Ella was diagnosed with Syringomyelia and taught me more in her short life about how to live life to the fullest, love with all your heart, and learn from each other.

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The moment I first held Ella, my world changed. She has touched so many people giving love as a therapy dog but now it is time to give back. No matter how hard she tries to give, her eyes show sadness and pain.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ella the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Syringomyelia. What is it and Why should I care and How knowing the answer saved Ella's life

Ella the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Syringomyelia. What is it and Why should I care and How knowing the answer saved Ella's life

Syringomyelia. What is it and Why should I care and How knowing the answer saved Ella's life

When you go to the doctor when you have something wrong he may ask you what is going on and then probably will ask you about your family history.  When you have a dog, they can not tell you when something is bothering them, but if you were aware of what symptoms to look for then it would give you a clue.  Certain breeds are prone to certain inherited health conditions.  This is also why a family doctor will ask for details of your family medical history.  They will want to know what to look out for to have better knowledge of inherited conditions.  A lot of Cavalier owners have never heard of Syringomyelia (SM) which shocks me.  The reason it is estimated that 95% of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have Chiari Malformation (CM) and out of that roughly 50% have SM.

Syringomyelia is a condition where the skull is too small for the brain and there is blockage to the flow of the CSF cerebrospinal Fluid.  http://www.veterinary-neurologist.co.uk/ gives a better description and answers to common questions but since the fluid can not flow normally, there can be pressure that can even go down the spine. This is why some dogs may become paralyzed. Some researchers believe that SM is the leading health issue facing Cavaliers along with Mitral Valve Disease.  Many Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have SM but never show any symptoms.  They may scratch a little bit but overall they are mild.  However, there are more severe cases, like Ella, that the pain becomes unbearable and they eventually need to be euthanized.  There are two reasons I feel that it is important to bring awareness to this condition.  The first is, each generation the severity is increasingly getting worse.  There are researchers and breeders that are trying to eliminate or help the progression of this condition in this breed. Without knowing the family history, you don't know if this could be passed on to your puppy.  The second reason I feel this is important is because I read about Syringomyelia so I knew what symptoms to look for.

One thing about Syringomyelia is that many of the symptoms can be misdiagnosed.  Notice any change in behavior.  These are some of the symptoms of Syringomyelia but not every dog has all of these symptoms.
This was taken from
  • Lethargic. Does not want to play like they used to. Maybe seem older than they are
  • Scratching at their shoulders or neck.
  • Scratching on their side. Usually on one side
  • weakness in limbs
  • painful when touched, especially in neck area. Does not seem to want to be touched there
  • yelping for no reason
  • lip-licking, feet licking,
  • dullness in eyes
  • head shaking, face rubbing
  • prefer to have their head raised
  • (bunny hop)
  • withdrawal in a corner, under a table or bed
  • gnawing or scratching at the bedding
  • restless nights
  • loss of bladder
The only way to diagnose Syringomyelia is with an MRI.  Syringomyelia (SM) varies with each dog as far as severity, progression and treatment. 

There are different treatment options, medical management, surgery, acupuncture.  For more detailed information on Syringomyelia including please visit the websites  http://www.cavalierhealth.org/

There are other breeds to be known to develop Syringomyelia but to a lesser extent and they should be mentioned: Bichon Frise, Boston Terrior, Brussels Griffon, Bull Terrier, Chihuahua, French Bulldog, Havanese, King Charles Spaniel (English Toy Spaniel), Maltese Terrier, Miniature Dachshunds, Miniature and Toy Poodles, Papillon, Pomeranian, Pugs, Shih Tzu, Staffordshire, and the Yorkshire Terrier.  There is a website set up for stories for different breeds http://www.friends-of-lola.com/

