Syringomyelia Awareness: Ruby’s Story

Guest Post by:
Karen Barnard


Ruby was Diagnosed with Syringomyelia in May 2009. By this time she was 2 1/2 years old. I instinctively knew she wasn’t ‘normal’ by the time she reached 18 months (maybe even earlier) but by the time she hit 18 months she slowed down. At that age she should’ve been in her prime, enjoying life to the full in her adolescence, but instead I had a young dog that was stuck in a senior body. She was extremely lethargic, very head sensitive, scratched more than I could possibly believe, rubbed her head along the ground at every single opportunity (especially when active) and her general appearance was pained.

Everyone we knew, including my 95 year old Nan, noticed she wasn’t right. We had X-rays taken, blood tests completed and allergy tests completed but nothing brought anything to our attention.

I have always been an avid reader of the monthly Dog magazines and the first point in which I came across the word, Syringomyelia, was in a publication in one of those magazines in 2008. I remember vividly reading through the article crying my eyes out- I thought that was us, we were looking at this problem in Ruby. I made a phone call to my partner in tears explaining what I had read and he told me to get a grip of myself as she was fine and nothing was wrong with her. Although from that point onwards that article stayed at the back of my mind, I tried to focus on problems that were far more common and ignored my gut instinct. God knows I wish I hadn’t!!!!

In August 2008 a program aired on the BBC called ‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed,’ I sat and watched in horror. Once the program had finished my sister telephoned me and said that she thought that was Ruby! She asked me if Ruby was going to die, all I could say was that I didn’t know.

Next came the investigating, I started reading all I could on the disease but information was scarce and my Vet wasn’t very clued up either. I really thought I was alone and didn’t know where to go. I watched the program again and noted the name of Dr Clare Rusbridge, I did a search for her online and found that she worked in Wimbledon which isn’t far from where I am. I then went to my vet and stated that I wanted to be referred to Dr Rusbridge with Ruby as I was 90% sure that Ruby was suffering from this disease. Finally after a long wait the day came- we made the 3 hour drive to Wimbledon and all I could think on the way was that my precious girl was being driven to a death sentence.

After a very long day of waiting around the results were in, all I heard were the words “I’m very sorry” I collapsed in a heap and just kept saying over and over again, “I knew, I knew, I knew!!!” Dr Rubsbridge was extremely sympathetic and explained all the options to us but I wasn’t really taking anything in, which I think she reaslised! She said to go home and that she would mail me all the information to look over so that I could make an informed decision about what treatment to use.

That was the longest drive home of my life, with Ruby still completely out of it on the seat next to me, I kept looking at my poor angel thinking of what life now held for us all- A whole lot of uncertainty- We finally got home at 7pm, I took Ruby to my bed and stayed there all night with her, offering her tiny amounts of water every now and again. I started reading through every ounce of information I could find on the web just desperate to find some good news. It wasn’t to be!

We decided eventually to go with medical management instead of Surgery, which meant we would try and control the pain and the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) which in turn should ease the pressure on the brain and the spine. The first few months were hit and miss with getting the right mix and quantities of medications and Ruby’s symptoms were not getting any better, she started to become very unsteady on her feet and was more lethargic than ever before. She would trip up curbs, fall over potholes and loose her balance quite regularly- I thought it was the end for us all. To have neurological damage this bad was really bad news and meant that the Syrinx in her spine was damaging her nervous system.

We went back to see Dr Rusbridge in September 2009 to explain our situation and my worries, she thought by my emails that she was going to see real deterioration in Ruby but upon doing some little tests, Ruby wasn’t as bad as we thought. Dr Rusbridge explained that the mix of medication could be causing the problems I have seen in Ruby and to try something different. We transferred her on to a much stronger painkiller which I call the ‘Miracle’ drug and quite honestly she has been a different dog ever since!!

We compete in Agility and Obedience and she lives life to the full!!! She truly has been my Ruby again and its better than I ever could imagine. She still has the odd off day where she is slower than normal but she just rests to her hearts content and I just let her be.
I am fully aware that eventually the drugs will cease to be so effective but until that day comes she is my Ruby again and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Living with an affected dog teaches you a lot about life and death and how important it is to live every day to the full. She hasn’t a clue what the future holds for her and she lives every day as it is. She has taught me so much and truly believe she was bought to me from the angels for a very good reason.

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  1. Carol's Critter Corner says

    Wow, I'm so sorry Ruby is going thru this but glad that she is doing better. God speed Ruby.


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