What Is Syringomyelia?

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Syringomyelia is a condition which causes fluid-filled cavities to develop within the spinal cord near the brain. Syringomyelia is known as “neck-scratcher’s” disease in dogs due to the common symptom of scratching around the neck.

Breeds at Highest Risk of Developing the Disease

Syringomyelia is a rare condition in most breeds but has been found to be prevalent in two breeds in particular:

Although, not as common, there are several other breeds that have been found to be at a lower risk of developing SM including:

Syringomyelia is most commonly found in dogs six months of age or older.

Symptoms of Syringomyelia

Pain is the most common symptom associated with Syringomyelia. Other symptoms include:

  • Phantom Scratching: This is often the earliest symptom associated with SM. The dog will begin to be sensitive in her neck resulting in the urge to scratch at her neck excessively. This is most commonly seen during exercise. This is due to the high pressure placed on the spinal column from fluid buildup.
  • Screaming: The screaming from your dog is due to the pain associated with the disease. Severe pain around your dog’s head, neck and shoulders result in screaming, moaning and/or crying. As the disease progresses, it destroys your dog’s spinal cord which also results in extreme pain and your dog may begin to sleep with his head up and contort his neck randomly.

Causes of the Disease

The most common cause of Syringomyelia is the improper and harmful breeding of pedigree dogs. In order to remove the disease from affected breeds, those who carry this disease should not be permitted to breed.

Treating Syringomyelia

When treating Syringomyelia, the primary goal is to relieve pain. Drugs are often prescribed to provide pain relief and surgery may be recommended. The surgery for Syringomyelia can involve the removal of the occipital bone to ease the pressure of the skull and the spine. Surgery can allow the cerebrospinal fluid to flow normally which not only reduces pain but also prevents further deterioration.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.