Diagnosing dogs with SM
In addition, a diagnosis should be made by a qualified specialist (generally, a veterinary neurologist). A diagnosis should always come from a specialist who can professionally interpret a scan, then advise on the possibilities for treatment. A vet does not have the specialist knowledge of this condition that is needed for treatment, as many treatments are experimental at this time and some involve human medications.
As there are other conditions with similar symptoms, a vet should never presume a dog has SM, treat on that assumption, or worse: advise an owner to consider euthenising a dog because SM is supposedly untreatable! A responsible vet will always work to eliminate all other possible diagnoses and then refer to a specialist.
Even if you do not want to have an MRI done on your cavalier, you should have a neurologist see your cavalier if you and your vet suspect SM.
A neurologist can perform other simple tests to see if the cavalier exhibits signs that it has neurological difficulties that might be SM-related and may give a diagnosis on the basis of clinical symptoms, and may also suggest treatments. If you are very sure you will not consider surgery as an option, and your neurologist feels clinical signs lean towards an SM diagnosis, you can consider asking for a treatment approach without an MRI (eg medication), if this is acceptable to the neurologist.
Please do not allow a cavalier to go untreated because you do not want an MRI or are unsure if you can afford one. SM can be a very painful condition and a range of medications can make the cavalier's life far more comfortable. Some of these medications are very inexpensive.
In this section, you can find:
* a step by step approach on what to do if you think your cavalier might have SM: Is this SM?
* leading SM researcher Dr Clare Rusbridge's introduction to SM for vets and pet owners: Canine Chiari-like Malformation and Syringomyelia (you can also download it as a PDF) or listen to a podcast (sound file) of her basic overvoiew of CM/SM.
* an extensive list of possible symptoms as reported by vets, neurologists and owners of affected dogs: Symptoms (you can also download it as a Word file)
* view video clips of affected dogs with different symptoms and degrees of affectedness: Videos
* Find a list of board certified veterinary neurologists in North America, the UK and a few other countries: Neurologists
* Learn about MRIs and how they are used to diagnose SM, and view MRIs of affected an clear cavaliers: MRIs
* Find out about some special, low cost MRI screening clinics for dogs in the US and UK: Low cost MRI clinics
* Learn more about PSOM, primary secretory otitis media, an ear condition similar to 'glue ear' in children than can cause symptoms similar to SM: PSOM
One extensive problem for SM dogs is the length of time it can take for someone to finally recognise the dog has syringomyelia, which is normally a very rare condition. Thus a dog can suffer for weeks, months or years as its syringomyelia is misdiagnosed and wrongly treated -- usually as allergies, back problems or sprains. Most vets will never have seen a case, and even many neurologists are unfamiliar with it, or unaware of the level of affectedness in cavaliers. You can make a difference! Downloading and print out the symptoms document, Dr Clare Rusbridge's Canine Chiari-like Malformation and Syringomyelia, and Dr Rusbridge's treatment recommendations and bring them to your vet for their files.