Syringomyelia in Dogs: Symptoms and Diagnosis

What is It?

Syringomyelia is a condition where pockets of spinal fluid appear on the spinal cord

What Causes It?

Syringomyelia occurs when the skull is too small for the brain. The brain then blocks the opening of the skull where spinal fluid enters. The blocked fluid backs up creating pockets of fluid called syrinxes on the spinal cord.

This is currently believed to be an inherited trait. It occurs most often in:

Other breeds that are prone include:

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What Are The Symptoms?

  • Extreme sensitivity to touch
  • Sleeping with head held up
  • Holding head at abnormal angle to prevent pain
  • Scratching the air around body parts
  • Pain response with no obvious motivator
  • Weakness in extremities
  • Depression
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures

Is it Life Threatening?

No, it is extremely painful and can lead to poor quality of life.

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How is It Diagnosed?

A vet will perform a full physical exam and a medical history questionnaire. Your dog’s breed will also factor into suspecting this condition. An MRI of the spine will show the existence of the syrinxes. If your dog is diagnosed, bloodwork, urinalysis, x-rays, ultrasounds, and CT scans will likely also be performed to evaluate the grade of the condition.

What Are The Treatments?

Treatment will vary depending on the severity of the condition and the age of your dog. Your vet may recommend surgery to remove part of the bone that is blocking the spinal column fluid.

This would alleviate any future issues. However, in about a quarter of these surgeries, the blockage returns. Anti-inflammatories and medications to reduce spinal fluid production are available. Physical therapy massages are also an option.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pup’s condition, please make an appointment with your veterinarian. Or, consult a virtual vet here.

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