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Treating Chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia in dogs
  1. C. Stalin, MA, VetMB, DipECVN
  1. Small Animal Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Garscube Campus, Bearsden Road, Glasgow G61 1QH, UK e-mail:

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CHIARI-like malformation and syringomyelia is well recognised in Cavalier King Charles spaniels. Syringomyelia is characterised by cavitation of the spinal cord leading to disruption of the decussating spinothalamic fibres. In people with syringomyelia, pain is a prominent feature in 50 to 90 per cent. Patients typically present with complaints of radicular pain, interscapular pain, and/or central cord pain. In addition to the more common clinical pain syndromes, approximately 40 per cent of patients with syringomyelia experience significant dysaesthetic pain, which is variously described as a burning sensation, pins and needles, or stretching of the skin (Todor and others 2000). Chronic pain resulting from injury to either the peripheral or central nervous system is referred to as neuropathic pain.

Neuropathic pain in animals is difficult to recognise as, unlike people, they are not able to voice the discomfort and abnormal sensations. However, owners of Cavalier King Charles spaniels with syringomyelia will report a typical history of yelping, scratching behaviour, apparent discomfort or avoidance of being touched over the ear, neck, shoulder or sternum or abnormal head posture (Rusbridge and others 2007). It is therefore assumed that these dogs are suffering from neuropathic pain similar to that described by their human counterparts.

From this supposition, …

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