Syringomyelia in Dogs (inc Cavalier King Charles Spaniels)

Did you know Norway has banned breeding Cavalier King Charles Spaniels because of their prevalence to the condition Syringomyelia?

If you’re looking to buy a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy, then you may’ve heard some horrible things about this condition. But should you be worried?

What is Syringomyelia?

Syringomyelia is a painful and potentially debilitating condition which affects the brain and spinal cord of certain breeds of dogs, particularly Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

The condition occurs when fluid accumulates in the central canal of the spinal cord, causing it to expand and compress the nerve cells in the region. This compression can cause significant pain for affected animals as well as impair their ability to feel sensations and function normally.

Syringomyelia can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are often similar to those of other conditions, such as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). Because of this, it is important for you to understand the symptoms if you own a breed prone to the condition.

Syringomyelia is considered a serious condition which can cause lifelong discomfort for affected dogs, but if you catch the symptoms early there are management strategies and medication which can help reduce the dog’s pain and maintain their quality of life.

Once diagnose, you will likely take your dog for periodic examinations with your vet. This is essential so that they can detect abnormalities early on before they become too severe or unmanageable.

Symptoms of Syringomyelia in Dogs

The most common symptom is pain throughout the body but typically originates from the neck or shoulders. Other signs include a decreased sensitivity to touch or temperature changes on one side of the body, weakness, or loss of function in one or more legs. Abnormal behaviors like scratching at the head or neck, neck stiffness and trembling can also be symptoms.

What Causes Syringomyelia?

Research into Syringomyelia remains inconclusive, but researchers believe it may be caused from a mismatch between the size of the skull and size of the spine. This is especially the case in breeds like Cavaliers as they have smaller skulls than other dog breeds. The biological reason is there may not be enough space for proper cerebrospinal fluid circulation, which can cause fluid buildup. Syringomyelia tends to affect breeds with an unusually small skull, so as well as Cavaliers there are signs Chihuahuas and similar breeds may also be more prone to the condition than others.

What Should You Do if You Suspect Your Dog May Have Syringomyelia?

It is always best to err on the side of caution, so if you have any concerns book in with your vet for an assessment. I often advise people book an annual checkup regardless, or bi-annually with older dogs. Often we miss early symptoms, and a vet may detect them early.

Diagnosis of Syringomyelia (once suspected) typically involves neurological exams, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), cerebrospinal fluid analysis (CSF), and laboratory testing.

How is Syringomyelia Treated?

Treatment typically involves medications like painkillers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These may be combined with physical therapy exercises like swimming or hydrotherapy. In some cases surgery may be necessary if conservative treatment does not provide relief from symptoms.

Can Syringomyelia be Treated Naturally in Dogs?

Syringomyelia in dogs can be treated naturally with a variety of natural remedies. Exercise, massage, acupuncture and herbal supplements are popular options.

From personal experience, a decent diet can make the difference between a dog who remains healthy until an old age and one who suffers all manner of health issues. Syringomyelia is no exception.

I always ask pet owners to read the ingredients of their pet food, do some digging on the Internet, and consider if it’s suitable for a dog. Considering your dog as a carnivore is a good starting point, and may leave you with questions about your pet food.

A diet which contains clean moisture and quality inclusions of omega 3 fatty acids may help reduce symptoms, inflammation, and pain. There are also dietary supplements for dogs which support health, wellbeing, and joints.

Herbal supplements like chamomile, turmeric and devils claw may also provide relief from pain and inflammation.

Exercise helps to reduce pressure on the spine from fluid build up and improves circulation, while massage and acupuncture help to reduce inflammation and relax the muscles around the affected area.

What is the Life Expectancy of a Dog with Syringomyelia

The life expectancy of a dog with Syringomyelia can vary depending on the severity of their condition, but managed properly with a timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment strategies can keep your dog living a long and relatively healthy life.

Puppies diagnosed with Syringomyelia can and do cope well, whereas older dogs may deteriorate more rapidly.

The hardest aspect of any illness in our pets is our acceptance. It is important to keep in mind our dogs are not afraid of dying, but they do feel pain. We must always insure we put our dog’s quality of life first, and hopefully they’ll live many more happy years to come.

A good diet, good treatment, and healthy exercise can go a very long way to extending the lifespan of a dog with Syringomyelia.

Further Reading

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Gina & David

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