Scared My King Charles Spaniel Yelps For No Reason

It can be a very worrying time for you and your family when your Cavalier is unwell or in pain. But when they yelp out for no reason, it is even more worrisome, as you don’t know why.

When a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel yelps for no reason, it could indicate that they suffer from Syringomyelia, a disorder that causes fluid-filled pockets to form within the spinal cord.

Syringomyelia, or SM, can be very painful for your Cavalier and make them act strangely. Chiari-Like Malformation, or CM, is also usually associated with Syringomyelia, so we look at both disorders below to find out why your Cavalier is yelping in pain.

Chiari-Like Malformation (CM)

Chiari-like Malformation (or CM) is an inherited condition that causes skull malformation. Cavaliers have historically been bred to have smaller heads. However, the brain has stayed the same size, so there is little room in the skull.

The tiny skull causes the brain to squeeze through a small gap where the spinal column meets the brain, preventing spinal fluid from moving freely, which causes Syringomyelia.

Syringomyelia (SM)

Image of a sad looking Tri Colored Cavalier King Charles Spaniel - 20221219

As the small hole at the base of the skull is blocked by the brain, this causes the spinal fluid to move along the spinal cord at high pressures, which causes fluid-filled pockets to form.

These pockets in the spinal cord cause pain around the neck and head area.

You can read an in-depth post by clicking this link for more information about Chiari-Like Malformation and Syringomyelia.


Image of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel being petted on their shoulders - 20221219

Not all yelping indicates that your Cavalier is suffering from Syringomyelia. They could be ill in some other way. 

Here are some of the yelping symptoms of Syringomyelia in Cavaliers:

  • Yelping when suddenly changing posture
  • A painful sensation when the neck, ear, shoulder, or chest is touched, causing them to yelp for no reason
  • Scratching the face and/or ear and yelping afterward
  • Frequent yelps or screams when changing position during sleep

Always consult your local veterinarian if your Cavvy is in pain, as medical professionals are the ones to diagnose any possible health issues.

Strange Behavior

Image of a Sleeping Blenheim Cavalier King Charles Spaniel - 20221219

If your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is acting strange or doing things you have never seen them do, it could mean they are feeling Syringomyelia’s onset.

Here are some of the strange behavior symptoms your Cavalier could be exhibiting:

  • Pain or discomfort in the head, neck, and spinal areas
  • Flinching in pain when the neck, ear, shoulder, or chest is touched
  • Scratching the face and/or ear and yelping afterward
  • Shoulder scratching after waking up, during exercise, or being touched
  • Excessive tiredness or unwillingness to exercise

It is essential to avoid jumping to the wrong conclusion if your Cavvy is scratching its head or ears, as it could be something simple, such as fleas.

Although not very pleasant, fleas are easily treated, so your veterinarian should check out any strange behavior.

How To Help

If your Cavalier jumps, flinches, or yelps when you touch them in a specific area, ensure that nothing aggravates that spot.

Gently part their coat to ensure no cuts, grazes, or foreign objects are in the skin. 

If nothing is found, gently pet the same area to see if the reaction is the same. You may have previously caught their fur in a ring, bracelet, or cuff link.

If you suspect your Cavalier is suffering in any way, you must visit your local veterinarian. They will diagnose if the problem is related to Syringomyelia, and the sooner it is treated, the sooner your Cavalier will be out of pain.

Image of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel being petted under the chin - 20221219


There are only two main types of treatment for Syringomyelia, drugs to help combat the pain and swelling and surgery to make the hole in the base of the skull larger.

Although surgery is very invasive, there are many reports detailing its effectiveness.

A very in-depth article detailing the outcome after surgical management of the disorder can be found here. Please be warned that there are images of surgery on a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which some may find upsetting.

Knowledge Bites

  • The life expectancy of a dog with Syringomyelia averages around 10.7 years old.
  • Dogs suffering from Syringomyelia no longer wish to partake in exercise due to the pain the collar or harness causes them.
  • Caudal Occipital Malformation Syndrome, or COMS is a similar disorder to Chiari-Like Malformation.


[convertkit form=3796478]

3 thoughts on “Scared My King Charles Spaniel Yelps For No Reason”

  1. Pingback: Syringomyelia: What is it and Does my Cavalier Have it | My Cavvy
  2. Pingback: Cavalier King Charles Spaniels: Are We Healthy | My Cavvy
  3. Pingback: Do Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Often Get Sick: The Truth | My Cavvy

Leave a comment