||The Berner-l on Fly-Snap|
||The Berner-l on Fly-Snap|
courtesy Pat Long
BERNER-L Digest 51
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 1995 09:11:23 EDT
From: AFHA12A@prodigy.com (MS LOUISE J WETZEL)
Subject: Old dogs and their health
-- [ From: Louise Wetzel * EMC.Ver #2.10P ] --
Hi all. I just wanted to let you know how the old dog, Chelsea did at
the Chiropractors last week. Dr. Lesser watched Chelsea limp along and
re-adjusted her back, neck and rear end. I think it is helping her.
She seems a little more comfortable getting around and has less trouble
getting up and down the stairs. I know this certianly isn't going to
cure her arthritis, but whatever I can do to make her more comfortable
I will try. Chelsea will be nine years old in November and you
wouldn't know it to look at her face, she still looks like a younger
dog and has a bright eager expression. But just watch her walk and you
will see just how old she really is.
Have many of you had problems with tumors? Chelsea has had four mast
cell tumors taken off her in the last 4 years. Ones on her hip,
stomach, elbow ( the one with the FCP) and of course the one which lost
her tail. She also has had numerous cysts taken off while taking off
the tumors. One of the worst times was when she had her tail
amputated. It is amazing just how much these dogs rely on their tails
for balance. Not only did the wound get infected, but she was so
miserable without her tail. It took her quite awhile to get used to
moving around without stumbling or banging into things.
Chelsea also has these little episodes where she is biting imaginary
bugs on her feet. She will lay there and snap at the air or keep
looking at her feet as though she has bugs on them. I know we don't
have a flea or bug problem, as none of the other three dogs ever
exhibit this behavior. These episodes don't last longer than a
couple of days and then she forgets about the bugs. Some people have
told me that it is like tiny little seizures that she is having.
Anyone else have experience with this bizarre behavior?
Hope all your old dogs are doing well and we can bring them out at the
next specialty to be in the "Old Dogs" parade, if the location suits
Louise Wetzel in NYC
BERNER-L Digest 52
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 1995 14:46:53 -0400
From: email@example.com (Marjorie E. Reho)
Subject: Re: Old dogs and their health
>Hi all. I just wanted to let you know how the old dog,... Chelsea will be
>nine years old in November
Glad to hear Chelsea had positive results from her chiropractic visit. Did
you read the article in the current Alpenhorn regarding trying to wish our
old dogs to be younger by raising the age limits for Veterans class? We
debated this issue on the floor of the National Specialty down in Atlanta
and the "wishers" lost, but clearly haven't stopped. Louise makes an
excellent point that at 9, Chelsea is clearly old in body, though not in
spirit (way to go, Chelsea!)
>Have many of you had problems with tumors? Chelsea has had four mast
>cell tumors taken off her in the last 4 years.
Guess we crossed e-mail. Unfortunately, I've learned a lot about tumors.
>Chelsea also has these little episodes where she is biting imaginary
>bugs on her feet. Anyone else have experience with this bizarre behavior?
This behavior even has a name: "Fly snapping syndrome", and it has been
identified as a mild form of epilepsy. What brings it on, I'm not sure
anyone knows. Why it disappears for days or weeks at a time, I haven't
seen any answers there either. Apparantly if bad enough, standard
seizure-preventative drugs can be used, but I know little about the drug
end. It is genetic, from what I've read and seen, and can be tied in with
more accute forms of epilepsy in a litter.
Margie Reho and the Dallybeck crew in Virginia
BERNER-L Digest 315
Date: Tue, 21 May 1996 10:30:12 -0400
Subject: Re: intro/fly catching syndrome
Good morning fellow Berner lovers,
May I introduce myself?? My name is Avery. My two
berners Charlotte (2/1/2), a Tallpines dog, and Jiggs
(first birthday last week) a Thistlebrook dog, are presently
snoozing coolly deep in the Maine dirt beneath my back porch.
I am pleased to be a new subscriber to this list and look
forward to meeting and discussing any and all Berner topics.
As a first question, I wonder if anyone has read Bev Burney's
recent note about "fly catching syndrome" in the newest
Bernergaard and has anything to say about this remedy --
(Ivomec cattle wormer 2cc deep into the ear canal)
or Bev, if you are online -- . My 2/1/2 yr old does have
this syndrome I think... At present its not severe but, I'm worried about it
as all I've read is that it is neurological
and seizure related. Unfortunately, my vet isn't particularly
helpful - he's not really Berner savvy (but that's a whole
Any thoughts, references advice would be greatly appreciated.
Date: Tue, 21 May 1996 11:51:57 -0500 (CDT)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (susan ablon)
Subject: Re: intro/fly catching syndrome
True fly snap syndrome is a psycho motor seizure that varies in severity to
mildly annoying to down right frightening. The dog responds to a varity of
unseen sensory stimuli including taste sight feel and hearing. I have a dog
with this syndrome and have seen him snap at unseen bugs smack his lips at
nonexistent goodies jump up and look for the mystery hand that appears to
have goosed him and start barking at nothing in the window. Over all his
behavior is not severe and so I do not treat it. There are dogs that
continuously have reactions to nothing and these dogs very well may need
treatment with anti seizure meds. Diagnosis is usually made by description
I read the article about Ivormectin but can not speak to the effectiveness
of it in the ear canal to rid this condition as I always thought it to be
neurological in nature. If anyone has actually done this with a dog with
confirmed fly snap and it has worked please share your experiences with me.
BERNER-L Digest 316
Date: Wed, 22 May 1996 09:42:47 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Mary Ann E. Sontag"
Subject: Biting Flies
I am also interested in learning more about the biting flies thing. how
does one know the difference between a dog that is biting at floating
dust particles (or whatever else is in the air) or has this syndrome? Is
it genetic? If it is neurological in nature, how can ear mite medicine
work? Does its presence preclude a dog from a breeding program? Finally,
does it have an official name so I can do a literature search on it?
Thanks, in advance, for info.
