Our Journey Through SM

We, like many other breeders, have had the ill luck to experience SM first hand. This horrible affliction  arrived at Kamawarie when we imported a lovely little ruby dog five years ago. He had some strange little habits which we had never encountered before but nothing to warn us about what lay ahead. One of these habits was to scratch the floor all around the water bowl before he could drink and to air scratch above the water over and over again. This ritual would continue for some minutes every time he had a drink. In hindsight we now realize that he may be trying to get the water up into his mouth without having to bend his head too far as discomfort in the neck region is one of the main symptoms of SM.
Daffy also experienced severe swelling in the glands under his jaw and visits to the vet failed to find any reason for this. The swelling would go down only to recur weeks later and eventually it disappeared and everything seemed normal. Daffy was only about 18 months old at the time and whether or not this was an early sign of SM we have no way of knowing. 
We still did not suspect SM because the symptoms Daffy was displaying did not really fit with what we had read about the disease. He would walk quite happily on a lead and at that stage was not scratching any more than any other dog. This was all to change quite rapidly however. The first real sign we had was that Daffy showed more and more distress at having his ears cleaned. When drops were put in his ears the rubbing and scratching and crying could go on for an hour or more. We tried hard to convince ourselves that he was suffering from an ear infection but repeated vet visits said that was all clear.
Then we noticed that whilst Daffy had no trouble jumping up onto a lounge he  showed a great reluctance to jump down. He will now sit and cry until someone lifts him down again and we assume that the jarring as he puts weight onto his front legs causes pain in the neck and shoulders.
Grooming became more and more difficult as he could not tolerate being brushed, combed or touched on his ears or anywhere round the neck and shoulders.
We also noticed he had difficulty yawning and he now has very restricted jaw movement.
At this stage we strongly suspected the worst but decided to have the MRI done so that we would have the official, professional diagnosis. The proof was there in the scans. We were prepared for the symptoms to worsen but nothing had prepared us for the dreadful cries of a little dog in an absolute frenzy of scratching and rubbing. We have tried a couple of medications and have found valium to be of most help. The difficulty is that an attack can come on  without much warning and we really have to wait for it to ease before we can get the tablet into him and then, more often than not he will vomit it up almost immediately. We have now learned to give the tablet when scratching is more pronounced and before he becomes frenzied with the pain and discomfort.
We have lost count of the number of times we have prepared ourselves to say goodbye to Daffy. However, he still has a good appetite and still likes to potter around the garden although when he is outside he appears somewhat lost and disorientated and whimpers constantly until he is inside again. He spends most of his time inside asleep. Even though his jaw movement  appears so restricted he is still able to demolish chicken necks!
Daffy has a little ruby daughter who at three years of age showed only the mildest symptoms. She walks happily on a lead, can be touched and patted on the neck and shoulders without any discomfort. She does like to rub her face along the edge of furniture and that is the only sign that mild SM might be present. She is desexed and living happily in a pet home. Daffy's only grandchild, however, is quite severely affected. She is of course desexed and will stay with us because her symptoms are too pronounced to make rehoming possible.
Below are photos of Daffy. We acknowledge that Daffy is no longer an immaculately groomed little cavalier but we are able to keep him comfortable. Any serious grooming can only be done under sedation as he simply cannot tolerate being touched around the head let alone being brushed, combed and scissored.
Every day we have Daffy with us is precious and this will continue as long as he enjoys his food, the company of his friends and pain free sleep.
We sympathise with all those who are going  down this same path and those who may need to face it in the future and we so look forward to the day when all the research will pay off and the answers to this horrible affliction become clear .

Our darling Daffy (Loranka's Distant Star) passed away peacefully at home on Wednesday August 8th. 2012.

He came and sat by my chair with his head on my knee gazing intently into my eyes.
When I knelt down to speak to him he sank quietly to the floor and passed away peacefully in my arms.

Peace at last sweet Daffy after a life that was not always kind. You will never be forgotten at Kamawarie.

                      "Thoughts too deep for words   
                         Sorrow too deep for tears."                             

                   27.04.2005 - 08.08.2012


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Christine szczygielski | Reply 18.07.2021 00:17

Thank you for your story hauntingly honest. I have a border similarly affected neurologically she too will be with us to the end.

Jeannie o'malley | Reply 06.07.2014 11:56

This has brought tears to my eyes....you two lady's are wonderful.

Robyn Morgan | Reply 27.01.2012 17:18

Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou girls for your absolute honesty in sharing about Daffyd's journey with SM. Blessings on your courage to share this with us!

Melvatar Cavaliers | Reply 07.11.2011 14:17

Hi There....Thank you for being so open and honest about what these dogs go thru...our hearts go out to these little guys that suffer from this..

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After having owned and loved border collies for over thirty years, I find myself having to downside in size of dogs. Looking to love, and train a new puppy.

18.07 | 00:17

Thank you for your story hauntingly honest. I have a border similarly affected neurologically she too will be with us to the end.

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Hello I am looking for a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy...do you have
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