Ella's Story

When I received the call in January 2010 from Ella's neurologist with her MRI results telling me she had a severe case of Syringomyelia with a large syrinx my world stopped. I thought I did not hear it right. I was the one who read about Syringomyelia and knew all the symptoms and demanded she be seen by a neurologist. I started to notice something was off with Ella probably when she was about 2 years old. She was almost 4 when she was diagnosed. It was nothing major, it just seemed like she scratched more than usually.  I tend to notice everything about her. Her vet said that it was probably food allergies so we changed her food and I didn't really think anything about it.  Then several months later she just looked funny walking up the stairs. I can't describe it but no one else could see what I saw. I even took her to see her vet to watch her go up the stairs.  I felt like someone taking their car into the shop and it works only when you are their. People thought I was crazy. She would put one paw in front of the other and she always seemed to walk on one side. She always seemed to scratch at her ears, which was diagnosed as an ear infection.  All of these things may sound like typical dog behavior and some of it could be but looking back on it, they were pieces to a puzzle.

It was probably in April 2009, I noticed the lack of energy. I would think she was just tired from day care. I would laugh and say what is wrong with you? In April a Cavalier Meet-Up group began in Charlotte and I said I would write a newsletter and I included some health information.  It was there that I read about Syringomyelia. My heart stopped. I immediately bought the book For the Love of Ollie and donated to SM research. I don't know, maybe deep inside I knew that something was wrong with Ella.  All of my friends could not see it and the only way to really diagnose it was with an MRI which for me cost $1700. 

The other things I noticed was the restless nights. She seemed to never get comfortable. Always making a bed or rubbing her face on the covers.  I heard about the "phantom scratching" and I didn't really see that. I started to look to see if she was scratching on one side.  She was always scratching on one side.  I paid close attention to all the things she was doing.  It then went downhill real fast.  In about two weeks she was hiding under the bed, under the table, laying on the floor, shaking her head constantly, hardly able to walk up the stairs, dullness in the eyes. Again I went to my vet and he said not to jump to any conclusions it's probably an ear infection and allergies and we still want to rule those out before I recommend her go to a neurologist.

I knew she had Syringomyelia.  That weekend I took her to my cousins house and the thing Ella likes to do more than anything is run after the ball.  I threw the ball and she was did not move.  I started to sob. I called and demanded for them to let me see a neurologist.  She went that following Monday.  I thought I caught it before anyone.  My friends did not even think she needed to see a neurologist so when it was severe I was shocked.  I think it was because of the rate of her progression.

Now that I knew she had it, the hardest part of anyone that finds out their dog has Syringomyelia is knowing what treatment option to take.  I can not recommend which is the best option because it is different for each dog.  Her neurologist said he could not tell me she would be around in 3 months and I couldn't live with that. She had a severe case and it was progressing fast. She was first put on medication but she had surgery a couple of weeks later.  She continues to be on several different medications and I am blessed to have her with me each day. I am constantly reminded of how lucky I was to know about this condition because if I didn't I do not know how much damage to her spinal cord would have been done.

Now it has been over six months and she is doing great! Please see the links on my blog because they offer valuable information and I also included support groups. If you have a dog with Syringomyelia and would like to be added to Ella's prayer list email me at www.acavaliersvoice.com

Awareness of Syringomyelia. Looking forward to writing

I have been given the opportunity to write a blog about Ella's story to raise awareness about Syringomyelia and I have been very excited but I want to get it right.  I am no expert on Syringomyelia and I am learning something new everyday, but I feel it is important for people to know about SM. I think people should, in general, know what is going on health wise with their animals, especially when there are breed specific health conditions like SM and MVD. 

I see on the Internet horrible Youtube videos of Cavaliers with SM and it makes me want to cry.  I know there was a BBC special that has been highly debated and even though SM should not be taken lightly, I also want to give people hope.  Unfortunatly to grab people's attention, those videos do a pretty good job. They also don't give the other side like what people are doing about it. The breeders who are trying to screen dogs, the surgery, the medication, some dogs living to be several years old, some never progressing.  There also are some that lose the battle.  It needs to be addressed like MVD and there needs to be healthly breeding, low cost MRI's, and other things to help our Cavaliers, but my main point is not to scare people.  I want them to notice the symptoms and hopefully start medication treatment.  I am not sure how this story will go but I do know that Ella's vet did not think she had a problem and without me noticing her symptoms and demanding her get checked with a neurologist, with her progression and severity I would hate to think of where she could be now.

