Rupert’s Fund is a rolling fund to MRI scan older cavaliers, age 6+, for critical research into syringomyelia (SM), a neurological disease that is alarmingly prevalent in the breed. International studies have shown at least 35% of cavaliers under 5 worldwide have this often painful condition. Researchers now estimate 70%-plus of all cavaliers will eventually develop SM, and evidence indicates it is taking more severe forms over time.
Why scan? Finding the genetic cause of this terrible disease is critical to the survival of the breed and will give breeders tools to breed away from the problem. Scans are a crucial part of this research, because they are the only way to accurately diagnose SM.
Because SM is a progressive condition — meaning it tends to develop slowly over time and may not be apparent when affected dogs are younger — finding older cavaliers with little or no SM is especially valuable to determine how it is inherited and help breeders identify promising lines. But time is running out. With every new generation of dogs, lines are further mixed. Some old, probably healthier lines have disappeared already. The chance diminishes of finding the fully clear dogs that could provide a genetic rescue plan.
Two projects, both working towards a healthier future for this wonderful breed, are in need of MRI scans from older cavaliers:
❖ the Canadian genome research, aimed at finding the genes that cause SM. Finding older clear dogs helps researchers fine-tune this ground-breaking international project, based at the University of Montreal, Canada and supported by clubs, breeders and pet owners around the world. This groundbreaking research already has pinpointed the likely areas of cavalier genes where SM is carried — and a combination that seems to protect against SM! Scans of older cavaliers are needed to fine tune and complete this work.
❖ the Estimated Breeding Values (EBV) project, which eventually will enable cavalier breeders to select the most genetically appropriate mates to help reduce incidence of syringomyelia and other genetic health problems.