I also want to respond to the post about the difficulties of obtaining a
puppy. I am sorry about the unfortunate experience but have heard of that
happening to other people. I tell people that in order to get a puppy you
almost have to promise your first born (since mine is now a teenager I am
willing to send her off in exchange for a nice fuzzy puppy -- just
kidding, I think). It is a fine line between being a discriminating
breeder and being exclusive and snotty. Glad I don't have to do it!!
Now that I have two berners I rarely get people who think they are mixed
breeds but when I had just one it was a frequent event. My favorite was a
man who asked me "is that a cross between a St. bernard and a beagle?"
Now just think about that for a moment!!
Emma and Darcy -- a matched set
Date: Wed, 22 May 1996 15:17:02 -0400
Subject: Re: Fly Biting
My male, Hannibal, did the fly biting on numerous occasions, we didn't really
think too much about it at the time. He usually did it in summer, and since
he got flea-bite dermatitis we just thought he was having some sort of
sesitive reaction to something. However, he did have a grand-mal seizure,
just once, and the vet could find no probable cause, it was just before he
ate dinner, in summer, after moderate exercise, so we figured maybe his
electrolytes were out of whack. So maybe there is a neurologic cause for some
Pat Long, Vesta & Maggie, (Sam & Luther)
Cooler in Philadelphia PA
Date: Wed, 22 May 1996 15:49:23 -0400
Subject: Psychomotor Seizures
It is my understanding that "fly biting or snapping" syndrome is a
psychomotor seizure. Just because a dog snaps in the air does not mean he
has fly snapping syndrome. Dogs do go after flys that are bothering them and
some are pretty hard to see. If your dog is snapping at the air and there
isn't anything around, then there is a possiblity. Most of the dogs I have
seen have mild periodic cases but I know of one dog that is on phenobarbital
to control the seizures. I have seen closely related dogs with the problem so
I would be suspecious of a possible genetic basis. Epileptic seizures have
been determined to be inherited in some breeds. I really haven't come across
studies one way or the other for psychomotor seizure.
>From Handbook of Veterinary Neurology, by Oliver and Lorenz, "Psychomotor
seizures(partial seizures wit complex symptomatology, behavioral seizures,
emotional disorders) are paroxysmal episodes of abnormal behavior. Examples
include hysteria, rage autonomic reactions(such as salivations), and
hallucinations(such as "fly biting")."
Black Forest, CO
Date: Wed, 22 May 1996 23:02:21 -0400
Subject: Fly snap syndrome
I would love to know more about "FLy Snap SYndrome".
Caymus has it very occasionally,it seems when he is stressed!
For instance,last summer our house was under construction
and the heat wave was so bad,I thought it best for all three dogs to come to
Nantucket for the month with us,even though
our house is small,and so is the yard,but we had AC.Two boys
wanted to come visit,so I struck a deal.pick up the two dogs,
our car,and drive three hours to a small airport,where a friend will
be waiting in his plane.20minutes later,I was standing on the runway,and saw
this plane coming at me with the side windows open and Caymus hanging out one
window and MOOMOO
out the other.It was a pretty funny sight!The two boys looked
like the man in the shaggy dog movie when he was growing hair.
To make a very long story short,Caymus was snapping at all
kinds of things for about a day afterward,and on several other
nerveracking occasions,he has done it again.
WHat do the doctors say is the cause of this?I thought it was
only my crazy dog?Is it a dangerous situation?I would be
grateful to hear from anyone.MOO MOO,of course,took it all
in stride.Caymus has flown several times before,on small
planes,right behind me in the last row,he has his wings!
Daisy and the Mooseman(I hate flies,real or not)
BERNER-L Digest 319
Date: Sat, 25 May 1996 10:29:08 -0700
From: bartletm@Rt66.com (Melissa Bartlett)
Subject: Re: Psychomotor Seizures
Eden's point is well taken.
Sometimes dogs 'flysnap' because of seizures, sometimes because
of real flies and sometimes because of noises that sound like
flies to them. This latter is the case when dogs have ear mites
which are so deep they are difficult to find. Thats why the
Ivermectin works in those cases. It kills the mites, stops the
mite-y noises and the dog doesn't try to flysnap.
I've also heard about one dog on a medication which sometimes causes
humans to see 'spots' in front of their eyes. The dog apparent
saw spots too and reacted with fly-snap behavior.
BERNER-L Digest 320
Date: Sun, 26 May 1996 20:50:13 -0700
From: email@example.com (cathy burlile )
Subject: Re: intro/fly catching syndrome
I have personally seen this in one dog; had two puppies I placed
manifest this and saw my male do it once.
The scenarios for the above-mentioned dogs are:
The one dog that I personally saw had an ear infection that was
treated and the fly-snapping resolved. Anytime after though that she
heard a "real" fly/bee/buzz, she'd jump up and tuck her tail and try to
move away from the critter.
Both puppies that exhibited fly-snapping were ultimately diagnosed
with very low grade yeast ear infections. One of these puppies, it
took months for me and the owner to convince the vet to do a
culture/sensitivity for the ears. He was convinced that she should be
taken to a neuro vet and a workup completed. Both of these dogs never
exhibited this behavior since.
My male exhibited a fly-snapping behavior after he was given a
"load dose" of Primor for an infection he had. He was given the load
dose at the vet's. Upon returning home, he started acting like someone
that would be "tripping" and we returned to the vet. He was given
something for this and I've never seen it again.
There have been two other Berners that I have known of that were
also diagnosed with "ear problems." When these were cleared up, so was
I do believe there are some Berners that actually have a
neurological problem (psychomotor seizures) that cause this behavior.
My theory on the ear problems "causing" Berners to exhibit this
behavior has to do with my own experience with inner ear infections. I
think that certain ear infections can cause a "ringing" in the ear.
You can't tell a dog that he's really not hearing a fly, bee, buzz and
that it's just his ear infection. It must drive them crazy!
As for Bev Burney's treatment, I've never tried it so I can't
comment one way or another. Ivomec is used for a multitude of
parasites including heartworms and mange mites. Check with your vet
and ask him to do a culture of their ears if the problem persists.
