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Thread: How do I go about having my puppy tested for Syringomyelia?

  1. #11
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    You can't reliably test a puppy for SM.
    The only test is an MRI scan under general anaesthesia and will tell you if SM is present or absent.
    Current research indicates that SM is a progressive condition and even if a cavalier is clear at a year or even two years,this may not be the case at 4 or 5 years.The likelihood of an early onset of SM in a puppy is very remote and you would be wasting your money if you were told he did not have it.
    His symptoms sound like allergies or dry skin.A young puppy cannot effectively regulate oil production and can often have dry skin.This will pass as he matures.Chances are that he's still very young and acclimatising to his environment.
    The vast majority of vets are utterly useless when it comes to SM.
    If the nose is running clear he may have a slight allergy and if he scratches his head or ears he may have an ear infection or earmites.It's so easy to get them in long eared breeds so if you can set up a good ear cleaning regime it might help a lot.Personally,I wouldn't entertain the idea of scanning a cavalier before a year and not for such a common thing as scratching.
    Sins

  2. #12
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    Thanks, that's a helpful clear post Sins.

    I'd only scan a dog under a year if there are serious signs of a problem accompanied by pain (and if a neurologist recommended it). If young dogs do have severe SM, early intervention may mean all the difference and in such a case, a scan will give critical information to the neurologist and owner.

    In this case, all the signs sound like they would be far more likely to have other origins in such a young puppy, when symptomatic SM is very rare, and at any rate, not serious enough to warrant a costly scan under GA.

    It takes time for puppies to get used to a collar -- or a harness. If he needs to wear a collar I'd just leave it on but make sure it isn't too loose or too tight and not too irritating in other ways.

    Hernias are extremely common in this breed and almost always disappear on their own by 6-9 months, whether large or small. They can be a serious concern... but just FWIW I'd have wanted a second opinion. Some vets are quite enthusiastic about procedures that are not really necessary, especially in breeds they don't know much about. Never feel intimidated or uncomfortable about asking for explanations and a defense of a recommended plan of action. Personally,even if a pup needed a hernia op, a lot of vets would not also have neutered that young but waited til much older. A lot of vets also push for teeth removals under a GA when pups don't lose a last tooth or two, yet these will almost always also come out of their own accord, especially if encouraged with some hard chews/kongs/marrowbones etc.
    Karlin
    Cavaliers: Jaspar Leo Lily Tansy Libby (foster) Mindy (foster)
    In memory: Lucy
    Cavalier SM Infosite:www.smcavaliers.com

  3. #13
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    Thanks Sins & Karlin.
    I was concerned that perhaps there were somewhat preventative measures if diagnosed early, if that makes sense. I always tend to
    unnecessarily worry, having not had a pet since I was a child (it's been 20 years). It's just a case of, I would rather ask about it,
    than stress about something that really shouldn't be a concern. I really appreciate the advice.

    With his hernia, they were concerned as it kept getting bigger as he was growing and was protruding by almost an inch just before it
    was removed. Not a very flattering photo, but here is his hernia a fair few weeks ago, and it was a fair bit bigger than that.



    It was becoming firm to touch as well.
    After his procedures, we are now looking at other veterinary clinics to take our little guy to. We wanted to find a regular vet,
    but although he likes the staff, he really likes anyone and both hubby and I felt that we were practically shoved out the door
    almost after picking Jessie up and not given any aftercare advice as such, not even confirmation that he has been microchipped either.
    Just a copy of the paid invoice. We will take him back late next week for his follow up and to remove his stitches, then will be seeking
    another practice.

    While on the subject, are there any complications or concerns with his recovery that we should be aware of, being so young?
    He's really well, he's still bouncing around with light play and trotting (more like prancing actually) and he is now even eating meals
    without fuss.

    Thanks again for your replies, I feel so silly having worried about it.

  4. #14
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    Jessie's mum wrote: I feel so silly having worried about it.

    Don't feel silly - everyone on this forum started out stumbling around in the dark about SM and having to learn about it. And a lot of vets aren't much help because they don't know much about it either (though they do have several hundred other animal diseases they are expected to know about as well!). We prevent disease by vaccinating against it, so it's quite logical to think that SM could be approached in the same way - unfortunately it's a bit more complicated than that! But at least if you continue to learn from the forum, you will know better than most what symptoms to look out for, if you ever need to.

    Kate, Oliver and Aled

  5. #15
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    That's just it.

    The thing is to find a balance between being informed and not constantly panicking. We need to be able to enjoy the day to day lives of our dogs. We also need to be aware so that we can spot possible issues early. Experience over time helps a lot!

