Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome
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Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome

Dogs
Health & Safety

Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome or CECS as it is often referred to, is a condition that was only recently recognised by a vet in Germany when she noticed that dogs bred by one breeder were diagnosed as suffering from the disorder. Two years later, in 1997 CECS was recognised in America as a condition that affected certain breeds and soon other countries of the world came to the same conclusion.

Affected dogs display obvious signs of there being something wrong in that they start shaking and experience cramps with episodes lasting seconds or they can go on for minutes at a time. Dogs often arch their backs or bend their bodies when they are experiencing an episode of cramps which can happen at varying times whether it is weeks or months apart. In between these episodes, dogs behave normally and show no signs of there being a problem whatsoever.

Breeds Most Affected

It has been found that certain breeds are more at risk of developing the condition than others and this includes the Border Terrier, although other breeds have also been reported as suffering from CECS.

Signs to Watch Out For

Dogs between the ages of two to six years old seem to be the most affected and most will have their first episode"" when they reach this particular age range. With this said, there have been reports of dogs as young as four months old having their first episode and at the other end of the scale the condition has been reported in dogs that are ten years and older. It is not a progressive disorder and as such the severity of each episode typically remains the same whenever they occur. The most obvious signs of there being something wrong include the following:

  • Dogs appear drunk
  • Severe trembling
  • Cramping of muscles
  • Hind legs and tail curls up when a dog is experiencing an episode
  • Stretching in an exaggerated manner
  • An inability to stand
  • Licking and lip smacking in a nervous manner
  • Borborygmi (abdominal pain, wind, blood and mucus in faeces)

An episode, as previously mentioned, can last a few seconds or it can last up to thirty minutes with dogs remaining conscious and aware of their surroundings the whole time.

What Causes Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome?

For the moment, it is not known why some dogs suffer from this condition, although what has been established is that dogs living in colder climates appear to be more at risk of developing the disorder and that certain breeds are more predisposed to it than others with Border Terriers being at the top of the list. However, other isolated incidences have been reported in some other breeds too. It is thought the condition has a genetic link in that it may be an autosomal recessive gene that's responsible for dogs developing CECS.

Research has suggested that episodes may be occur due to a dog experiencing some sort of abnormal activity in their central nervous systems which could be episodic dyskinesia or they may be experiencing some sort of seizure. The episodes could also be bought on by a primary muscle disease and it is thought the condition could be related to another disorder called Hepatic Microvascular Dysplasia, but more research needs to be carried out to determine if this is so.

Diagnosing the Condition

A vet would need to have a dog's full medical history and know how a first episode first presented itself. The next step is to rule out any other causes of a dog experiencing an episode which a vet would do by taking blood tests as well as doing a bile acid stimulation which could rule out any microvascular issues. A vet would also want to rule out other conditions which includes the following:

  • Epilepsy
  • Disease of the back
  • Irritable bowel syndrome - when intestinal cramps are a symptom

Any dog that is known to suffer from the condition should be DNA tested which would help researchers find which gene may be responsible for dogs suffering from the disorder.

Treating the Condition

The first thing a vet would want to do is make a dog as comfortable as possible which they would do by giving them something to relieve pain they are experiencing through muscle or intestinal cramps. It has been found that some dogs with the condition respond well to being fed a gluten-free diet which vets often recommend owners feed dogs suffering from CECS.

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