Cathy Burlile, Memories BMDs
Ashland City, TN
BERNER-L Digest 323
Date: 29 May 96 04:04:25 EDT
From: "LAUREL S. CAIN"
Subject: Fly Snapping and Comic Relief
Okay, everyone--how do you think it might feel to be surrounded by a group of
high level veterinary neurologists who are laughing directly at you over the
question you just asked.....oh well, it's not like I haven't been worthy of a
giggle or two before....
Needless to say, by posing the question at our annual Internal Medicine meeting
over whether Fly snapping behavior syndrome was brought on by a "deep seated ea
mite" or not and what the general consensus of these specialists was on the
thought of instilling Ivermectin in the ear canal, I instantly became a source
I'll try to explain why--TRUE fly-snapping behavior is a psychomotor seizure--a
seizure arising from the temporal (limbic) lobe of the brain, where the
manifestation of the seizure is abnormal activity--a psychosis. Quoting from
Current Vet. Therapy VIII--"Dogs and cats sometimes do not have a sense of what
is real and what is not or what is reasonable and what is not. Some animals
seem to see things that are not there or respond to stimuli that do not exist.
This psychosis appears at a few weeks to a few years of age, sometimes, but not
often, triggered by an actual event. The "fly catching" syndrome is a good
example. Sufferers spend most of their lives staring intently into the middle
distance and frequently reaching forward with their head to snap their jaws
closed as if there were some flying organism there to be consumed."
The diagnosis is made based on the above symptoms and ruling out all other
problems, such as ear infections, ear mites, etc, based on clinical tests.
Treatment often mimics other seizure problem by requiring anticonvulsants or
hormonal therapy to blunt this abnormal behavior.
Ivermectin is a drug used commonly in large animal species, and off-label in
small animal species to kill parasites. The standard dosage is 300 mcg/kg give
by subcutaneous injection in small animals--this translates to roughly 0.01cc
Ivermectin works by increasing the release and binding capacity of a
neurotransmitter chemical named GABA in the central nervous system. This is an
inhibitory NT (neurotransmitter), which results in neurological depression by
reducing information flow at nerve junctions, and this drug can be given this
way to treat parasite-infested mammals, as it has poor access to the central
nervous system of the mammal, but penetrates easily into the
parasite's--paralyzing and killing it.
Essentially, this product is a neurotoxin. It is used with extreme toxin in
Collies and collie-crosses, as they seem to experience more rapid and easy
penetration of this drug into their brain--via the blood stream. Clinical sign
of toxicity include dilated pupils, depression, tremors, ataxia (imbalance),
stupor, vomiting, drooling, coma and death.
Putting this drug down deep in the ear canal, is basically asking to get high
levels of the drug in the CNS, as this would definitely improve penetration
through the middle and inner ear. Additionally, it is not likely that the
people using this drug would be using the tiny doses referred to above, to plac
in the ear--rather larger doses to try to kill their dog's "purported mite".
Treatment of the ivermectin-induced toxicity is basically supportive--a few
medications may be useful in treating the overdose.
I guess I would never put my dogs at risk, by using a known neuro toxin to wor
as a preventative or treatment in their ears. Just way too close to the CNS.
Soooo, the doctors all laughed--thank God I don't mind it too much. But, one
neuro specialist did recover adequately for me to verity what was so amusing.
He did state that if the BMDCA or local club desires to subsidize it, he'd be
willing to do a study (only joking, mind you!!!).
Hopefully this sheds some light on the Fly Snapping Controversy and Ivermectin,
Laurel S. Cain, Dogidoc
BERNER-L Digest 325
Date: Fri, 31 May 1996 08:28 -0500 (EST)
From: susan_vanocker@Merck.Com (Susan Vanocker)
Subject: Fly Catching
The discussion on flycatching has been very interesting. Thank you Laura
for posing the question at your annual Internal Medicine meeting. (Having
attended annual technical-type seminars, I imagine the comic relief was
somewhat welcome from the participants.)
There are two types of seizures I have seen, one actually is fly catching,
and the second is as if Jess's tongue is stuck in a licking action - both
kind of weird to see. Jess started having these seizures when she was about
1 y.o. I started tracking when she would have these fly catching episodes -
it was either late in the evening, before bed when she was tired -or- when
she was stressed. (When I took her to the vet and she actually started
catching flies in front of the vet.) We did not put her on any medication,
because the frequency of the seizures is low and she is not in danger during
Laura, your description on staring " intently in the middle distance" is
As she has gotten older, I have noticed a slight increase in frequency,
but they never last for more than 5 - 10 seconds and usually just late in
the evening before bed and we call her name which helps to bring her out of
Sue Van Ocker
BERNER-L Digest 357
Date: Wed, 3 Jul 1996 11:03:58 -0400
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Barbara Grasso)
Subject: Re: fly snap syndrome
Acupuncture has worked for your type of situation. If you need a vet that
is certified in acupuncture go to the web.
>I went away for two days and returned home to find Caymus
>with what I thought was a hot spot on the top of his paw,
>which he is licking constantly.We went directly to the vet
>who said it isn't a hot spotbut more a nervous situation like
>a himan biting his nails.We have pills for prednesone and i
>think an antibiotic,and aspray but he is still licking even using
>a sock and an ace bandage.He seems to have a mild case a Fly Snapping,could
>anyone who knows about fly snap e-mail me
>ASAP as I have in my notes that it is a "Psyco Motor Seizure"
>what is the remedy?Is it connected to his ears as he is shaking
>his head alot? Thanks
> Daisy and theMooseman(Those flies are driving me
> crazy Mom)
Barbara Grasso & The DeGrasso Kids
Berners & Rotts, Virginia, USA
Every Day Is A New Beginning!
