Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome

by Jane Meggitt
Canine epileptoid cramping syndrome primarily affects border terriers.

Canine epileptoid cramping syndrome primarily affects border terriers.

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If you own a border terrier, beware of a disease known as canine epileptoid cramping syndrome. This relatively recently discovered issue appears to affect only border terriers, although it might go undiagnosed in other dogs. Although the name includes "epileptoid," the syndrome doesn't appear to involve actual epilepsy. Before identification of canine epileptoid cramping syndrome, affected dogs were often misdiagnosed as epileptic.

Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome

The first documented case of canine epileptoid cramping syndrome occurred in Germany in 1997, with a veterinarian diagnosing several border terriers -- all bred by an individual breeder -- with the syndrome. In 1999, affected dogs were diagnosed in the United States. Symptoms include shaking, often with an arched back; staggering as if drunk; curling of rear legs and tail; lip licking; rumbling intestinal noises; vomiting and diarrhea and inability to stand. The animal doesn't lose consciousness. Episodes vary from a few seconds to half an hour or more. Between bouts of canine epileptoid cramping syndrome, which occur infrequently, dogs seem just fine.

Border Terriers

Believed to be hereditary, canine epileptoid cramping syndrome affects between 5 and 15 percent of all border terriers. Initial episodes generally occur in dogs between the ages of 2 and 6 years, but there are reports of canine epileptoid cramping syndrome in puppies. As of the time of publication, scientists have theorized that canine epileptoid cramping syndrome results from autosomal recessive inheritance modes, but that is unconfirmed. It is not yet possible to identify dogs carrying genes predisposing them or their offspring to canine epileptoid cramping syndrome. However, border terriers with the disease should not be bred.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your veterinarian will run a series of diagnostic tests to rule out other neurological diseases. These include blood tests and urinalysis, along with X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging. If a border terrier is diagnosed with canine epileptoid cramping syndrome based on symptoms, treatment consists primarily of supportive care during any episodes and dietary changes. Your veterinarian might prescribe or recommend a hypoallergenic diet for your dog. In a questionnaire published in the December, 2013 "Journal of Small Animal Practice," 50 percent of owners who changed their dog's diets answered that the frequency of canine epileptoid cramping syndrome episodes lessened. The good news is that canine epileptoid cramping syndrome isn't fatal and that episodes don't worsen over time.

CECS Contributing Factors

Canine epileptoid cramping syndrome is still a mystery in many respects. It seems to occur more often in dogs living in colder climates, with more cases reported in Europe than America. Dogs might experience a canine epileptoid cramping syndrome episode after exercise or following a stressful event. Changes in temperature might be a trigger.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.