The Cavalier Club aims to provide up-to-date health information for all Cavalier owners on these pages.
Cavaliers are generally a happy, healthy breed of dog. However, as with many other breeds, there are genetic health problems.
The main health problems in the breed are:
Mitral Valve Disease of the heart (MVD) - Read more
Syringomyelia (SM) - Read more
Eye – Hereditary Cataract & Multi-focal Retinal Dysplasia (MRD) - Read more
The Club actively encourages its members to test their Cavaliers for heart and eye problems by organizing Health Clinics around the country. The Club also encourages its members to MRI screen their stock for syringomyelia prior to breeding.
The Club raises funds and actively supports research into MVD, syringomyelia and other health problems. Although much research has been done, it seems there are still more questions than answers. Unfortunately there is a long way to go before these complex health issues are fully understood.
The impression should not be given that all Cavaliers have these health conditions - they do not. Indeed many Cavaliers lead long and happy lives well in to their teens. Our list of Golden Oldies is certainly proof of this. - Visit our Golden Oldies list
Cavalier health problems are further complicated by the late onset of both Mitral Valve Disease and Syringomyelia. Animals may therefore have been used for breeding before a health condition becomes evident. In order to keep genetic diversity, veterinary experts have developed breeding guidelines that, in some instances, permit breeders to use slightly affected stock that has developed the condition later in life. DNA tests are not yet available for either health condition, but genetic research is ongoing.
Reputable breeders are aware of these health problems. Those intending to purchase a puppy are recommended to buy from a breeder who health tests their stock, who follows breeding guidelines issued by veterinary experts, and who is prepared to discuss and advise the purchaser on health issues. It should be noted that the number of cavalier puppies bred by Club members is approximately a quarter of the total registered with the Kennel Club. A Kennel Club registration indicates only that the puppy has a registration number. Therefore it is important to buy from a club member or from a Kennel Club Assured Breeder. See below.
CKCS Club Puppy Sales Register
The CKCS Club has a register of puppies that are for sale. This is separate to the Kennel Club Puppy Register that also lists puppies for sale. The co-ordinator of the CKCS Club register is able to provide purchasers with advice on the breed and many members prefer to sell their stock through this facility. The CKCS Club can only encourage its members to health test and follow appropriate breeding guidelines. It has no powers of enforcement.
Unfortunately, full health testing and adherence to breeding guidelines will not guarantee that dogs will be free from genetic health problems. However, you will be purchasing from a breeder who is doing all that can be reasonably expected to produce healthy stock.
Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme
The Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme is a major step forward, and is to be welcomed. Assured breeders undertake to perform certain breed specific health tests before a puppy can be registered with the Kennel Club. At present the scheme ONLY requires and enforces accredited breeders of cavaliers to eye test their breeding stock. It does not require that dogs are tested ‘clear’.
The Scheme currently recommends its breeders to heart test using the CKCS Club scheme. This will be replaced at a later date by a KC/BVA/VCS scheme and will become mandatory for Assured Breeders.
The Assured Breeders Scheme also advises its breeders to seek advice from the Cavalier Club on MRI screening. It is unable to enforce that MRI screening is carried out. Likewise, the scheme has no power to insist that breeders follow recommended breeding guidelines. It is therefore necessary that purchasers check that eye testing, heart testing and MRI scanning of both parents has been carried out. Many club members, who are also Assured breeders, already routinely test their stock and exceed the requirements of the Kennel Club scheme.
No matter where the puppy is obtained, it is entirely the responsibility of the purchaser to familiarise themselves with the breed specific health problems. They should also obtain confirmation that all recommended health tests have been carried out on both parents, and that current breeding guidelines have been followed. This will not guarantee that a puppy will be free of genetic health problems, but it will have been purchased from a breeder who is doing their best to breed healthy stock using current veterinary knowledge and advice.
So, if you are interested in buying a puppy, ask the breeder what health testing has been performed, and ensure that all the Club recommended health tests and breeding guidelines have been followed for both parents of the puppy and get proof.
Information on eye testing, heart testing, MRI screening and all the appropriate breeding guidelines, can be found on this website.