So take a moment and notice your dogs. Evaluate and notice any behavior changes.  They can not talk to us so we really need to pay special attention to what is going on to them.  I look forward to writing my blog for http://www.dawgbusiness.blogspot.com/  If you want to see more stories about other dog health problems this is a good site to go to.  Stay tuned. Much more to come.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ella's story

I am going to write a quick post but i am excited because Www.dawgbusiness@blogspot.com wants to share ella's story about sm. I feel because i was aware of what it was i noticed several symptoms even before her vet did.  This blog is great because it gives several information about other health concerns.

anniemac proud owner of ella

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cavalier Breeders- Ones that care about well being throughout life

The previous post said that an article in The Bark Magazine really hit home to me and that is because Ella has an inherited condition that is becoming common in Cavaliers. Why do I not blame her breeder since it was passed on by her parents I have been asked? The reason is because her breeder has been in contact with Ella and she did everything possible to ensure that her puppies were as healthy as possible. Sometimes God gives us things that are out of their hands.  The first time I got on a support site for Cavaliers with SM and asked how I could help, I got a cry from breeders saying that they need a voice because there are too many people blaming them for things when they are the ones trying to do the most to help this breed.

After being on a member of this group for sometime I see discussions about what can they do, they have done this that and the other to help control the problem.  They are scanning their dogs to find clear dogs and having trouble, they are the ones going above and beyond wanting to find the gene that causes this condition.  They are wanting to save this breed.  So who do we want to help this breed? Why should we blame these breeders who are paying so much money and spending so much time researching, crying for a beloved breed that they know more about than any other person. Most have been breeding for decades. 

They see what could happen if breeders are ignoring this problem. If we let people breed Cavaliers that do not know about these health condition and this will continue to pass on to more and more and carry on to create even more unhealthy dogs.  I am still shocked at how many people do not even know about SM. I am still shocked at seeing people post on twitter, online, or even Ebay Cavaliers for sale saying they are AKC registered. The ACKCSC is actually the parent club of the AKC.  There are strict ethical guidelines and that is because they need to be aware of all of the health concerns and are constantly being educated on Cavaliers.  You can visit their website and they give great history and a little background on their breeding praticed and ethical guidelines.  It is why I believe they are trying to do the right thing.  This is the website American King Charles Spaniel Club, Inc.

This blog is not to recommend or give negative comments about breeders so do not put any comments or name any specific breeders. 

When I bought Ella, I did a little research which is what I recommend. Even though I point out some of the health problems, there are so many positives and I will never get another breed.  A responsible breeder does several things. They make sure that they test there dogs to see if they are healthy so they don't pass on any health problems (as you know from Ella there are no guarantees), they also make sure that the puppy is placed in the right home, they educate the owner, they follow up with the puppy through their life, they make you sign an agreement to have you dog spayed/neutered, and they also will say if you ever are unable to take care of you dog then they will take them back. Sounds terrible, but they care about their dogs well being.

That is what sums it up. It is not just here is the dog and that's it. They have a vested interest in the dog and cares about them. They want to see them happy and healthy. They want them in a good home.  To think I was scared I would not "pass the test" because I lived in an apartment :) I think I passed. They never want their dog not taken care of. To think they would be sold to someone or have them produce offspring with another Cavalier by someone that is not educated in breeding is unsettling. Most of these breeders are vets or know about things that are way over my head.  To think that some people think it is as simple as taking a male and female is all that matters is ignorant.

