Mitral Valve Disease and the

Problems with Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has a long history in the United Kingdom, but are only very recent additions to the AKC registry in the United States. These sweet faced dogs are named after King Charles II, who was always accompanied by his little spaniels. Small spaniels such as these were often included in the works of many great artists of the 1600’s, including Anthony Van Dyck.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is the largest of the toy breeds, and is arguably the most popular. It is amongst the top 25 most popular dog breeds in the United States. The first Cavalier to reach America was brought from Britain in 1956, and the breed was only recognized by the AKC in 1996.

Appearance

These dogs have a very pretty face and a sweet expression. Large limpid brown eyes and floppy ears endear them to everyone they meet. They are not a large dog, being only 13 inches (33cm) tall and weighing in at a maximum of 18lbs, or 8kg.

The Cavalier has long soft wavy fur, with feathering on their ears, legs and tail. They are available in four colors – Blenheim (white with red patches), black and tan, ruby and tricolor (black, white and tan).

Temperament

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a breed known for its friendly and affectionate nature. They have a cheerful disposition, and are happy to be with you, whatever you are doing. Whether you are curled up on the couch, or out walking around your neighborhood, the Cavalier will be right there with you.

These dogs crave human contact and will definitely make themselves a part of the family. They don’t do well with being left along for extended periods of time, so make sure your lifestyle will accommodate this.

They typically get along well with small children and other animals alike.

Health

Unfortunately, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel does have several fairly serious health risks that prospective owners must be aware of. They can suffer from mitral valve disease. This genetic condition means that their heart valve isn’t working properly, and the blood doesn’t flow in the right direction around their body. The result is congestive heart failure. Research suggests that heart disease affects more than half of all Cavaliers by the time they turn 5 years old, and it is the leading cause of death in this breed.

A condition known as “glue ear” can affect up to 40% of Cavaliers. This causes a mucus plug to develop in the ear canal, which can put pressure on the ear drum. It is a very painful condition and will make life miserable for the dog.

Another genetic condition in the breed is syryngomyelia, which is a malformation in the back of their skull. This allows less space for their brain to grow, and increases the pressure in the fluid that flows through the brain. The result is a neurological disorder, characterized by sensitivity around the neck area, and excessive scratching of the neck and shoulders. The severity of symptoms varies, from mild pain to severe discomfort and paralysis.

Cavaliers can develop luxating patellas, or slipped kneecaps, which can cause arthritis if not corrected. Surgery is the treatment of choice.

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca is a condition where a dog’s immune system attacks their tear glands. The result is a reduction in tear production, leading to excessively dry eyes. This is not uncommon in Cavaliers, and can lead to painful eye infections. It will need treatment for the rest of the dog’s life.

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