Scotty Cramp

Until yesterday afternoon, my wife and I had not heard of a genetic condition specific to Scottish Terriers. Our Scotties, Toby Two and Tillie, normally very active, became listless after prolonged exercise in our backyard. We immediately took them to the vet and learned about their ailment. 

“Scotty Cramp” is a hereditary neuromuscular disorder characterized by periodic cramps. It is seen in Scottish Terriers, especially those less than one year of age. As we observed, the condition’s appearance was quite startling, an its onset was rapid. However,  it does not usually represent a serious health problem or cause pain.

Episodes of Scottie Cramp typically first manifest in young dogs or puppies. Our Scotties are now 15 months old. Symptoms occur during or shortly after periods of intense excitement, stress, or exercise and may include any of the following:

  • Stiff hind limbs that appear cramped
  • Awkward, marching movements
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden collapse
  • Facial muscle contractions
  • Contraction of facial muscles
  • Arching of lumbar spine

An episode of Scottie Cramp can last up to thirty minutes, with varying levels of severity. As we observed, its onset occurred after the stress of moving to a new home and after increased activity. Although it is inherited, some experts believe Scotty Cramp to be the result of a disorder in serotonin metabolism within the dog’s central nervous system.

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment available at this time. However, behavioral modification and/or environmental changes have been shown and are recommended to eliminate triggers which may cause the onset of symptoms. 

Mild sedatives, such as diazepam, may be useful if behaviors are difficult to modify or in advance of a planned event that may be stressful. Also, Vitamin E is thought to be beneficial in reducing the likelihood of an attack, although it does not appear to impact the severity of the cramping.
After 24 hours of resting and reduced activity, our dogs have returned to their normal active selves.