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Chiari Malformation (CM) and Syringomyelia (SM) in Dogs

black-brown-cavalier-king-charles-spaniel

If you have a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, they likely have Chiari-like malformation (CM). This inherited condition is also found in Chihuahuas, Brussels Griffons, and Yorkshire Terriers. CM is an abnormal growth of bone that develops in the back of the skull, making the skull too small for the brain. This puts pressure on the part of the brain called the cerebellum, affecting the flow of cerebrospinal fluid from the brain. This change in flow and pressure may result in syringomyelia (suh-reen-go-my-ee-lee-uh) or SM, a fluid-filled pocket that forms in the spinal cord.

All Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have CM to a degree, and about 50% have SM. However, not all dogs with one or both conditions show clinical signs.

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What Are the Symptoms of CM/SM?

Clinical signs that may occur if your dog has Chiari-like malformation and/or syringomyelia include:

  • Rubbing at face
  • Scratching at the ears, neck, and/or the back of the head
  • Phantom scratching, or scratching without making contact
  • Sensitive when touched around the back of the neck and/or shoulders
  • Pain or discomfort when active, excited, or simply wearing a collar
  • Yelping or crying in pain when running, jumping, or even passing stool
  • Change in behavior (less playful, more withdrawn)
  • Limb weakness
  • Poor coordination

Please contact our Miami hospital if your pet is having these symptoms.

The Best Way to Diagnose CM/SM in Your Pet

To diagnose your pet’s condition as accurately as possible, our neurologists use high-field MRI, which is more powerful than low-field MRI and obtains images more quickly. MRI has a greater range of soft tissue contrast and reveals the anatomy of the brain and spinal cord in more detail. MRI is also more sensitive to changes within the structure of the brain and spinal cord.

How Can We Treat CM/SM?

Our neurology team approaches CM/SM on a case-by-case basis.

  • First, one of our neurologists needs to examine your pet and evaluate their medical history
  • Next, we use our high-field MRI machine to properly screen your pet and make an accurate diagnosis
  • Following the diagnosis, we may suggest one of two possible treatment options:
    • Medical management involves using neuropathic pain medication and medication to reduce spinal fluid production
    • We recommend surgical management for advanced cases, patients with a larger pocket, and patients that do not improve fully with medical management. Surgical treatment involves removing the bony malformation at the back of the skull to give the brain more space and allow the cerebrospinal fluid to flow out of the brain
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If you suspect that your dog has CM/SM,
contact our Miami location today.

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