Syringomyelia is one of mankind's “great gifts” to dogs--Cavalier King Charles Spaniels to be specific, although it can affect other breeds as well. There is a website set up for stories about different breeds affected by this disease, Friends of Lola.
As we selectively breed for our own specific purposes, it is our dogs that end up on the short end of the stick. I believe that we should, for once, put our interests aside, and start doing what is right by our best friends. Let's breed responsibly with the welfare of our dogs in mind!
In the meantime, it is very important to make yourself familiar with any hereditary diseases that might affect the breed of your choice.
It is estimated that over 50% of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are affected by syringomyelia!
What Is Syringomyelia?
Syringomyelia (SM) is a disease that is just as nasty as it is trying to pronounce it. However, phonics aside, if you are considering getting a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, or already have one, I urge you to learn about this condition.
Technically speaking, syringomyelia is caused by a partial blockage of the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). As a result, pressure builds and the fluid is pushed into the spinal cord where it forms fluid pockets called “syrinxes”, damaging the spinal cord. Affected dogs can suffer significant pain, weakness, incoordination and even paralysis.
Syringomyelia can occur as a complication of trauma, inflammation or a tumor. The most common cause in dogs, however, is a hereditary malformation.
In Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, syringomyelia is caused by a skull malformation that compresses, and often herniates, the back part of the brain near where it attaches to the spinal cord. In other words, the skull is too small for the brain.
Not all affected dogs will show symptoms, or their symptoms can be overlooked or misinterpreted. That's why owner awareness is so important! It can save your dog's life.
One of the typical symptoms is scratching the air near the neck, often only on one side of the body. That's why syringomyelia is often referred to as the 'neck-scratcher's disease. Some of the other symptoms can be
- sensitivity around the head, neck or shoulders
- reluctance to exercise
- difficulty moving or incoordination
- limb weakness
- symptoms associated with pain
For more detailed information about the condition and available treatments please visit these websites
The CKCS Syringomyelia (SM) Infosite
Veterinary Partner: Syringomyelia
When I received the call in January 2010 from Ella's neurologist with her MRI results telling me she had a severe case of Syringomyelia with a large syrinx, my world stopped. I thought I did not hear it right. I was the one who read about Syringomyelia and knew all the symptoms and demanded she be seen by a neurologist. I started to notice something was off with Ella probably when she was about 2 years old.
She was almost 4 when she was diagnosed. It was nothing major, it just seemed like she scratched more than usually. I tend to notice everything about her. Her vet said that it was probably food allergies so we changed her food and I didn't really think anything about it.
Then several months later she just looked funny walking up the stairs. I can't describe it but no one else could see what I saw. I even took her to see her vet to watch her go up the stairs.
I felt like someone taking their car into the shop and it works only when you are there. People thought I was crazy. She would put one paw in front of the other and she always seemed to walk on one side. She always seemed to scratch at her ears, which was diagnosed as an ear infection. All of these things may sound like typical dog behavior and some of it could be but looking back on it, they were pieces to a puzzle.
It was probably in April 2009, I noticed the lack of energy. I would think she was just tired from day care. I would laugh and say what is wrong with you? In April a Cavalier Meet-Up group began in Charlotte and I said I would write a newsletter and I included some health information. It was there that I read about Syringomyelia.
For the Love of Ollie and donated to SM research. I don't know, maybe deep inside I knew that something was wrong with Ella. All of my friends could not see it and the only way to really diagnose it was with an MRI which for me cost $1700.
The other things I noticed was the restless nights. She seemed to never get comfortable. Always making a bed or rubbing her face on the covers. I heard about the "phantom scratching" and I didn't really see that. I started to look to see if she was scratching on one side. She was always scratching on one side. I paid close attention to all the things she was doing.
It then went downhill real fast. In about two weeks she was hiding under the bed, under the table, laying on the floor, shaking her head constantly, hardly able to walk up the stairs, dullness in the eyes. Again I went to my vet and he said not to jump to any conclusions it's probably an ear infection and allergies and we still want to rule those out before I recommend her go to a neurologist.
I knew she had Syringomyelia. That weekend I took her to my cousins house and the thing Ella likes to do more than anything is run after the ball. I threw the ball and she was did not move. I started to sob. I called and demanded for them to let me see a neurologist. She went that following Monday. I thought I caught it before anyone. My friends did not even think she needed to see a neurologist so when I found out her condition was severe I was shocked. I think it was because of the rate of her progression.
Now that I knew she had it, the hardest part for anyone that finds out their dog has Syringomyelia is deciding what treatment option to take. I can not recommend which is the best option because it is different for each dog. Her neurologist said he could not tell me she would be around in 3 months and I couldn't live with that. She had a severe case and it was progressing fast. She was first put on medication but she had surgery a couple of weeks later.
She continues to be on several different medications and I am blessed to have her with me each day. I am constantly reminded of how lucky I was to know about this condition because if I didn't I do not know how much damage to her spinal cord would have been done.
Now it has been over six months and she is doing great! Please see the links on my blog because they offer valuable information and I also included support groups.
Please see Fight for Ella Continues for and update
Fight For Ella Continues
Ella's MRI Results And Update