Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Lifestyle Needs

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier (‘Cavvy’) has the reputation of being a gentle, affectionate companion dog, but there will be variations in temperament as with all breeds.  Possibly incorrectly placed in the Toy group of breeds, the Cavalier needs plenty of exercise and stimulation. The Cavalier’s long, fine coat needs daily attention to keep it tangle free and fur between the toes needs to be kept trim. Average lifespan 10 years.

Inbreeding Coefficient - COI
(Should be as low as possible)

The UK Kennel Club breed average COI is 5.5% - see 'A Beginners Guide to COI'

Effective Population Size - EPS


EPS is a measure of how many individuals are contributing genetically to a breed population. It is a measure of the size of the gene pool in a breed. Lower than 100 is considered critical by conservationists and below 50 brings a breed close to extinction. For more information see the Kennel Club article.

Health and Welfare Problems due to Conformation
(Body shape and physical characteristics)

  • The long hair of the Cavalier means that the coat can easily become tangled and matted.
  • The over long ears of the show type mean that when following a scent the ears can be trodden on and prone to collect dirt and debris.
  • Grass seeds can lodge in ears and toes.
  • The short nose of the Cavalier means that many of them suffer from brachycephalic airway syndrome which affects their breathing, cooling system and exercicse tolerance.
  • The Cavalier head shape has caused a disparity between the brain and skull volume causing Chiari-like malformation and Syringomyelia – a painful neurological disease.
  • The head shape and size also causes dental overcrowding, bite disorders and dental disease
  • The head shape also results in a shortened eustacian tube and obstructive tissue leading to the build up of mucus in the inner ear causing discomfort and partial deafness.
  • Prominent eyes caused by shallow eye sockets can lead to eye injuries

BVA/KC Health Schemes:

  • Eye disease: Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia (MRD) (litter screening); Hereditary cataract (HC) (annual testing); Multiple ocular defects (MOD) (litter screening)
  • Hip Dysplasia (malformation of the hip joints causing pain and lameness): breed mean score 21 (parents should be lower)
  • Chiari malformation Syringomyelia (CMSM)  (occipital bone malformation which squashes the hindbrain, blocks the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid and causes pockets of fluid within the spinal cord)  causes pain and other neurological symptoms.  An extremely high incidence in this breed.  Almost all Cavaliers have the Chiari malformation and at 6 years and older 70% will have SM. You are strongly advised to go to a breeder who uses the BVA/KC CMSM scheme rather than any other scheme.

Identified by the UK Kennel Club as part of their Breed Health and Conservation Plan

Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) are now available for Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia:

DNA Tests Available

  • CC/DE Dry Eye Curly Coat (eyes produce no tears, skin very dry, coat curly and coarse)
  • EF  Episodic Falling Syndrome (involuntary muscle spasms)
  • Muscular Dystrophy (MD)
  • Thrombocytopaenia
  • Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)
  • Phosphofructokinase Deficiency (PFK)

Unofficial (Breed Club) Schemes

  • Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) Heart scheme:  both parents clear of heart murmur at two and a half years and grandparents clear at 5 years.  MVD has a very high incidence in the breed with 50% developing heart murmurs by the age of 5 years.  Many Cavaliers will die prematurely from this disease.
  • No dog should be bred before 2 and a half years of age

Ask the breeder to show you the certificates for the above tests/screening for both parents. If any of the above tests have not been considered necessary by the breeder (and there may be good reasons), ask her to explain why.

Other Diseases Reported
(For which there are currently no genetic or screening tests for sire or dam)

  • Atopy (extreme sensitivity to pollen and other protein particles, causing intense itching)
  • Corneal ulcerative disease
  • Ear disease/deafness
  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (Pancreatitis) (inflammation of the pancreas causing tenderness and pain – can be serious and debilitating)
  • Patellar luxation (dislocated kneecap)
  • Epilepsy
  • Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (see conformation problems above)
  • Dry eye (tear gland malfunction – causes irritation, pain and ulceration of the eyes)
  • Hydrocephalus (enlarged ventricles – water on the brain)
  • Degenerative myelopathy (progressive disease of the spinal cord with loss of co-ordination of the hind limbs)
  • Fly catching, air licking and other repetitive disorders
  • Anal gland impaction
  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
  • Muscular dystrophy (progressive degeneration of skeletal muscles)
  • Masticatory myositis (MMM) (inflammatory disease affecting the chewing muscles)
  • Eosinophilic stomatitis (inflammation of the mouth with ulcers)

Ask the breeder about the medical history of the parents, grandparents and great grandparents.  Consider carefully whether to purchase a puppy if some of these or other diseases are in the family line.

Ask about the breeder’s policy in cases of serious genetic diseases occurring to your puppy in later life. Good breeders will request to be informed of such events in order to improve future breeding decisions. Some breeders will also agree to contribute towards medical costs or refund purchase price.

You are strongly advised to buy from a breeder who uses (or is prepared to use) the RSPCA / BVA AWF Puppy Contract and Puppy Information Pack (PIP):

You are also advised to buy from a breeder who follows the Dog Breeding Reform Group’s (DBRG) Standard for Dog Breeding:

Or the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeders Scheme Standard and Guidance:
Standard PDF | Guidance PDF

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