Friday, October 17, 2014

Veterinary Highlights: Skull Shape Risk Factors For Neurological Diseases

Some time back we were following the story of Ella, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who was suffering from syringomyelia.

Syringomyelia is a painful neurological disease which can occur as a complication of trauma, inflammation or a tumor. However, the most common cause is dogs is hereditary skull malformation, Chiari-like Malformation (CM). It is very common in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels but it can affect other toy breeds.

A study, conducted at the University of Bristol's School of Veterinary Sciences identified the head shape characteristics associated with these diseases.

The idea is to enable selection away from these condition.

Two significant risk factors were found.

The extent of  the broadness of the top of skull relative to its length, also referred to as brachycephaly, and the distribution of doming of the skull.

The study suggests that brachycephaly, with resulting doming towards the front of the head, is associated with CM/SM.

Will all breeders (finally) take a hint?

Source article:
Skull shape risk factors could help in welfare of toy dog breeds

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


  1. Those poor dogs. I feel like most people never even know Cavalier KIng Charles Spaniels exist, so don't know this specific problem also exists. My understanding is the little guys are in a lot of pain as a result.

    Despite not knowing about King Charles Spaniels, though, people tell me "You know, a Doberman's brain never stops growing and pretty soon their brain is pressing against their skull." I'm not sure what they think it means, or why they'd even bother to say it.

  2. "Will breeders (finally) take a hint?"
    I've been involved in MRI scanning programs, breed education, and research since 2007 and this type of comment discourages the heck out of me. Most of the puppies being born here are 4-5 generations now of MRI tested pedigrees. Of course it isn't nearly as fun to write about the progress, sacrifices, and large contributions that have been made by Cavaliers breeders for CM/SM, as it is to place blame and point fingers. I personally would have changed this quote to say. "When will puppy buyers (finally)get the hint?" It sure would be nice if it can be as easy as looking at a head shape.

    1. You have a good point. There are some fantastic and caring breeders out there. But then there are those who are just after the money and don't care about the health of their dogs.

      While it is true that the market has a huge power to control things, most people just don't know. So while they carry part of the blame, I think the weight of responsibility cannot weight on them.