You may be aware that some breeds of dog (and crossbreeds too) can be susceptible to inherited disease. Of course you want to be sure that the dog you choose is as healthy as possible, and you would like to know that it has not inherited any undesirable disease-causing genes from its parents. There is some help in that DNA tests for diseases in purebred dogs are available for some conditions in some breeds, but there are not very many such tests just yet! There are also, however, a number of clinical veterinary screening schemes that dog breeders can use to increase the probability of producing healthy puppies.
Details of the various screening schemes, both veterinary and DNA, that are available to breeders in the UK can be found at www.thekennelclub.org.uk/doghealth
Potential dog owners should be aware that, at present, the application of various health screening results to breeding programmes is not always straightforward, and breeders may make choices for various reasons. A responsible breeder though, will always be willing to discuss relevant health issues with you. Breed clubs are often useful sources of breed-specific information.
What about Health Issues?
If your dog has come from a breed club member or an Accredited Breeder it is likely that it comes from health screened stock. While this cannot guarantee that your dog is free from a hereditary condition, health screening is one way that responsible breeders are reducing the risk of passing on pre-existing conditions. There are three main health issues currently screened for in Cavaliers:
• Mitral Valve Disease (MVD)
• Syringomyelia (SM)
• Eye conditions
Mitral Valve Disease
Mitral Valve Disease is a common health problem in older dogs of all breeds although it has been found to have an earlier onset in the Cavalier. The disease causes a degeneration of the heart’s mitral valve often picked up as a heart murmur in younger dogs. Many dogs diagnosed with Mitral Valve Disease continue to live to a good age and enjoy a happy life. For Cavaliers, current guidelines recommend a check up for Mitral Valve Disease on an annual basis; this can usually be done by your own vet. Alternatively, most Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Clubs run health clinics with free or low cost checks by a Veterinary Cardiologist.
Known by some as “neck scratchers disease” where the dog is seen scratching in the air near the neck, usually when excited or on a lead. The term syringomyelia is a condition where fluid filled cavities (syrinxes) develop within the spinal cord. While some dogs show no or only mild symptoms, unfortunately, in some cases the condition progresses and deteriorates causing the dog pain and neurological problems. Medical interventions can help to alleviate health problems, but very sadly in some cases this is not possible.
Diagnosis for Syringomyelia is by MRI scan. Veterinary clinics operating low cost MRI scanning can be found on the Cavalier Club website together with advice and further information on Syringomyelia.
The main inherited genetic eye conditions in Cavaliers are cataract (Congenital and Juvenile), and multifocal retinal dysplasia. Fortunately, both diseases are now much less common as reputable breeders test their stock prior to breeding. However, you should check for the condition if you intend to breed from your Cavalier.
Health Screening is an important part of illuminating health problems in any animal, but should you have concerns about any area of your dog’s health always seek and follow professional advice from your vet.
While a long and disease free life can never be guaranteed for any animal, it is hoped that health screening will eventually minimise conditions related to genetically inherited disease in Cavaliers. Further research, supported by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust is currently being carried out by the Animal Health Trust (AHT) and will aim to assist breeding from healthy stock. Every cavalier owner can help ensure that AHT research is as comprehensive as possible by submitting your dog’s annual heart test certificate and MRI scan results to Dr. Sarah Blott at AHT. For details visit www.thecavalierclub.co.uk
Schemes or advice relevant to this breed
Kennel Club Assured Breeders must use the following screening schemes for sires and dams
Kennel Club Assured Breeders are strongly recommended to use the following screening schemes and/or advice for sires and dams
The following other health tests are also available.
The list above is not necessarily comprehensive. Breed clubs and experienced breeders are useful sources of information on health issues in the breed. All breeds have a Breed Health Coordinator.
Breed clubs are a great way to meet other people and gain information from others who are just as passionate about Cavaliers. In the UK there is a national Cavalier King Charles Club and nine regional clubs. The clubs have information on everything from current research and health clinics to seminars, shows and ‘Pet Pages’.
Breed Clubs will also be a useful source of information should you decide to breed from your Cavalier. Breeding can be enormously rewarding, but you must be aware of the responsibility which this entails. You should ensure that your dog meets recommended guidelines for MVD and SM and has a clear eye certificate issued by the British Veterinary Association/Kennel Club scheme.
The above information is intended for guidance only, for your information and use. This guidance is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional veterinary advice. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel clubs cannot be held liable for any loss or damage caused directly or indirectly as a result of the reliance upon any of the the information and guidance given.