Cavaliers and Pet Therapy- An angel that can not use her wings

I am really sad right now because I truly believe ella has a special quality of touching people. I am sure everyone feels that way but she gave me a purpose for living and I could see that everytime she would visit people in nursing homes. Their eyes would be dull and all a sudden ella would bring them back to life. Some of these people never had visitors & no one showed them affection. Ella did that and I know how much it meant to them. Great now I'm upset again!

I would go in their rooms and they did not have any pictures of family or anything. I gave them pictures of ella and soon noticed them on their walls. They wanted to see her! They would want me to bring me treats so they could give them to her (those they were not bad off). We were put in charge of this program but ella started to back away. Thinking about it today I did not put it together, but I guess it started to be painful for her to be touched.

She still would wag her tail but be more reserved and that is not good for a therapy dog. They need to not hide under chairs because they don't want to be touched. So I'm feel real sad today because I know she will never be able to give that to others. Maybe she has given 4 years of her life to help others so its okay for a break. It still is sad. I wonder if those pictures are faded on those walls since it has been a year.
For more information about how cavaliers make great therapy dogs visit this website Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club- USA

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cavalier Forum, Support, Hope.

I starting to post, ask questions, blog, etc on the Cavalier Forum which has been great. The website address is www.cavaliertalk.com. I think it is good because it is a community of Cavalier lovers that provide support on not just SM and other health issues, to cute puppy pictures, shopping insite. Overall it is a great community of people that have been very supportive of Ella and will welcome anyone who joins. It is not a place of negativity, but a place for people who love these dogs. I just think they are the best breed and I can’t imaging having a different type of dog ever again!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ask me questions and i will try to tell you no lies

The internet is packed with people with opinions, agendas, facts, and sometimes it is easy to get mislead.  I will tell you up front that i am not asking for money, i dont have the answers, in fact i am trying to find answers myself, i dont care how many people follow my blog, but what i do care about is giving people the tools to get more information. People can hear ella's story and how are fighting each day to learn more things about this condition. Striving to bring awareness to owners of the importance of being aware of health issues. Overall, learning how to cope with a condition that is so complex because no one can know what the future holds. Each dog is different but they are all special in their own way.

Location : 603 Queens Rd, Charlotte, NC 28207,

anniemac proud owner of ella

Friday, July 16, 2010

You can only take so much

I started twitter, which i thought was stupid, but it really introduced me to very special people. I feel like there is nothing worse than sm but that is because that was all i could handle. I believe God only gives you as much as you can take.  I am not the strongest person and can only take so much so when ella was diagnosed with SM, i was broken. I went into a hole and i did not know if i could handle losing her. I still dont know if i can.

I have met people who have gone through so much more with their little ones. There was a cavalier that was attacked by another dog and it is a miracle that she is still alive. Her owner said she left her after hours at the hospital covered in her blood. There is another person taking care of a parapaligic cavalier (audrey hepburn) and i just think how little ella's problems are.

However, it is all i can handle. I recovered with her and try to remain strong for her. I am so thankful she is doing great but my heart still is with all of the others facing the loss or dealing with the health of a loved one

Location : 603 Queens Rd, Charlotte, NC 28207,

anniemac proud owner of ella

Thursday, July 15, 2010


One thing i have read as a symptom that ella never did was whelp. I talked ton another cavalier owner who has a dog with sm and she said the same thing. I thought that if ella never got to that point then it must not be bad. So when her neurologist said it was severe i did not understand. I think just because a dog does not whelp, they can still be in pain. Ella isolated herself, flinched when i tried to touch her head, scratched, had a hard time climbing stairsm wanted to be on the cool floor, and other symptoms. Just because a dog does not whelp, there still could be a chance of sm.

Location : 603 Queens Rd, Charlotte, NC 28207,

anniemac proud owner of ella

Getting back to the point

Sometimes i try to get my mind off of ella's struggles and the whole reason for this blog. This blog was created to share her story to bring awareness of sm and share information along with her own battle with this frustrating condition which unfortunately is something more common in cavaliers than most people know.

