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Hypertonicity and Episodic Falling - Overview

Dhicon_thumb By DogHeirs Team | January 04, 2011 | Comments (4)

Overview | Symptoms | Treatment | Management

Hypertonicity or Episodic Falling, also known as Hyperkinesis, Falling Cavaliers, Collapsing Cavalier Syndrome, Scotty Cramp or Paroxysmal Hypertonicity Disorder, is characterized by episodic, paroxysmal attacks during which affected animals fall, exhibit muscle rigidity and may be acutely and dramatically incapacitated. Dogs do not lose consciousness and are clinically normal between attacks. Episodes appear to be triggered by stress, apprehension, and excitement, where affected animals develop a peculiar bounding, pelvic limb gait in which the limbs may be abducted and appear stiff.

Episodic Falling is a syndrome of muscle stiffness and collapse, with the pathophysiology considered to involve abnormal neurotransmitter function. However, microscopic changes are often not observed within the central nervous system.

Age at onset: Dogs typically present with symptoms between 3 and 7 months of age. Puppies as young as 12 weeks of age have shown symptoms; episodes present throughout an affected dog's lifespan.

Breeds Affected:

  • Bichon Frise
  • Border Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Norwich Terrier
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Springer Spaniel
  • Wheaton Terrier
  • Yorkshire Terrier

Symptoms: Dogs collapse without loss of consciousness and display limb rigidity. 

Genetics of Episodic Falling: Research studies indicate that Episodic Falling is an inherited trait in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed. Genetic mutations linked to both Episodic Falling and Dry eye and curley coat syndrome (known as congenital keratoconjunctivitis sicca and ichthyosiform dermatosis) have been identified. This lead to the development of DNA tests to identify carriers. These DNA tests were made available in April 2011 from the Animal Health Trust.

Episodic Falling in Humans: It has been suggested that this disorder has some similarities to hyperexplexia (startle disease) in people, a hereditary (autosomal dominant) pathological exaggeration of the normal startle response to auditory, somesthetic or visual stimuli which sometimes results in falling.



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Comments on this Article

We're so happy you've joined us and that we were able to help, Kari. We hope that Rupert will be able to feel better now that his condition can be better understood and managed. We've been lucky to have wonderful members, like Karen above, who have made great contributions to increasing our knowledge of conditions such as this. Please do keep us posted. ♥
I am happy to have found this site. My JRT has a neuro condition known as cerebellar hypoplasia and a luxated right patella which he had surgically corrected a few months ago. 5 weeks after surgery he had an episode while we were 'out and about' where he began stumbling and then went rigid, panting, and temp of 107. He spent 2 days in the ICU and they could not diagnose him with anything, assuming it was a seizure or related to his cerebellar hypoplasia. Yesterday he had another episode after a walk where he spent most of the time in the stroller and only a short time walking since he cannot tolerate exercise. He went rigid in all four extremeties and we could see his muscles spasming. We comforted him and fed him ice cubes and recovered in about 45 minutes. I am now convinced Ihe has this episodic falling syndrome.

Thanks Karen, and big...,or...cool hugs to Bentley!

Thanks so much for this information - what I was able to find was all on "Episodic Falling Cavalier Syndrome" & I had no idea other breeds were affected as well. Our Vet has asked us to make of video of our Cavalier, Bentley, when he's having one of these episodes but I haven't been able to do that as yet - the last thing I think to do is film him when this is happening! If I ever am able to, I'll post it here as well.


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