View Full Version : SM behavior input needed

18th December 2012, 05:18 PM
I tried to video my old boy doing his meal time scratching. He will scratch his ears after every meal and sometimes will chew his feet. At his last vet visit, he is healthy, no ear infection, no fleas, no mites, no lice. He is 9 years old has a grade 3 heart murmur. I will not have a MRI done due to age and heart issue.

Based on frequency would this be consider SM symptoms and if so do I ask for medication? TIA!

First video he had just finished scratching his ear and this is him again scratching. Also there is some grumbling between the boys. Old boy eats fast and watches the younger boy dog eat. Second video he had been scratching for a few seconds already and I tape the end of his scratching. He scratched a total of 5 times this morning. Sometimes he does more and sometimes he will chew his feet as well. (All dogs in video have different pedigree lines.)



Sydneys Mom
19th December 2012, 12:47 AM
I have no advice to give you but I am sure someone with more experience will be able to tell if this may be SM or not. Just wanted to say that I'll keep my fingers crossed that it isn't.

Also want to say how beautiful your dogs are.

19th December 2012, 02:25 AM
Hmmmm first off I have to say its totally funny how your younger dog lays down and guarding his bowl. As if to say "no way old guy this is mine". Questions does your dog only do this after eating? I use spaniel blows to help avoid the messy ears. The chewing his feet too as you know is a sign. I know he's older and with his heart problems I agree with you about not getting him scanned but what if he is in some type of pain?????? It seems with SM its just SO hard to tell without an MRI however I'm sure you are not the only owner with this issue. Could you get an appt with a Nero? I would think even without a scan I'm sure they have experience dealing with dogs/owners in your position. If you do decide to talk to a vet or specialist about this I think the more videos you take to show the better......also try keeping a log of all the "symptoms" you think may be involved.

I'm a BIG advocate for going with your "Mommy gut" if you have a feeling......you should follow it.

19th December 2012, 05:06 AM
Thanks for the nice comments on my dogs.

Yes he does this after every meal-twice a day. He is old and doesn't do much during the day so meal time is the only part of the day he gets really excited about. He loves his food!! It does seem to be more aggressive scratching lately so I started to pay attention. I would say he has done this for at least 6 months now.

I guess I could get a visit to a neurologist but I wonder if I could just go to my vet and ask for meds if needed??? I never experienced a dog with SM but I have read enough about it to make me think this might be symptoms, although it seems harmless enough.

19th December 2012, 08:56 AM
I'm another who thinks your dogs are all lovely. How old is your 'old boy' then?

I have looked very carefully because I too have an older dog MRI diagnosed as having SM/CM. He was in quite a bad way when I realised his symptoms were more than age related - he had been asymptomatic when scanned the first time. My vet arranged a further scan near home, which showed how much the illness had progressed, so treatedment was started. Eventually the present effective regime for him was established, leaving him almost symptom free and running around like a much younger dog than his 10 years, but he too does scratch his neck from time to time, especially after the excitement of eating, his favourite thing!

Your 'old boy' may be suffering from SM, CM or indeed both, which is quite common. A neurologist is your best bet to use their knowledge and experience to make a diagnosis and give suggestions for any treatment which is needed. Sorry, but most vets do not have that expertise. I am hearing more and more often now of neuros who have helped older dogs in your situation without scanning, but there again, careful monitoring during the anaesthetic minimises any risk.

Anyone here who tells you that it is possible for a general practice vet to diagnose SM or CM on the strength of your videos, although useful to a neurologist, would be grossly mistaken. Only you and your dog know whether there is pain/distress involved in the scratching and occasional chewing, but I do think you should see a neurologist if you have any doubts or concerns.

19th December 2012, 05:25 PM
Thanks for the input. You gave me alot to think about in seeing a neurologist vs regular vet. I am a penny pincher so of course I would rather go to my vet and spend $35 on an office visit versus the price of seeing a neurologist. My dog is 9, and with his heart murmur I can't imagine him living too much longer, perhaps a couple years so I just can't see the benefit of paying for an MRI. But I do love my dogs so I do want to the best for them. If scratching is pain then of course I would do anything to help relieve the pain.

19th December 2012, 06:46 PM
It can be difficult to predict how long a dog will live a quality life for. Knowing how old his parents and grandparents were when they died could well give you a good idea of your boys' life expectations. With modern medication and management a late onset MVD and/or SM/CM there should be no reason to expect a shorter lifespan. I have had one dog live to almost 17, a couple to 15 and another to 13 1.2. All except one have been diagnosed with MVD, the oldest having a grade 5.

19th December 2012, 06:49 PM
I'd second Flo's advice. I'd very much urge seeing a neurologist -- if a vet has not found any other cause for that type of scratching and head shaking (eg ear mites) then I think you'd want to investigate CM/SM and PSOM. A vet cannot really diagnose or effectively treat SM -- generally they know little about it as it is a specialist disease; and understand little about the medications, some of which are solely human meds and have no vet equivalent (and because getting the mix right, if opting for meds, takes some work and usually, occasional adjustments). Once there's a diagnosis from a neurologist, then generally you can work with your vet as primary contact if absolutely necessary.

I think most neurologists would either have some sense of what might be going on from a clinical exam -- and would agree that an MRI is probably not the best option for an older dog with a murmur. They would likely suggest trying some of the meds that help with SM and see if that helps with the scratching. That's sure what I would be looking to do if a clinical exam seems to indicate SM.

19th December 2012, 07:45 PM
I can understand the penny pincher heck I'm down right a cheapo however when it comes to my kids or animals health matters I refuse to even give cost one thought. Just get a referral for a nero and make an appt ASAP!!!!!

Kate H
19th December 2012, 10:07 PM
My Oliver is 11, was diagnosed with CM/SM aged 5, has a grade 2 murmur (grade 3 is pretty good at 9 years old and may never get to the danger point of grade 5-6) and shows no signs of imminent departure. His SM is getting worse, but my vet and I are working hard to keep him active and comfortable for at least a year or two yet. I took him to a neurologist when he was first diagnosed and most recently last January for advice on keeping him going. And with most neuros a face to face session isn't all you get - they are then available for ongoing advice by phone or email on a sort of 'once a patient, always a patient' basis, so it really is a good investment.

Kate, Oliver and Aled

20th December 2012, 01:04 AM
The starting point would be your own vet to make sure there isn't anything else obvious (head shaking along with scratching often indicates ear mites) and also generally you want your vet to make a referral to a neurologist though this isn't always necessary. Rod has a good list of neuros at cavalierhealth.org.

20th December 2012, 06:53 PM
Thanks for all the feedback. I have decided to wait until after the Holidays and follow up with neurologist. Not sure if there is one in my state, my vet said they would get back with me about a referral.