BERNER-L Digest 358
Date: 04 Jul 96 06:42:48 EDT
From: "LAUREL S. CAIN"
Subject: Leg licking and Fly snapping
Re:>>I went away for two days and returned home to find Caymus
with what I thought was a hot spot on the top of his paw,
which he is licking constantly.We went directly to the vet
who said it isn't a hot spotbut more a nervous situation like
a himan biting his nails.We have pills for prednesone and i
think an antibiotic,and aspray but he is still licking even using
a sock and an ace bandage.He seems to have a mild case a Fly Snapping,could
anyone who knows about fly snap e-mail me
ASAP as I have in my notes that it is a "Psyco Motor Seizure"
what is the remedy?Is it connected to his ears as he is shaking
his head alot? Thanks
Sorry, I got carried away!! . I asked a question on fly snapping of some
esteemed colleagues about a month ago and got laughed at....
Anyhow, the lesion you describe on the leg along with your veterinarian's
comments indicate that this is probably an acral lick granuloma. This is a
nonhealing wound caused by excessive selflicking an area on the extremities. I
is considered a vice, as you mentioned, and may or may not have had an
initiating injury at the site which started the licking in the first place. It
is commonly held that these lesions and the licking behavior may be associated
with boredom and inadequate stimulation--many cases have improved with variable
forms of injectable or topical therapy, increased exercise and mental
stimulation, physical barriers to licking, or antianxiety or other behavioral
modification drugs--or a combination of the above.
I'm not sure how your fly-snapping question fits in because I wasn't sure if yo
thought that this licking behavior was fly-snapping or if your dog was actually
doing this. As you mentioned, this illness is indeed a psychomotor seizure, an
is best handled by anticonvulsant forms of therapy--with variable success. Tru
fly-snapping behavior is not associated with deep parasites or infection in the
ears, however it does make sense that if deep infection or parasitism did occur
in the external otic canals, the irritation and odd noises would stimulate some
strange behavior in the affected dog.
Hope this is of some help.
Laurel S. Cain, DVM
BERNER-L Digest 394
Date: Sat, 10 Aug 1996 18:38:38, -0500
From: UNUW49A@prodigy.com (MR BRUCE MACEWAN)
Subject: Fly Snapping Syndrome & Vitamine C
I'm sure it was mentioned and I missed it, but how much vitamine C is
appropriate during times of stress and what is the best form.
Also, I posted before to see if anyone could tell me the digest
numbers for the discussion of fly snapping as I missed it. Haven't
had a reply. If anyone remembers, please advise. My boy 'Bjorn' has
had this behavior on and off since I've had him. He's two years old
and we got him at 8 months. He will have several episodes causing me
concern, and then he won't do it again for several weeks or months.
I am wondering if it is allergy related as it seems to occurr when
polin is in the air. I have heard of the 'misfiring of the brain' as
an explaination with phenobarb and the treatement. But he is not at
a point that I would give a stronge medication like that, and my vet
agrees. Anyway any input would be appreciated.
Diane, 'Bjorn' and must not forget my Golden Girl, Spring.
BERNER-L Digest 447
Date: Wed, 02 Oct 1996 13:54 -0500 (EST)
From: susan_vanocker@Merck.Com (Susan Vanocker)
Subject: Fly Snapping - Treatment options
A few months ago we posted some discussion on "Fly snapping syndrome"a.k.a.
pyschomotor seizures. I remember a few responses said that they have seen
this behavior in their BMD. I was wondering if anyone has treated (either
phenobarbitol (?) or holistically or other) their berner for this syndrome.
If so, what was the severity and frequency of the "fly snapping" before
and after treatment. What were the side effects of the treatment, if any?
Thanks in advance!
Sue Van Ocker (& Jessie & Phoebe)
BERNER-L Digest 448
Date: Wed, 02 Oct 1996 11:37:42 -0300
From: Das Bunger Haus
Subject: fly snap
>Date: Wed, 02 Oct 1996 11:21:41 -0300
>From: Das Bunger Haus
>Subject: fly snap
>My 7 yr old female has the 'fly snap' syndrome--she started doing this
about 3 yrs ago. I spoke to my vet about it, but he didn't seem overly
concerned about treating it with medication, so I never have. I noticed
that when she's having an episode, she became totally oblivious to
everything else, so I started going over to her and distracting her--sort of
"interrupting" the episode. This has been beneficial I think--her episode
are much shorter in duration, and I don't think she does it as frequently.
It may just be coincidental, but I think this has helped.
>I also wanted to concur with Jane about involving Oprah in the puppy mill
problem. I work in a book store, and Oprah is a mega-force in the book
industry, and I'm sure anything else she is passionate about. I think she
is a dog owner--she may be very sympathetic to this.
BERNER-L Digest 567
Date: Wed, 22 Jan 1997 09:30:43 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Hello from Tracy & Gingus - medical problems ("air biting")
Hello!!! I'm Tracy Crawford and I have a 3 year old Bernese named Gingus.
He's a wonderful dog, but not always in the best of health. I started
searching the internet for help in avoiding our third specialist in three
years, and found this wonderful resource. Gingus has what appears to be
called "fly biting." My research (& vet) indicate this is known as a
particular subcategory of seizures known as "Complex Partial Seizures." I
was wondering if anyone on the mailing list has had personal experience with
this type of seizures and could provide me with more info. I'm not sure
whose dog was "air biting" but there are two websites where I found some
info. (I think I've done the web search...)
HTTP:/www.vet.ohio-state.edu/docs/seizure/comptext html which actually has
a video clip and
Gingus has also had orthopedic problems, Cosequin which did wonders, surgery
that turned out to be exploratory and a daily dose of Ascriptin for a year, wh
ich cleared up his mystery limp. He also has severe allergy's.
I've been reading the mailing list for a week, and I must admit it's nice to
hear that the majority of Bernese are pretty healthy. Gingus also eats just
about everything - the baby's sock, birdseed, paper... When we moved, we
found the vet then the pediatrician.
I would love to hear from anyone about the seizures, but please send it to my
email - email@example.com. With a lovely two year old, Kaylynn, I only manage
to check my mail every couple of days and 5 or 6 of the digests takes a lot
of work. I'd hate to miss something. Thanks.
Date: Wed, 22 Jan 1997 11:35:47 -0500 (EST)
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, Momchance@aol.com
Subject: Re: biting the air
My berners boyfriend started to bite the air this past summer. He was taken
to the vet several times, first thought, "phantom flies", but no suggestions.
