Syringomyelia Awareness: Griffon Bruxellois (Brussels Griffon)

My name is Rachael and this is my first experience of blogging so here goes:

Chiari-like Malformation (CM) and Syringomyelia (SM) is a recent neurological condition that has been diagnosed in over twenty breeds of dogs including, Affenpinscher, Bichon Frise, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, Cavaliers, Chihuahuas, French Bulldogs, Griffon Bruxellois, Havanese, King Charles Spaniel, Miniature Dachshunds, Maltese, Minature Pinscher, Minature/ToyPoodles, Papillions, Pekingese, Pomeranians, Pug, Shih Tzus, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Yorkshire Terriers and several cross breeds.

I have been a dog lover all of my life. A Griffon Bruxellois (Brussels Griffon) admirer for many years and a delighted griffon owner for over five years. My journey with CM / SM started in January 2010. Though I had heard of syringomyelia in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel it was at the Griffon Bruxellois Club 2008 health symposium that I heard of the condition emerging in a small number of Griffons.

The Griffon Bruxellois Club in the UK are proactive on health concerns and in 2008 and again in 2010 they held a health symposium on Syringomyelia. The Griffon Bruxellois Club along with the Griffon Breeders Association have strived to raise awareness and to make their membership aware of the proposed BVA/KC (British Veterinary association/ Kennel Club) CMSM breeding protocols.

With this in mind in January 2010 I took my three griffon girls for a MRI scan, this is the only way to confirm CM / SM status. Some planning was needed in the logistics of this. It is an expensive procedure (though there are a growing number of veterinary clinics offering low cost MRI scanning), it involved taking holiday days from work to enable me to travel a round trip of 450 miles. All three of my griffons are symptom free, but even so, the following week waiting for the results was an anxious time.

The results arrived via email. One of my dogs Mia, was graded D following the breeding protocol grades. This means she has asymptomatic (does not exhibit symptoms) syringomyelia. Her syrinx (fluid filled sack in spinal cord) at four and a half years old was small at 3mm, so hopefully with fingers crossed she will remain symptom free. Of course over the years this syrinx may enlarge and she may as she ages start to show symptoms of the condition. I feel that if she does develop symptoms at least I will have some knowledge and understanding of what is going on in her little body and will be able to seek out the appropriate veterinary and holistic care for her. The MRI also indicated that she had chiari-like malformation which I have since learnt can be a painful condition in its own right.

The result for Mia’s daughter Keziah who was 17 months at the time of the scan was that she did not have syringomyelia. The scan did show a mild chiari-like malformation. Keziah was scanned at a young age and may or may not go on to develop a syrinx. This is one of the difficulties with this condition it is a progressive disease. To understand Keziahs CM / SM status from a breeding perspective means that I should have her rescanned at an older age. I am lucky to know that Keziah’s dad was scanned by his breeder and he is a graded A which does give me comfort. Research review of the breeding protocols indicate that a dog like Keziah, from a grade D to grade A mating has a fifty % chance of not developing syringomyelia. A grade A to grade A mating the % rises to 75+. The nature of syringomyelia means that a dog may not show any symptoms of the condition but are carriers of CM / SM and may pass on these genes to their litters. Knowing that Keziah does not have syringomyelia at 17 months is a relief though at this young age not a guarantee. I do feel that by equipping myself with this knowledge it will enable me to make the right decisions in terms of Keziahs future health and well being and when or whether to breed a litter with her.

Lola scanned at three years and three months old does not have syringomyelia and equally important does not have chiari-like malformation. The Griffon Bruxellois along with other toy breeds are helping in the international research to locate the genes for this condition. The research team were very interested in Lola’s result. With griffons and other breeds the CM status is important in the genome research underway with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Research is underway in griffons because, unlike 99% of cavaliers, griffons do not all have chiari-like malformation. My understanding is that griffons and the other breeds of dog, will really help in the fine tuning of the DNA genome project. The genome research needs DNA at this present time from dogs who do not have CMSM on a MRI scan to help the fine mapping of the genes.

Taking my dogs through this health screening process was a little daunting. Getting Mia’s result back was upsetting and unsettling particularly as she shows no symptoms of the condition. CMSM is a condition that affects many breeds of dogs. A few months later I decided to set up the website and fund as I felt a positive way forward in this journey with syringomyelia was to try to unite together all breeds of dogs touched by this condition and to support the ongoing canine research in to syringomyelia and chiari-like malformation.

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  1. Thanks rachael for sharing and starting friends of lola. Not only has friends of lola contributed a bunch to research, but it brings all breeds together. Having a cavalier with SM, it is much easier to find support groups and more known. When I got an email from a pug owner telling me she has no where to go, I thought how much harder that is. SM awareness is so important to several breeds, so thank you for being proactive and bringing all breeds with CM/SM together.

  2. Hi Rachael – I am so glad you have been able to post and hopefully reaise awareness in the USA. Anyone interested in an update on the genetic research go to

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