View Full Version : Worried my puppy has SM

13th October 2005, 03:17 PM
I pm'd Rory on the Cavalier Connection board last night about my fears my 9 month old puppy may have SM. I received a ton of good information from her and decided to seek out other opinions as well.

He scratches frequently at his head and neck, particularly on the left side. He does it whether he's wearing a collar or harness. He also scratches his belly, right where the harness straps are. Though he scratches often he’s never yelped and I’ve never noticed him scratching while I’m walking him on a leash. For the last several months I've also noticed his front legs tremble when he sits down on his bottom. Not a huge motion but I equate it to if he were trying to balance on only one leg. We had his patellas checked and he has no problem with them. Lately he's been chasing his tail a lot and sometimes chews on his ears. I haven’t noticed him biting or licking his paws.

I've read a lot about the disease and don't know if I'm overreacting. We saw a cardiologist this weekend at a health clinic and he recommended we see a neurologist (especially since I said his legs tremble). We have an appointment with him in two weeks for an initial consultation. The cardiologist said the neurologist has several Cavaliers in his practice, which reassures me.

Thank you all for your help.


13th October 2005, 03:33 PM
Hi Whitney,
You're in the right spot in terms of getting all the info and research you can. Don't ever feel you're over-reacting. This breed needs a diligent, proactive owner. I too have concerns about my dog, who we are having MRId next month, so yes, I know what you mean when you describe how some symtoms are there, not all of the time, so it does make you feel like you're over reacting or being paranoid. The symptoms are sometimes so random, especially when you start talking to others. Not all SM dogs scratch, but I know what you're talking about with the leg tremors because I've seen this in Abbey too and her knees have even been xrayed and are totally normal.
You're doing the right thing by moving forward with testing, then you'll have answers and will be able to make a decision on how to get Spencer the help he needs.
Feel free to contact me whenever you need to, support is a huge piece to this disease.

13th October 2005, 06:20 PM
I'm glad I was able to help answer some of your questions. I think at this point the next step is w/ the neurologist (although ruling out an ear infection first would be good!) to see what the neurologist says.

I will be thinking of you and Spencer and Rory sends lots of sloppy puppy kisses!! :)

2nd November 2005, 03:19 PM
Whitney how did Spencer's appt go? How's he doing?

4th November 2005, 12:05 AM
Hi Jen,

I had to postpone until right after Thanksgiving as I have been traveling for work. Has Abbey had her MRI yet?

Take care,


4th November 2005, 01:07 AM
Hi Whitney,
Abbey will be MRId mid-month, we're anxious to find out what's going on.

Good luck, and keep us posted.

4th November 2005, 11:49 AM
I'll be thinking about you both. It can be hard waiting for the day to come but I do think it helps enormously to know what if anything, you are dealing with, rather than live in uncertainty. A new range of choices and issues then arise if you get a positive diagnosis but I think it is valuable (and so important) to be able to take steps in the awareness of what the dog is experiencing.

25th November 2005, 11:59 AM
Jen, has Abbey had her MRI yet? I agree with Karlin, the uncertainty is much worse than actually knowing if they have SM or not.

We've learned to live with it and make allowances for Maxx etc, whereas before we used to get upset when he was scratching as we felt so helpless. Now we have got Frusemide that he has daily and Norocarp (Generic Rimadyl) for when he has pain episodes. He seems more than comfortable and still runs around like a puppy some days :D

10th November 2006, 12:39 AM
My little Lily born August 21st does all of the things you guys are talking about. I just noticed the leg tremor. It is when she has her weight shifted to one side while sitting, the other leg trembles a little. Or it could be that she is shifting her weight because the other leg is painful. She is constantly chasing her tail, and chewing the tip when she catches it. She scratches her neck, ears, top of head, also her side. She is biting at her paws and front legs as well. I would not have thought anything about all of this had I not read about SM. I would think it was just puppy behavior. I mentioned SM to my Vets this week and they did not know much about it, sorry to say. I mentioned the scratching and my Vet didn't seem too concerned. I was told on the site that it normally does not show up in a puppy as young as Lily, and I don't know if I am being paranoid. I also notice her hind legs are very clumsy sometimes when she is walking, but again she's just a puppy. My husband tells me I am crazy and there is nothing wrong with her, but I just have a bad feeling. Please let me know about your MRI results.

