My name is Joke Miedema, I live in the North of the Netherlands with my husband, two sons, our three Border Terriers, Spike, Kyra and Penny and two cats, Smokey and Bandit.
This story is about my two cramping Border Terriers Terry (1978-1996) and Spike. Both had and still have Spikes Disease (CECS).
Our first Border terrier, Terry, was born on July 18, 1978. She came to live with us in October of the same year. Terry was fed kibble due to our veterinarian's recommendation. Our vet told me at Terry's first visit: "It's the best way to feed your dog, homemade prepared foods cannot compete with a complete dry dog food". I believed him, after all he was the vet, even though with our first dog an Irish Terrier I always prepared his food myself: beef, vegetables, bread and a vitamin/calcium supplement.
Terry did receive her puppy vaccinations when she was six, nine and twelve weeks old. After those series of shots she wasn't vaccinated anymore. When Parvo reared its ugly head, seven years later, we started to vaccinate her on a yearly basis.
When she was two years old, the vet
discovered a slight heart murmur. She was prescribed Digitoxine.
Around the same time, Terry had a strange episode, when I described this episode later to my vet, he told me she probably choked on a piece of bread.
I doubted his explanation because she wasn't eating when the episode occurred. The second episode some months later was very severe and the vet told me Terry was probably suffering from epilepsy. The vet prescribed Pnenobarb.
Terry's episodes came four or five times per year, her episodes were always very severe and often occurred after great excitement, like when the window cleaner (she hated the man) cleaned our windows, or when she spied a cat in the neighbours garden. The Phenobarb didn't help much.
Terry's episodes always started with her walking like she was drunk, then she'd fall over. During an episode, she'd have a very fast heartbeat.
One day she walked, in this drunk disorientated way, to the front of our house, where a neighbour found her, cramping, in the gutter.
After an episode she always was violently sick, vomiting, peeing and pooping. Her coat felt clammy like she had sweated a lot. When Terry grew older, these severe seizures gradually disappeared.
When Terry was about eleven years old, the vet discovered Terry suffered from kidney-trouble and spondylosis. The vet advised me to wean her off the Phenobarb and start feeding her a kidney diet with bread. Her kidneys were in such a bad way she was only allowed to eat the absolute minimum of the kidney diet. The bread was for the necessary calories.
From that time on, Terry suffered from a terrible cramping of her abdomen and loud intestinal noises. When she had such a spell she stood with a very round catlike back, very fast heartbeat till it was over. Afterwards she often had bloody diarrhoea.
Despite everything Terry grew very old, she died two days after her 18th birthday, in the year 1996, of old age but always an unhealthy dog.
was on December 29, 1996 that Roughmoor Blue Spike, a blue and tan Border
Terrier male, came to live with us. He was eight weeks old.
Click HERE to view Spike's Pedigree.
Like Terry, Spike was fed kibble too. I still believed it was the best you could feed your dog.
Spike received his puppy shots when he was six, nine and twelve weeks old. With the last puppy vaccination Spike received the rabies vaccination too. Four weeks later he was vaccinated against rabies again. We were going for our holidays to Sweden and the titre for rabies had to be high enough.
Under a year old, Spike started showing little signs of odd behaviour. Because of my experiences with Terry, I was very alert and noticed the little signs with Spike from the very beginning. It started with a little odd behaviour: lying on the couch, appearing a little absent-minded and he appeared not to have himself totally under control. You could very easily have thought you'd imagined it and my husband, although he saw it happen, told me, it must be my imagination. That evening for a very long time Spike had been gnawing on a cured, store bought buffalo hide bone, and the vet thought it had something to do with that.
Such small, I call them 'absences' occurred a few times. Nothing much happened, really. Other people would not have noticed it, I'm sure.
Then there was some slight staggering during a walk, for just a few seconds; again, you could easily think you'd imagined it. Then he started stumbling sometimes, after which he'd fall down and couldn't walk anymore. Those episodes happened when I was away, so this is what my son and husband told me. The vet thought it was a strained back muscle. Spondylosis was the diagnosis after x-rays had been taken.
On my husband's birthday April 29th, 2000, Spike started to walk like he was drunk, he tried to stay upright but his back feet were sliding away, he made the impression of an animal with 'mad cows' disease' or 'Bambi on ice'. He made great efforts not to fall down but in the end he gave in. Then the time came round for our holidays and Spike had his first serious fit. After that it went downhill very fast.
In January 2001 Spike had his second severe fit and it became clear those fits hadn't been caused by the spondylosis.
Somebody told me to visit a German website which described fits similar to Spike's fits. After visiting this site it became clear to me Spike didn't suffer from epilepsy, but from a cramping condition more Border Terriers suffer from.
I printed all information and took it to the vet. After reading the information, our vet contacted Diana Tillner DVM from Germany (the owner of the website) by telephone. After this conversation the vet and I decided to put Spike on Hill's KD, at that time low protein diets were advised, because it was thought the strange episodes were caused by a liver problem.
Spike didn't do well on kidney diet: Stomach pains and loss of muscle tissue. After trying several brands of kidney diet I decided to go back to normal kibble again. To keep the protein level low, I added pasta or bread to the kibble. From that day on Spike's condition grew worse very fast. Spike had at least 30 episodes that year.
I never suspected grain (the bread and pasta I added to his food) could be the trigger.........
Several times he started cramping halfway during a walk in the woods and those times I had to carry him all the way back to the car. He was in such a bad way we sometimes talked about putting him down. But his will to live and the fun he still had, between fits, kept us going. At the end of that year he was cramping two to three times a week. Twice, I had to rush him into the vet's, as the cramping wouldn't stop, it went on and on.
In December I decided to put Spike on a kidney diet again, without adding bread or pasta. Spike's condition improved...
In January 2002, Diana Tillner made it possible for Spike and another cramping Border terrier to go to Utrecht University (for four days) to be examined and tested. The result of the tests showed, Spike's liver is ok and he isn't suffering from epilepsy. There are more Border Terriers suffering from this terrible disease. There was no name for this disease. I called it 'Spike's Disease'.
In these last few years, when I compare Terry's episodes with Spike's and after hearing other owners of cramping dogs describe similar symptoms, I realize Terry's severe episodes and abdominal cramping had been part of the same condition we now know as 'Spike's Disease'.
What does a fit look like?
Spike starts to walk as if he were walking 'on eggs' or 'stalking'. Then he falls over and stretches his legs away from his body with great strength, he arches his back backwards (not catlike), his limbs and body get cramped, he shakes his head, his eyes start watering, and he salivates a lot.
Such a fit may take about five to ten minutes. Then he can stand up again. During an episode Spike is alert, he is aware of what is going on around him. When Spike has an episode I give him a few drops of Rescue Remedy (Bach flower Remedies). Spike