Syringomyelia Awareness: Daisy’s Story

Guest Post by Sinead Murphy

Daisy became part of our family in March 2007 when she was 12 weeks old.My youngest child has Aspergers(an autistic spectrum disorder) and we chose a cavalier King Charles spaniel,ideal for companionship because of their wonderful temperament and affectionate nature.I remember racing home from work at lunchtime so I could spend the afternoon snuggled up with her on the sofa.

I knew that the breed had some health issues,but had been able to research her pedigree before buying her and was as sure as anyone can be, that early onset MVD was unlikely to be an issue.I saw a mention of SM on wikipedia and elsewhere ,and apart from being mildly surprised that dogs had this condition,it was reported to be found in approx 1% of the breed.This for me was an acceptable risk.

I discovered a message board called and from there,I learned more about the condition and realized that some UK breeders had opted to MRI scan their breeding stock.
In August 2008,Pedigree dogs exposed caused outrage in the cavalier world by claiming that a champion stud dog had the condition and had subsequently been used at stud. What was more startling was the claim that this condition was widespread in the breed and I couldn’t understand why breeders weren’t rushing to scan for this agonizing condition.

Of course,none of this was really relevant to me,I was confident that my little Irish spaniel had no connection with the dogs mentioned and SM was something which happened to other people’s dogs…not mine! Nagging doubts began to creep in when some of my on line friends began to have their dogs diagnosed.

In mid 2009,we began a search for a new puppy. I was advised to buy only from breeders who Mri scanned and heart tested their dogs and I made a number of puppy enquiries from health focused breeders.Our search ended in Devon with a delightful little Blenheim called Holly. Holly’s breeder organised low cost MRI scanning trips for other breeders and I asked if I could bring Daisy for an MRI scan for research.On the day I collected my new puppy, Daisy had her MRI scan at Chestergates and was found to have syringomyelia.

I tend to take bad news in a calm practical way,but I must admit that the trip home was difficult. As Daisy gradually became symptomatic and deteriorated over the last year,the one thing which kept me going was my other cavalier.

I would advise anyone considering a cavalier to choose a pup from a breeder who Mri scans both sire and dam and does not breed from cavaliers under 2.5 years old. While it cannot guarantee that your pup will not have SM, it will seriously stack the odds of having a healthier pup in your favour.

You may think that serious inherited illness will not happen to your dog,that it’s ok to take a chance and buy that nicely priced puppy without any health certificates. A cavalier will burrow it’s way into your heart and your soul and take over your life. First time cavalier owners only realize this after the pup comes home and they fall in love with it. Nothing can prepare a loving owner for the experience of managing a pet with a chronic health condition.

Responsible breeding and responsible ownership go hand in hand.

Let’s make the right choices for the future of the breed.

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