Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Rory's Syringomyelia: Plea For Rory

by Brendon Condon

Rory is a 7 month old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who lives in Canberra, Australia with her two loving human parents.

Rory was brought home from the breeder at 8 weeks of age and has lived a fulfilling life ever since. She’s enrolled and active within her Obedience School working towards her Intermediate Title, she’s begun training for Rally-O, she regularly travels out into the Australian bush to help out her dad with his work. She’s spoiled rotten and gets the best treatment that a puppy possibly could.

But then Rory starting having worrisome physical problems.

We first suspected that something might’ve been wrong with Rory when she had diarrhea that wouldn’t go away.

She was being fed a raw diet during this time and after seeing and meeting with a holistic vet we realized that Rory was allergic to poultry and eggs. That’s fine, we thought. We can remove that and she’ll be a-okay.

After we removed all the poultry in her diet she improved significantly.

Her stools were good and she started to put on the weight, which she wasn’t putting on before.

Further, while we were at the holistic vet, we had our suspicions confirmed that she had a small heart murmur. Once again this was fine and easy to deal with as it was so small. The holistic veterinarian put Rory on a dose of Hawthorn Berries each day as well as some homeopathic remedies. Everything seemed to be smooth sailing from there.

Then, a few weeks later, while I was relaxing downstairs my partner called out for me quite loudly “Quick! I think Rory’s dead!”.

I raced upstairs to where they both were and found that Rory wasn’t dead but had in fact had a violent seizure and then had gone limp. She came around a few seconds after I got up there but was still very dazed and rapidly went to sleep.

I contacted an emergency vet and they told me not to bring her in unless she had another seizure that evening; thankfully she didn’t. The following day I took her to her regular vet to see if he could assess what was wrong with her.

The vet suspected syringomyelia straight off the bat.

He did some tests to help assess his suspicions. He manipulated Rory’s neck slightly and she started whimpering in pain, he explained to me that that was unusual behavior in a regular dog but a dog with syringomyelia would express pain. Further, he showed me that she had a pained expression on her face.

Then he went over some of the key common symptoms of the disease and many came up.

The incessant scratching of her neck which she does all day long, and she had some curvature of the spine that would indicate the disease. He ordered a full blood panel to rule out any other illness but all those results came back clear. He also gave me a list of symptoms and wanted me to track which ones Rory had in the next week before I went back to see him. She had many.

And Rory continued to have seizures multiple times a week, at least every second to third day and the seizures are of varying degrees of severity.

My local vet ordered an MRI. Unfortunately the cost of getting an MRI for Rory is $4000 at the closest place thatdoes  it.  He also explained that after the MRI came back showing the degree of her disease that she would either now or eventually need a kind of brain surgery, which would cost us in the vicinity of $12000.

After hearing this, we decided to call other vets to see what hope they could offer us. 

We eventually got in contact with Sydney Animal Specialist Hospital (SASH), they have the only veterinary neurologist in the country on staff and could offer us slightly cheaper rates. It’s going to cost us $209 per consult with the neurologist, between $2500 and $3500 for the MRI which includes hospitalization and sedation and the cost of the surgery is still potentially up to $12000.

Having spoken with the team at SASH we’ve been told that we should expect surgery in conjunction with medication as Rory is already showing quite developed symptoms at young age.

Syringomyelia is a neurological disease, which has a wide variety of symptoms and is a known illness to occur in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

The main symptoms Rory is suffering from are the incessant scratching to the back of her neck as pressure has built up there, exhaustion, a constant pained expression on her fast, whimpering from pain and regularly occurring seizures.

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.

We are trying our best to raise money for Rory so that we can get her the treatment that she needs.  

The costs for the MRI, let alone the surgery are prohibitively expensive for us. We have started a FundRazr page to try and help her.

Please, help if you can.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for taking the time to read about Rory and hopefully help out.

Related articles:
Syringomyelia Awareness: What is Chiari Malformation?
Syringomyelia Awareness: Teddy’s Story
The Dark Cloud Of Syringomyelia: Fight For Ella
Fight For Ella Continues

Further reading:

The CKCS Syringomyelia (SM) Infosite
Cavalier Matters
Veterinary Neurologist 
Veterinary Partner: Syringomyelia


  1. So sorry to hear about sweet Rory's battle. I hope that she can get the help that she needs.

    Syringomyelia is a very serious disorder in our breed and increasingly being found in other small breeds as well. Responsible breeders are doing everything in their power to combat it from their lines by MRIing, supporting research, and using only sound dogs in breeding programs. I hope that her breeder is offering support and guidance as she goes through this journey.

    I'm a bit concerned at the seizures part of this story. In my experience with SM, severe seizures are not part of the picture.

    I wish her the best moving forward and if she'd like to speak to someone with experience in regards to CM/SM, medications, and MRI, please let me know.

    1. They can be [seizures]. And she is so young! Thank you for your kind words. We're all hoping that she can get the care she needs.

  2. Its really sad that Rory is suffering so mush. I wish and pray for Rory's fast recovery. She will recover soon.