28th February 2014, 12:33 PM
New Puppy Showing Signs of SM
This is my first time on this forum and I'm very grateful to have found it. I am currently a medical student in Europe and chose to purchase a cavalier for their adaptability to different life styles and for their sweet and loving disposition, but also well aware of the two principal risks in this breed. I did my research, spoke to several reputable breeders and found my darling Isolde.
Nevertheless, the predominance of SM in this breed has made me extremely wary of Isolde's symptoms, and I feel as though I'm concentrating more on whether she is exhibiting signs of SM, rather than enjoying her young baby days. She is just over four months old, here are the symptoms I've observed:
*scratching on one side of her ear
*air scratching while walking
*shaking her body as if wet, but she's completely dry -> occurred the first time yesterday under supervision
*yelping and looking down towards her tail
These symptoms are not common, I don't see all of them in one day, but a few one day, maybe none the other. It just depends, but if needed I can record dates and times of symptoms.
I haven't slept many nights lately. I have scheduled a vet checkup in two weeks, but here are my following questions:
*if she has SM, and it is progressive, what treatment options does she have?
*how long will her life expectancy be?
*how could I improve her quality in life?
She is my first dog that I have owned by myself. I've grown up with other breeds, but Isolde is my first puppy. I have heard such wonderful things of the breed and I don't regret ever bringing her home despite the risks. She and my cat are my home's living soul and I don't know know what would happen if I lost her before her time. If you could add some input and help me, I'd appreciate it so much.
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1st March 2014, 12:09 AM
We all tend to get paranoid about SM! It would be very unusual for a puppy this young to be showing symptoms, and there are a lot of other things you could look at first. First, check out her ears and see if she has ear mites, which can be very itchy. Second, problems with anal glands are very common in Cavaliers, and she may need hers emptied. Snapping at flies can simply be puppy behaviour - they fly around and buzz and are just asking to be chased! The body shaking could also be because her ears are itching - and it's not particularly a symptom of SM (though having said that, almost anything can be a symptom of SM - or a symptom of lots of other things, which makes diagnosis on symptoms alone very tricky). As I'm sure you know, the only reliable way of diagnosing SM is an MRI scan.
There are almost as many prognoses for CM/SM as there are Cavaliers! It depends very much on age of onset, size of syrinxes if any are present, which medication proves effective, whether surgery is a viable option, etc, etc. What one can say is that CM/SM itself is not an inevitable death sentence. The majority of dogs with the disease have their pain well controlled with drugs and lead normal lives; some never show obvious symptoms. My Oliver showed mild (and then unrecognised) symptoms from the time I had him at a year old (squinting in strong sunlight and being a restless sleeper); he was finally diagnosed at the age of 6 and is now 12 and still going strong, though now afflicted with some age-related problems. He has never seriously air scratched or yelped; his syrinx remains small and his symptoms (dilated ventricles producing a lot of headaches) are more related to his Chiari Malformation. But he has had a full and happy life. My other Cavalier, Aled, also has CM/SM and he again neither air scratches or yelps. His only real symptom of pain is that he half closes his eyes and becomes subdued, and when he was put onto gabapentin the change was immediate - everyone was asking why Aled was so much more lively. He was diagnosed at 4 and now at 6 lives a normal life; he is a rescue and has several other problems, but by and large his CM/SM is well controlled.
I hope your vet will be able to reassure you, although not all vets are knowledgeable about CM/SM. If you are still worried, you will really need to see a neurologist, but if Isolde is not obviously in pain, it's worth trying to eliminate other possibilities first. If she does develop CM/SM, there are a number of drugs to be tried, and researchers are working hard to enlarge the range of pain-relieving drugs - my dogs have taken part in a couple of trials organised by the Royal Veterinary College. If she is not insured, I would encourage you to get her insured as soon as possible - sadly, Cavaliers with all their ills can be expensive to maintain!
Let us know how you and Isolde get on at the vet's - many of us on this forum are living with SM and will support you and share our knowledge.
Kate, Oliver and Aled
1st March 2014, 08:43 AM
The advice given re insurance is invaluable and get a good for life policy you can swop to an annual in the future if you want.Pet Plan have been wonderful.My baby showed signs at 16 weeks but also had face paralysis on one side due to CM now progressed to SM. Good Neurologist and regular check ups. Friends dog from similar lines fly catchers had short term non steroids for back I have my suspicions but he is very active and no medication.They do scratch especially if warm or ear problems they do get bum problems middle ear disease. Does she face rub a lot? Get insurance and just enjoy and love her.