One of the UK’s foremost veterinary specialists has received a prestigious national award in recognition of her “outstanding contribution” to animal science. 

Clare Rusbridge, senior neurologist at Linnaeus-owned Wear Referrals in County Durham and a Professor at the University of Surrey, has been presented with the coveted Petplan Charitable Trust Scientific Award. 

The Trust highlighted Clare’s 1997 discovery of a painful dog disease called ‘Chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia’ (CMSM) and her ongoing role at the forefront of its research and treatment for more than a quarter of a century. 

Clare, a Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, was a trainee neurologist when she first detected the challenging condition but is now a worldwide authority on the disease. 

Clare recalled the discovery, saying: “I was a neurology resident when I was presented with the challenging case of a cavalier King Charles spaniel called Beau. 

“I first saw Beau in 1995 but it wasn’t until 1997, when I was presented with another similar case, that I worked out that their unusual signs were caused by Chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia. 

“Determining that diagnosis required obtaining an MRI scan of both dogs at a human hospital because spinal MRI was not available for dogs in those days. 

“I then wrote a letter to the Vet Record describing my findings and, the following week, I had 30 calls from vets around the country with similar cases suggesting this problem was affecting many more dogs. 

“This kick-started a career-long fascination with the disease and a determination to understand it more and find a better way of treating it.” 

Dr Jamie Crittall, vice-chair of the Trust presented the award to Clare, along with celebrity guest and actress Sally Phillips. 


Dr Crittall said: “Over the last 25 years, Clare has provided solutions for Chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia, a disease characterised by a disproportion between the size of the brain and skull resulting in cerebrospinal fluid pathway obstruction and spinal cord cavitation. 

“Following her discovery of this problem, Clare delivered the first comprehensive description and has continued to refine understanding of the pathogenesis, genetics and treatment. 

“Whilst being self-employed in referral practice in Wimbledon, she researched the disease in her ‘spare time’, which culminated in a PhD from Utrecht University (2007). 

“Of the 160 scholarly articles she has authored or co-authored, 59 have been on Chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia in addition to book chapters and co-editing a textbook on the human disease. 

“She provides extensive online resources for the veterinary profession, breeders and dog owners. The most impactful is her Chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia treatment algorithm first developed in 2006. 

“This is translated into several languages, updated yearly, and enables dogs without easy access to veterinary neurologists to receive optimal care. 

“She was also instrumental in establishing the Kennel Club/BVA CMSM Health Scheme and she developed breeding guidelines in a breeder friendly ‘traffic light’ format – a style which has been copied for other canine health schemes.” 

Clare graduated from University of Glasgow in 1991 and became the youngest Diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Neurology in 1996, when she was only 26. She became a RCVS Specialist in 1999. 

She received the JA Wight Memorial award in 2011, became a professor at Surrey in 2013, was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for meritorious contribution to knowledge in 2016 and celebrated a RCVS Impact award in 2022. She joined Wear Referrals in County Durham in February 2022. 

Wear specialises in providing expert multidisciplinary care, including anaesthesia, cardiology, diagnostic imaging, intensive care, internal medicine, neurology, OOH emergency and critical care, oncology, orthopaedics and soft tissue. 

For more information of Wear Referrals, visit or search for them on social media. 

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