10th November 2006, 01:33 AM
I have to admit Amber does many of these things- though I haven't noticed trembling, scratching isn't excessive, and most importantly, there's no unjustified yelping. Does Lily stop chewing/licking her paws if you give her something else to chew? I find Amber wants to chew anything and everything, and if she hasn't got anything else, she'll chew her own body- but she stops as soon as I produce something else and she is definitely teething- she's lost at least one tooth so far.

10th November 2006, 01:52 AM
First: there's a lot of misinformation about puppies and SM. I know of definite cases where 7-8 week old puppies have shown symptoms. It is just more common for it to present after age 6 months or older -- mostly because it is progressive -- but it does show up in dogs much younger than that. Dogs that are showing symptoms younger than about 2.5 years old tend to be more severely affected. For that reason it is very important, IF you are seeing ANY single, or combination of symptoms that could be SM, AND a vet can find no other specific reason for the symptoms, to ask for a referral to a neurologist. Only a neurologist can confirm whether it's SM. Sometimes this can be done on strong suspicion from clinical signs but generally diagnosis requires an MRI. Vets will be unlikely to consider the symptoms as SM which is extremely rare in other breeds. In their entire career they would probably never see a dog with SM.

Generally the scratching ** when related to SM** is a sign of some pain and discomfort -- Dr Rusbridge believes this is a sign of damage to the dorsal horn of the brain and is a reaction to consequent pain. So don;t underestimate scratching as a symptom -- it is a significant one if it is there. My Sm dog Leo has never had any other symptom except scratching but it has become severe enough that he is on a neurological painkiller to control the scratching fits. I don;t say this to scare people but to indicate that IF no other cause can be found, please don't let a dog potentially experience the discomfort of this condition on the assumption that there isn't any pain if there's 'only' scratching.

On the other hand it is important to consider if and why you need an MRI. If you want to try some of the medical approaches first you can follow Clare Rusbridge's protocol with your neurologist and vet's approval; this is downloadable from my SM site, www.sm.cavaliertalk.com. If you are not going to consider the possibility of surgery, and you want to treat without knowing exactly what the dog has (extent of syrinxes etc -- which are things that may influence a decision for surgery) then I wouldn't get an MRI unless covered by insurance or you can vaail of a low cost scan somewhere.

For anyone who suspects anything in what they are seeing: try to capture the behaviour on video and also keep a diary of every time you notice what you think is a symptom. Trembling legs are a concern as that does indicate the dog can't fully support itself for some reason. Some dogs do shift from foot to foot when sitting (jaspar does) and you might see some leg trembling but really if this is consistent I'd want to have it checked if it continued.

With Leo, I did not keep a diary, and his scratching got worse so gradually that I didn't notice just how bad it was, and how abnormal, until 1) I filmed it, the video that is not on the SM website; and 2) while grooming him I noticed he'd torn large chunks of hair from his ears from scratching. I already knew he had SM as he was MRId for ersearch when a year old, and I should have been watching more carefully, but really, you get so used to your own dog's behaviour that you can fail to see worsening unless you have something to gauge behaviour by.

With puppies I'd be inclined to not overly worry about miscellaneous small things and wait and see. Also have a look at Leo's video -- this is SM scratching, not normal scratching. All dogs scratch. Puppies often have mites or fleas. Leo didn't scratch for a year after he was diagnosed with SM.

10th November 2006, 03:30 AM
I am hoping against hope that Lily is fine, but I am getting pet insurance. I failed to mention in my previous post, that she does yelp for no reason. I can be holding her and she will move and let out a yelp. My husband will say, "what did you do to her" and I'll not have even moved my hands. This has happened several times. It is very disconcerting. I have watched your video Karlin, of Leo. This is not exactly what Lily does, her scratching is not as vigorous as Leo's, and she is also distracted if you give her something else to chew. She is just the most precious and sweet little dog I have ever seen, and I can't stand to think she might me in pain. On the other hand she plays like a mad woman and there seems to be no discomfort at all while she is playing and she does none of the things I have mentioned while playing, nor does she wake from sleeping to scratch. I have been watching her, and it seems that the scratching is more pronounced when she is on her leach, or when she is just taken off her leach. I bathed her yesterday and it seemed like it is not as bad today. I have also switched her food from Science Diet to Royal Canine to see if it may have been a food allergy. I will continue to monitor her.