Syringomyelia & Chiari-Like Malformation in Dogs

We love our four legged friends. Unfortunately, some beloved breeds are prone to developing health issues. Some are more serious and life threatening than others. Below we discuss Syringomyelia in dogs. A serious and terminal issue that affects dogs. Some breeds are more susceptible to certain issues than other breeds. Syringomyelia and canine chiari-like malformation is most common in Cavalier Kings and Brussels Griffons. It is rare in other breeds. Both Syringomyelia and chiari-like malformation go hand in hand.

What is Syringomyelia?

Syringomyelia is defined as: “a chronic progressive disease in which longitudinal cavities form in the cervical region of the spinal cord. This characteristically results in wasting of the muscles in the hands and a loss of sensation.” The cavities that form with syringomyelia are located near the brain. Cavities form from pressure in the brain. This pushes cerebrospinal fluid into the spinal cord region. The pressure coming from the brain is caused by chiari-like malformation.

What is Chiari-Like Malformation

Chiari-like malformation is when the brain is too large for the skull. Unfortunately, this is common with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The brain may be standard size, but the back of the skull is smaller and malformed. This leads to limited space for the cerebellum. In some situations, the brain/cerebellum may be too large, which puts pressure on the skull. Whether the brain is too large or the skull is too small, there is a size differential present with chiari-like malformation which becomes debilitating and life threatening to the dog. When the cerebellum is pressurized, it is forced out of the hole present in the back of the skull. This creates a blockage in the spinal cord and interrupts the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. This causes pockets and cavities which are filled with spinal fluid.

syringomyelia in dogs chiari like malformation

Symptoms of Syringomyelia & Chiari-like Malformation

Symptoms of syringomyelia and chiari-like malformation are severe pain and hypersensitivity in the neck region. This disease is often referred to as “neck scratcher’s disease”. Dogs with this disease scratch at the back of their neck due to discomfort. This is not the only symptom of syringmyelia and chiari-like malformation. If your dog is scratching at it’s neck, don’t panic. There are many other reasons why your dog may be excessively scratching. Seasonal allergies or an irritant can also cause scratching. Pressure on the brain and spinal cord may cause paralysis. It will be difficult for the dog to hold it’s head up. They will contort their neck and won’t be able to walk or use their legs. Syringomyelia in dogs is a devastating disease. Unfortunately chiari-like malformation is a disease and not much can be done without expensive and invasive surgery. Issues that it causes, including syringomyelia, can be treated and managed with several different techniques.

Treatment for Syringomyelia In Dogs & Chiari-Like Malformation

Surgery is possible to remove spinal fluid and pressure but it is dangerous and expensive. Surgery to treat Syringomyelia in dogs is often successful but may have to be performed several times. Drugs can be administered to help ease pain and inflammation. Drugs, including diuretics, can be given to reduce spinal fluid production. But this can become expensive and can have long term side effects. A stint may be inserted in the spinal cord to increase the flow of spinal fluid.

Natural and homeopathic practices, like acupuncture may provide some temporary relief. Your dog may have to have serious and invasive surgery to remove a piece of the skull and release pressure. In order to have this surgery, the dog must experience several debilitating and deteriorating symptoms. If your dog is dealing with these two diseases you will have to analyze your dog’s future, your expenses, and your emotional state. It is sad to watch a dog in pain and equally difficult to weigh out medical expenses. Your first step is to meet with your veterinarian to strategize a plan for you and your dog.

Dog Lover Store
October 20th 2016
Updated on June 3rd, 2019