Question about SM
I've been reading about SM all afternoon and I'm wondering exaclty how extreme a symptom needs to be in order to be worried. I'm very well aware that if you read symptoms lists long enough you could diagnose yourself, and in this case your dog, with just about any disease or disorder. Anastasia scratches a lot around her ears and neck a lot, but never screams in pain unless she snaggs her nail on a knot in her furr. she also loves to roll around on the ground, but she does it while she's holding her toys and playing. she has been seen for what our doctor thinks is a disc problem in her back. she wouldn't jump, walked stiffly, and cried when we picked her up. since then as long as we keep her from jumping off the back of the sofa she's fine. if she has a flare up (which has only happened 3 times and in a year and a half and always followed an "incident") one dose of Metacam is all she needs and she's back to normal. but after reading the SM website I feel like if I don't think it's SM I'm a bad owner.
Should I be worried or am I crazy??
I think we all tend to get worked up about our dogs having something terribly wrong with them when we read about SM and tend to self-diagnose (myself included, as I'm going through this now).
In your dog's case, if the vet has done x-rays and confirmed a disk is the problem then you shouldn't feel bad for not thinking it's SM. As all the websites and people on this board will tell you, BEFORE you jump to conclusions and assume it's SM, make sure there's nothing else that could be causing the symptoms.
The reality, though, is the majority of Cavaliers do have this malformation, and as a result a lot of dogs probably DO have SM and are either asymptomatic or have learned to deal with the pain, like a sufferer with a chronic headache or backache. With dogs where no other conditions exist that could explain the pain episodes, then SM should be explored.
Hope that helps.
You shouldn't feel like you are a bad owner. A smart owner though would want to know the basics of SM and the symptoms because like MVD it is a known breed issue. It also can be misdiagnosed for a long time, causing a dog to live with unnecessary pain. So just being wise to what it is and what to watch out for, without panicking, is the approach to take.
As my SM website states many, many times, there are numerous other things that are more likely to be causing most potential symptoms. I have a very long list of things any vet should check for first and this is also clearly stated by Dr Rusbridge in her introduction to SM document. But if symptoms keep recurring and/or new ones crop up or they worsen, then it may be worth a further investigation. Metacam is also one of the first drugs most neurologists will try for a dog with mild SM -- or one of a range of other common painkillers -- which again is why it can be hard to diagnose initially because it will respond at least initially to some of the common treatments used for the things it is mistaken for.
Well, my vets always think I'm crazy. my reg. vet is a fellow cavalier owner but......he tends to down-play everything. the emergency vets I worked with just think I'm ultra paranoid, as does my whole family. I knew before I got Anastasia that there is a very high chance of having to deal with these kinds of issues, so I'm always fearing the worst. I have to admit though, as much as I knew about MVD before I got her I hadn't heard much about SM. maybe that's why I'm freaking out now....
For what it's worth, it was my dog's bulging discs that led us to find the malformation and small syrinx that he also has. Both showed up on the same MRI. Thus far, he does not have SM-type scratching (he does have summer itching pretty much all over, but it responds to omega oils and oatmeal baths, so the neurologist does not believe it's SM-related.)
Nor does he have any other SM symptoms, which I only learned about here and on Karlin's site.
Now that his discs have recovered, he's his old normal self. While a part of me wishes I never even found out about it, I'm also grateful I know the SM is "there" as I'll always have my eye on it and try to keep him from doing anything he shouldn't do.
I guess my point is that with so many Cavaliers having the malformation, you really never know.