The pain is immense. Your hands feel numb. You’re scared. You don’t know what is happening to your body. You feel something is wrong but don’t know what. You or your dog might have Syringomyelia.
Syringomyelia (SM) is a disorder that affects the spinal cord. A formation, caused by cerebro-spinal fluid entering the spinal cord, (a syrinx), lodges itself in the spinal cord expanding and elongating over time, breaking down the center of the spinal cord.
This interesting and still enigmatic disorder affects not only humans, but certain breeds of dogs as well.
Dorothy Poppe, mother of a son battling the disorder as well as a the owner of a King Charles Cavalier, the main breed that this disorder affects, decided to get involved with the cause of spreading the awareness of SM. “My son was diagnosed at four-years-old in with Syringomyelia and Chairi Malformation,” she said. Chairi Malformation is another type of SM that occurs during fetal development when the blockage of normal cerebro-spinal fluid results in the growth of a syrinx in the spinal cord. “It was an awful time in my life,” she said.
Poppe’s son, who underwent two surgeries in 1992, joined a support group. In 2001 they asked her to quit her job and work for them and the cause. “I said yes!” she said enthusiastically.
Poppe’s first King Charles Cavalier was found at a pet shop. “I convinced the vendor to give it to me,” said Poppe. “He wasn’t being sold due to neurological problems and was going to be given back to the breeder to be euthanized,” said Poppe. “I begged the vendor to give it to me – and he did.” Named Chairi, after the doctor who discovered the disorder, Poppe’s King Charles Cavalier went through many tests and MRI’s to try and see what was wrong. “It has to do with the shape of their head,” said Poppe. “When the back of the head is too tight, it curves too much into the brain and no fluid can pass. Yorkies are also prone to have the disorder,” said Poppe. Sadly, due to lack of resources and knowledge of the disorder,
Chairi succumbed to the disorder. “I still miss him,” Poppe remembers.
Does this disorder have a cure? “Well, they are coming up with something called operative intervention,” said Poppe. “They go in and take off the back of the skull and create a space – and they are going to start doing it in dogs!” exclaimed Poppe. The process may not cure SM, but it will relieve some of the unbearable pain associated with the disorder. “If I leave tomorrow, I would want my work to leave a pain-free existence for those who suffer from Syringomyelia,” said Poppe. “I fund research for a better quality of life for people and dogs too.”
– Betsy Vasquez