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Thread: Advice on Syringomyelia Please.

  1. #1

    Default Advice on Syringomyelia Please.

    Our Rosie is 2 years 3 months old. She is very fit and active and for the hour or so we walk her each day, she runs constantly, chasing anything that moves, leaping over fallen trees etc. with no trouble whatsoever. About 10 days ago for no apparent reason she collapsed yelping in pain and was trembling afterwards. Being aware of SM we have monitored her closely since then, (perhaps too closely). However she does display other signs, which could also be put down to normal behaviour as well as SM, i.e. occasionally air scratching with her hind legs (we don't walk her on a lead), scoots a lot even though we know her anal glands are empty and fine, scratches her ears, nips at her hindquarters, yawns quite a lot and shakes her head quite a lot. She also carpet rubs her head and rubs along the sofas, however this is normally after she's eaten, (another symptom of potentially normal behaviour). None of these does she do in what I would describe as an obsessive way, however there are quite a few potential symptoms. She does not display that she's in any pain, even when we vigorously rub her head, neck and shoulders and the vet has given her a very thorough, hard physical examination twisting and turning practically every part of her, and at no time did she indicate any discomfort, even jumping down from the 3 feet high examination table with no problem. We are aware that dogs can hide the fact they're in pain, and sometimes although pain is the primary clinical symptom, some dogs don't display it. We're also aware that if the symptoms develop in young dogs they are potentially more likely to progress into severe SM.

    Our dilemma; Knowing that it can progress quite quickly and can cause irreparable nerve damage, hypothetically assuming she is in the early stages of SM, whilst we don't wish for her to commence medication too early, neither do we wish to leave it until she has sustained nerve damage, adversely affecting her quality of life. The Vet has recommended a Watch and Wait period and whilst cost is not an issue, both my wife and I feel we don't wish to put her through the trauma of an MRI, as from all the reading I've been doing, most cavvies will show as having CM and a clear or adverse MRI scan does not necessarily confirm whether or not she is likely to develop SM in the future.

    My question is, could anyone who has had a similar experience give us any advice please? Thanks in advance for any advice you can give.

  2. #2



    I can't offer any advice - there is one thing you didn't mention, but I'm sure your vet would have checked her ears. Some of the things you describe are indicative of ear probems. Have you had the DNA test for episodic falling? Again, it's not something I've seen first hand but could be a cause.

    She could simply have been pricked or stung by something!!! One of mine once came indoors screaming and after quite a lot of searching I found a splinter in her leg. It wasn't very big and I have no idea how she got it but once I'd got it out she shook herself and did a little chase around the room. Another was stung by a wasp - but that was very obvious as it swelled up hugely! But, even for us, a simple ant bite can be very painful and a dog could easily be bitten without us knowing.


    Last edited by Janelise; 10-29-2015 at 09:00 AM.

  3. #3


    Thanks for your advice Jane. Since posting the above, there's been a slight development. Yesterday we had a normal long walk, with Rosie running constantly as she normally does chasing pheasants etc. At the end of the walk her right eye looked as if she'd damaged it as it was almost closed, (she does run through undergrowth brambles etc. as a typical Spaniel) which we thought was a bit of a coincidence as the same thing had happened a couple of days previously but had cleared up by the next day. During the evening the right eye kept almost closing as if she was struggling to keep it open and when it was open the pupil rolled upwards and outwards. (This eye has always been slightly different, as her right eye socket appears to be larger than the left). During the evening she was also very restless, rubbing both her eyes with her paws and constantly licking her lips, she couldn't settle and kept lying in different places in the lounge. Although she was also happy to run around the lounge chasing her ball. She slept well last night and seemed perfectly normal this morning with nothing untoward going on apart from her right eye twitching first thing, then everything seemed back to normal. After yesterday afternoon's walk where she wasn't quite as energetic as she is normally, her right eye whilst not as bad as the previous times did look as if she was having difficulty keeping it open as if she was very tired. We've booked a further appointment with our Vet to discuss the merits of either an appointment with a neurologist or an MRI. Kind regards, Charles.

