Open Access Methodology article

Changes over time in craniocerebral morphology and syringomyelia in cavalier King Charles spaniels with Chiari-like malformation

Colin J Driver1*, Luisa De Risio2, Sarah Hamilton1, Clare Rusbridge3, Ruth Dennis2, Imelda M McGonnell4 and Holger A Volk1

Author affiliations

1 Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Royal Veterinary College, London, UK

2 2The Animal Health Trust, Newmarket, UK

3 Stone Lion Veterinary Hospital, Goddard Veterinary Group, London, UK

4 Depertment of Veterinary Basic Sciences, Royal Veterinary College, London, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Veterinary Research 2012, 8:215  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-8-215

Published: 8 November 2012



Chiari-like malformation (CM) and syringomyelia is a neurological disease complex with high prevalence in cavalier King Charles spaniels (CKCS). The natural progression of this disease with time has not been described. The objectives of this study were to i) determine if syringomyelia progresses with time ii) determine if features of craniocrebral morphology previously associated with CM are progressive (including caudal cranial fossa volume, caudal cranial fossa parenchymal volume, ventricular dimensions, height of the foramen magnum and degree of cerebellar herniation). A retrospective morphometric analysis was undertaken in 12 CKCS with CM for which repeat magnetic resonance images were available without surgical intervention.


The maximal syrinx width, height of the foramen magnum, length of cerebellar herniation and caudal cranial fossa volume increased over time. Ventricular and caudal fossa parenchymal volumes were not significantly different between scans.


The results of this study suggest that syringomyelia progresses with time. Increased caudal cranial fossa volume may be associated with active resorption of the supraoccipital bone, which has previously been found in histology specimens from adult CKCS. We hypothesise that active resorption of the supraoccipital bone occurs due to pressure from the cerebellum. These findings have important implications for our understanding of the pathogenesis and variable natural clinical progression of CM and syringomyelia in CKCS.