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Can breeding strategies modify or eliminate the syringomyelia phenotype?
  1. Colin J. Driver, BSc, BVetMed, MRCVS and
  2. Holger A. Volk, DVM, PhD, DECVN, MRCVS, FHEA
  1. Queen Mother Hospital for Animals, Royal Veterinary College, North Mymms, Hertfordshire AL9 7TA, UK
  1. e-mail: cdriver{at}

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BREEDING strategies have existed for some time to limit the inheritance of common canine breed-specific diseases such as deafness in dalmatians, glaucoma in flat-coated retrievers and hip dysplasia in labrador retrievers. Progress in the control of these diseases relies on a greater understanding of their mode of inheritance (Wood and others 2004).

Since the onset of using MRI in dogs in the late 1990s, the spinal cord disease syringomyelia has been reported to commonly affect several small breed dogs, notably the Cavalier King Charles spaniel (CKCS) and more recently the Griffon Bruxellois (Rusbridge 1997, Rusbridge and others 2009). In CKCS, Chiari-like malformations of the skull base and its content are ubiquitous and are the most prevalent predisposing cause for syringomyelia (Rusbridge and others 2006, Cerda-Gonzalez and others 2009). Chiari-like malformations and syringomyelia can be painful conditions. In the case of syringomyelia, pain is related to the formation of asymmetrical cavitations in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord (Rusbridge and others 2007). The severity of the mismatch between the brain and skull that typifies Chiari-like malformations is associated with the presence and severity of syringomyelia (Driver and others 2010a).

For some years …

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