Cavalier King Charles Spaniels – The Breed

Origin: Great Britain
Date of origin: 1600’s
Class: Toy Group 5
Height: 12-13 inches
Weight: 12-20 pounds

Blenheim (rich chestnut on pearly white background)
Tricolour (black and white with tan markings on cheeks, inside ears, on eyebrows, inside legs and underside of tail)
Ruby (rich reddish- brown all over)
Black & Tan (black with tan markings)
Parti-colours are the dogs that include white (Blenheim and tricolour), whole colours are the dogs that do not include white (black & tan and ruby)

The Cavalier is a wonderful small dog, elegant yet sporting in nature and adapts well to most living environments. They are most often happy, easygoing and a friend to everyone they meet. Cavaliers are wonderful with children as well as an excellent companion to senior citizens. They are sweet and affectionate, intelligent, happy, outgoing, playful, and always willing to please. Though Spaniels were originally bred as hunting dogs, the Cavalier has been bred exclusively as a companion dog since the days of King Charles II. The Cavalier is seen in the show ring, in obedience competitions, agility and they also make an excellent Therapy dog. If you want a lovable, cuddly friend, a cavalier might be the right dog for you.

The cavalier is a sturdy little dog, but there are several health problems that Cavaliers can develop. All dogs of all breeds can develop inheritable diseases. A genetically caused disorder can occur even if the breeder has put a lot of effort into testing their adults in an effort to produce healthy puppies. The health issues most commonly associated with the cavalier include eyes, heart, patella’s, hips and neurological disorders. Here is a more detailed list of health problems associated with the breed:

Cavaliers can develop a number of different eye conditions. The most common are as follows:

  • Corneal Ulcers: A corneal ulcer is a break in the outer layer of the cornea. There are multiple causes, the most common being from scratching the eyeball. They can easily be treated with medication and usually disappear within 3-4 days if treated promptly.
  • Cataracts: A cataract is opacity of the lens. The lens should be clear and transparent but in this case it looks cloudy. This can cause vision impairment. There are multiple treatments including surgery to remove cataracts.
  • Dry Eye: This is when the tear glands no longer produce enough tears to keep the eye moist which can result in sore eyes and infections. Treatment is with an ointment that gets applied daily.

There are other eye conditions that can occur in Cavaliers; however the above are the most common. Our dogs are screened for eye problems before they are bred.

Heart failure is the leading cause of death in cavaliers. Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) is the most common heart disorder in cavaliers. It is mostly older dogs who suffer from this disease, but can occur in younger dogs. It is a disease that affects the surface of the heart valves. Their valves are usually smooth and have a perfect seal when closed but MVD causes the edges to become thick and distorted which creates an imperfect seal. This causes some of the blood to go backwards in the atrium of the heart. The backwards flow creates a noise that your veterinarian can hear called a heart murmur. Because there is now a leaky valve, circulation is impaired. Your dog’s body may adjust to this new flow just fine. Some dogs can live for many years with a heart murmur, however sometimes it becomes a problem quickly and the dog’s body cannot adjust, which can cause heart failure. Dental care is very important in helping to prevent heart disease in cavaliers. Our dogs are screened for heart problems before they are bred and have regular dental care.

Luxating Patellas
Luxating Patella’s are loose knee caps. The kneecap should sit in a groove in the center of the knee joint of the femur (upper leg bone). A luxating patella is a knee cap that moves out of the groove. It is also called a floating knee cap. It is possible for a dog to have a luxating patella and not show any symptoms, while other dogs may be in pain and need therapy or even surgery. Our dogs are screened for luxating patella’s before they are bred.

Hip Dysplasia
Cavaliers are at risk for hip dysplasia. This is when the joints develop improperly and can result in arthritis. X-rays can be taken to determine if your dog has hip dysplasia. If they develop hip dysplasia, they can be treated with arthritis medication. Surgery is also an option if it is severe. The more overweight the dog, the more likely they are to have arthritis years earlier than a dog at a healthy weight. Our dogs are screened for hip dysplasia before they are bred.

Dry Eye (DE)/Curly Coat (CC)
Curly coat syndrome is a condition affecting the skin, coat, claws and eyes of the dog. This causes the dog to have a curly or rough coat and also suffer from a severe version of dry eye. Our dogs are screened for Dry eye/curly coat before they are bred.

Episodic Falling (EF)
Episodic Falling is a syndrome of muscle stiffness and collapsing. The dogs get rigidity in their hind end. It can cause them to fall over or have a seizure like event. Drugs can be used to treat this disorder. Our dogs are screened for episodic falling before they are bred.

Syringomyelia (SM) or Chiari Malformation (CM)
Chiari Malformation (CM) is a condition of an abnormal bone that develops in the back of the skull making it too small for the brain. This puts pressure on the part of the brain called the cerebellum which affects the flow of cerebrospinal fluid from the brain. This change in flow can result in a condition called Syringomyelia (SM), which is when a fluid filled pocket forms in the spinal cord. Not all cavaliers with either of these conditions show symptoms, but some can be severe. The best way to determine if your dog has SM is to have an MRI. If they are determined to have the disease, they will be treated with medication or a surgery can be performed.

Dental Disease
This is one of the most common problems in all dogs. It affects 80% of dogs by age 2. It starts as tartar build up on their teeth and progresses to infection in the gums and rots the teeth. If it is not prevented or treated it can cause them to lose their teeth and be in danger of damaging their kidneys, liver, heart and joints. It can even shorten their lifespan. It is extremely important you brush your dog’s teeth. We brush all our dog’s teeth to ensure they have a happy, healthy mouth.

For more detailed information on any of these health issues or other health issues associated with cavalier king Charles spaniels please visit