Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club

of South Australia Inc.



Health Issues


As with all breeds of dogs (and other animals), there are certain health issues which are more likely to affect Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

Whilst the majority of Cavaliers are healthy and hardy, it is important to be aware of these issues
and if you are buying a puppy always ensure that the breeder of your puppy screens their breeding stock for hereditary problems.


Mitral Valve Disease

Degeneration of the Mitral Valve, known as Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) is a condition to which Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are genetically predisposed. Although in some cases MVD may shorten the life of a Cavalier, many individuals still live past the average lifespan for the breed despite having symptoms of the problem.

MVD is by far the most common of canine heart problems, accounting for about 75% of all heart disease diagnosed in dogs. It is usually a normal aging condition in both animals and humans and is more prevalent in small dog breeds than in larger breeds. It affects over one third of all dogs older than 10 years, but in Cavaliers, the onset of the condition can occur at a younger age and this predisposition is genetically inherited.

The first sign of possible Mitral Valve Disease is the development of a heart murmur on the left side of the heart. However, this is not necessarily a cause for great concern as a dog with a heart murmur may still live a long, healthy life, depending up the progression of the disease in that particular dog.

In a healthy heart the mitral valve allows the blood to flow from the left atrium into the left ventricle without any back flow. Degeneration of the mitral valve allows an amount of blood to flow back into the left atrium, thus placing strain on this chamber of the heart, making it less efficient and causing a heart murmur. Over time increasing degeneration may eventually place too much stress on the heart and lead to congestive heart failure.

Heart murmurs are graded according to their severity with Grade One indicating a very mild murmur. Grade Six indicates a severe murmur and the latter stages of congestive heart failure.

In the early stages of MVD there are no visible symptoms and the owner will not notice anything amiss. However, the vet will be able to hear a turbulent, swishing sound in the heart which indicates the presence of a heart murmur.

As the degeneration of the mitral valve increases to a more serious level, symptoms will include unwillingness to exercise, and an increased respiratory rate. Later, as fluid begins to build up in the lungs, coughing and laboured breathing will be observed. Medication can be used to stabilise the heart and reduce the build up of fluid in the lungs, thus improving the dog’s quality of life.

Many dogs live for years with a low grade murmur and their chances of a longer life are definitely increased if they are continually kept at a slim, healthy, weight.



by Jenny Brice
As published in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of SA Inc Newsletter

Syringomyelia is condition which can occur in Cavaliers (and other breeds). In recent months it has received a lot of world wide attention and publicity in the media and on the internet. Along with the facts, a lot of misinformation has been published and broadcast, and has caused a lot of unnecessary worry and panic amongst pet owners. This has been aggravated by the fact that many Vets have not had any previous experience with Syringomyelia and are also learning about it. Some reports are suggesting that the problem is very common in Cavaliers but breeders who have been closely involved with the breed for many years know that this is not so.

What is Syringomyelia?

Syringomyelia (SM) is an extremely serious condition in which fluid-filled cavities develop within the spinal cord near the brain. It occurs in humans as well as in dogs. In dogs affected with SM it is thought that a malformation in the back half of the skull may allow a small part of the brain to protrude through a hole, thus blocking the flow of cerebrospinal fluid down the spinal cord and causing the SM condition. It is believed to be an inherited condition.


The majority of dogs affected by SM will show symptoms between 6 months and 3 years of age but symptoms can develop at any age.

 Symptoms of SM can vary widely but severe pain is the most important clinical sign. The first sign is often a hyper-sensitivity in the dog’s neck area, which gives it an uncontrollable urge to scratch excessively at or near its neck and shoulders. The dog may also seem to be overly sensitive to being touched around the head, neck and shoulders. Symptoms can progress until the dog experiences severe pain around its head, neck, and shoulders, causing it to yelp or scream.

In severe cases of SM a portion of the dog's spinal cord is destroyed, and the resulting pain may cause the affected dog to contort its neck and even sleep and eat only with its head held high. The dog's legs may become progressively weaker, making walking increasingly difficult.

Progression of the disease is variable. Not all dogs with SM have clinical signs and some may never show any signs, depending on the severity of the condition.


The only accurate way of diagnosing SM is through the use of magnetic resonance image (MRI) scanning. This is an extremely costly procedure and there are very few MRI scanners available for use with animals. An MRI image will allow a veterinary neurologist to study the spine and diagnose the presence of any abnormality which might obstruct the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid.


Treatment options for SM are very limited and they do not cure the problem. Drugs can help to reduce the pain and symptoms but they cannot reduce the deterioration, and long term use of many of these drugs is not advisable.

