Green Light for Syringomyelia Health Scheme for Dogs

(BVA/Kennel Club news release) The British Veterinary Association/Kennel Club Canine Health Schemes (CHS) management committee has given the go-ahead for a new Scheme to screen dogs, particularly potential breeding stock, for chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia (CM/SM) to start in January 2012.

Chiari-like malformation (CM) is characterised by a mismatch in size between the brain (too big) and the skull (too small).

This constricts the opening from the skull into the vertebral canal and alters the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). As a result a fluid-filled cavity develops within the spinal cord called a syrinx, with the condition being called Syringomyelia (SM). Both conditions can cause a significant amount of pain.

These debilitating inherited conditions affect certain breeds, most prominently the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (pictured), but also the Griffon Bruxellois.

CM/SM is also suspected to be inherited in a number of other small (toy) breeds including King Charles Spaniels, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Affenpinschers and Maltese.

To take part in the Scheme owners will need to have their dog MRI scanned at a veterinary practice. The scans will then be reviewed by two scrutineers from a BVA-appointed panel of expert neurologists and radiologists and graded for severity for both CM and SM.

The results will be sent back to owners via the veterinary practice that performed the MRI scan. Results of Kennel Club registered dogs will be sent to the KC for publication on the KC Health Test Results Finder online and to the Animal Health Trust for inclusion in the Estimated Breeding Value (EBV) calculations.

Following consultation with breed club representatives and to achieve maximum take up of the Scheme it has been agreed that publication of results by the Kennel Club will commence once the first batch of results is available, which we expect by the end of the first quarter of 2012.

In the interim, the online Health Test Results Finder will indicate that the dog has been screened and that results are available from the owner.

User-friendly guidance on how to understand the results will be made available once the Scheme is launched.

The aim of the Scheme is to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, the incidence of inherited CM and SM in dogs.

Commenting, Harvey Locke, President of the British Veterinary Association, said:

“Syringomyelia is a terrible disease that causes severe pain. We are therefore delighted to announce the new Canine Health Scheme for CM/SM.

“It has taken over two years to develop the Scheme and we are confident that it will have a positive impact on the health and welfare of the afflicted breeds. The heritability of syringomyelia is sufficiently high that genetic selection against the disease should be very successful.

“We are very grateful to the team of scientists who have worked hard to make the Scheme possible and look forward to the launch in January.”

Prof Steve Dean, Chairman of the Kennel Club, added:

“We are very keen to encourage the greatest possible take up of the test by breeders of affected breeds. This is a key development in the work to tackle these debilitating conditions and we hope many breeders will use the Scheme.”

The full details of how the Scheme will work will be finalised between now and the end of the year and procedure notes will be circulated to ensure that scans taken from now on will fully comply with the Scheme.

The BVA/KC CHS serve to provide dog breeders with the option of testing for certain inherited diseases, to enable them to breed only from dogs which have fewer or no signs of inherited disease and thus help to reduce the incidence of these diseases.

Currently there are three Schemes – Hip Scheme (hip dysplasia), Elbow Scheme (elbow dysplasia), and Eye Scheme (hereditary eye disease). For more information click here.

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