This is a neurological condition in which fluid fluid cavities form within the spinal cord. Syringomyelia is a inherited condition which affects certain breeds, most commonly the King Charles Cavalier Spaniel and the Griffons Bruxellois. The incidences of the condition are also on the rise in some toy breeds such as the Pomeranian, Chihuahua and Maltese.
Why does this condition happen?
These fluid filled cavities (also known as Syrinx’s) develop due to congenital abnormalities such as malformation of the skull and the way it connects to the cervical vertebrae. This causes overcrowding of the back of brain causing the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) to be forced down the centre of the spinal cord, thus causing the tissue to become distended and cavities to form.
What symptoms should I look out for?
Clinical signs can be different from dog to dog and the degree/size of syrinx has no effect on the severity of symptoms expressed. This means that a patient with only a slight syrinx could show the same symptoms as a dog with several fluid filled cavities within the spine.
King Charles Cavalier tend to show symptoms between the ages of 6mths to 3years, however it is important to note that some dogs with the condition do not show clinical signs.
- Intermittent Neck/Back Pain - May become reluctant to jump and climb, or yelp during exercise.
- Hyperaesthesia - “Pins and Needles”
- Phantom Scratching - Compulsive scratching of the shoulder/neck/back of head region although the foot doesn’t make any contact with the skin.
- Weak or Wobbly Gait- When the nerves within the spinal cord become effected.
How do Vet diagnosis the condition?
Referral for a MRI scan of the brain and spinal cord under General Anaesthetic is almost always necessary.
How do Vets treat Syringomyelia?
- Medical Therapy - Gabapentin, Steroids and Anti-inflammatory drugs are often prescribe to help deal with episodes of pain while diuretics are given to reduce the production of CSF.
- Surgical Treatment - The main aims of surgery are to improve the shape of the back of the skull thus reducing the crowding and reducing the flow of CSF down the spinal cord.
The BVA and Kennel Club management committee have given the go-ahead for a scheme to screen potential breeding stock for conditions such as Syringomyelia and Skull misinformation in the most commonly affected breeds.