Everyone needs help. The owners searching for support and answers, breeders who are wanting to pass on healthy cavaliers which is expensive with mri's, and researchers trying to find the genes for researxh. Talking to people and listening to people trying to find clear cavaliers in a hope to not let more and more cavaliers inherit this condition. Anyone with a dog that has to go through the struggles that ella and i have, would understand this.

I got off track and posted things other than things related to sm so i decided to go back to adding those posts to a seperate blog.  I want people that visit here to come for the reason i started this blog. I want to share ella's story.

Location : 603 Queens Rd, Charlotte, NC 28207,

anniemac proud owner of ella

Monday, July 12, 2010

Top Ten Questions to ask Breeders

I can not tell you how much helpful information http://www.cavalierhealth.org/ has.  Check out what they said about the top ten questions to ask breeders and also you can look at the excuses that breeders use.  http://cavalierhealth.org/questions_for_breeder.htm

There are so many breeders out there and it is important for the health of our dogs, that the ones that are doing the most to produce healthy Cavaliers are the ones breeding.  It is tough because I know that Cavaliers can be expensive but some of that is because of the cost it takes to make sure that the puppies are healthy.  It hurts me to think about or see people selling Cavaliers online like they are an item.  These are dogs that have health problems and even though there are no guarantees, responsible breeders take measures to ensure less risk for certain problems to develop.  You can't discount a dog like a pocket book.   I just hope people are responsible and understand what health issues this wonderful breed may have and the precautions that breeders are doing to help reduce risk.  It is an amazing thing and I am not a breeder but it is not just putting two dogs together.  There are a lot of other factors to make sure to have the most healthy puppy possible. One breeder told me that as long as she goes to sleep at night knowing she did everything she could to make the most healthy puppies, then she is doing the right thing. 

Doggone gourmet! - NYPOST.com

I saw this cute picture and article on the Internet and thought I would post it. I have switched Ella's diet to include food for dogs with arthritus and it has helped. I don't know if it has been because I want to think it helps because it costs more or that it is enriched with nutrients good for their health.
Doggone gourmet! - NYPOST.com

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

friends of lola

I never thought i would be so touched and received e-mails from people sharing their story. there is so much more than ella and there are other breeds that are affected with sm. www

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a cavalier's voice

i opened myself up to the online world and i learned some interesting things. when i started this blog it was to share ella's story and bring awareness of health conditions that are important to cavaliers. thanks to some groups i have found support and talked to great people who really understand what im going. what started as something among cavaliers was

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vacation thoughts part i

i have been thinking a lot (which is scary) about a lot of things. i have been on vacation and ella and i had a blast. i wrote about ella's bad day but i did not mention the days we spent playing and running after balls in the ocean. i would throw sea shells and she iwould get them out of the water and put them in a pile. we had so much fun and one bad day is nothing if i look at the whole picture. its tough not to worry when they have an episode but i think back to the day when she stopped running after balls, laying under the table, etc and i am so lucky that we now have those good times.

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th of July and Suddenly Don't Feel Like Celebrating (Ella's bad day)

I am sitting here while all my family is getting ready to go watch the parade and head off to the beach for dinner and fireworks.  I don't know if it was too much exercise on vacation in combination with taking her medication too late today but something I did or maybe not but Ella is having a bad day.  She whelped which she hardly ever (if ever) has done.  She has been constantly scratching, shaking her head, can't get comfortable, laying on the cold floor, panting, rubbing her face on the floor and I hate these days.  I laid on the floor with her suddenly the joy I felt from the day has changed to sorrow.

Everyone says that Ella is just tired but I know these things and I could overlook them for tonight and go have a good time, but how can I when I know she is having a bad day? It's like one minute you forget she is sick and so does everyone else, but then they have an episode and you are reminded of the fact that the future is unknown.