One of the more recently recognized disorders in dogs is one known by several terms, including Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome, CECS, or "Spike's Disease." A tricky disease that is often misdiagnosed as epilepsy, CECS is considered to be a problem of multiple body systems, including the metabolic, neurological and muscular systems.
The symptoms of CECS vary, and an affected animal may display many of them or only a few at one time. Symptoms include trembling, staggering, dizziness, exaggerated stretching, and an unusually slow or methodical posture while walking. Also, the dog's abdominal and lumbar (back) muscles may cramp severely, and the animal may fall over and be unable to rise. In other dogs, the cramps occur in the head and neck and are usually associated with exaggerated stretching as the dog attempts to relieve the cramped muscles. Finally, in some cases, the animal's intestines will rumble loudly and it may have intestinal pain, which often leads to a misdiagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Through all of these symptoms, the dog will remain aware and able to respond to voices and other outside stimuli.
Most dogs develop CECS between the ages of 2 and 6; however it can appear in older and younger animals. Some dogs may experience only one or two episodes in their entire lifetime; others will be affected as much as several times each week. Also, the episodes themselves can range from a few seconds to several minutes. In more severe cases, the dog may need a veterinarian's help to stop the seizures.
One of the most difficult problems with CECS is that every dog will exhibit its own unique combination of the above symptoms. Since this syndrome is so easily confused with epilepsy and IBS, it is helpful for the owner to videotape the animal during one or more episodes, so that the veterinarian can perform a more in-depth evaluation. Most owners also are advised to keep a journal with a complete description of their dog's seizure-like episodes. They should write down the dates, time of day, frequency, duration, severity and any other relevant observations about the animal's condition. If a dog is having a seizure episode that lasts for longer than five minutes, or if it has several episodes consecutively, the animal should be taken to a veterinarian right away.
Diagnosis of this condition is made after a number of blood and laboratory tests to rule out other medical issues, and after viewing the dog during an episode.
CECS is a hereditary syndrome in Border Terriers, but it can occur in any breed of dog. Changes in diet allow most affected animals to go into remission or greatly reduce their symptoms. Your veterinarian can recommend a specific diet plan, based on the individual dog's condition. Above all, affected dogs should not be given certain items, including: rawhide and rawhide chew toys, pig ears, high-protein treats and canned or tinned moist dog food. Care should be taken as well to prevent the animal from eating garbage, birdseed and/or feces.
Once a dog has been diagnosed with CECS, treatment with the epilepsy medications Diazepam and Clorazepane Dipotassium have been helpful in some cases. In others, intestinal spasms can be minimized through drugs like Buscopan and Gaviscon. Above all, it's necessary to work with your doctor to ensure your dog maintains a relatively high quality of life.