His behavior continued on a bizarre trend, quickly turning to check his rear
quarters, running unexpectedly from room to room, aggitated crying; things
all out of character with this dog.
Finally blood work done and it was determined that his thyroid was low. Since
having been put on a regulator medicine, no more biting the air or other odd
behaviors. It's worth checking.
BERNER-L Digest 569
Date: Thu, 23 Jan 1997 19:32:44 -0500
From: Delma Smith
Subject: Re: Other Reasons for Fly Snapping
Hi there fellow L-ers,
Having made a New Years resolution to finish my novel, I'm going to
be unsubscribing to the list for the next month or two. I'll check to
archives now and then to keep up with what's going on.
A few years ago, our bitch Dazzle did a LOT of fly snapping, whirling
around to fend off whatever demon was attacking from the rear. She
would act terrified, runing through the house to find a dark corner
where she could hide. All this time she was being treated for a
chronic ear fungus that held on for months and months. One day my vet
said he thought he saw a piece of cotton in her ear canal. That didn't
surprise me since I had cleaned her ears the day before and wiped them
out with cotton ball. When he retrieved the "cotton", it turned out to
be a tumor. The next day, he put her under and removed two other
suspicious growths. To make a long story short, she had a squamous
cell carcinoma of the horizontal ear canal. She underwent a total
ablation of the ear canal. It left her with a slight variation in her
ear set but took care of the problem.(It didn't prevent her from
placing in the group a few months later) It's been almost three years
since her surgery. The only time she snaps now is when she is
snapping at the real horseflys who love to torment her.
So don't just accept the "seizure" scenario. There may be other
reasons for your dog's bizarre behavior. I'm sure you really wanted to
Love the list. Keep it up...
BERNER-L Digest 573
Date: Tue, 28 Jan 1997 15:59:06 -0500 (EST)
Subject: "Fly biting" (snapping, catching) Summary of info.
I'd like to thank everybody for their help relating information about "Fly
Catching". Especially Pat Long!! She is trying to organize all of the
digests and sent me all the information ever seen in Berner-L about this
subject. I was amazed and impressed. I've compiled about all the
information I've seen about this subject below. Most is from the newsgroup,
some from the web, and some from my vet. The information below may not be
completely accurate, but it's what I found. If anyone has any contradictions
or additional info please let me know. I also have a list of several
possible additional reference sources. Please respond to my my Email
Who knows about "Fly Catching"
-Dog owners. There seems to be a lot of Bernese owners who've had some
>From what I've seen and heard most general practice veterinarians have had
almost no experience with "Fly Catching."
Is it really a Seizure?
- The Bernese seem to exhibit "fly catching" behavior somewhat frequently.
It is also attributed to several condition (mostly ear) that are not listed
as a cause for seizures that I've found. Most descriptions do not show other
symptoms common to seizures, increased frequency or duration. Since "fly
catching" seems to be an unusual seizure in general it could be a condition
that needs more medical research. Is it really seizures???
-Is the dog seeing something real, but too small? or have something stuck in
their mouth? You'll have to use your own judgment based on frequency.
-Some dogs exhibit "fly-snapping" behavior when they have ear mites that are
so deep in the ear that detection is difficult or low grade yeast infections.
Type & Symptoms of "true" Seizure
-Complex Partial Seizures. Also termed psyhomotor seizures, these animals
may show "fly-biting" behavior patterns, become aggressive without
provocation, howl incessantly, become restless or exhibit a variety of motor
disturbances. (Michael Podell, MSC, DVM)
-Suffers spend most of their lives staring intently into the middle distance
and frequently reaching forward with their head to snap their jaws closed as
if there were some flying organism there to be consumed. (Laurel S. Cain)
-People with complex partial seizures experience distortions of thought,
perception or emotion (usually fear), sometimes with unusual visual,
olfactory, auditory, and gustatory sensations. If dogs experience the same
things, it may explain the lip-smacking, chewing, fly biting, aggression,
vocalization, hysterical running, cowering or hiding in otherwise normal
animals. Vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal distress, salivation, blindness,
unusual thirst or appetite, and flank biting are other signs. There is an
obvious lack of awareness though usually not lack of consciousness. Abnormal
behaviors may last minutes or hours and can be followed by a generalized
seizure. Complex partial seizures are usually associated with secondary
-a few seconds to an hour or more (Gingus. I'm still trying to decide if
this is true seizures.)
-Some dogs it seems to be almost continuous for a couple of days then
Progression to General Seizures
- a few dogs have had one grand mal seizure, that could easily be attributed
to an electrolyte or blood sugar imbalance.
- I've heard of no cases where the fly catching seizures in Bernese get
progressively worse or indications that it can lead to other symptoms
traditionally associated with seizures. (See Type & Symptoms.) According
to seizure literature, it is quite likely that the area of the brain effected
can expand as it effects nearby neurons.
- Primarily unknown. Some seizures are classified as "idiopathic" - meaning
we don't know the reason.
- The fly snapping activity may be caused by ear infections. Particularly
yeast, even low grade. This would probably not be true seizure activity.
- squamous cell carcinoma of the horizontal ear canal (in other words a
- Seems to be triggered by stress in some dogs.
- I heard several times about thyroid problems triggering "fly catching (this
may be included in the following list...)
-Seizures in general can be cause by a variety of extracranial medical
conditions - Hypoglycemia, liver disease, Hpocalcemia, renal disease,
Hypoxia, Hyperkalemia, Hypomagnesemia, Hyperlipoproteinemia, Intestinal
Parasitism, Allergy (food induces hypersensitivity) Heat stroke.
-Maybe. More acute forms of epilepsy are genetic. A couple of the dogs that
I heard of are distantly related to my dog.
- According to general seizure literature drugs have variable success with
"fly-catching." According to several dog owners, Phenobarbital is used to
control seizure when they are severe. There are side effects and animals
develop tolerance levels to Phenobarbital.
-Distraction, talking, and petting the dog seems to help in mild cases.
