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Scotty Cramp In Dogs – Symptoms & Treatment

Scotty Cramp In Dogs

What Is Scotty Cramp In Dogs?

Scottie cramp is an autosomal-recessive, hereditary, neuromuscular disorder that affects a dog’s ability to move its limbs temporarily or intermittently. This affects Scottish Terriers (Scottie) and sometimes the West Highland White terriers, Cairn terriers, and Cesky terriers, especially those less than 18 months of age.

The disorder has unexpected episodes immediately following times of physical activity or stress, lasting up to 20 minutes. Affected dogs experience hyper-extension, stiff limbs, arching spine, muscle spasms, a “goose-stepping” gait, and a downward flexed tail.

Actually, Scottie's cramps are not cramps; these hyperkinetic episodes are caused due to temporary loss of CNS coordination and the muscles collect “inaccurate” transmission of serotonin from the nerve cells. Neurotransmitter serotonin plays a key role in the movement as well as in muscle contraction.

In most dogs, the hyper­kinetic episodes are alleviated by a short period of rest, but the signs would rapidly resurface if the provoking factors are not removed. When the dog carries out physical activities for a longer time or becomes excited, the level of serotonin transmitted to the muscles is not high enough to function properly, and this leads to cramps in Scotties. The episode will stop as soon as the dog relaxes for some time.

Symptoms Of Scotty Cramp In Dogs

  • Arching Spine
  • Stiff Cramped Hind Limbs / Rear Legs Over Flex
  • Bunny Hopping Gait
  • Hyperextension (Stretching)
  • Hyperflexion (Bending)
  • Facial Muscles Contractions
  • Gasping
  • Summersault/ Flipping When Running
  • Falling/Stumbling

Treatment Options For Scotty Cramp In Dogs

There is no proper treatment for Scottie cramps in dogs.

Vitamin E: To prevent the clinical signs of the condition.

5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) supplement: This is derived from the plant Griffonia simplicifolia and it helps to restore the depleted serotonin.

Medications: Prozac (Fluoxetine) or diazepam.

Sedatives: Chlorpromazine or acepromazine.

Medications to avoid: Penicillin, Antiprostaglandins, indomethacin, phenylbutazone, and Banamine.

Home Remedies For Scotty Cramp In Dogs

  • Provide all medication and administer environmental changes as recommended by your veterinarian.
  • Stop the “triggers” of Scotty cramps (such as limiting exercise, and avoiding exciting or traumatic situations).
  • Avoid medications that worsen signs of Scotty cramps, such as penicillin, aspirin, etc.
  • Dogs showing signs of ‘Scottie cramp’ should not be left outside without supervision for a longer time. If left unattended, when they are having symptoms, they may hurt themselves (falling in a pool, injuries due to a sharp object).

How To Prevent Scotty Cramp In Dogs?

  • Scotty cramps pathogenesis is still unclear.
  • There’s not much a pet owner can do to prevent them as Hereditary is a factor in some breeds but a high-quality diet with bone supplements may help somehow or other.
  • Protect your dog from infections, hyperacidity, and ingestion of toxins.
  • Check your dog on a regular basis and check for any other metabolic diseases.

Affected Dog Breeds Of Scotty Cramp

Scottish Terrier, Puppies, Young Dogs

Causes And Diagnosis For Scotty Cramp In Dogs

1. Causes:

  • Scottie cramp in dogs is an inherited, autosomal recessive condition.
  • For the disease to be passed on to the litter, both the parents must be carriers of the ‘Scotty cramp’ gene.
  • The exact gene that causes the cramps has not been identified.
  • In other dog breeds, there are similar types of muscle movement diseases have been identified. Cocker spaniels, Dalmatians, Norwich terriers, West Highland white terriers, and wirehaired terriers. However, the genetic cause is different from Scottie's cramps.

2. Morbidity:

  • Cause: Genetic serotonin deficiency
  • Gender: This is more predominant in females rather than males
  • Onset: Juvenile onset (usually < 18 months)
  • Hereditable: Yes

3. Mortality:

There is no mortality associated with ‘Scotty cramps’ documented yet.

4. Diagnosis:

  • Complete blood count test (CBC)
  • Electromyography (EMG)
  • Serotonin antagonist (methysergide) test

5. Prognosis:

There is no cure for Scotty cramps but it can be managed well with proper diet and treatment. Most Scotties undergoing treatment will show improvement within a month after starting the treatment. The condition is not fatal and the lifespan of dogs is not affected.

When To See A Vet For Scotty Cramp In Dogs?

  • Arching spine
  • Stiff cramped hind limbs / Rear legs over flex
  • “Goose-stepping” gait

Food Suggestions For Scotty Cramp In Dogs

  • Organ meat, Grass-Fed Meat, Chicken breast.
  • Chicken soup bone broth (or use lamb/beef bones).
  • Vitamins: Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, spinach, kale, papaya, strawberries, and pineapple.
  • Mutton Liver, green vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, cantaloupe, Brussel sprouts, spinach, Kale, and silver beets).
  • Beef liver, lean meats, raw egg yolk, canned sardines, salmon, pumpkin, and green vegetables.


The condition is usually benign and self-limiting. It is better to get the recommendations of a veterinary neurologist. Check whether they have any other neurological or behavioral problems.

Scottish Terriers (also known as Aberdeen Terriers) make fantastic companions and Scottie cramp will not hinder with the many years of love and loyalty from your pet.

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