Syringomyelia (syndrome) is a group of diseases caused by abnormal cell growths in the brain and spinal cord. These cells are called oligodendrocytes, which means “old” or “grandfatherly.” They’re made from the same stem cells as your skin cells, but they don’t divide like them. Instead, they stay put until damaged or destroyed. When these cells grow out of control, they cause problems such as seizures, paralysis, and even death.
The disease affects both humans and animals. Dogs are most commonly affected.
There’s no cure yet; there isn’t enough research money to develop one yet either. Most cases appear between the ages of two months and five years old. Some may not show any symptoms at all. But others will have many. Symptoms include:
Difficulty walking or balance.
Lack of coordination.
Unusual behavior, including aggression and self-mutilation.
In some cases, the disease can affect other parts of the body too, such as the eyes and ears.
It is important to remember that not all symptoms are listed and that your dog may develop different ones. It’s also important to get your pet treatment as early as possible.
Treatment can involve medication, surgery, and even physical therapy. If left untreated, the disease can spread rapidly. In some cases, it can cause death within a year.
What causes it?
There are many potential causes of this disease, including genetics, viruses, allergies, and even the food you feed your dog. It’s not known exactly what causes this in dogs yet. There are certain breeds that are more likely to get it though. Rarely, these growths can turn into cancer if left untreated.
What is canine Chiari-like malformation?
This disorder involves the brain and spinal cord. The spinal column does not form correctly in utero, causing hindquarters to be lower than the skull. The cranial cavity is larger than normal and the brain is forced downward. There is no known cure either. This can cause a number of issues, such as hind leg weakness and paralysis.
What is syringomyelia?
This disease involves the spinal cord. The surrounding cavities (called ventricles) act as if they are filled with fluid, but they aren’t. Instead, the cavity itself is enlarged. This can cause damage to the spinal cord itself, leading to pain and loss of movement in different parts of the body.
What is the connection between these diseases?
These diseases all involve at least one of three things: the brain, spinal cord, or surrounding area. The most common is the spinal cord. Since there isn’t enough research done on this disease, there is no known cure.
What can be done to help?
The most common treatment for this disease is to put your dog on a diet. This mainly consists of boiled chicken and rice. Some dogs aren’t picky eaters, but others aren’t too keen on the bland taste. You can always try mixing it up with some chili or pasta sauce though. You can also buy some chew toys and treats to keep them from chewing your furniture or slippers.
There are other treatments available for this disease as well. Your veterinarian may be able to prescribe some pills or possibly an injection to help keep your pet as comfortable as possible.
Some medications can relieve pain, while others may help control the seizures. Still, others may keep the muscles from becoming rigid.
How much does it cost to treat this disease?
A lot. Veterinarians don’t always know what causes this disease, so they don’t know how to treat it either. Because of this, different treatment options may be tried until one is found that works. Most of these are not covered by insurance and are very expensive. It’s not uncommon for bills to be in the thousands.
What about preventing it?
Sadly, there isn’t too much that can be done to prevent this disease. If you’re really worried about your dog getting this, talk to a veterinarian and see if they can recommend a certain brand of food or supplements to help with this disease. There are also some vaccines that may help prevent other diseases that may lead to this one. Wellness plans are available for dogs but these may not cover all of the costs if your dog does get this disease.
Does my dog have this?
Determining whether or not your dog has this disease is rather tricky. You may be able to see some of the symptoms earlier than others. For example, it may become apparent that your dog isn’t feeling well. Changes in behavior, such as becoming more introverted, may also be a sign that something is wrong. If your dog is having problems walking or is having a hard time balancing, you should consult your veterinarian right away.
If your dog is diagnosed with this disease, don’t panic. There are many different treatment options that can extend your pet’s life and keep them comfortable.
The most important thing to remember is to stay positive and loving towards your dog because they depend on you.
How is this treated?
As I mentioned before, treatment for neurological diseases can be difficult. The old-fashioned way to treat this disease is surgery. A veterinarian may perform a myelotomy, which involves making a cut in the spine to relieve pressure and cause regeneration of the nerves.
This may sound great, but surgery can have its drawbacks. For some dogs, the surgery itself may be too risky and not an option.
In some cases, the damage is so extensive that even surgery won’t help.
If surgery isn’t an option, your veterinarian may try some alternative medicine. Anti-convulsants may be used to help prevent or lessen the severity of seizures.
Some patients also require physiotherapy to help them walk again.
Regardless of the regimen, some dogs may not respond well to treatment and ultimately don’t survive. Like I said before, this disease is a b*tch.
Is there any way to prevent this?
As with most diseases, the best way to prevent this is through genetics. Research your dog’s lineage and try to find out if there have been any cases of DILSA in its bloodline. You can also try to prevent other diseases that may lead to this one. Feed your dog a high-quality diet to prevent the onset of seizures, which can be a symptom of this disease. Make sure you visit the veterinarian regularly to make sure your dog doesn’t have any other diseases that could lead to DILSA.
Will my dog survive this?
If you catch this disease early enough and begin treatment right away, your dog has a chance at surviving. As I’ve said before, if the disease progresses too far it becomes incurable. Seizures are almost always a bad sign; they may even lead to paralysis or irreversible brain damage. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you what you can expect from the disease and if there are any warning signs to look out for.
The most important thing is to be positive and provide your dog with the best life it can have under the circumstances. Take your dog for regular walks, play with it, and provide a loving home.
Just because a disease is incurable doesn’t mean your dog has to suffer.
What if I miss the symptoms and my dog ends up dying?
Well, that sucks. The important thing is that you caught it early enough to try treatment. A lot of dogs die from this disease due to the lack of diagnosis. Even if your dog does end up dying, be thankful that you were able to spend the time with it that you did.
Is there any chance of this getting into humans?
As far as I know, this disease is specific to canines. However, I should warn you that there have been cases of other diseases jumping from other species into humans. Although this isn’t very likely, it’s still something to keep in mind.
I hope this has helped you understand what your options are for treating your dog and how to provide it the best life possible. Good luck!
Sources & references used in this article:
Chiari‐like malformation and syringomyelia in normal Cavalier King Charles spaniels: A multiple diagnostic imaging approach by J Couturier, D Rault, L Cauzinille – … of Small Animal Practice, 2008 – Wiley Online Library
Chiari‐like malformation with syringomyelia in the Cavalier King Charles spaniel: long‐term outcome after surgical management by C Rusbridge – veterinary surgery, 2007 – Wiley Online Library
Coexistence of occipital dysplasia and occipital hypoplasia/syringomyelia in the cavalier King Charles spaniel by C Rusbridge, SP Knowler – Journal of Small Animal Practice, 2006 – Wiley Online Library