Scotty cramp

Scotty cramp

What is Scotty Cramp?

Scotty Cramp is disease causing spasm and hyperflexion and hyperextension of the legs in Scottish Terriers (this breed is also known as the Aberdeen Terrier). The reason behind this problem is a serotonin metabolism disorder, which makes the amount of available serotonin too low in an affected Scottish Terrier. Serotonin serves as a neurotransmitter in the body of the dog and is necessary for controlling muscle contraction. 

In a dog with Scotty Cramp, the levels or serotonin appear to be normal as long as the dog is resting and at ease. When the dog becomes exited or carries out strenuous physical activities, the amount of serotonin is not high enough for the muscles to function as they should, and this leads to Scotty Cramp. As soon as the dog is relaxed and at rest again, the episode will stop.

Symptoms of Scotty Cramp

The first symptoms of Scotty Cramp normally appear when the dog is between 2 and 18 months old. The symptoms normally appear when the dog is excited or when it has engaged in strenuous exercise. Milder symptoms of Scotty Cramp are arching of the back and a “goose-stepping” gait. In more serious episodes, the dog can be subjected to incapacitating paroxysm of muscular hypertonicity where the legs alternate between stretching (so called hyperextension) and bending (known as hyperflexion).

A dog experiencing a Scotty Cramp episode is not unconscious – it is fully aware throughout the entire episode. The dogs do not appear to find the episodes painful.

When the stimulus ceases, the symptoms of Scotty Cramp will slowly vanish too. The dog will return to normal, and the general health of the dog is not affected by Scotty Cramp. The opposite is however true; poor general health can lead to more severe episodes of Scotty Cramp.

Scotty Cramp treatment

One important aspect of Scotty Cramp treatment is to identify which factors that affect your specific dog and causes hyperkinetic episodes. A lot of things can affect both frequency and severity of Scotty Cramp episodes, including the environment around your dog, the general health of your dog, and factors that will modify the behaviour of your dog. Genetic factors are also important. The dog owner and the veterinarian can together strive to pin point the various conditions and behaviours that bring on Scotty Cramp in the dog. The next step is naturally to minimize factors known to increase the frequency and/or severity of the episodes for your dog. Behavioural conditioning can also decrease the associated anxiety for the dog.

If necessary, the vet can prescribe Diazepam to treat serious episodes. Diazepam is also capable of preventing hyperkinetic episodes in situations where the risk of your dog having an episode is higher than normal. Vitamin E has also been linked to a reduced frequency of hyperkinetic episodes in dogs with Scotty Cramp.
Antiprostaglandins, penicillin, banamine, indomethacin, and phenylbutazone should not be given to dogs with Scotty Cramp since these drugs are known to aggravate both frequency and seriousness of the hyperkinetic episodes. Don’t forget that the common Aspirin is an antiprostaglandin drug.

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