KC News Release

The Kennel Club is reminding Cavalier King Charles Spaniel owners about the importance of health screening their dogs and the pioneering work that is being undertaken to help tackle conditions in the breed, as a petition asks that MRI screening for Chiari Malformation/Syringomyelia (CM/SM) and heart screening for Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) are made mandatory for Kennel Club registered dogs.

Despite the Kennel Club and British Veterinary Association establishing the Chiari Malformation/Syringomyelia (CM/SM) scheme for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in 2012, only 200 MRIs for the breed have been submitted to the scheme.

The Kennel Club urges more breeders to make use of the BVA/KC CM/SM health scheme, because it can use the results to develop Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs), which are much more accurate in determining the genetic risk that each dog will pass this complex and poorly understood condition onto its progeny. It can do this regardless of whether a dog’s own parents have been health screened, so will benefit all dogs in the breed. The development of EBVs requires that sufficient data is generated from health screening, which has already happened with BVA/KC hip and elbow schemes for the future benefit of the breeds concerned.

The Kennel Club can only consider making a health scheme mandatory if the disease and its inheritance are understood, so that the results can be usefully used by the owner, and advice on how to reduce the risk of inheritance can be given. The CM/SM test costs around £500, and is complex in inheritance, so the Kennel Club needs to work collaboratively with breeders who are passionate to improve their breed’s health, to ensure that EBVs and more health data can be generated in the future.

Aimee Llewellyn, Health Information Manager said: "Both CM/SM and MVD are very difficult disorders to understand and this makes treatment and prevention very challenging. Whilst there are 19 health tests and schemes, for 91 different breeds that are compulsory under the Assured Breeder Scheme, we cannot make the current scheme that exists for CM/SM, or the breed club scheme for MVD mandatory, whilst the link between screening and the ability to predict and reduce future health problems is not proven or precise.

"Currently, for SM, it is possible for dogs with MRI scans which show structural signs of CM/SM to not develop clinical signs of the condition, whilst those dogs with MRI scans which show low-grade structural signs of CM/SM, can sadly develop serious clinical signs of the disease. Similarly, there are some young dogs that die from heart disease and there are others who live a full life with a heart murmur.

"Our EBV projects will increase the predictability of the diseases, but we urge some of the 1,500 people who have signed the petition to undertake the CM/SM scheme, which has currently only been used by 200 people, as we need much more of this data to generate the EBVs. It is those who register with the Kennel Club who are normally the most passionate about their breed’s health. Whilst we will not force people to have their dogs screened for conditions that are still little understood, we can work collaboratively with breeders to encourage them to use the schemes available, with a promise that we are as committed to understanding and preventing the health problems as they are."

In addition to requiring an understanding about the mode of inheritance, the Kennel Club can only make health tests mandatory when it officially records the results, and the breed club scheme for MVD does not fall into this category. The Kennel Club is only able to record data from a test if there is a standardised protocol and assessment, and the disease and its mode of inheritance is understood, so that advice on how to reduce the risk can be given. Any tests for which data cannot be recorded, but that may be related to improving health and welfare, are instead made recommendations, such as the breed club scheme for MVD.

Aimee continued: "The Kennel Club Charitable Trust has invested more than £30,000 on projects that will help us to improve diagnosis of CM/SM and of other ways to collect data about its prevalence, as MRI scanning is currently being underused by breeders. Similarly, we are working with the Veterinary Cardiovascular Society and the British Veterinary Association to investigate heart schemes for a number of breeds, which we hope will generate data that will help us to develop breeding tools and resources.

"In the meantime, we urge breeders and dog owners to health test their dogs and to complete our 2014 Pedigree Health Survey for Kennel Club registered dogs, living or those that have died since 31st December 2004. To get a full understanding of health within the breed, we need people with dogs that have been healthy and those that have had health problems to fill in the survey. In the last ten years the Kennel Club has registered around 90,000 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels but so far we have only had 700 surveys returned to us. We must work together if we want to improve Cavalier King Charles Spaniel health for the future."

For more information and to complete our breed health survey, please visit

For more information regarding the BVA/KC CM/SM scheme please visit

Or for more information on current EBVs for hip and elbow dysplasia, please visit www.mateselect.org.uk.
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