Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Living with Syringomyelia (SM)

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With the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Syringomyelia (SM) is a very common genetic disease. We’ve discussed this in our 5 common health problems post previously. It is definitely worth reading to find out more about the issue.

It’s all very well knowing about the disease. But what’s it actually like living with it?

As a responsible pet owner, what is it like living with a Cavalier that suffers this disease?

How does it effect the life and overall happiness of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel?

In order to answer these questions we reached out to our friend on Twitter @RosieKcavalier.

Rosies Life before Syringomyelia.

Rosie is a 13 1/2 year old Blenheim Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Rosie was bought as a puppy from a breeder in Wales at 8 weeks old.

At the time Syringomyelia (SM) was not really linked to Cavaliers or commonly known.

What Rosie’s owner Tracey was very aware of though, was that Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were susceptible to heart problems. She closely checked for symptoms of heart murmurs when purchasing Rosie.

Fortunately her heart has always been fine. Unfortunately, Rosie has Syringomyelia.

Regardless of this. Rosie has lived a very full and active life. When younger walking miles and miles daily and always eager to go, very unlike many Cavaliers.

Up until being diagnosed with SM, Rosie never visited the vets apart from yearly boosters and health checks. She always had her teeth maintained which is a must to maintain good health.

The initial Symptoms of Syringomyelia (SM).

Rosie was around 8 when she started with very mild tremors and occasional phantom scratching . Over a 12 month period these symptoms started to become more noticeable.

Collars irritated her and she would not walk without scratching thin air. Her tremors got to a point where her body was juddering most of the time. This was most noticeable when she was quiet or tired.

To add to Rosie’s troubles, she also went deaf around this time.

Regardless of this, Rosie remained fit and active. Still out chasing her ball and running around. For a year, vets said she was fine.

As time went on however, she deteriorated. She would tremor continually and would not tolerate anyone touching her head. You could see she was not enjoying going out to the park as she always did.

cavalier syringomyelia

The onset of Syringomyelia (SM) and accurate diagnosis.

In a somewhat drastic move. Rosies owner changed vets and got a second opinion. General bloods all came back good and then out of the blue Rosie had a stroke losing mobility on one side. Both her front and back legs were affected. Luckily she recovered quickly, gaining mobility back, but she seemed disorientated and took time to feel herself again. Within a month she had another stroke exactly the same as the first.

Her vets recommended an MRI scan and she was referred to Liverpool Small animal teaching hospital. Before the appointment could be made Rosie became very disorientated again, falling over and quite clearly in discomfort. She was rushed into Liverpool hospital.

Rosie spent 2 days in hospital where she had an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), a CSF Cerebrospinal fluid and all her organs and heart tested.

It was diagnosed that she had Syringomyelia (SM) and also Epilepsy.

They said more than likely Rosie was born with the condition but had only started to develop in her later life.

You could say Rosie was one of the lucky ones as she is now 13 1/2 and still survives SM, many die far too young of this condition.

Medicating SM and the associated Epilepsy

Rosie started on just 2 medications to control her Epilepsy and Syringomyelia related pain relief.

Unfortunately over the past 2 years her health has deteriorated and her symptoms have became more noticeable.

Even on medication she is scratching the air more often, and can not go on a walk without having to stop every few paces

As Rosie has been unable to tolerate the increased pain, her medication has also been increased several times over the past few years.

Alongside this increased medication have been regular check ups at Liverpool small animal teaching hospital every 3 months. As well as regular checks from her local vet.

As of now, Rosie is on 6 different medications taking 13 tablets a day to control her epilepsy, strokes and pain relief.

These are: LevetiracetamGabapentinCodeine/ParacetamolVitofyllinClopidogreland Aspirin. For pain relief, anti epileptic and help with anti clotting for her strokes.

Medications have given Rosie a new life. Although it was very difficult at the start trying to adjust. There have been some rocky times trying to get her medications just right. Amazingly the medications have controlled all her symptoms quite well and given her a happy life without chronic pain.

To see Rosie chase her ball and run free on the beach is worth all the heartache, worry and tears battling this cruel and unnecessary condition.

cavalier king charles spaniel syringomyelia

How the correct Pet Insurance proved to be invaluable for a Spaniel with Syringomyelia.

Rosie has always been insured. We can not recommend enough to make sure you have the correct insurance for your Cavalier. There are so many insurers to choose from it can get confusing.

Remember that vets are not cheap and if you need a referral it can escalate into thousands of dollars / pounds. Especially if your Cavalier is diagnosed with a life long condition that needs to be treated like SM.

Make sure you always get cover for life and you get enough cover for treatments. It’s always good to ask your vet if you are not sure of what you need. They can guide you in the right direction.

Rosie owners have had nothing but fantastic service from their insurance provider. It’s great to have a positive experience with your pet insurer. The last thing you want to worry about when your pet is ill is complicated insurance problems.

