Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Health Related Issues
Genetic Disorders

cavalier king charles spaniel looking over with big soft brown eyes

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Health Related Issues:

As great in number as they are in severity.

Cavs are not without their problems. The wide range of ailments and disorders, both genetic and environmental that affect this breed can have devastating consequences on their health... or worse.

Many of the problems they face are genetic... and even inevitable, but some are avoidable if a breeder is chosen wisely and precautions are taken at home.

Below are some of the most common ailments affecting Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Click this link for CKCS breed information.

Mitral Valve Disease-
MVD is a condition of the heart that will affect virtually 100% of all Cavs at some point in their lives. The disease is characterized by a murmur that worsens over time and eventually leads to heart failure.

The murmur whether faint or loud will indicate the severity of the disease. In a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, although any breed of dog can be affected, the prognosis is usually much worse. Cavs acquire the condition earlier and die sooner than most other breeds who become affected.

The mitral valve is the valve in our hearts (we all share it) that prevents back-flow of blood. As the diseased valve grows worse progressively, the lungs are other organs become affected by the resulting enlargement of the heart.

cavalier king charles spaniel laying on deck with head down

Death can come as the result of a complete prolapse, (when the valve eventually falls out of place completely) or from heart failure or from a secondary condition resulting from the diseased valve.

The Symptoms:

  • Lethargy and labored breathing (most common)
  • Loss of stamina
  • Weakness
  • Restlessness
  • Inability to Lie comfortably
  • Unusually stance to favor chest or awkward movements.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Treatment

    Treating MVD is possible with certain drugs, but they can only prolong life to a certain extent. There is no treatment that will prevent the onset and there is no cure. Or rather, there is no cure short of valve replacement surgery, which for most people would be extremely cost prohibitive. It is possible to reduce the number of dogs that show early onset of this disease. That is done by selective breeding. Needless to say, however, puppy mills and backyard breeders rarely care about anything but breeding for the sake of profit. Unwisely choosing a breeder because of cute website pictures or a puppy purchased from a pet store is asking for serious problems. Remember :

    Anyone with a computer can have a website.

    Having cute pictures does not equal a responsible breeder. Irresponsible breeders are allowed to own cameras as well. Read our FAQ page to learn how you can avoid acquiring a sickly puppy or puppy mill dog. Syringomyelia- Also commonly known as Syrinx-is a build-up of spinal fluid in cavities near the brain. Cerebrospinal fluid transports waste products from around the brain and spinal cord and serves as a cushion for the brain. Any obstruction in the normal flow of this fluid is characterized as SM (Syringomyelia). It is believed that nearly half of all Cavaliers have or will acquire this condition. A skull bone malformation called Occipital Hypoplasia, is thought to be the leading cause for SM. Symptoms:Symptoms usually appear between 6 months and 3 years of age. They Include:

    • Pain and sensitivity around the head, neck and shoulders.
    • Scratching around these same areas
    • Yelps of pain caused by the scratching.
    • Odd scratching behaviors, eg., scratching the air
    • Clumsiness and falling 
    • Weakness

    Treatment There is currently no cure that is 100% effective for every dog, but surgery to remove the build up of fluid or to redirect it can be successful, if only for a short time. Since the cause of the build-up itself cannot be fixed, there is nothing guaranteed to prevent recurrence.

    Treatment can also be in the form of shunts or medication to treat the symptoms, most importantly for pain control.

    Hip Dysplasia is a developmental subluxation of the hip joints which can eventually lead to arthritis and/or lameness. It's causes are genetic as well as environmental. A secondary concern is osteoarthritis.

    The use of pet steps has been shown to significantly reduce the wear and tear on joints. Please consider them if you own or plan to own a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

    Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca- A reduction in the natural production of tears, also known as, "Dry Eye". This condition requires continual treatment to avoid blindness or partial blindness. This is another condition affecting Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Health and well-being all too commonly.

    The best and most important way to ensure you get a healthy dog is to find a responsible breeder. There are some tips on our FAQ on how to find one and how to avoid puppy mills on this page.

    Due to the growing popularity of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, more and more puppy mills are breeding them... for profit and profit only. The conditions in these places are appalling (in anyone's definition, let alone a dog lover's). The puppies are often sick or predisposed to one of the conditions on this page.

    For the sake of yourself and dogs everywhere, and for the sake of minimizing the very serious Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Health issues listed above, avoid puppy mills and ALL pet stores who sell dogs. Nearly all pet store who actually sell puppies get them from puppy mills. This excludes Petsmart. Petsmart is one of the few who unselfishly offers retail space inside of their stores for shelter dogs, etc., in hopes of finding them homes.

    As for other pet stores, like Jack's Aquarium and Pet Land, to name a few, they should be boycotted altogether.

    Don't believe the "local breeder" argument the brainwashed, minimum wage employees are required to give you. This is what they are told to say and many of them actually believe it, but you are not required to. And, even if it were true, which it's not, puppy mills are everywhere, even local to pet stores.

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