Hi Rachelle! I'm sorry I missed you yesterday. Because I know this thread has a lot of reading in it, I will answer your questions as best as I can, and then you can take the time to read the thread, as not everyone has the same experiences.
The only way that a proper diagnosis of SM and/or CM (Syringomyelia/Chiari Malformation) can be diagnosed is with an MRI. Syringomyelia is swelling of fluid in the spinal cord which sends pain mostly to the dog's extremities. CM (Chiari Malformation) has to do with the position of the brain stem in the skull. There is bone and/or cartilage around that area, and in my Oliver's case, the Neurologist felt that, from time to time, depending on how Oliver held his head or moved his neck, part of his brain stem was having pressure put on it.
This is very hard to describe in just one paragraph. Oliver also had many symptoms, but he didn't become really ill until he was nearly 5, which is unusual. Each case is different and each dog responds differently to various treatments. While strides are being made with surgury, often if the dog is ill enough to warrant such an invasive procedure, their outcome will NEVER be 100%.
You'll read about some of those cases in this thread. For those of us who are still active in here, all of our dogs are being maintained through medicine, as well as other treatments. One of our "girls", Georgia receives acupuncture, along with her medication and responds beautifully to that.
Oliver just turned 9 this past December and has been doing brilliantly on his medication! For the first 2 years after his confirmed diagnosis, things were very rocky, but he has settled into a routine, and as long as we avoid triggers, he is living a happy, pain free, wonderful life.
How old is "Ollie"? What symptoms are you seeing? Where do you live, approximately? I'm in London, Ontario and as you'll see in my thread, Oliver was treated at the Ontario Veterinary College, at the University of Guelph. He is now famous there as one of their longest surviving, and thriving patients and is studied by all of the Neurology Students.
I joined the Daily Puppy hoping to find information about this years ago, and it seems that I was the first one to bring it up, so there has been a great deal of contribution to this thread from all sorts of people. There are many useful articles posted throughout, as well as a broad range of experiences.
Welcome to The Daily Puppy. Everyone calls me Deb or Deborah, and I have two Cavaliers. Oliver is my Blenheim, and Henry is my Tri. Henry is symptom free (*touch wood*). We would be delighted to be of assistance to you. Try to wade through the thread though.