Many diseases, such as Mitral Valve Disease and Syringomyelia, are believed to be inherited in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

At the moment there is no way of telling which dogs will remain completely clear of these problems or which dogs, although showing no symptoms themselves, may pass on the problem to their offspring. The best way to identify carrier or clear dogs for both conditions is to develop a gene test, and for this researchers need blood from extended families of cavaliers.

The Cavalier Club have a Healthy Heart Partnership with the pharmaceutical company, Boehringer Ingelheim, and thanks to their financial support, we help to set up a project to collect and store cavalier blood for DNA extraction. The confidential project was planned and coordinated by a veterinary neurologist, Dr Clare Rusbridge, and the Club Research Fund paid for blood collection costs from selected cavaliers.

The Cavalier Club also organised blood donor sessions at health clinics & shows and we are very grateful to our members who attended with their cavaliers, to those owners who paid their own costs to provide blood samples, and the vets who supported the scheme by charging a reduced fee for their services.

The project could not have been undertaken without the support of the UK DNA Archive for Companion Animals, which provided DNA extraction and storage from samples taken in the UK.

Dr Rusbridge, and her researcher Penny Knowler, spent hundred of hours working in their own time arranging DNA collection and collating information for the scheme. Thanks to their efforts DNA has been collected from Cavaliers all over the world. Cavalier owners and breeders owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.

The first stage of the project is now complete and Clare, Penny and their Canadian collaborators, Guy Rouleau and Berge Minassian, have been successful in applying to the Mammalian Genotyping Service at the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin (USA) for a full genome scan. The research is initially into syringomyelia but hopefully will be extended to looking for candidate genes for MVD as well.

Syringomyelia is a painful condition that also affects people. The research, undertaken by a joint veterinary and human medical group, will benefit both 'man and his best friend'. The researchers say that many people worldwide will benefit from this research.

The genome scan will identify markers which can then be used to identify the gene/s responsible for the disorder causing syringomyelia. The same team have already been successful in identifying the canine gene for Lafora's disease. The research is expected to take several years but the first stage will hopefully produce a DNA test which will help owners to make informed breeding decisions.

The researchers say that due to the generosity of clubs, research projects and individuals, they have collected enough DNA samples to start the genome scan. They therefore no longer require DNA from cavaliers with syringomyelia.

They do need blood samples from:-
  • Cavaliers that have a clear MRI scan
  • Young cavaliers with MVD, or old cavaliers with no heart murmur
  • Any other breed of dog with syringomyelia.
Contact information:-

Dr Clare Rusbridge
Stone Lion Veterinary Centre,
41 High Street,
Wimbledon Common,
SW19 5AU
Tel: 020 8946 4228, Email:

If you have donated your cavalier's blood, your name and affix can be added to the donors list on the Cavalier Cub website.

If you wish to be included, please contact the

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