eye on him.Next morning my husband cut it down by 2 inches, and after that he tolerated it quite well. He is still wearing it during the night or when we are not around to watch him, until tomorrow or Thursday, as per vets instructions. But I have wondered if there is a possibility of SM that he should never have been advised to wear it.

15th February 2012, 12:23 AM
I'd have the vet check his ears again for earmites -- that headshaking would not be that common with SM but very common with earmites. Also it is more common with PSOM. It can be hard to see mites especially if there's a lot of compressed wax in the ear canal. The screaming could be the vertebral issue if there's compression there.

I've not once had any problems with dogs getting at their stitches and always remove buster collars -- dogs just hate them I use a baby vest the first couple of days and nothing after that. If you are around there's no reason he'd need to stay in the collar if he's being supervised.

The things you are describing could be from other causes that are worth treating for/looking into before you worry about SM. Unfortunately there are these health issues in this breed however and diagnosing SM is expensive and would require an MRI. It is unfortunate that there have been other health issues with other dogs too -- that can only be very sad and discouraging. :flwr: