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What is Scotty Cramp?

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Many of the most common health problems that affect dogs are not breed-specific. There are, however, some conditions which tend to affect certain breeds more than others. A neuromuscular disorder that causes periodic muscle cramps, for example, affects Scottish Terriers at a higher incidence rate than other breeds – this is how it earned the nickname Scotty Cramp. Keep reading to learn more.

What Are the Symptoms and Types?

The Scottish Terrier, affectionately known as the Scotty, is a small-breed dog with a black wiry coat, pointed ears, and a bright personality. Though these dogs make wonderful family pets, they are unfortunately affected by a neuromuscular disease at fairly high rates. This condition is a neuromuscular movement disorder and it is passed genetically from parent to puppy. Symptoms of Scotty cramp can be alarming, but they don’t usually cause pain or pose any serious threat to the dog’s health. Even so, it is not something that should be ignored.

Related: What Is Hip Dysplasia In Dogs?

Symptoms of Scotty cramp typically manifest in puppies and young dogs, frequently triggered by periods of stress, excitement, or intense exercise. Common symptoms include the following:

  • Stiff hind legs
  • Awkward marching gait
  • Shortness of breath
  • Gasping
  • Sudden collapse
  • Facial muscle twitches
  • Spinal arching
  • Flipping when running
  • Stumbling gait
  • Laying down balled up

In most cases, episodes of Scotty cramps come and go, lasting for an average of up to thirty minutes. The level of severity for these cramps may vary and, depending on the specific symptoms, the condition can sometimes be confused with another neurological disorder, cerebellar abiotrophy.

How Is It Diagnosed and Treated?

Symptoms of Scotty cramps tend to be episodic – they are neither constant nor progressive. The underlying cause for the condition is still being studied, but it has become evident that there is a genetic link and the disease is thought to be autosomal recessive – this means it must be inherited from both parents in order to manifest. Diagnosis begins with a review of the dog’s symptoms and medical history to rule out certain triggers and other underlying issues. In addition to a complete physical exam, your vet may also recommend blood tests and a serum chemistry panel.

Related: All About Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Scotty cramps, though some beneficial therapies have been identified. For example, vitamin E supplements have shown promise for relieving symptoms in some cases and 5-HTP may help to replenish depleted serotonin levels. In severe cases, Prozac or diazepam may be prescribed, but they come with a risk for side effects such as excessive panting, loss of appetite, aggression, low blood sugar, and gastrointestinal disturbance. Behavior modification can also help to mitigate triggers for episodes of Scotty cramps.

If you have a Scottish Terrier, you should be on the lookout for signs of Scotty cramps. Responsible breeding is essential for this breed to prevent passing on this and other conditions. Though Scotty cramps are not painful or debilitating, they can affect your dog’s quality of life so you should seek treatment at the first sign of trouble.


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