- Ivormectin- If it is ear mites or parasites deep in the ear. There was a
lot of discussion about this, but there is no evidence of it being tried.
Note: This is a "neurotoxin" and is an extreme toxin in some other breeds
(Collies.) Laurel Cain (I believe she's a neurologist from the post on
Berner-L) does not recommend putting this deep into the ear due to the
proximity to the Central Nervous System.
-Acupuncture (http://www.monmouth.com/~altvetmed/ )
Web sites with general seizure info.
-www.vet.ohio-state.edu/docs/seizure/index.html There are videos of dogs
having seizures here.
(also shown at
BERNER-L Digest 895
Subject: Fwd: Fly-snapping [biting] Syndrome
Date: Fri, 26 Sep 1997 22:04:07 -0400 (EDT)
I have a berner boy who is 6 years old. In June he started snapping the air
like he was trying to get a fly but no fly in site. My vet put him on
phenobarb as we were thinking this behavior may be indicative if focal-motor
seizures. I saw very little improvement. I weaned him of phenobarb and
started benedryl 50mg twice a day. The improvement has been monumental. He
has rare snapping events. Can anybody tell me about this phoenomenom? Also
his liver enzymes went sky high, he lost 12 lbs. and had some vomiting. This
happened in August. He recovered but my vet couldn"t tell me why this
happened. I would love to hear from anybody who can shed some light on these
2 events. I love to hear about berners and would welcome any E-Mail.
thanks-Jan from Kansas
Subject: Re: Fly-snapping [biting] Syndrome
Date: Fri, 26 Sep 1997 22:00:05 -0000
From: "Ruth Reynolds"
Sounds to me like your young fellow has experienced a health crisis
from which he may recover without intervention. That is has not
been diagnosed, does not diminish its presence.
I am fascinated by this "phenomenon" in Berners and would like to
relate briefly a story to which I can add a multitude of details
privately if any one is specifically interested.
A Berner I produced and sold began experiencing fly snapping about
a month after her spay. The day of the spay the animal was
anesthetized three times (told to the owner by the veternarian) due
to emergencies interrupting the "about to begin" surgery. We will
never know whether this played a part in the enslaught of fly
snapping in this dog. Did this cause a crisis in this dog's
constitution? I think it significant enough to note but not to
jump to a conclusion. The fly snapping increased in volume over
time until the animal was snapping 20 hours per day. The owner's
new vet had tried massive doses of phenobarbitol which did not
affect the dog at all....didn't even make her drowsy. The vet was
just about at wits end and euthanasia was on everyone's mind when I
convinced the owner to send the dog to me. She did.
Upon arrival in Florida, the fly snapping had diminished to
multiple episodes throughout the day but not a constant behavior.
She slept in our bedroom at night and within a week of her arrival
we were all sleeping through the night.
Using crude and simple behavior modification techniques (primarily
ignoring the behavior) and working the dog daily, requiring more of
her than have ever been required, the incidences of fly snapping
were reduced to half within a week, 20 percent within a month and
at the end of 8 months with us, the dog snapped only once in the
last month in our presence. I worked with the dog daily on
obedience drills as she was incredibly rude when she came back to
us. She was balky, sulky when worked, and generally either very
cooperative or totally uncooperative.
After 8 months of rehab, I returned the dog to her home in the
northeast and stayed with the family for 2 days to work with them
in understanding how they had actually reinforced this behavior in
their dog. This dog had also been the victim of abuse in an
obedience class, labeled a "difficult" dog, and had been allowed
too much freedom, not enought jobs, and developed very little self
discipline and self restraint prior to her return to us. Needless,
perhaps to say, she acquired these things in our care. When
returned, the family's 5 year old child walked her on a leash for
the first time.
The dog remains with the same family 5.5 years later at age 7.
She experiences daily fly snapping episodes which last a few
seconds and occur several (2-3) times per day.
Based on this experience I feel that some dogs' fly snapping is
stress induced. In some cases the behavior is inadvertently
encourage by owners who are frightened by it and placate their dogs
midst episodes and often at other times too. In the cases of
several dogs I've subsequently worked with, the dogs had little
stimulation...were practically home bound and were very bright
I encourage those whose dogs experience fly snapping to rack your
brain to figure out what is different in the dog's life....what has
changed in your life that when perceived by your dog causes undue
stress. Things to consider are change of residence, job,
individuals in household,work schedule, loss of a family member, or
acute or chronic illness in the dog or its humans. In the cases
I've worked with re: fly snapping, usually the behavior is
precipitated by a major life change in the owner or dog's life.
Sometimes knowing what that stress is avails us of an opportunity
to address aleviating it.
Also, I would suggest you start working your dog daily in obedience
or agility drills or tracking....anything to occupy and stimulate
an intelligent mind which may be going to waste...or may be
occupying itself in other irritating ways.
I will gratuitously review cases of fly snapping dogs and offer
management suggestions. I make no claims or promises...only offer
hope for relief where previously there may have been none.
Ruth Reynolds RAR@PHONL.com
Canine Behavioral Services
Subject: Re: Fwd: Fly-snapping [biting] Syndrome
Date: Fri, 26 Sep 1997 22:41:06 -0500 (CDT)
From: email@example.com (susan ablon)
I have owned one dog that exhibited fly snap behavior. The problem
originated when he was about 5yr. and progressed with age. I never felt that
it was so severe that it required medication especially something as strong
as phenobarb. This dog would at night all of a sudden begin to snap at
something. Usually a reality check (like calling his name) would interupt
the behavior and he would stop. As it progressed he exhibited other psycho
motor "hallucinations" lip smacking as if he had just had something tasty,
jumping up and looking under himself as if he had been bitten by a bug and
barking at the door as if someone were there. He did these things
periodically and never all at once.
Fly-snap in its true sense is a form of epilepsy limited to psycho motor
responses. It is usually diagnosed by the report of the owner. It can become
debilitating if it becomes so severe that the dog is unable to be reality
focused and allows the hallucinations to hamper his life style.
