Muscle Cramps in Scottish Terriers

By PetMD Editorial on Apr. 26, 2010

Noninflammatory Hereditary Scotty Cramp in Scottish Terrier

“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.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms do not typically arise until the dog exercises or becomes overly excited. The episode(s) may continue for up to 30 minutes and include such signs as:

  • Gasping, shortness of breath; the dog may even stop breathing for a short time
  • Contraction of facial muscles
  • Arching of lumbar spine
  • Stiffening of hind limbs
  • Sudden collapse


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.


You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health to your veterinarian, including the onset and nature of the symptoms. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination as well as a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis -- the results of which are typically within normal ranges.

For testing purposes, your veterinarian may also give the dog serotonin antagonists to induce symptoms associated with the disorder. If cramping starts within two hours (continuing up to eight hours after initial dosage), it is a good indicator of hereditary Scotty Cramp.


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.

Living and Management

Overall prognosis is good in Scottish Terriers with mild forms of the disorder, while those with severe Scotty Cramp have a more dismal prognosis. Follow your veterinarian's suggestions for behavioral modifications and place your dog in a stress-free environment, away from other pets and active children.

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