• Funding for this study was provided by the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club Charitable Trust and a grant from the Department of Clinical Sciences of the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

  • This work was presented in abstract form at the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 24th Annual Forum, Louisville, KY, May 31–June 3, 2006.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Sofia Cerda-Gonzalez, at the above address. E-mail:


Chiari malformations and syringohydromyelia are an important disease complex in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Although abnormalities in caudal fossa morphology are considered major contributors to the development of this disease, limited information exists on the range of morphologies in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and on the relationship of these to clinically evident disease. Sixty-four Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were studied. Each underwent a neurologic examination and magnetic resonance imaging of the cervical spine and brain. T2-weighted sagittal images were used to determine both the morphologic characteristics and volume of the caudal fossa in each dog. This volume was also analyzed as a percentage of total cranial cavity volume. Each attribute was correlated with neurological grade and presence of syringohydromyelia. Fifteen dogs had neurologic signs, and 59 had morphologic abnormalities of the craniocervical junction. While 27 dogs had syringohydromyelia, 13 of these were clinically normal. Cerebellar herniation and occipital dysplasia were common findings but were not associated with syringohydromyelia. Dorsal compressive lesions were noted at the first and second cervical vertebral junction. Factors associated with the presence of neurologic signs included syringohydromyelia and the ratio of caudal fossa/total cranial cavity volume; dogs with signs had significantly larger syringohydromyelia than asymptomatic dogs. Caudal fossa size was not associated with syringohydromyelia. A positive association was identified between foramen magnum size and length of cerebellar herniation. The prevalence of craniocervical junction abnormalities is high in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. While several factors are associated with neurologic signs, occipital hypoplasia appears to be the most important factor.