That your dog responded to Benadryl makes one wonder if the problems were
truly fly snap or possibly an inner ear problem. Some of the other list
members have said that their dogs who seemed to have fly snap quit the
behavior when ear infections were cleared up.
Balch Springs, Tx USA
BERNER-L Digest 1072
Date: Sat, 24 Jan 1998 21:41:13 -0500
From: Pat Long & Paul Dangel
I treated myself to several vet books from W B Saunders, one of which is
"Immune-Associated Diseases and Nondermatologic Allergy." As I was just
scanning quickly through, I came across this case history.
"A Bernese mountain dog was presented to the author for dermatologic
examination. The owner described him as being quite vicious on many
occasions. Fly-chasing activity was repeatedly reported every time the
dog was examined. The patient was seen often while under treatment for a
recurrent staphylococcal pyoderma.
"An integral part of my treatment of staphylococcal pyodermas is to
attempt to eliminate the possibility of food allergy as an underlying
cause. This consists of feeding a diet of boiled lamb and rice prepared
in distilled water in glass cooking vessels.
"Within days of the dietary change, the dog ceased to 'chase flies.'
Because the dog did not show a significant dermal improvement with the
dietary change, the owner returned the dog to a commercial dog-food diet
and the so-called fly-chasing activity returned."
>From "Seizures and Other Neurologic Manifestations of Allergy" by James
R. Collins, DVM, Houston TX
The Veterinary Clinics of North America, Small Animal Practice, W B
Saunders, July 1994
I found this interesting, since we have discussed fly-snap on many
occasions. Most of the time it seems to be psycho-motor seizure
activity, but some people have had success with treating ear problems
and having the fly-snap go away. Other people have been able to reduce
the length of the fly-snap episodes with behavioral modification
techniques. I had never thought to associate seizures with food
allergies. Just another possibility.
Pat Long, Vesta & Maggie, (Sam & Luther)
BERNER-L Digest 1168
Subject: flycatching behaviour
Date: Sat, 28 Mar 98 10:13:07 UT
From: "Leslie Farhangi"
To: "Bernese Mailing List"
Basel, my almost 6 year old berner, has fly-biting seizures. Two vets in two
countries (US and UK) agree that this is a form of epilepsy and Basel is on
Others on the list have written about the behavioural aspect of flybiting, but
in my opinion, sometimes flybiting has a physical cause and is not
behavioural. It sounds like your dog isn't doing it as frequently as Basel
would if he didn't get his medicine. If he has many seizures, Basel also gets
anxious. But if your dog doesn't have many, and isn't anxious, then I would
not concentrate on the medical side and would look at the behavioural side.
Leslie Farhangi & Basel
Subject: Radio Fence and Fly Snapping
Date: Sat, 28 Mar 1998 19:26:22 EST
I said I wasn't going to get into the IF topic again! But as someone has
mentioned Radio Fence,I think it might be of some interest to hear what
happened to me. I have the Invisible Fence brand fence at home and also
at our summer place. My dogs have had the collars for years and 2 of them
are the older type which can use different size batteries.
My neighbor in the summer decided to get an IF and bought a Radio Fence on
sale somewhere while on vacation. Now,our properties are small intown lots
which is where then problem started! Hers was the same frequency as mine,
and they cancelled each other out!
She called and they said there was nothing they could do. So I called my
in Connecticut, and they said if she could find a used one, or buy a new one,I
could bring it to them and they would change the frequency at no cost! Mine
couldn't be changed because of the two older collars. She packed up her Radio
Fence,as they have no installers or on sight training,and got a refund and did
find a used IF sysytem and I took to Connecitcut got it changed and everyone
is happy! This is one reason why Invisible Fence brand is more money,but in
instance you can see why it's worth it! One of my berners fly snaps when he
has an ear infection or something is hurting
him. It's kind of like bitting your nails. I know that there are other things
cause fly snapping, but in my dog,it's always the ears!
Daisy,the Gooseman, and Sweet Max
BERNER-L Digest 1445
Subject: Other Reasons for Fly-Snapping
Date: Sat, 05 Sep 1998 20:09:28 +0000
From: Delma Smith
I have to agree with Ruth..I know of at least ONE case where acute
fly-snapping was NOT seizure related. Our Dazzle spent hours gazing up
and stalking invisible flys. And HOURS is not an exaggeration.
She had a chronic ear infection that required frequent vet visits. One
day the vet saw what appeared to be a piece of cotton deep in her ear (I
frequently wiped out her ears with a cotton balls). He reached in with
forceps and we were both shocked when he pulled out a piece of a
tumor.The next day he removed three small growths in her ear canal. She
continued to "snap flys" and a couple of months later she had the whole
ear canal removed and the ear sewn shut. The dx was basel cell carcinoma
with squamous differentiation (msp). The fly-snapping stopped almost
immedietly. That was three years ago and she will be seven in a couple
The vets said she was probably hearing sloshing,crackling,humming
noises due to the fluid buildup in her ear. Anyway the cessessation of
"fly snapping" was so dramatic, it was obvious that it was connected
with the growths in her ear. I've always been grateful that my vet
didn't dismiss the syndrome as "seizure-related" and instead kept
looking for other answers.
Delma Smith in Pittsburg, KS where the grass is burned up and looks
terrible BUT I don't have to mow anymore. YES!
BERNER-L Digest 1487
Subject: fly snapping
Date: Tue, 06 Oct 1998 09:06:38 -0500
From: Tina Slanc
Organization: COOPER POWER SYSTEMS
I've read the archived posts regarding fly snapping but would like to
know what's the first line of action in determining the cause. Our 4
1/2 year old berner, Ginger, has shown this behavior in the past 2-3
weeks. She is otherwise a healthy berner with no health problem (except
the occassional attack of the gulps). I've read some of the causes may
be food allergies or an ear infection of some kind. Should I make an
appointment with the vet right away or try something on my own. She
does seem to scratch her ears often, especially when she has been on her
back for a while (while playing or the mandatory belly rubs).
Any help would be appreciated.
