02162-MOU: Defining The Genetic Foundations of Chiari-Like Malformation and Syringomyelia as a Tool to Better Treat Neuropathic Pain in the Dog

Grant Status: Closed

Grant Amount: $78,786
Natasha J Olby, VetMB, PhD; North Carolina State University
January 1, 2015 - March 31, 2020

Sponsor(s): American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club Charitable Trust

Breed(s): Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Research Program Area: Neurology
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Chiari-like malformations and syringomyelia (CM/SM) are a common problem in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (CKCS) causing severe neuropathic pain. The morphometry of the skull has been examined in detail and the development of clinical signs and syringomyelia has been correlated to reduced caudal fossa to cranial cavity volume ratios and stenosis of the jugular foramen respectively. There is evidence this disorder is a complex hereditary trait but attempts to identify genetic causes have been hampered by assigning an affected or normal phenotype. Use of quantitative data from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will allow us to perform a more appropriate genetic analysis of this important and common disease. Quantification of neuropathic pain is challenging and while owners of affected CKCS frequently complain that their pet is experiencing significant pain, a routine evaluation by palpation does not always correlate well to their history. Humans with CM report increased sensitivity to touch and temperature. During case phenotyping for the genetic study, Dr. Olby will also investigate sensory thresholds in affected and normal CKCS to improve the ability to document and treat pain in these patients. This project will define the genetic etiology of this disease with the long-term aim of developing genetic tests for use by breeders and will quantify the sensory dysfunction experienced by these dogs to facilitate objective therapeutic trials.

Funding for the research is provided through the efforts and generosity of the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club Charitable Trust.  The AKC Canine Health Foundation supports the funding of this effort and will oversee grant administration and scientific progress.


Sparks, C. R., Woelfel, C., Robertson, I., & Olby, N. J. (2021). Association between filum terminale internum length and pain in Cavalier King Charles spaniels with and without syringomyelia. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1111/jvim.16023

Sparks, C. R., Cerda‐Gonzalez, S., Griffith, E. H., Lascelles, B. D. X., & Olby, N. J. (2018). Questionnaire-based Analysis of Owner-reported Scratching and Pain Signs in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Screened for Chiari-like Malformation and Syringomyelia. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 32(1), 331–339. https://doi.org/10.1111/jvim.14856

Sparks, C. R., Robertson, I., & Olby, N. J. (2019). Morphometric analysis of spinal cord termination in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1111/jvim.15437

Sparks, Courtney R., Gorney, A., Williams, K., Griffith, E. H., Cerda‐Gonzalez, S., Lascelles, B. D. X., & Olby, N. J. (2018). Investigation of sensory thresholds in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels with and without Chiari-like malformations and syringomyelia. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 32(6), 2021–2028. https://doi.org/10.1111/jvim.15297

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