Hello everyone! This site is fantastic. I have learned so much in the short time I have visited. A little background - our family recently got our beloved Lilly-Belle back in April. She is a three-year-old Blenheim and we all love her very much. She is extremely affectionate and very gentle but we have begun noticing some odd behaviors and, after reading SM symptoms from this site, I am beginning to suspect she has the disorder. These are her symptoms: a dramatic loss of overall hair starting in June. With that said, I have never owned a Cavalier so I still am not sure it wasn't just normal shedding. She never developed any bald spots but I was having to sweep everyday and would collect handfuls of hair. It is better now after changing her diet and giving her vitamin E supplements. She has always been a bottom scooter but didn't really think anything about that. The two biggest symptoms are that she air scratches and has had an episode of yelping when being picked up, changing positions, or often without cause. We took her to the vet who gave her a muscle relaxer/anti-inflammatory shot and that seems to have resolved the yelping for now. He thought perhaps she had pulled a muscle but did notice some irregularity with her spine. We didn't know anything about SM so we didn't think about asking the vet. I am wondering if her yelping symptoms will recur at a later time. Her air scratching isn't often but the yelping came on without warning and without any witnessed injury. Input from anyone would be helpful for our family.
The only way to know for sure is for your little girl to have an MRI scan.
Explain your concerns to your vet and ask to be seen be a neurologist who can examine her and then do this for her. With SM being so widespread within the breed I would want this checked A.S.A.P. So many are put througn needless exams, medication etc etc.... investigate SM first.
There are affected Cavaliers within the list and many remain happy on medications to relieve various SM problems/symptoms. Every case is different.
Read up on SM... if possible take the information with you to your vet, visit the SM lists that are available on the internet...I'm sure Karlin will give you the address of her SM site...you will also find lots of information from this fab Cavalier health site...
Air scratching, yelping and bottom scooting are classic signs.
Alison, Wilts, U.K.
The SM site address is:
I doubt the hair loss has anything to do with SM and bottom scooting is very common in cavaliers -- I have a cavalier who was MRId totally clear of SM and he is the biggest bottom scooter in the house; my dog with SM almost never scoots. So it is a *possible* symptom when it is excessive -- some SM dogs have discomfort with their hind quarters and may scoot to 'scratch' an itch or discomfort they can't reach.
However the air scratching is a very typical symptom as is the yelping and thus I would print outt the information sheet, the symptoms sheet, and the treatment doagram from my SM site (all are available as Word downloads straight to your computer).
The injection was probably a steroid injection which will also help with SM symptoms if this is SM, but the symptoms are likely to recur once the steroids wear off.
I would try and arrange a visit to a neurologist familiar with SM -- if you let us know where you are based we might be able to give you a recommendation. An MRI is usually needed for a definite diagnosis unless clinical signs are quite extreme -- however you could try some of the treatment options for SM and see if those help, without undertaking the cost of an MRI. If you don't have a low cost option for MRIs (basically meaning being close to Long Island in the US, or in the UK) then I'd generally want to go to a neurologist for a clinical exam and would not get an MRI if the symptoms point to SM -- instead I'd try frusemide and if that doesn't help, gabapentin, following the treatment diagram (that's my personal approach and not all would agree with that. I'd tend to do an MRI only if there seems to be a lot of pain and I was considering the decpompression surgery). A neurologist can also tell you if there is a spinal problem to blame or something else.
There are ways of relieving this discomfort (air scratching is a sign of neurological pain, Dr Clare Rusbridge says -- she is completing a PhD on pain and SM in cavaliers and is a neurologist). So I would not hesitate to invetsigate the situation further so that you can eliminate possibilities.
A good place to start is to read through this page on what to do if you think your dog might have SM symptoms:
Thanks Alison and Karlin. I actually live in the U.S. (Georgia) so I'm not sure about any locations for MRI's in this area. I do know there is a really terrific canine cardiologist at the University of Georgia who specializes in Cavalier MVD. Most of the Cav breeders use him for their heart certifications. I'm not sure if he could be of help. Possibly he could give me a referral. I did want to ask if Cavs with SM need to be handled differently. I use a standard collar/lease and thought perhaps that might cause her neck pain/sensitivity. Should she be picked up in a certain way to alleviate her pain? Should we avoid picking her up at all?
Using a harness would probably be much more confortable; I recommend the Puppia soft harness which gives lots of gentle support. You can find quite a few threads on them in the shpoaholics section! :)
I would avoid picking her up if she is tender. If you do need to pick her up, be sure to support her both under her chest and the hind legs so that she isn;t dangling. Neer pick her up under her front arms -- cavaliers are really to large anyway to be picked up this way but it can really hurt SM dogs. Syrinxes (fluid pockets) tend to form at the neck area than develop down the spine (if they continue to develop) which is why the spine and neck and shoulder area can be especially sensitive, with limbs also often affected.
Rod's webpage notes neurologists in red that others with SM dogs have said are familiar with SM so I'd have a look there:
The cardiologist may also have a recommendation.
Karlin - I can't get over how helpful this site is. I looked on Rod's webpage and found two vets at the University of Georgia vet college with experience in SM. The trip will only be about two hours for us. Thanks so much for the advice about the harness. I will definitely get one. Certainly appreciative about your handling suggestions. We will begin implementing those right away!