Flycatcher Syndrome in Cavaliers: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

If your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is acting strange, exhibiting sudden episodes of biting the air, and compulsively chasing its tail, it may be suffering from a condition called Flycatcher Syndrome.

Flycatcher syndrome is a rare condition that is characterized by sudden, occasional, or constant episodes of snapping the air, sometimes accompanied by jumping and licking. This condition is not exclusive to Cavaliers, but they do appear to be predisposed to it.

The cause of flycatcher syndrome is not yet fully understood, and there are conflicting theories as to its classification. If you suspect that your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is suffering from flycatcher syndrome, it is important to consult with your veterinarian.

What is Flycatcher Syndrome?

Flycatcher syndrome is a neurological disorder that affects dogs. It’s also known as “fly-biting syndrome”, “fly-snapping syndrome”, or “fly-snapping syndrome.” Cavalier King Charles Spaniels with this condition will suddenly snap or bite at the air as if they’re trying to catch a fly or other imaginary insects.

Some dogs may also display other symptoms, such as tail chasing, licking, or swallowing.

What Causes Flycatcher Syndrome?

The exact cause of flycatcher syndrome in dogs is unknown, but it’s believed that the syndrome is a result of a genetic mutation passed down through their parents.

While the exact cause is debated, some theories suggest it could be:

  • A type of seizure where the dog is having hallucinations
  • A compulsive disorder
  • A digestive disorder 

Symptoms of Flycatcher Syndrome

If your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is suffering from flycatcher syndrome, you may notice some unusual symptoms. Here are some common symptoms to look out for:

  • Watching imaginary flies buzzing in front of its face
  • Trying to bite the imaginary flies
  • Compulsively chasing their tails
  • Acting as if their ears or paws are irritated
  • Episodes that may last for several hours
  • In severe cases, constantly exhibiting these symptoms

It’s important to note that these symptoms are not unique to flycatcher syndrome and can be indicative of other conditions as well. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause.

In addition to the symptoms listed above, flycatcher syndrome has also been associated with other disorders such as Syringomyelia, Idiopathic asymptomatic Thrombocytopenia, and epileptic seizures. If your dog is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it’s important to bring them to the attention of your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Treatment Options

If your Cavalier has been diagnosed with flycatcher syndrome, you probably already know that there isn’t a universal treatment. The treatment for flycatcher’s syndrome in CKCS is complicated and should be tailored to the individual dog’s symptoms and the suspected underlying cause.

There are several options to help reduce symptoms and elevate your dog’s standard of living.


Medications are often the first line of treatment for flycatcher syndrome in Cavaliers. Antiepileptic drugs such as phenobarbital and gabapentin can help control the abnormal brain activity that causes the symptoms. Antidepressants like fluoxetine can also be effective in reducing the frequency and severity of episodes.

It’s crucial to work closely with your veterinarian to determine the best medication regimen for your dog. Dosages may need to be adjusted over time to achieve the best results, and some dogs may not respond well to certain medications.

Behavioral Modification

In addition to medications, behavioral modification techniques can also be helpful in managing flycatcher syndrome. These techniques can help reduce stress and anxiety, which can trigger episodes.

Some techniques that may be effective include:

  • Providing a calm and predictable environment for your pet
  • Avoiding situations that may trigger episodes, such as loud noises or sudden movements
  • Using positive reinforcement training to teach your dog to relax and stay calm
  • Providing plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to help reduce stress and anxiety

Alternative Therapies

In some cases, alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, and herbal remedies may be helpful in managing flycatcher syndrome. While there is limited scientific evidence to support the use of these therapies, many pet owners report positive results.

Living with Flycatcher Syndrome

If your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has been diagnosed with flycatcher syndrome, it can be a challenging condition to manage, but it is possible to live with it.

Here are a few tips to help you and your furry friend cope:

Environmental Management

Reducing stress and anxiety in your dog’s environment can help minimize the frequency of flycatcher syndrome episodes.

Creating a calm routine and avoiding triggers such as leaving your dog alone or exposing it to stressful situations.

Exercise and Stimulation

Regular exercise and mental stimulation can help reduce stress and anxiety in dogs. Make sure your dog gets plenty of opportunities to play, explore, and interact with you and other dogs. 

Puzzle toys, chew toys, and interactive games can also help keep your dog’s mind active and engaged.


Depending on the root cause of a dog’s fly-biting syndrome, the dietary recommendations may differ. For digestive problems, a vet might recommend a specific digestible diet.

On the other hand, in the case of neurological concerns like epilepsy, a low-carb and high-fat diet could be beneficial, potentially reducing the occurrence and intensity of seizures.

You should talk to your veterinarian about the best diet for your dog’s specific needs. In general, a nutritious, well-balanced diet can help control fly-biting episodes.


Training your dog can help improve their behavior and reduce anxiety. Positive reinforcement training techniques can help build your dog’s confidence and teach them new skills.

Consider working with a professional dog trainer who has experience working with dogs with neurological conditions.