Scottie Cramp in Dogs

Scottie Cramp in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Scottie Cramp?

Scottie cramp begins to show clinical signs in puppies and young dogs. Puppies appear perfectly normal until a stimulus such as excitement, exercise, anxiety, and stress triggers the clinical signs of Scottie cramp. The symptoms may last up to 30 minutes and can occur a few times a day. The symptoms may be severe or mild in different dogs with Scottie cramp.

Scottie cramp in dogs is an autosomal-recessive, neurological disease, which affects Scottish Terriers (Scottie) and sometimes the Cesky Terriers.  The disease Scottie cramp promotes a deficiency in the availability of serotonin in the central nervous system, which then causes spasms, hyper-extension and flexion of the limbs. The compound serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is involved in the transmission of nerve impulses. Scottie cramps are not actually cramps; the condition causes temporary loss of coordination, due to the muscles receiving the “incorrect” transmission from the nerve cells.

Symptoms of Scottie Cramp in Dogs

Symptoms will appear after excitement, exercise or stress/anxiety:

  • Stiff cramped hind limbs 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rear legs over flex
  • Marching movements
  • Gasping
  • Falling
  • Stumbling
  • Laying down, balled up
  • Flipping/summersault when running
  • Facial muscles contractions
  • Arching of the back

Causes of Scottie Cramp in Dogs

Scottie cramp in dogs is a genetically inherited condition.  It is believed to be autosomal recessive, which means both the dam and sire must be carriers of the mutated gene for the disease to be passed on to the litter.  If only one parent has the mutated gene, the puppies may be carriers. The exact gene mutation has not been identified. Dogs diagnosed with Scottie cramp should not be bred.

Diagnosis of Scottie Cramp in Dogs

During the consultation with veterinarian, he will want to discuss the patient’s medical history. He may ask if the dog is up to date with his vaccinations.  It is important to tell the veterinarian the exact symptoms you have observed and when do they occur.  It is a good idea to take a few videos of your pet while he undergoes the symptoms.  This way the veterinarian can see first-hand what happens to the patient. 

The veterinarian will perform a physical exam on the dog.  He will evaluate the overall health of the patient.  He may want to run a complete blood count and a serum chemistry panel.  These two blood tests can help rule out problems with organ function, bacterial infections, deficiencies and anemia. The symptoms of Scottie cramp are similar to other neurological diseases, so it is important to diagnose the right condition. 

For a definitive diagnosis, your veterinarian may recommend inducing an episode with a serotonin antagonist called methysergide. This medication is given under the care of the veterinarian and will bring on clinical signs within 2 hours, lasting 8 hours. The veterinarian may keep your dog for the day while the test is being done as side effects are possible.

Treatment of Scottie Cramp in Dogs

There is no cure for Scottie cramp in dogs. Vitamin E has been proven to be beneficial in some patients with Scottie cramp. Vitamin E has been documented in helping to prevent the clinical signs of the condition. The veterinarian may prescribe the supplement 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), which may help restore the depleted serotonin. 5-HTP is derived from the plant Griffonia simplicifolia. Diazepam has a calming effect that helps reduce the symptoms of Scottie cramp.  Usually diazepam is given orally every 8 hours. In cases with more servere symptoms of Scottie cramp, Prozac (Fluoxetine) may be prescribed.  Prozac and diazepam do have potential side effects such as loss of appetite, excessive panting, aggression, gastrointestinal disturbances and can lower blood glucose.  Dogs on these medications should be closely monitored for side effects.

Another way to treat Scottie cramp is by behavior modification. The avoidance of different situations may help stop the “triggering” of the symptoms (limiting exercise, avoiding stressful or exciting situations).  With time, some dogs actually recognize what is happening to their body and will go lay down on their own until the symptoms subside.

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Recovery of Scottie Cramp in Dogs

Scottie cramp in dogs is a lifetime condition.  The dog’s lifespan will not be affected.  Scottie cramp does not worsen or progress with time. With vitamin E, medications and behavior modifications, symptoms may be decreased.  Follow up visits are necessary to monitor for any side effects caused by the medications.  Additional blood tests will help evaluate any deficiencies that may develop due to the intake of the medicines.

Dogs with Scottie cramp should not be left outside unattended, to avoid him having symptoms and hurting himself (falling down a hill, in a pool, against a sharp object). Scottish Terriers make excellent companions and Scottie cramp will not interfere with the many years of love and devotion from your pet.

Scottie Cramp Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals






7 Years


3 found this helpful


3 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Arched Back
Can a Yorkie get Scottie cramp as the symptoms it is having is similar to that described here. Arched back, mild to moderate cramps which appear abdominal, appetite still ok. but episodes happen daily. Initially starting only at night or very early morning and since the past 2 days it is happening during the day. Today 5 episodes in total 30 minutes apart.

Nov. 15, 2017

3 Recommendations

Scotty cramp doesn’t affect Yorkies but other problems like abdominal pain and spinal disorders may cause similar symptoms. You should get Shatzie examined by your Veterinarian to determine the cause of these symptoms and to offer some relief as they are most likely painful. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Nov. 15, 2017

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