• If you're a past member of the board, but can't recall your password any more, you don't need to set up a new account (unless you wish to). As long as you recall your old login name, you can log in with that user name then select 'forgot password' and the board will email you at your registration email, to let you reset your password.

How to know what’s normal and relax?!

Jrgm

New member
I am a new Cavalier owner and am struggling to feel like I know what’s normal! We have a beautiful, 14 week on Blenheim male who has been with us for three weeks. I was fully prepared for the possibility of health issues with Cavaliers, but after the experience detailed below, I think I can’t find a good balance and am seeking advice. I find myself obsessing about every little thing that could signify SM, and now realize I have no clue what is normal puppy vs when I should be worried. We haven’t had a dog in so long, that I just can’t remember anymore even how often dogs scratch!

Our boy started scratching day two when he got home and was found to have a flea by our vet. Treatment for the fleas improved his scratching significantly. But still probably 5 times a day I would say, scattered throughout the day, he will scratch for a few seconds, sometimes a bit longer, but is distractable. Usually either side of his back near the shoulders, but can be an ear or a few times his head. Sometimes bites near his hips or tail or rear maybe once a day. He has no trigger points that I can find. He doesn’t seem sensitive to lifting, doesn’t yelp. He plays and is wild, runs, rolls around, chases balls, swings his head thrashing his toys, swims, etc with no issue that I can see. We have started a collar, and day one he did scratch at it every so often but again it didn’t seem to limit his play or activity.
So my concern is with the main symptom of SM being scratching which is such a common thing, how does one know when to worry about this??? I’m obsessing over every scratch.

For some background, in January of this year my family rescued a 6 month old tri male with a clean bill of health from a reputable rescue. 5 days after we got him home he died from reason still unclear; he developed a cough day 1 and was put on antibiotics but progressed to severe PNA despite aggressive therapy. His cultures though revealed just Bordatella and mycoplasma, and the antibiotics covered them. It’s unclear to even my vet and the ICU team why he couldn’t overcome this and an underlying health issue is suspected.
It was incredibly traumatic, and as a human physician myself, I have struggled with feeling like I missed something which I belive is really affecting my ability to relax and enjoy our new sweet boy. Also because of this experience, we did do our research and got our new boy from a reputable breeder who health tests, is an AKC breeder of merit, recommended by one of the major rescue organizations, and has show dog champions. All of which I thought would help me feel better, and yet here I am.

Just looking for advice on what’s normal and how to relax and enjoy his puppyhood!
 
Hi and welcome! I'm so sorry you had such a traumatic experience with your 6 month old -- goodness that's awful and I don't know what that might have been. Perhaps @Nicki will have some suggestions as she's an encyclopedia of breed health and welfare knowledge and might have heard of something like this before.

On your worries -- this is really normal and especially so with the breed health concerns. But what you are describing all sounds like what puppies do. The collar scratching is typical as is the on and off scratching. If he's snapping ar hindquarters I'd recommend having your vet do a skin scrape for rabbit mites aka 'walking dandruff' -- these are very common on puppies and for some reason vets often don't check for them! But every time I've had dogs trying to get at their lower back/tail area it's been these mites. They make dogs desperately itchy. But again, that said: puppies just do stuff like this when young, they can be surprised at their tails ('whoa what's that long thing back there!') and they just do a lot of random scratching and chewing on themselves. My vet and I've discussed this so many times and our new-ish Pyrenean Mountain Dog (Great Pyrenees) did all of this as a puppy, especially when quite young, and they don't get SM! It was a reminder to me how hyper-attentive we cavalier owners can become.

Spotting CM/SM can be difficult especially with milder symptoms because many of the symptoms are the same as normal behaviours (I'm sure that rings many bells for a physician!). However with CM/SM they do tend to be excessive -- it's not scratching 5 times a day for a few seconds, but long intent scratching and especially, non-contact scratching. It's not just face rubbing, which so many dogs do, but really intense or frantic face rubbing. Usually you'd see sensitivity about being touched too, or signs of actual pain. Cavaliermatters.org has a good section on SM, explained simply and reviewed by the leading expert Dr Clare Rusbridge (and info on all things cavalier). Cavalierhealth.org is very comprehensive with info on latest studies and so on. Clare's website also has info and her page on 'clinical signs' is especially useful; as it notes symptoms that are NOT likely to be SM (even though there's a lot of assumptions by vets and owners that they are SM symptoms). Clare has a great YouTube channel too which, as a physician, you might find particularly interesting as she delves into many vet neurology issues, many of them cavalier-related.

I hope that helps. Enjoy your puppy and please ask any questions you like. Many of us including Nicki and me, have had several cavaliers with various degrees of CM/SM. Nicki sadly also has had experience of severe symptoms; my affected dogs were all managed well on meds and ultimately passed away in old age from other conditions, generally MVD (heart disease). In short CM/SM an be a frightening diagnosis when it happens, but can usually (but sadly not always) be well managed.
 
Hi and welcome! I'm so sorry you had such a traumatic experience with your 6 month old -- goodness that's awful and I don't know what that might have been. Perhaps @Nicki will have some suggestions as she's an encyclopedia of breed health and welfare knowledge and might have heard of something like this before.

On your worries -- this is really normal and especially so with the breed health concerns. But what you are describing all sounds like what puppies do. The collar scratching is typical as is the on and off scratching. If he's snapping ar hindquarters I'd recommend having your vet do a skin scrape for rabbit mites aka 'walking dandruff' -- these are very common on puppies and for some reason vets often don't check for them! But every time I've had dogs trying to get at their lower back/tail area it's been these mites. They make dogs desperately itchy. But again, that said: puppies just do stuff like this when young, they can be surprised at their tails ('whoa what's that long thing back there!') and they just do a lot of random scratching and chewing on themselves. My vet and I've discussed this so many times and our new-ish Pyrenean Mountain Dog (Great Pyrenees) did all of this as a puppy, especially when quite young, and they don't get SM! It was a reminder to me how hyper-attentive we cavalier owners can become.

Spotting CM/SM can be difficult especially with milder symptoms because many of the symptoms are the same as normal behaviours (I'm sure that rings many bells for a physician!). However with CM/SM they do tend to be excessive -- it's not scratching 5 times a day for a few seconds, but long intent scratching and especially, non-contact scratching. It's not just face rubbing, which so many dogs do, but really intense or frantic face rubbing. Usually you'd see sensitivity about being touched too, or signs of actual pain. Cavaliermatters.org has a good section on SM, explained simply and reviewed by the leading expert Dr Clare Rusbridge (and info on all things cavalier). Cavalierhealth.org is very comprehensive with info on latest studies and so on. Clare's website also has info and her page on 'clinical signs' is especially useful; as it notes symptoms that are NOT likely to be SM (even though there's a lot of assumptions by vets and owners that they are SM symptoms). Clare has a great YouTube channel too which, as a physician, you might find particularly interesting as she delves into many vet neurology issues, many of them cavalier-related.

I hope that helps. Enjoy your puppy and please ask any questions you like. Many of us including Nicki and me, have had several cavaliers with various degrees of CM/SM. Nicki sadly also has had experience of severe symptoms; my affected dogs were all managed well on meds and ultimately passed away in old age from other conditions, generally MVD (heart disease). In short CM/SM an be a frightening diagnosis when it happens, but can usually (but sadly not always) be well managed.
Thank you for such a thoughtful reply. I think I’m starting to relax some!
 
Back
Top