It is not always easy caring for a pet with a life long deteriorating condition. There are sleepless nights, tears, worry and heartache. But seeing a beautiful happy smiling face looking back at you, while running with such joy and happiness is worth it a million times over.

cavalier spaniel syringomyelia

Living with Syringomyelia, a happy ending.

From a little girl growing up with different breeds, Rosie’s owner was always drawn to Cavaliers. Whenever she was out, her mom said she would always make a beeline for any Cavalier and they would have to drag her away!

The most beautiful face and eyes of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel are enough to make any heart melt.

Rosie lives her life everyday still to the full. Sometimes she does need her stroller as she does get tired. She still loves nothing more than going to the beach, visiting he favorite coffee shops for a little cake or chasing her ball at the park.

Unfortunately with her condition she also has days when she is poorly and can not do the things she loves but with medication she will usually bounce back in a few days.

Even with all the health issues this little breed have, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are the most amazing beautiful souls. They bring great pleasure to be in anyone’s life.

Rosie has always been around children and they could never tire her out. She is always willing to play.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are one of the most friendly, gentlest loving breeds. They love nothing more than being close to you. On your laptop, or sometimes in your bed. A true companion dog.

9 thoughts on “Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Living with Syringomyelia (SM)”

  1. We have a beautiful king charles! Savanna Jo is 6 now. She is also deaf! Savanna also has a upper respitory problem, caused by a small pallet! She also has a bum knee therefore Savanna is inactive. Savanna Jo is 10lbs overweight. We have her on light diet food, however by being inactive its hard for her to lose her weight! We have cut way back on goodies (but what else does she have for fun!) Savanna Jo is a wonderful doggie! Does anyone have any suggestions on losing weight and communicating with a deaf doggie? Besides loving her petting her, sleeping with us We don’t know what to do! She still has a long good life ahead of her! We just want it to be the best ever!!!!!!! Please reply if you can help! Thank You Just a King Charles Spaniel Lover and owner””

    • Hey,

      It can be quite difficult to keep Cavalier’s weight under control. We struggle with our Dog Toffee, especially since he was castrated.

      Did your Vet recommend the food you are using? It may be worth giving another brand a try, although you’d want to introduce Savanna slowly to the new food if you decide to do that. I’ll post something on Twitter and see if our friends have any suggestions.

      Speaking of Twitter, one of our friends shared the story of his deaf Cavalier, you can read it here you may find it interesting.

      I’m sure if you reached out to him on Twitter he’d be happy to share some tips.

      Oh, and we’d love to see a picture of Savanna, pop by our Facebook page and share her with our followers.

  2. What a lovely story. My 16 week old looks to having syringomyelia but we don’t know what to do. Pdsa just looking to put him down but we want to keep fighting just not know how. Anything appreciated. Sara.

  3. I have a question. I’ve been taking care of Daisy, a Cavalier, 7 years old, female during the week for about 4 years now and her family has her on weekends. She’s on Gabapentin 2x/day for possible Syringomyelia. The ‘dad’, forgot to give Daisy her dose of Gabapentin this weekend and she seems fine.
    So I asked her ‘mom’ what she thinks about continuing the medicine and she wants to stop it and see what happens. I’m not sure if this is the right way forward. If I do not give her the Gabapentin what would the risks be? I sent an e-mail to the neurosurgeon who originally prescribed the Gabapentin but haven’t yet heard back. Thank you for any light.

    • Hey, thanks for reaching out. I’m not a veterinarian, so not in a position to officially comment. I’d suggest awaiting a response from the neurosurgeon or making a quick phonecall to your local vet.

  4. After doing some online research for our 6 yr old cavalier
    Finn’s sudden right side ear sensitivity, I’ve stumbled across this scary disease called Syringomyelia. We’ve noticed his gradual hearing loss this past year to where he is pretty much fully deaf we believe. In just these past couple days, I’ve noticed his body jolts every few seconds when he is lying on my lap sleeping. I’m not sure what this is. He does scratch at his ears but not too often. More lately I guess do to that ear sensitivity. He yelps when we touch around his ear but not his neck, which I am hoping is a good sign. Seems from the online reading I’ve done, that his neck would be hurting a lot if he had this. ? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    • My Daisy has Syringomyelia. I discovered it when she was constantly scratching her ears, shaking her head and looking very much in pain. we visited a neuro veterinarian and he suggested before doing any invasive testing, trying the medicine that is for this condition, which is Gabapentin. If it works, we will know this is what she has. It worked very well and she’s been on Gabapentin for around 6 months and doing very well. We did not do the invasive testing since we figured if she’s doing well on the medicine then we’re fine with that. I hope this helps.

      • Thank you so much. We are going to see how he does over the weekend. If no change, we will bring him into the vet. I don’t want to see him in any pain. I wish he could talk. ; ). Glad to know there is medication if he gets that diagnosis.


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