Syringomyelia MRI Screening Clinic

Langford Vets offer a Syringomyelia MRI Screening Clinic for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (CKCS) as part of the British Veterinary Association/Kennel Club Chiari-malformation/ Syringomyelia Scheme which aims to reduce the number of CKCS affected by this disease1. We are actively involved in furthering the understanding of syringomyelia in CKCS in order to improve the diagnosis and treatment of this condition. Dogs attending our Syringomyelia Screening Clinic are not required to take part in our research in order to be screened; however if you are interested in your dog participating, your assistance is greatly appreciated.

For more information regarding Syringomyelia Research at Langford Vets, please follow the link below:

Neck pain study

Please note: CM-SM Screening Clinic closed May 2016


What is syringomyelia? 

Chiari-like malformation is a developmental abnormality of the head, which is thought to result in the formation of syringes (accumulation of fluid within the spinal cord),2 a condition called syringomyelia. It is an inherited condition in CKCS3.
There is a wide range in the severity of clinical signs and a large number of CKCS have syringomyelia but may not show clinical signs2 or develop signs later in life. In clinically affected patients, syringomyelia causes neuropathic pain (a type of pain resulting in abnormal sensation and pain responses to non-painful stimuli) and affects 70% of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (CKCS) over 6 years of age3.
Clinical signs associated with syringomyelia include spontaneous vocalisation, phantom scratching (without making skin contact), and increased sensitivity around the head, face and neck4.  Signs may progress to include limb weakness4. While medical and surgical treatment options are available for syringomyelia these are not always successful in relieving neuropathic pain sufficiently, with 15% of dogs with syringomyelia being euthanised5.

What are the benefits of MRI Screening for syringomyelia?

  • In CKCS intended for breeding, MRI screening for syringomyelia enables breeders to choose to breed from dogs without the condition, to reduce the risk of having puppies that inherit syringomyelia.
  • In CKCS NOT intended for breeding, screening can help to reassure owners as to whether their dog has evidence of syringomyelia, as clinical signs are not always obvious and may develop at a later stage as the condition is progressive. In dogs found to have evidence of syringomyelia but without concurrent clinical signs, we can make recommendations for monitoring these dogs and for practical lifestyle modifications. 

Which dogs are eligible for MRI Screening?

Healthy entire or neutered CKCS OVER 12 months OLD are eligible for screening at this clinic. It is recommended that dogs used for breeding are scanned at 3 years old and 5 years old. If your dog has a heart murmur, this should be discussed with the clinic prior to the admission appointment. 

What does Syringomyelia MRI Screening involve? 

You and your dog attend an admission appointment to allow your dog to be assessed prior to anaesthesia and paperwork to be completed. Your dog then has an area of fur clipped from his/her leg for an intravenous catheter to be placed and has a general anaesthetic in order for the MRI images to be obtained safely, which takes approximately 30 minutes. Your dog can be collected at an afternoon discharge appointment to allow him/her time to recover from the anaesthetic.

The completed Owner Declaration and Submitting Veterinary Surgeon’s Certificate are submitted with a CD of the MRI scan images to the BVA/KC CM/SM Scheme panel.

Once the MRI scans have been graded by the Scheme’s panel, an owner’s certificate and the CD are returned to the submitting veterinary surgeon to be returned to the owner. A photocopy of the certificate is sent to the submitting veterinary surgeon for their records.

The names and results of KC registered dogs assessed under the CM/SM scheme are published on the Kennel Club website. This information is used to help breeders select the CKCS used for breeding, aiming to reduce the numbers of dogs affected by syringomyelia.


  • Screening clinic fee: £300/ dog (includes general anaesthetic and MRI) payable at Langford Vets Small Animal Hospital
  • BVA/KC CM-SM Scheme Scoring fee: £100/dog (cheque) 

Checklist for attending clinic

  • Permanent identification (microchip or tattoo)
  • Kennel Club Registration certificate for KC registered dogs AND any related transfer/change of name certificate
    OR an appropriate form of identification (e.g. used by the owner’s veterinary practice or breed club) for non-KC registered dogs only
  • £100 scoring fee per dog- cheque made payable to “British Veterinary Association”
  • Please follow the recommendations given when booking your appointment regarding starving your dog before his/her anaesthetic. Your dog can have continued access to water. 

Please see the Langford Vets Anaesthesia department page for information regarding your pet’s anaesthetic.


  • Please allow 4 weeks for results from the BVA. Please contact the Screening Clinic after 4 weeks if you have not received your dog’s results.
  • LVS is not involved in assessing and grading the BVA/KC Chiari-like malformation/Syringomyelia Screen results. All results are determined by the CM/SM Scheme’s panel. If an owner wishes to appeal the CM/SM grade, appeals must be made in writing to the BVA within 45 days of the date of dispatch of the original grade certificate from BVA. Appeals certificates with a £100 re-assessment fee (cheque made payable to BVA) must be completed within 30 days. The decision made by the BVA/KC CM-SM panel upon appeal is final. The LVS Imaging and Neurology departments do not offer opinions regarding Syringomyelia screening MRI grades.

Further information

BVA Health Schemes:

BVA/KC CM-SM Scheme Procedure Notes:



2.       Rusbridge C and Jeffery, N (2008). Pathophysiology and treatment of neuropathic pain associated with syringomyelia. The Veterinary Journal. 175 164-172.

3.       Parker JE, Knowler SP, et al (2011) Prevalence of asymptomatic syringomyelia in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Veterinary Record 168 (25): 667.

4.       Shaw et Al (2012) Increase in Cerebellar Volume in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels with Chiari-like malformation and its Role in the Development of Syringomyelia. PLoS ONE 7 (4):e33660.

5.       Plessas et Al (2012) Long term Outcome of Cavalier King Charles spaniel dogs with clinical signs associated with Chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia. 10.1136/vr.100449 Veterinary Record.