Research that could help reduce the incidence of syringomyelia (SM) in the cavalier King Charles spaniel and other toy breeds has been published in the Kennel Club (KC) and BioMed Central’s Canine Genetics and Epidemiology journal.

The research, funded by the KC Charitable Trust, looks at the incidence of SM in cavalier King Charles spaniels and its link to head shape in certain dog breeds. It identified two significant risk factors associated with this link, the extent of brachycephaly and the distribution of doming of the cranium.

The study found that brachycephaly is associated with a malformation of the skull known as Chiari-like Malformation (CM), and concluded that the findings, combined with the British Veterinary Association/KC CM/SM scoring scheme, may lead to a reduction in incidence of CM/SM through selection against risk aspects of conformation. This means breeders will be able to make more informed choices regarding which dogs they breed from to ensure healthy puppies.

Thomas Mitchell, lead author of the study, said: “The project represents a combined effort between researchers, breeders and the KC Charitable Trust, which funded the study. The research was successful in finding indicators in the head shape of cavalier King Charles spaniels, which will help to safeguard a healthy future for dogs by allowing breeders to make more informed breeding decisions with this new tool.”

Aimée Llewellyn, health information manager at the KC, said: “The findings of this research are very interesting and will likely prove invaluable for breeders who wish to make sensible and informed choices when it comes to breeding healthy puppies.

“The open access publication of research in Canine Genetics and Epidemiology means any interested parties, including dog breeders, owners, veterinarians and scientists, are able to benefit from it without cost, and we would recommend anyone interested in canine genetics and advancements in canine health keeps an eye on the journal as more and more research studies are being published.

“The extended lay summaries, designed to make the research more accessible to non-scientists help make Canine Genetics and Epidemiology a great source for clear and informative research on dog health, for everyone.”

To view the complete research paper, “Syringomyelia: determining risk and protective factors in the conformation of the cavalier King Charles spaniel dog”, visit Canine Genetics and Epidemiology.

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