Tina S. and Ginger
Subject: Fly Snap Syndrome
Date: Tue, 6 Oct 1998 11:58:57 EDT
I've heard of fly snap syndrome for many years, but never a definitive
solution. The other day I call a call from an owner of one of my pups (now 18
months) who had been demonstrating the syndrome for about a month, and really
upsetting the owners. X-rays at the vet's showed a misalignment in the jaw,
similar to TMJ in humans. They're consulting an orthodontist specialist now
for corrective surgery. He was snapping at the air and exhibiting fear
because he was trying to get his jaw back in place, evidentally. Anyone hear
this as a cause for fly snap syndrome? Jane McGovern
BERNER-L Digest 1648
Subject: Fly snap
Date: Wed, 30 Dec 1998 10:04:11 EST
I had recently posted a request for a home for a young male with fly snap
syndrome and I thank all who responded. Humphrey has been placed. I did
receive information from one member on a holistic vet that she consulted with
who has had success treating fly snap and contributed the problem to a
reaction to the rabies vaccine. Humphrey had received the rabies vaccine in
June and shortly after had begun the fly snapping. The vet is Larry A.
Bernstein, VMD (FL) and he has a web page at http://www.naturalholistic.com.
He has other Berner clients whose names I recognized. Dr. Bernstein sent me
some homeopathic remedies and I treated him as I withdrew the potassium
bromide that he had been on. While at my home I saw only an occasional "snap"
and before he left I was seeing no symptoms. It's a treatment that I would
consider worth trying for someone with this problem. Jane McGovern
BERNER-L Digest 1808
Subject: Fly Snap Syndrome
Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 14:32:04 -0500
From: "David Moore"
To: "Berner-L List"
Well, I just couldn,t let this go by. Diesel, my 4 year old berner had
surgery several weeks ago for a hematoma on his ear. Three days later,
there was obvious infection and we went back to the vets. He was put on
Primor 1200mg. This is a broad spectrum antibiotic. According to the
instructions, I have gave him 2 pills the first day , and he was to have one
pill a day for 2 weeks. After the first dose, that night, he started the
fly snap syndrome. When I took him back to the vets to have the stitches
taken out I mentioned it to the vet. His answer was that if this was his
only symptom, don't worry about it. Well, two days later we left for
Tucson, with Diesel in the care of my son. With only one dose left, he had
a full blown reaction. His whole face swelled up, he had a temperature of
104, the lymph nodes in his neck were the size of a fist, and he was so
stiff he could hardly move. After another trip to the vets and blood tests
that showed all this to be a reaction to the Primor. One day after being
off the Primor he was almost 100 percent better, and I have not seen any
sign of fly snap syndrome. Today , Diesel is again having surger y
on the same ear on the same sight for another hematoma. Why, neither I nor
the vets know. But I can tell you one thing, he will NEVER be on Primor
again. Just thought I should pass this along in case this ever happens to
any of your dogs.
Carolyn Moore, Bristol, Tn.
and Berners, Paisley, Freyja, Leo, Diesel and Betty
BERNER-L Digest 1932
From: "Bruce Macewan"
To: "Berner List"
Subject: potasium bromide
Date: Thu, 10 Jun 1999 20:53:15 -0400
My boy Bjorn has fly snapping syndrome and has been on phenobarb for about
two years. I switched him to potasium bromide about 2 1/2 months ago and
have found it to be much better.
On the pheno, he was on a low dose, but continued to have some problems.
With the potasium bromide there are supposed to be less side effects with
the liver, and he rarely has any fly snapping behavior. I even cut the dose
recommended by the vet in 2/3 because he was initially too drowsey and the
lower dose is working well. We have been on 750, twice a day for two monts
now, instead of the recommened 750, three times a day.
Potasium bromide is used for other kinds of epilepsy as well.
Any other experiences with PB out there?
Diane, Else the Wonder dog, and Bjorn
BERNER-L Digest 2622
Subject: Fly Catching
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2000 10:36:02 -0400
To: "Berner List"
Our 3 year old Berner male has had fly catching seizures for about a year
now. They showed up just after our son ( first child in house) was born. I
can't blame him, as my wife and I were pretty tense those first few months
It is not an ear infection but seems to be a true seizure. His (dog that is)
mother had the same seizures for a little while at this same age. But her's
were not as bad.
We have put him in Phenobarbital as it seems to work, but I am not happy
about this due to possible side effects on his liver (none yet as tests
show) later in life.
Has anyone had a similar experience with their Berner (ours is male and
fixed). The seizures don't bother him too much besides the staring into
space and occasional snapping into the air. When he spends time with a
number of other dogs he does this much less or not at all. Seems to be worse
at night when he has nothing keeping his attention.
David and Opus (he is the son of one of Kate Elders Dogs and Bev B. (NY Bev)
if that helps)-Please reply to me by email as I don't get to check the
BERNER-L Digest 3409
Subject: Fly snapping
Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2001 10:09:06 EDT
My berner Caymus, was a fly snapper. It took a while to figure out why, but
for him, it was his ears. He was prone to infections, and when he got one, he would fly snap. He also would lick his paws, until he almost licked the fur off. He also could have been doing it when something hurt him, inside, but as dogs can't tell us, I'm not sure about that.
Subject: RE: fly snapping
Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2001 13:16:32 -0400
From: "Rose Tierney"
To: "Elaine Diedrich"
I am currently treating a young bitch for pseudynomous infection
in one ear. This has been a particularly stubborn infection as
this type of bacteria is very aggressive causing severe
ulceration in the ear canal and rupturing of the ear drum. This
young girl became very head shy, and also aggressive towards her
dog companions. Pseudynomous becomes antibiotic resistant at warp
speed so treatment has been varied and intensive. If your
friend's Rottie is displaying fearful behaviour it might be a
good idea for her to be anaethestised and her ears flushed and
examined closely for eardrum compromise. Sometimes an inner ear
infection causes the drum to arch outwards and actually has to be
surgically broken to drain. As she has a history of ear
infections I would definately be having a close examination and
submitting cultures for analysis. I am happy to say that my girl
is on the mend and with that her self confidence is improving and
she is happy and playful again.
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