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Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia Diagnosis Lag Time

Dhicon_thumb By DogHeirs Team | November 01, 2010 | Answers (4)

Dr. Clare Rusbridge has reported that a considerable amount of time typically passes between the first onset of symptoms and a confirmed diagnosis is made of syringomyelia-affected dogs (an average of 1.6 years). During this period, irreversible nervous system damage can occur due to the progressive nature of the disease.

We hope to understand why the lag between owner recognition and veterinary diagnosis exists, with the aim of identifying ways to reduce this time span and to improve patient outcomes through early diagnosis and care.

Please contribute by taking the poll below and answering these two questions in the "Answers" section.

  1. How long was the period between your observations of symptoms and the confirmation of diagnosis by a veterinarian?
  2. Did your dog experience additional complications and require long-term care and/or ongoing medication?


If your dog was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation and/or Syringomyelia, what was your biggest challenge in getting help for your CM/SM affected dog?
Total votes 15
Vote Symptoms were vague (I wasn't sure, but only suspected during the lag period)
Vote Lacked awareness (I didn't realize that those behaviours were symptoms of disease)
Vote Difficulty in veterinary awareness (I knew there was an issue, but my veterinarian(s) didn't recognize the symptoms)
Vote Other (Please explain)
You must vote to see the resuts.

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Answers To This Question

Sanji presented with phantom scratching symptoms around age 4. We immediately suspected SM but our multiple vet visits did not result in anyone recognizing the signs. First we were told it might be food allergies, then possibly a disc issue. We had a video of him demonstrating what I now know was very clearly SM symptoms but nobody recognized it as such for at least a year and we bought into it. After we finally started leaning away from our initial suspicions of SM, a new vet encouraged us to get a neurology consult at a hospital a few hours away. The neuro specialists immediately suspected SM and the mri confirmed a chiari malformation with several fluid-filled pockets along the spine. Looking back, it's hard to believe we didn't see this from the start. With just a small amount of extra awareness in the general vet community it would have been obvious to any vet. Sanji had FMD surgery at age 5.5 and seemed fully recovered for the first few months but is now showing returning symptoms and will be on some combination of Gabapentin and Amantadine with occasional Prednisone and Tramadol for life.

I realized there was a problem with my new puppy very quickly (within 4 weeks).  I had seen a total of 3 different vets.  No one mentioned CM/SM and sent me home saying my puppy was fine.  I took it into my own hands and googled "Cavalier Neck Scratching".  That was the first time I had ever heard of SM/CM.  I brought several print out's about SM/CM to the the 3rd vet but he seemed skepticacl and didn't want to send us to a neurologist.  He wanted to send us to an intern of internal medicine.  Lots of disagreements and stress later I was finally able to get the referal I needed to a neurologist.  Sure enough the MRI on my 6 month old puppy showed moderate CM.  He is on medication 3 times a day and is nearly episode free!

I first suspected SM in Tali when he was about 6 months old but was unable to get a proper diagnosis until he was nearly 3 years old.  Consequently he suffered permanent nerve damage and is on Prednisone plus Gabapentin for life, despite having FMD surgery at age 3.

We thought Holly had some skin problem or something external irritating her and causing her to throw her neck on the floor as if she were trying to scratch her neck on the floor... We didn't realize for several months that she had worsening pain, until the day she began dramatically whimpering with nearly any movement of her head spine.

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