    We also need to work in whatever way we are comfortable with to try and change the future for this breed so that a shortened lifespan and pain are not significant risks for every cavalier. Researchers are working to learn more -- and we can all help by being sure we talk about these conditions with our vets (who as others note typically will know LESS about SM than most of us with affected dogs!). And of course by only buying puppies, once we know about this condition, from health focused breeders who scan (perhaps the single most effective thing every puppy buyer can do for the breed). And also, putting pressure on breeders, clubs and KCs to take action and not let this issue get hidden away.
    Karlin
    Cavaliers: Jaspar Leo Lily Tansy Libby (foster) Mindy (foster)
    In memory: Lucy
    Cavalier SM Infosite:www.smcavaliers.com

  6. #16
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    I first started noticing symptoms in my Lily, when she was 3 months old. Had I not joined this forum when I first got Lily, I would have never known what was going on. The first symptoms I noticed was her yelping for no reason, or when picked up, or touched around the neck. She also face rubbed on the carpet, licked paws excessively, and scratched around her neck and head. She never exhibited the classic bunny hop on leach, and still doesn't, to this day, at 5 years old.

    The first thing I did was remove her collar, and put her into a harness, which is much easier on their neck, if they do have SM. When she was about a year old, a lot of her symptoms disappeared, so then I thought it had all been just normal puppy behavior. At about 3 years old, the symptoms started coming back, and progressively worsened. I had pet insurance on her, from when I first got her, because I had researched, and joined this forum, so I was familiar with SM and other health problems in Cavs. I had also discussed SM with my vets from the time she first showed symptoms, so they were familiar with it too. So that when it came time to refer her to a neurologist, there was no push back from my vets, wanting to test her for everything under the sun, wasting time and money, and they immediately gave me a referral.

    She did have SM, and I opted for medication treatment, in lieu of surgery. She is 5 now, and we have had to increase her meds only once, since she was diagnosed at 3. She has good days, and bad days, but many more good than bad, and for the most part, she is a very happy, healthy, and active dog. It is not a death sentence, and many dogs can live a very happy and active life for many, many years.

    Like others have said, I would wait until your dog is a little older. I still don't know if what I saw in Lily when she was 3 months old, was actually SM symptoms, or regular puppy behavior. Had I done an MRI then, perhaps it would not have shown up.

    Good luck, and try not to worry too much. Take it from me, I worried so much about Lilly as a puppy, that it took a lot of the joy of having a new puppy away. If your puppy has it, the symptoms will show when she is older as well, and then you can get the MRI. Just try to enjoy her for now!
    Last edited by Shay; 1st December 2011 at 06:13 PM.
    Sharon,
    Mom to Bleinham Cavaliers Lily, 5 years old, and Alfie, 8 year old puppy mill rescue.
    At the Bridge, Chloe, Lhasa Apso.

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shay View Post



    She did have SM, and I opted for medication treatment, in lieu of surgery. She is 5 now, and we have had to increase her meds only once, since she was diagnosed at 3. She has good days, and bad days, but many more good than bad, and for the most part, she is a very happy, healthy, and active dog. It is not a death sentence, and many dogs can live a very happy and active life for many, many years.
    This is the same for me and my girl with SM. The only difference is that with her, probably bc of where her syrinx is located, she absolutely cannot tolerate a harness or anyone scratching her chest (which so many people want to do when they pet a dog). It sends her straight into a scratching/bunny-hopping fit. I know most SM dogs do better with a harness than a collar, but for us a wide, flat, loose (not too loose) collar has worked much better.
    Holly, Oliver, Rosalita, and Scarlett

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Holly View Post
    This is the same for me and my girl with SM. The only difference is that with her, probably bc of where her syrinx is located, she absolutely cannot tolerate a harness or anyone scratching her chest (which so many people want to do when they pet a dog). It sends her straight into a scratching/bunny-hopping fit. I know most SM dogs do better with a harness than a collar, but for us a wide, flat, loose (not too loose) collar has worked much better.
    Hi Holly, when we first got Lily, we didn't have a fenced in yard, so I had to take her out on leash to potty. That's why I got her a puppia. We have had the yard fenced in for about 3 years now, so I never put a harness on her anymore, except when we go for walks. Like you, I just keep a collar, a little thin one, very lose on her any other time. I think Lily did better with the harness, becasue she has never done the bunny hop. That is the one symptom she has never had. Lily mostly can't tolerate her ears, or neck being rubbed. But with her, the docs don't know if it is her PSOM, or the SM, that bother her the most. I think it is the PSOM mostly that bothers her ears and neck, because when I first give her a does of gaba, all scratching everywhere except for ears and neck stop, as does the paw licking, and face rubbing.
    Sharon,
    Mom to Bleinham Cavaliers Lily, 5 years old, and Alfie, 8 year old puppy mill rescue.
    At the Bridge, Chloe, Lhasa Apso.

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by sins View Post
    You can't reliably test a puppy for SM.
    The likelihood of an early onset of SM in a puppy is very remote and you would be wasting your money if you were told he did not have it.
    Sins
    Hi, I'm new here and just wanted to weigh in. My pup who is barely 4.5 months old was just diagnosed with SM this week. She had a norrible screaming episode (see my post on the SM part of the forum "My puppy was diagnosed with SM" for more details) and we rushed her to a neuro specialist who didn't even give us the option to NOT do an MRI. Devastating to say the least. It does happen, so if you're going to worry yourself sick, get the MRI. My dog was purchased through a breeder who seemed to be doing everything right (not a pet store or anything like that). Just wanted to add my two cents.

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