This flying cavalier is Minnie-May who will be five years old on 25th January and she is living proof that some dogs with syringomyelia (SM) can enjoy a reasonable quality of life.
"Her pedigree name is Miletree Minnie-May" says her devoted owner, Sandra Collins, who I met at Discover Dogs in November where she was helping to raise awareness of syringomyelia on the Cavalier Matters stand. "Minnie was two years old she first visited the vet when she was unable to go up the stairs or jump up on furniture. The vet said she had a muscle strain - probably from doing agility (which we do just for fun). Over a 18 month period she had another two or three similar instances. She also had several different quirky behaviours - rubbing her head, rolling, shaking her body, scooting, although none of these were being done with any significance. I also noticed that she was becoming quite head-shy and a couple of times had yelped when being fussed by people. I had seen Pedigree Dogs Exposed which brought the SM problem in Cavaliers to my attention. At that time I was sure Minnie was not affected. However, when she suffered a further instance of "muscle strain" in February last year, I mentioned SM to my vet. I was by now feeling uneasy as Minnie was starting to refuse to do a couple of obstacles on the agility course for no apparent reason.
"She had her MRI last April and you can imagine my feelings when Minnie was diagnosed with Chiari like Malformation (CM) and Syringomyelia (SM) with a 7mm wide syrinx at C2. Although an MRI of her whole spine was not done it is envisaged that she probably does have more syrinxes. A full MRI is due to be done soon.
"Minnie is now on a cocktail of medication, which currently seems to be managing her pain quite well. As well as the devastating emotional effect this diagnosis has on all of the family and the fact that it is progressive, there is the financial effect. Thank goodness we have good insurance cover as her medication costs over £100 a month, of which we get back 85% from the insurance company. There is also the main fact that we now have a dog that we are continually watchful of as she is going to spend the rest of her life with this condition and not being able to tell us when she is feeling pain or discomfort. Then at some point we may have to make the decision of whether or not to undertake surgery.
"I spoke to veterinary neurologist Clare Rusbridge about Minnie continuing agility. Her advice was to treat her as normal and to let her do as much or as little as she wanted. Minnie enjoys her agility - as you can see from the photograph taken at Chiswick House Dog Show in September last year. We were doing a display and a fun competition which Minnie went on to win."
Meanwhile, I hear that after months of effort by researchers, vets and the Kennel Club (the latter finally doing the right thing after years of stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the seriousness of the condition), several cavalier clubs are refusing to endorse the new KC/BVA SM screening programme. But perhaps that's not surprising given that some top breeders continue to breed from under-age dogs.
In an effort to combat early-onset mitral-valve disease as well as syrinomyelia in cavaliers, the breeding guidelines ask that no cavalier is bred before they are 2.5yrs old and only then if both parents are a minimum of five years old, free of a heart murmur and, ideally, SM-free too (or at least only low-grade).
How depressing, then, to hear that that one high-profile cavalier breeeder has recently used one stud dog at least nine times before they were a year old.
Anyone know any more about this, or exactly why some of the cavalier clubs are questioning the validity of the new SM screening scheme?