Syringomyelia Awareness: Friday’s Story

Guest Post by: Terri of Day Dog Designs

Friday, the sweetest Blenheim Cavalier in the world, came to us as a puppy. Very early on she started scratching uncontrollably. Although my daughter wanted to do Junior Show with Friday, it was evident she couldn’t be on a lead because of her scratching episodes. We thought she had allergies and began working with our vet trying to get her some relief. The symptoms only seemed to get worse with air scratching and now yelping episodes. We were at such a loss, along with our wonderful vet, Dr. Pape. Finally she referred us to a hospital in Denver, Colorado where there were specialists to help us. One of the vets happened to read an article about Syringomyelia (SM) in Cavalier King Charles. Since this was about 6 years ago, it wasn’t widely known, at least here.

The specialist suggested we have an MRI to have a definitive diagnosis. A friend suggested we also look for PSOM (glue ear) in the MRI. They have very similar symptoms and sometimes SM can be misdiagnosed. It turned out that she not only did she have both of these diseases but severe cases of each. The vet was surprised she could walk because of the severe syrinxes all the way down her spine. She was only 18 months old! We choose to be very proactive because of her severity and had decided she would have decompression surgery, which we scheduled immediately. The surgeon would also perform the myringotomy for her PSOM.

Friday after surgery

Friday did well with the surgery, but it was a long recovery. We understood this wouldn’t take her symptoms away but just stabilize them. She still had some episodes of scratching and yelping but was helped by the addition of the drug, gabapentin. We tried other medications but only gabapentin along with tramadol for pain, helped her. Since her PSOM returned she had several more surgeries. Finally the specialist suggested we have a more invasive surgery to remove the bone in her ears that produce the mucous plugs, which we did.

When Friday was 6 years old, we started the painful discussions of letting Friday have her wings because her medications were failing to manage her symptoms. She was on the maximum dosage of gabapentin at 600mg per day and had to have pain killers daily. I just couldn’t handle watching her suffer so much. As a last ditch effort we heard that Lyrica, a newer drug prescribed for SM, was having positive results in Cavaliers. On the first dose of Lyrica it was almost a miracle for her. She lost her sad look, started playing and running again! She still has episodes but she’s improved probably 95% I would say. Things Friday couldn’t do before starting the drug she could do again like walks and gentle brushing of her coat. The only drawback of this drug is the expense. Someday a generic will be made and the cost will be more reasonable.

I want everyone to know that SM can be managed. There are a variety of treatments and with research more are becoming available. I’m glad I didn’t give up on Friday. She lives her life with such grace regardless of what she’s endured in her 7 years. Friday loves everyone and everyone seems to love her back. Honestly, I was so devastated after her diagnosis I swore I would never get another Cavalier again. I now have Sunday (Friday’s mom who is symptom free and heart clear at 9 years), Wednesday and Monday, both rescues and my newest puppy, Ace…yes, all Cavaliers! Sadly Friday was diagnosed with MVD last year and has a grade 5 to 6 heart murmur so she won’t be with us for much longer but she’s an amazing little dog who continues to touch lives and has changed my life forever. I love you Friday.

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Comments

  1. Isn;t it amazing how pets can just change your whole life? They're like little rays of sunshine, and the only problem with them is that they don't live long enough!!!
    Nice to meet all of you guys. I'm here from Bliss at home '11!

  2. Sadly I understand what you have gone through. We have gone through something similar. Our Abbey was misdiagnosed for many years and showed signs as early as a few months. She had decompression surgery almost 2 years ago. We have a blog at:

    http://abbeygeorgelinda.blogspot.com/

    I'd love to e-mail you and ask you about lyrica.

  3. Dog Pack Snacks says:

    I have never heard of this disease. How wonderful that they had so much love in their hearts that they did not give up. No matter what happens their lives have been enriched by having such a special pup in their lives.

  4. Sure you can email me at terri@jfh2.com

  5. We have a CKCS named Cooper that is now 4 months old, but has been randomly yelping/ crying out since 10 months of age (when we got him). With serious concerns, I was wondering if you could recommend a good vet or hospital for a low cost mri in Denver? I don’t think I can rest until I know for sure if the cause of yelping is SM.
    Also, do you know at what age SM can be clearly diagnosed?
    Thank you in Advance,
    Jane

Trackbacks

  1. […] at their house. Her sweet baby Friday has been afflicted with this horrible disease. She shared Friday’s Story with us to show every dog affected by this disease is different and different treatment protocols […]

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