View Full Version : SM Nightmare

1st September 2014, 11:01 PM
Hi all

Could anyone give some advice. Tilly is nearly 7 now - diagnosed with SM at 1. Her symptoms have always been bad - but recently so much worse. Since a pup she has walked in a C shape with her head always pointing to the left. Now she seems 'fused' in this position and as a result her right shoulder really sticks out, making her front legs 'cross' when walking and now her front left 'wrist' has started to give way. She's starting to fall over frequently (daily). She drags her left paw - her claws are bleeding after a walk as she has worn them down to the quick. :( I've had her checked at the vets and have some shoes for her and I'm trying to let her have more grass walks - she still wants to go for walks but after about 100 metres she sits down and I carry her home.
She's been on gabapentin for years - now 200mg 3 times a day as well as regular rimadyl.
I think we need some form of support for her left wrist/ankle - like a sports support to prevent the joint from giving way, but doesn't interfere with the rest of her legs (which all have problems). My vet asked me to search the internet - but I'm struggling find anything suitable.
I will try and post a video clip of her walking.

Any help would be really appreciated - devastating watching this disease progress.

Thanks - Ruth

Kate H
2nd September 2014, 05:15 PM
Ruth, I'm so sorry that you are having to cope with such severe SM - it really is a pig of a disease. I can't really advise about shoes or similar, but my immediate reaction was talk to a neurologist. Tilly is still on the very basic medication - though at the limit of her gabapentin dosage. It may be that she needs to be on Lyrica, which works better for some dogs. It may be time to try steroids with her - a neurologist would be able to give you more specific advice than a GP vet.
It might also be worth seeing a canine physiotherapist, who could advise you on supports.

Have you thought of getting a pet stroller for her? This enables you to take her out and about, use it to get her to the park, let her walk on the grass as long as she wants and then pop her back in the buggy. I use one with my Cavalier Aled who is in heart failure (and also has mild SM) and it is such a help - 13-year-old Oliver uses it occasionally too, as his back legs are very wobbly (?SM ?arthritis ?old age - anybody's guess!), and sometimes I end up with both of them squashed into it! But using it means they can come into town with me and watch the world go by and get lots of fuss. The basic ones aren't terribly expensive.

I do hope you can find ways of making Tilly more comfortable - you feel so helpless watching them struggle.


Kate, Oliver and Aled

Love my Cavaliers
2nd September 2014, 06:54 PM
I don't know if this site would be helpful http://eddieswheels.com/ but they do make front wheeled carts. They are probably expensive, but I know they are neurologist recommended. Tilly's spine may be too curved for one though. A stroller may be the best bet. I hope you can get her more comfortable.

2nd September 2014, 07:21 PM
As Kate says, it is extremely doubtful whether a GP vet will have the experience and expertise required to treat Tilly effectively. I really think that you should see a neurologist, who will be able to arrange for an up to date MRI scan to be done, if possible, assess Tilly's symptoms and advise you as to which medications she should be given and in what doseages. You might well see an improvement in Tilly's symptoms if you are able to get this done. If you have pet insurance, then it is likely that the insurers will pay for both the scan and the neurologist, if not, then a neurologist experienced in diagnosing and treating SM could still use his skills and experience to find a suitable drugs regime to suit Tilly better.

If none of this is possible for you, then Kate's suggestion of using a Stroller to take Tilly out for walks is a very good idea. Two of my dogs use one of these for conditions other than SM and absolutely love it. You can find several innexpensive models on e-bay.

It is so distressing to see our beloved dogs suffer in this way and my heart goes out to you both. I do so hope that you are able to find a solution to at least some of Tilly's problems. Please keep in touch to let us know how she gets on.

3rd September 2014, 12:21 AM
Thanks so much for your suggestions. I've just had a look on ebay and was surprised at how reasonable doggy buggies are - I will definitely get one. I've got a trailer for my bike and she enjoys a bike ride :rolleyes: but when she gets out its difficult to supervise when I have to hold the bike too. It's just nice to get them outside to have a sniff - Tilly would sit for hours and watch cars go by! The vet has now given me some ferric chloride to stop the bleeding from her scraped nails - he thinks they may heal and toughen up themselves.
I have had one appointment with Clare Rusbridge (May 13) - she was fantastic and wrote to my vet with suggestions for continued care. I think I will phone her practice again for some advice as Tilly's physical condition has really deteriorated this year :(
I tried a crepe bandage on her wrist - but she refused to weight bear with it on. On the plus side she has quickly learned to come and get me when she wants to be lifted onto the sofa and she's barking to get a carry down the stairs.
Bless her little heart - life's a bit of a struggle at the mo. Hate SM so damn much - so unfair.
Love to you and your lovely companions
Ruth xx

Kate H
3rd September 2014, 01:27 PM
Do phone Clare - the initial consultation with a neurologist can seem expensive, but the up side, bless them, is that once you are one of their patients they are always on the end of the telephone if you need the kind of advice that can be given at a distance, such as tweaking medication. And she may be able to suggest a physiotherapist or similar who could advise on supports - I think you need expert advice on this one. My Oliver is very wobbly on his back legs; fortunately his front legs are still sound, so that he can still walk quite well, but he curves his front paws inwards and wears down the nails all on one side. There's always something new with CM/SM - it's definitely a progressive disease.

Kate, Oliver and Aled

Margaret C
3rd September 2014, 04:49 PM
I googled orthopaedic leg support for dog and there seems to be quite a few places ( mainly American ) that have lightweight canine leg braces. http://www.mypetsbrace.com/front-leg-orthotic-wrist-paw-braces.php

I would agree that in the first instance it would be a good idea to go back and speak to Clare Rusbridge. She works with bionic vet Noel Fitzpatrick, so she may possibly be able to get a little advice about supports for you.

The buggies really work well for frail dogs.

I also hate SM. It is terrible to see your pet suffer. I do hope you told Tilly's breeder about her diagnosis. When there are top breeders still using young stud dogs that have been diagnosed with SM under the age of two, it sometimes seems that the only owners concerned about cavalier health issues are pet owners.

3rd September 2014, 11:32 PM
I'm so sorry you have been going through all of this -- it is indeed a nightmare for you and for Tilly.

I too would agree that talking to Clare is a really good idea at this point. She's no longer at Stone Lion but you can get current contact details (if you only had her old ones) on her website.