  4. #4


    Hello Charles,
    I would agree with your Vet, watch and wait. What you describe suggests to me that Rosie hurt herself, somehow, and got a bad fright as a result (trembling).Now that your Vet has given her a thorough check, I would tend to take the episode at face value, and hope it is a 'one of'.
    I have had more than one Cavalier with SM, and still have 2 here scanned affected. I have never seen them exhibit any of the symptoms you describe. They nibble a foot, or a leg from time to time, but that's about it.
    If Rosie does have a syrinx, it won't go away, and you will eventually get something in the way of symptoms, but I would suggest that it's fairly unusual for SM to present initially in such a dramatic way.
    Speaking of which: does Rosie normally over react to situations? Is she due in season? Either of these might cause her to have reacted in the way she did.
    Keep us posted and do try not to worry, a fond hope I know, but treat her normally until you know different.
    BTW, all of my dogs have been MRI scanned, and, apart from an upset bowel, are not otherwise adversely affected. One of my 12 year olds has been done 3 times. At her last heart check a fortnight ago, she was graded 1.

  5. #5


    Hi Charles

    I agree with Elspeth and Jane - particularly on the watch and wait. One of the things that hasn't been mentioned is that the pain from SM is usually what's described as "referred pain" - i.e. the source of the pain is not where the pain is felt. This is because a syrinx formation will put pressure on the nerve sheath running down the spine but the pain will be felt at the nerve 'ending' as it were - hence as Elspeth says, the nibbling of a foot or a leg because that's where the sensation ends up. Did your vet do the 'knuckle over' test on Rosie's front legs?

    Someone who has two of my breeding a few years ago took them to the vet with difficulty walking and tenderness of the spinal column, and they were both diagnosed with SM and sent off for MRI. She rang me and told me, and my first question was had she got anything in the garden with a low bar under it, like the base of a shed? because it sounded to me that they'd got partially stuck somewhere and had to wriggle free. No, nothing like that, and the vet says it's SM. Well, I didn't think so, and it wasn't. They'd bruised themselves obviously somehow. Another one of my breeding was diagnosed with SM and it turned out to be mange ...

    Having said that, I've had dogs of mine who've had SM completely unknown to me and been asymptomatic. There's still a lot of panic attached to a diagnosis of SM, particularly if it is symptomatic. Have you looked at Clare Rusbridge's website? if Rosie needs it, there's a good algorithm there for management.

    Sheena Stevens

  6. #6


    Thanks Elspeth and Sheena for your kind advice, In answer to your questions, Rosie gets extremely excited but not what I would call overreacting, particularly when our daughter arrives, which was when the collapsing and yelping incident occurred. She has been speyed so doesn't have seasons. I'm not sure whether the Vet did the knuckle over test, but she did start from Rosie's head, twisting it dramatically in every direction as far as it would go and then very firmly ran her hands all down Rosie's backbone, shoulders, neck and twisted her hind legs as far as they would go in several directions (forgive my descriptions of what she did I'm sure there's probably a veterinary term for what she did). Rosie showed no sign of discomfort, and then jumped to the floor from the 3 feet high examination table with no adverse effects. We've just got back from an hour long walk in the woods during which time Rosie ran continuously (and she does run fast). I showered her off when we got home and she did quite a lot of head shaking, rubbing her head on the carpet and rubbing herself along the length of the sofas which I believe is quite normal for wet dogs? The closed eye didn't seem to happen again and both eyes at present seem normal so we're hoping it might have been sustained the two times previously by her running through the undergrowth. I've read Clare Rusbridge's website several times and have found it very informative. I will check out your link in case it is different to what I've been looking at. Rosie's main behavioural issues which concern me (apart from the collapsing incident) are a lot of head shaking, rubbing her head on the carpet and her body along the sofas, scooting, (her anal glands are fine) and only occasionally does she nibble at her paws, however her fourth toes on both front paws are deformed and actually sit on top of her feet and do not touch the ground, so we've assumed that's what she's nibbling. The Vet has offered to remove them but as they're not causing her any problems, we don't feel we want to put her through the operation. She also nips at her rear thigh, but once again only occasionally. We don't believe it's anything to do with fleas as we regularly treat her with Advocat. She's always been a bit of a clumsy dog too. The Vet didn't check her ears last time, so we're going to ask for them to be checked tomorrow. It's interesting that everyone seems to agree with the watch and wait, but never having had a cavvie before this is all new to us. Consequently, reading all the advice we have, I'm very concerned in case we leave it too long so that nerve damage is incurred causing her quality of life to suffer, particularly as in a young cavvie it can progress quite quickly and is more likely to become severe. Added to which I don't want to leave it so that the pain gets so severe that she could potentially need to be euthanized, although our Vet says that in her 15 years she has only had to do that with one cavvie. Once again, reading everything from respected sites, the percentage of euthanized SM dogs seems to be a lot higher than what our Vet would suggest. As we only mentioned it to our Vet briefly on our last appointment we're going to spend a bit more time discussing the issues at our appointment tomorrow. Whilst a little knowledge is a dangerous thing I'd much rather err on the side of caution. I am also interested to hear how many cavvies with CM/SM lead normal good quality lives, because for us at the moment, and particularly me, it's all a bit unknown and a bit scary. Thanks for the time you have taken to reply to my question, and any reassurance in respect of the quality of life, medication, longevity etc. in respect of SM cavvies would be appreciated, and might help me to get a good night's sleep.

