Inheritance of occipital bone hypoplasia (Chiari type I malformation) in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

Publication date 9th January 2004
Authors Clare Rusbridge, Susan P Knowler


Occipital bone hypoplasia with foramen magnum obstruction and secondary syringomyelia (SM) is a common condition in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (CKCS) that is similar to human Chiari type I malformation. A worldwide family tree of more than 5,500 CKCSs spanning a maximum of 24 generations was established by obtaining pedigree information from 120 dogs diagnosed with SM secondary to occipital bone hypoplasia. The ongoing study showed 6 of 8 great grandparents of all affected dogs could be traced back to 2 female ancestors so that all 8 were descended from one or the other or both. The disease appears to be more severe and have an earlier onset with increased inbreeding, especially when breeding from affected dogs. The family tree of idiopathic epilepsy (IE) appears to be a different subset of the CKCS population, although some overlap was observed. Idiopathic epilepsy is more frequent in lines originating from whole-color dogs. Selection for coat color is believed to have influenced the development of both occipital hypoplasia with secondary SM and IE. In addition, breeding guidelines to reduce the incidence of mitral valve disease have placed further pressures on the gene pool.