Chiari Malformation/ Syringomyelia Scheme

The aim of this Scheme is to reduce and eliminate the incidence of chiari malformation and syringomyelia in dogs.

MRI scans are graded by two expert Scrutineers appointed by a BVA panel. The results should then be used to make informed breeding decisions.
The Scheme is open to all dogs and breeds including crossbreeds and non-Kennel Club registered dogs.

What is chiari malformation/syringomyelia?

Chiari-like malformation (CM) is characterised by a mismatch in size between the brain (which is too large) and the skull (which is too small). This may block the opening from the skull to the spine and alter the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) around the spinal cord. As a result, fluid-filled cavities called syrinxes can develop within the spinal cord, with the condition being called syringomyelia (SM). The conditions are most often seen in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. For more information on the conditions, read our chiari malformation/syringomyelia leaflet

The conditions can cause intense pain and may have serious effects on the health, welfare and behaviour of dogs.

What is chiari malformation/syringomyelia? Image

What are the signs? 

Although some dogs can seem fine, other dogs may experience intense pain and suffering. Signs include:

  • Unable or unwilling to exercise
  • Head scratching - 'air-scratch' without making contact with the body
  • Increased sensitivity to touch, especially around the head, neck, shoulders and breast bone
  • Rubbing the face repeatedly
  • Excessively licking their paws

It is very important to discuss any concerns with your veterinary surgeon.

How to treat it

There is no one specific treatment for chiari malformation/syringomyelia. Pain relief can be prescribed and surgery is an option. You should always seek advice from your veterinary surgeon.

Common breeds at risk

Chiari malformation/syringomyelia has been shown to be inherited in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the Griffon Bruxellois and is suspected to be inherited in the King Charles Spaniel.

Other breeds reported with the condition include:

  • Affenpinschers
  • Boston Terriers
  • Chihuahuas
  • Havanese
  • Maltese
  • Papillons
  • Pomeranians
  • Staffordshire Bull Terriers
  • Yorkshire Terriers

The Scheme is open to all dogs, including crossbreeds. 

Common breeds at risk Image

Our Scrutineers and Panellists

To ensure the highest standards, expert veterinary surgeons appointed by BVA are responsible for scoring and grading all our hip, elbow and CM/SM submissions. All our Eye Panellists who perform the clinical examinations are specialists in ophthalmology. 

Expert vet panel

Got a question about the scheme?

To contact the CHS team, email [email protected]

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