It has to be said that the Border Terrier’s health problems are far and apart, compared to the ones of other breeds which come with inherent health concerns related to their physical structure. However, and unfortunately, Border Terriers are not completely immune from illness.
What is Spike’s Disease?
The most recurrent diseases in Border Terriers are hip dysplasia – and I shall talk about this in a separate post – and the recently much talked about Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (CECS), also known as Spike’s Disease, as it became widely recognised after symptoms displayed by a little Dutch Border Terrier, Spike, at the age of 1 back in 1996.
It is with much shame that I have to confess I only learnt about this disease recently through some tweets I came across as well as from one of the comments I received on this site.
CECS is a horrible disease, which develops from the abnormal activity in the central nervous system of Borders. It is deemed that there may not have been any particular cause to originate the disease to develop in certain Borders, however it has been noticed that the disease initiated in colder climates. Likewise, albeit not widely diffused thankfully, Spike’s Disease is more commonly found in Europe than in USA.
Spike’s Disease is mostly diffused in Border Terriers through inheritance, but it can manifest occasionally in other breeds. You would have been made aware at the time of getting a Border, whether there is a history of CECS in the family, but if you suspect there might be and are unsure, it is advisable that you speak to your vet, who will run blood test and other tests to establish whether your Border carries the gene or to rule out possible other medical issues, whose symptoms are similar to the ones of Spike’s disease.
Signs of Spike’s Disease
CECS manifests in the form of muscular spasms, where your Border can also starts arching his/her back or over stretching. The muscular spasms will turn into seizures which can lasts between seconds and a few minutes, during which however your dog will not loose consciousness. A dog can go for months on end without an episode, but by the same token he/she can have a few episode at a distance of weeks or days from each other. In the interval, your dog will just have no sign of carrying the disease.
The first episode will normally show when a dog is between 4 and 6 years of age, but it has been recorded that younger dogs displayed the first signs of a seizure at a much younger age.
CECS should not be confused with other illnesses, which may display the same symptoms, such as back problems, epilepsy, microvascular disease or irritable bowl syndrome.
Can Spike’s Disease be cured?
Once your dog is diagnosed with Spike’s Disease, no cure has been discovered yet to cure him/her completely. However there are treatments in place to help your dog manage the condition, and even to reduce the frequency of seizures.
To alleviate or bring a seizure attack to an end, it is likely that your vet may prescribe diazepan to alleviate the cramps and buscopam to help the intestinal spasms.
However in the long term it has been proven that you can manage the symptoms of Spike’s Disease with a row gluten-free diet, as the most free of preservatives, colouring agents and by-products.
What?!?!?! Where do I get gluten-free food for my dog???
Easier said than done to go to a supermarket and find gluten-free food for your dog, right? Personally I get lost reading all the health care and scare advises given nowadays on food labels. And certainly I do not have the time and patients to go through the labelling of tins of food, or of the big and heavy to handle bags of dry food for my dog, trying to establish what the food has been made of.
Now, I am luck as neither my human family nor my Indy suffer from any form of food allergy or intolerance. But I am pretty sure that, if we were to be careful about what we were to eat, I would also not completely trust what is listed down on food labels as to be all that is contained in the packet.
Freshly cooked meals is the answer
Personally I would try and cook food freshly made for my Indy, rather than trusting tins picked up from a shop shelf. I did so when we were advised this was the best way forward to avoid his teeth getting rotten. I found once I had worked my recipes, it did not take me long to put together a small portion of Indy’s evening meal whilst putting together dinner for us humans. And the cost of purchasing fresh meat was not any higher than buying ready made food.
Yes, with Spike’s Disease sufferers, my understanding is that there are a lot of ingredients to avoid: wheat, barley, rye, sometimes oats, dairy products, and if adverse reactions persists, even rice, beef, fish and eggs. And that is to mention only but a few!
Not much left to play with for the chef of the house, I’ll admit. But I am sure your vet will advise you for the best for your dog.
Chicken and rice boiled together was one of Indy’s favourites!!!
“Treat your dog well with Feelwells”
There is an alternative if you struggle with time and are not the most inclined person round the stove. Feelwells have created a new range of food for dogs that suffer from allergies or other conditions. They sell direct or through their stockists, as per their website. But the most important thing is that the food they sell is free of all trigger elements to Spike’s Disease. And yes, their food may be slightly more expensive than dog food from supermarkets, but it is definitely healthier and delivered to your home.
It is like what I say with humans. You would not normally buy special ‘free-from’ food for yourself, not until you developed an allergy which prevents you from coping with any unspecified ingredients. But when you do, you will spend that little bit more to go to the effort to find ingredients that will not cause you any adverse reaction. The fact that it is your dog that needs that extra care should not stop you from giving it to him/her because they are dogs. I shall never tire to say your dog is a member of your family and he/she should deserve nothing less.
I cannot insert any imaging of Feelwells products for copyright purposes, but in passing, did you know that Feelwells own and foster Borders??
Does your Border suffer from CECS?
Please do let me know if you dog suffers with this nasty disease, or indeed you know of any Border that does. My husband has just discovered that one of his colleagues’s Border, 2 year old Phoebe, has had her first seizure and has been diagnosed with Spike’s Disease in the last few weeks.
It is most upsetting to see your little ones suffer so cruelly, and I can only imagine the feeling of helplessness of owners whose dog is so badly and unforgivingly affected. Thankfully CECS is not widely spread, but it is more diffused that we may think.
Share your information with us, or dietary tips. Feel free to leave a comment below.