October 29, 2018

Syringomyelia in Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Syringomyelia, also known as the “neck scratchers disease” (because of phantom scratching by dogs in the neck region) is caused by fluid flowing into cavities also known (fluid filled cavities are also called syrinx) around the neck area which results in pain and/or chronic scratching around the neck area. The fluid flowing into these cavities is caused by abnormal skull size and abnormally large size of the brain compared to the skull housing. The aforementioned condition of an ill sized skull is called Chairi-like malformations. It is hypothesized that the pain related to Syringomyelia is associated with damage or obstructions to the either side of the spinal chord also known as the dorsal region of the spinal chord. Interestingly, the same condition can be found in humans which causes similar pain in the neck, head and back regions. MRI’s were conducted for the 74 eligible dogs involved in the study. Researchers looked for the presence of a syrinx and if found they recorded the size of the syrinx and and the length of asymmetry of the dorsal region. Out of the 74 dogs, 55 of the dogs has Syringomyelia which was determined by the diameter of the syrinx. And of the 55 dogs with Syringomyelia only 19 expressed pain related to the symptoms of Syringomyelia. Sex and age were not correlated to the dogs that expressed pain. However with dogs that expressed pain, the size of the syrinx was larger than the dogs who had Syringomyelia and did not express pain. However, according to the article the syrinx and the asymmetry found in the dorsal region were not caused be each other therefore their results were inconclusive and there hypothesis remains unproven. In the discussion of the study, they state that the larger the width of the syrinx the more likely the dog is to experience pain. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are predisposed to Syringomyelia but that does not mean that all Cavalier King Charles Spaniels experience pain. In fact approximately 30 percent of dogs that have syrinx indicating Syringomelyia feel pain associated to the disease. Also, most dogs do not even experience pain before 6 years of age and although this is a result of inbreeding, the condition is treatable and rare among the breed. 


Rusbridge, C. , Carruthers, H. , Dubé, M. , Holmes, M. and Jeffery, N. D. (2007), Syringomyelia in cavalier King Charles spaniels: the relationship between syrinx dimensions and pain. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 48: 432-436. doi:10.1111/j.1748-5827.2007.00344.x