Surgery to allow the cerebrospinal fluid to flow normally may be necessary to reduce the pain and deterioration. However, such surgeries are expensive and technically difficult and they are not always successful. Following surgery many dogs still show signs of pain and others have a recurrence of the problem.

Foot Note

Scratching at the neck and shoulders and sensitivity in this area are also symptoms of other, more common ailments, including ear infections, ear mites and other ear problems, skin conditions and allergies, problems with the teeth, fleas, and spinal or disk problems.

If you have any concerns about your Cavalier please contact your Cavalier’s breeder or one of the committee members.




by Jenny Brice
As published in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of SA Inc Newsletter

Are you ‘loving” your Cavalier to an early death?

Although some Cavaliers are inclined to be fussy eaters, the majority of them are very greedy, and care must be taken to keep them from overeating and putting on too much weight. Whilst some Cavaliers are more active, have a higher metabolism and don’t seem to put on weight, others put on too much weight very quickly. Most adult Cavaliers only need about 180 to 220 grams (6 to 8 ounces) of food each day (including tidbits and treats). Others are very 'good doers' and need even less than this.

Obesity is a very serious problem. It affects overall health and well being and can lead to many health problems and medical conditions, some of which can be painful and expensive. Extra weight places a great deal of stress on the dog’s whole body. It significantly increases the work of the heart, compresses the internal organs with fat deposits, reduces the blood flow to the lungs, places undue strain and pressure on the joints, bones and ligaments, especially those in the legs and back, and greatly reduces the dog’s strength and stamina.

Dogs which are overweight are prone to diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, slipped discs, torn knee ligaments and luxating patellae, respiratory problems, heat intolerance and impaired liver function. Obesity is also a contributing factor in cancer, kidney disease, strokes and skin problems. Obese dogs are less active, tire more easily, may be uncomfortable, suffering pain and irritable, and die younger. Veterinarians agree that canine obesity is one of the most important health risks in dogs and does more to limit life expectancy than all other factors.

A lot of people ask me “How much should my dog weigh? This question is difficult to answer because the correct weight for one dog may be too much or too little for another dog. Even within a breed dogs vary in shape and size with some dogs being smaller with finer, lighter bones and others being larger and of a more solid build with thicker, heavier bones.

The quickest way to tell if your dog, small or large, young or old, is in good condition is to place your hand over the dog's back, fingers on one side, thumb on the other, and move it back and forth over the rib cage, applying only gently pressure. If you can just feel the dog's ribs, it is in good condition, but if you can't feel the dog's ribs it is overweight and you will need to immediately reduce the amount of food it is eating.

People have many excuses for fat dogs, including the old wives' tale that desexing 'makes' the dog fat! This is, of course, not true. A dog becomes overweight when it consumes more calories than it needs for its daily energy requirements. What is true however, is that desexing often occurs when the dog is reaching maturity and should be reducing its food intake. The owners forget to reduce the amount of food the dog is eating and consequently, it puts on weight. Mature dogs have a much lower metabolism than puppies.

We need to remember that dogs are not small humans and that they have some significant differences in their physiology. Wild canines have a digestive system designed and built to handle large amount of food at one time. When they make a kill they eat as much as they can, knowing that they might not eat again for a number of days. Our domesticated dogs still have this instinctive trait and will therefore eat as much as they can, whenever they can, and will beg for food at every opportunity. Being highly intelligent, our Cavaliers will also manipulate members of the family to give them more food and will act like they haven’t been fed for days, even if another family member fed them ten minutes ago.

We also need to remember that the food we are giving our dogs is much higher in calories and quality than much of the food they would have eaten in the wild and also that they are probably not getting anywhere near as much exercise as they would have in the wild. Remember too, that every kilogram your Cavalier puts on is the approximate equivalent of you putting on 10 to 12 kilograms.

A dog's needs change according to age, exercise and circumstances. Exercise, even a ten minute walk a day, is good of course, and if your Cavalier has lots of walks, plays ball in the back yard with the kids or is active in other ways, it will be able to eat more than a dog which is leading a quieter life. However, if you are not able to give your Cavalier a lot of exercise, this needn’t be a problem, - you just need to feed it less. Feed your Cavalier carefully, watch its weight, and remember, it is not just the main meal which adds calories, but also all those extra, high calorie tidbits and treats during the day!

Cavaliers put on weight very quickly, but take a long time to lose it, so it is much easier not let your Cavalier get too fat in the first place.



Information on the following health issues will be added soon

Patella Luxation

Hip Displasia

Eye Problems






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