  7. #7


    Ears - I can't recommend Thornit highly enough. It's a powder, you put a couple of pinches in once a week. If she has really mucky ears you can put more than that in to start with - head shaking will throw it out, together with any wax or mites. Whilst I'm happy with Advocate and the like for fleas/parasites, I'll stick with Thornit for ears every time. Google Hub International (don't spend too much money!) and you'll find it there.

    Cavaliers seem to like to scoot - what can I say? Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Do you keep eye drops handy for Rosie? Anything like Viscotears or Lubrithal - I use Hyabak for my lot, which is a human med (non prescription), available on Amazon, and only because I have a girl with a corneal graft, but it works on dogs and humans alike. Cavaliers will pick up anything in their eyes, they're like magnets for bits of hair, fluff, you name it.

    You haven't said anything about what you feed Rosie, and how her weight is? Everyone on here has different ideas, but no one disagrees that overweight is quote a bad thing unquote! I've gone through everything over the years from meat and holistic biscuit, tripe to raw and back now to a completely grain free kibble. You'd think raw might solve any problems I might have with digestive problems or allergies - no. The kibble I feed now has completely cured bouts of colitis one girl was subject to.

    Don't try and second and third guess everything - take things slowly. Rosie will let you know how she feels about things, and it may be that your vet will suggest an MRI at some point. SM can be like the proverbial elephant in the room, coupled with it being impossible not to think about an elephant when someone tells you not to! Have you spoken to Rosie's breeder? and do you know the status of her parents and siblings?

    Sheena Stevens

  8. #8


    Jane mentioned Episodic Falling'. This is something I have no personal experience of, but it has become more common. Fortunately, there is now a simple DNA test for this. You might like to check out a very good website dealing with this and sourcing a video of what Episodic Falling looks like.
    There is also info on the Cavalier Club website about the test for this. on Health (LHS), then on Episodic Falling.
    Just something you wrote above about the symptoms being brought on by excitement, and about her eyes, made me think of this?

  9. #9


    Thanks once again Sheena and Elspeth. Her weight is 11kg which is over the proscribed ideal weight for Cavvies, however she's a long legged Blenheim with a defined waist and you can feel her ribs, so she's in good shape and is extremely active. Definitely not overweight. I've tried to upload a photo, not a very good one, but one that shows her sideview. Unlike a lot of Cavvies she's not a big eater and we feed her each day after her walk on 200g Nature Diet wet food with two teaspoons of Oat Bran to help with her anal glands, supplemented with Purina Beta Adult Spaniel Biscuits. She gets a few treats during the day too, but she is a very active dog. Haven't as yet spoken to her breeder who is not KC registered and unfortunately she hadn't had father or mother scanned, both of whom we saw and she said there was no history. Additionally, her local vet and two of his nurses had pups from her previously, a point which we confirmed with them, together with the fact that they were happy with her as a breeder. We've also considered Episodic Falling and are going to speak with the vet about it tomorrow. Thanks once again, Charles.20150511_124240a.jpg

  10. #10


    Ironically, just as I posted the previous reply, Rosie who has been sleeping since her walk, got up, rubbed her head on the carpet vigorously, then snapped round at her hindquarters, before vigorously scratching her ear, shaking her head and rolling on the floor on her back. Seemed also to be a bit agitated for a few seconds walking from one room to another and back again before getting her ball and taking it to my wife with tail wagging furiously at which time both eyes were twitching, but she seemed very happy. Hence my concerns.

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