Expense of MRI
We have spent over $3000 on Chaucer this year and he is only 2! He has had surgery on both patellas, one in Feb and one in May... poor little guy. We just could not afford any more expensive vet stuff. His back still keeps him from jumping up, but not from walking and wanting to chase bunnies.
I'm sorry that you are having problems with Chaucer. I just wanted to let you know that you are not the only one that having an MRI done is cost prohibitive or financially impossible. There are lots of us. I hope Chaucer continues to respond to the treatment that he is currently getting.
It is unfortunater that in the US, charges are so high for MRIs. In the UK, they are comparitively cheap (under $200); perhaps the breed clubs could pool to try and get a low cost MRI scheme in place, but this will take a group initiative and the kind of effort that happened in the UK.
Actually, an MRI should not be a barrier to having a suspected SM cavalier diagnosed. Most neurologists familiar with SM can diagnose from clinical signs if they are apparent enough and certainly can tell you the likelihood that it is SM (they test for limb weakness and coordination, for example, which is easy to do). An MRI would not be needed unless you are planning on surgery or want a definitive diagnosis.
I would always recommend getting a neurologist's opinion if there are several signs indicating SM, but be clear you are not prepared to do an MRI at this time. If an exam points towards SM, there are things you can do to try and minimise both discomfort and progression, such as trying the daily use of furosemide, which is very cheap and has few side effects. You can make sure all injections in future are given somewhere other than the neck (like a leg), get the dog into a harness, provide steps or easier access to sofas and beds, groom gently, etc.
This is the tragedy of SM -- it is extremely widespread in the breed, costly to diagnose, even more costly to treat, and has no certain outcome. :? Fortunately most cavaliers are not affected to the point of extreme discomfort but it seems likely given the brain compression alone, that many live daily with discomfort they don't overtly show -- hence the need to try and breed away from this condition.
Penny, I'd sure consider checking with a neurologist eventually, if the back problems continue.
Our vet first thought Abbey's issues were back/disc related. We did a few lumbar xrays and they all came back fine so now we're onto a MRI. The University of Mn is actually a lot less expensive than most places, if you'd like more info, please PM me, and I'll give you details.
It's not cheap by any means, but it really is a lot less than others in the Midwest that I've researched. If he's in pain, I personally would recommend it. If for anything, you'd then know for sure what is going on and how to move forward.
Jen that's right, you mentioned the price to me before and it is considerably lower than most of the places doing them.
When we got the estimate for Rory's surgery, they took off the cost of the MRI (since we'd already had it through the NCSU study) but told me it normally is $1300 which is still a ton of money, but much less than here at UC DAvis. Although I'm not entirely sure that $1300 includes anesthesia... that would make a difference I think.
Yes - it seems more and more neurologists are able to diagnose SM by symptoms alone. Unfortunately, this is probably due to the increase number of cases in Cavaliers that they are seeing. :(
Some on the AC list have said that you MUST have the MRI to know how advanced or serious the disease is, but I don't know how correct this is. Many of the dogs have very large syrinxes or herniation of the cerebellum, but no symptoms! And then there are the dogs w/ terrible pain, but no syrinxes!! So I'm not sure what use the MRI has in these instances. There often is no correlationo between the symptoms and the size of the syrinxes. In my mind, how the dog feels is much more important than what it looks like on an MRI.
Basically -- all to say that I don't think an inability to get an MRI should prevent anyone from seeking treatment for their dog. If you are confident your dog has the classic SM symptoms or even if you just strongly suspect it, there is no reason you can't try any of the various medical or holistic approaches towards relieving pain. an MRI is needed if you want to pursue surgery -- they have to know whether or not it's operable and would the surgery relieve symptoms? (for example - i know of a dog with terrible syrinxes and pain, but not the bone deformity, so removing the occipital bone probably wouldn't provide any relief for this dog.)
Penny - I think if you are concerned that Chaucer's pain could be SM, it might be worth it to try the lasix (Furosemide) or maybe acupuncture or something like that to see if it relieves his pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories would probably help, too, but this won't give you any clue if it's SM. If he responds to the lasix, there's a very high likelihood that it's SM. I'm not sure of any back problems that would resolve by administering a diuretic, but many dogs with SM get relief from this treatment. That way you will know what you're dealing with (hopefully) and have a better idea of how to treat it and provide relief for Chaucer.
Keep in mind, however, that if he does not respond to the Lasix, this doesn't rule out SM as not all SM dogs respond positively to the lasix therapy.
Very sorry to hear Chaucer and you have had such a rough year! :(
Hi Penny, my Chico of 6 1/2 years old also sometimes has problems with his back. Because of that, we had to stop agility when he was only 3 years old. He scratches a lot, already for some years now, but because he never had any pain around his neck, I thought that even if he would have syringo, the symptoms were only mild. My vet told me that nothing could be done about syringo, there was hardly any information on syringo in The Netherlands, so I did not take any action, until this spring when he started to limp with one forepaw from time to time. Then I began to wonder whether the problems with his back had anything to do with the supposed syringomyelia. An MRI scan was made and it appeared that he had a slight Chiara malformation and many syrinx of 5 to 7 mm from his neck all along his back to his tail. He is still relatively doing very well when I compare him to much younger dogs of which I have heard so far. A breeder in The Netherlands arranged that on some saturdays every few months cavaliers can be MRI'd in a hospital in the northern part in the country, provided there are some 20 cavaliers. A vet examines the dogs before they are anaethetized, the radiologist send a report of his findings together with a CD rom of the scan, a copy of this CD rom is sent to Clare Rusbridge who gives her findings by e-mail. This scan costs 200 euros, which is approx. the same as 200 US dollars.
Hi Ingrid, and welcome to the board; I am sorry to hear of Chico's diagnosis but it sounds like he is doing pretty well despite the syrinxes. It is a strange condition, where sometimes mildy affected dogs have more difficulty and those with lots of syrinxes have little!
I know many of the Netherlands breeders have been very supportive of research and did MRIs for Dr Rusbridge too. She has found the information from them very valuable. That's a great price on the MRI! I had mine done for around that price at the UK clinics; we are lucky to have those resources.
Hello Karlin, thank you for your welcome. There are indeed breeders in The Netherlands who are very supportive and have all their dogs scanned, also the breeder of my Chico. But unfortunately there are still many breeders who are not convinced at all of the serious situation and do not want to hear about it. I try to draw the attention of cavalier owners through the different forums, I will translate information from english into dutch and I will write in the Cavalier Vizier, the 2-monthly magazine of the dutch cavalier club. It is great that I found this site, I find the information very useful. Do you allow me to also translate this information into dutch?