Margaret C

The Cavalier Collection volunteered pets are helping the breed.

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The publication of a new study to describe microscopic changes in the spinal cord of cavaliers with syringomyelia, and in particular to compare symptomatic (in pain) and asymptomatic (non painful) dogs, has great significance for the Cavalier Collection Scheme.

This paper is a consequence of the tissue collection studies

The first Collection Scheme was started in 2007 when Professor Nick Jeffery, who was then at Cambridge, spoke about the problem researchers had in obtaining cavalier cell tissue.

As Health Representative of the Cavalier Club I raised money and organised a scheme that paid an animal taxi service to collect locally volunteered cavalier bodies.

When the ten dogs originally requested had been collected, I was asked if I could find SM confirmed cavaliers for Nick's spinal cord studies.

Few cavaliers had actually been MRI'd at that time and SM was still a taboo subject, so I knew this would be a long term project. The area for collection was widened to take in the whole of the UK and the little bodies were collected by me, delivered by volunteers, or transported by their brave owners.

It is those cavaliers that have contributed towards this latest study, and I would like to thank with all my heart those owners who contributed by volunteering their dogs for tissue collection.

Over the years more specialists were included and we now supply a team of wonderful researchers who can use their contacts in various centres to help get the various samples taken.

Dr Clare Rusbridge has tissue samples for the genome studies, Professor Brendan Corcoran is supplied with heart valves, Dr Penny Watson at Cambridge has pancreatic tissue.
Although SM confirmed cavaliers are still especially valuable, all cavaliers of all ages are suitable for the Scheme.

I became concerned that the scheme was growing too fast to be operated as a one man band. Tania Ledger very foolishly accepted my invitation to join me in co-ordinating the Scheme and her help is invaluable.

The majority of the donated dogs die at home or are euthanised at the local veterinary practice and their bodies are collected & taken to the nearest centre that can perform a post-mortem. Occasionally the local vet has taken heart & pancreas samples for us.

As time has gone on the importance of collecting RNA as soon as possible after death has become evident. Some owners have been willing to bring their pets to be euthanised at Bristol, Edinburgh, Cambridge and Stonelion so that post-mortem and sample collection can take place swiftly after death.

These samples are invaluable and these owners are owed a great debt of gratitude by all of us that love this breed.

The Scheme pays for the post-mortems, individual cremation and return of the ashes to the owners and transport costs. If the cavalier is PTS at one of the main centres to enable samples to be taken immediately after death, then we pay euthanasia costs too.

This can all add up to a substantial amount. Up to 300 per dog. We have no official funding so we are always grateful for donations from supporters and for the help we receive through the CavalierMatters Charity.

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  1. Nicki's Avatar
    Thank you for updating us Margaret, it's really wonderful to know that the Cavaliers who went through the scheme were so helpful to the reserach. Although it was very hard at the time, it's so comforting to know that my boys' passing was not in vain and indeed has already contributed greatly to the research.

    I have great admiration for all those who kindly contributed their dogs, especially those who were able to take them to the specialist centres, which must have been very difficult.

    This is truly a fantastic scheme, unique amongst all the dog breeds to have such highly esteemed researchers involved and on many different projects. The laboratory here was so impressed with the scheme that they did not charge for the post mortem for either of my dogs.

    We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Margaret for organising and co-ordinating the scheme, and now to Tania for helping with it - it cannot be an easy task constantly dealing with guardians who are going through a traumatic time, and with the wee Cavaliers at the end of their lives.

    You can help raise funds for this scheme in so many ways, by visiting the Cavalier Matters Gift Shop Tania has sourced some really wonderful goodies

    Also by purchasing the calendars which will be available very shortly.
  2. Margaret C's Avatar
    I sometimes think that being registered with the Collection Scheme seems to give frail cavaliers a new lease of life.

    It is not unusual to find that seriously ill cavaliers registered with us respond to a last minute change of medication and go on for months longer, leaving us to rejoice for the owner but scrambling to cancel the tentative arrangements we have put in place for collection.

    One of the most difficult things to co-ordinate within the Collection is timing.
    The very nature of the scheme means that although we may be aware that a cavalier is failing, the actual day and time of death usually cannot be known for sure.

    When a cavalier dies and the little body is being brought in by owner or volunteer for the pathologist to do a post-mortem then arrangements need to be put into place quickly, but there is usually a little leeway as far as timing is concerned.

    It is much more difficult when we get one of the exceptional owners who feels able to bring the dog to be PTS at a very busy specialist centre.
    In these very special cases we need to co-ordinate the owners ability to make the journey at a given time, with the availability of a sympathetic small animal vet to perform the euthanasia, and the availability of a pathologist to perform the post-mortem and take the all important RNA samples as quickly as possible.

    Sometimes we just do not manage to fit all the pieces together and the collection just cannot go ahead. It is especially problematic on Friday afternoons and at Weekends

    The co-operation and goodwill that requests for help receive from busy specialists is a measure of how highly the researchers are regarded by their peers.