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
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
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
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