Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: A comprehensive guide to their health and care

5 October 2023 - 4 min read
King Charles Cavalier Spaniel looking directly into camera in front of blurred out kitchen.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, often simply referred to as the 'Cavalier', is a breed that exudes elegance and charm.

Their ancestor, the King Charles Spaniel, adorned many a monarchal lap in the English royal courts of the 16th and 17th centuries. Cavaliers, who have a less flat face and a more athletic build, were bred in the 20th century.

Nowadays, these elegant pups tend to grace the homes of everyday families, not just royal ones. Their silky coats, expressive eyes, and affectionate nature make them popular pets.

But with all that regal beauty comes a set of health challenges that every current or would-be owner should be aware of. These health challenges can be so considerable that at least one country, Norway, has banned the breeding of Cavaliers.

That’s a bit extreme. But understanding your furry confidante’s health risks will help you give them a life filled with joy and vitality.

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Mitral valve disease (MVD)

Heart health is paramount for these little champions. Mitral valve disease is a condition where the heart's mitral valve deteriorates over time. While it's more common in older Cavaliers, early detection can make a significant difference. 

Regular check-ups, especially listening to the heart's rhythm, can provide early indicators. Depending on the condition’s progression, treatments can range from dietary changes and medications to more intensive surgical interventions.

Syringomyelia (SM)

SM is a painful disorder where cavities or cysts form within your Cavalier’s spinal cord, near the brain. It's akin to a constant headache for these pups. 

The symptoms can be as subtle as an occasional yelp, or as evident as consistent scratching. Early detection through MRI scans and subsequent treatments, including pain management, are crucial.

Hip dysplasia

Just like in humans, joint health in Cavaliers is vital. Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition where the hip joint doesn't develop correctly. Over time, this malformation can lead to painful arthritis.

While genetics play a role, factors like diet, exercise, and weight can influence its onset and severity. Regular check-ups and X-rays can provide a clear picture, guiding treatments ranging from physical therapy to surgical interventions.

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Eye conditions

Unfortunately, those soulful Cavalier eyes are prone to several health issues. Common conditions include eye ulcers, prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid, known as cherry eye and more severe problems like cataracts and retinal conditions. 

Regular veterinary check-ups can help detect eye conditions before they become more advanced. If your vet diagnoses an eye disorder, a veterinary ophthalmologist may be able to help. In fact, some cautious Cavalier parents may even pursue preventative screening and occasional follow-up visits with an ophthalmologist, especially if there's a family history of eye issues in their pup's lineage.

How to prevent common issues in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

Start with proper breeding

No breeder worth their salt will ever breed a Cavalier with known health conditions, no matter how adorable they are. They'll also make sure to test potential breeding dogs for hereditary conditions. 

If you're at the beginning of your journey to find your own sweet Cavalier, take the time to find a reputable breeder, and you'll be off to a solid start.

Provide a healthy diet in the right proportions

Nutrition is the foundation of good health. For Cavaliers, a balanced diet tailored to their specific needs can make all the difference. It's incredibly important to choose high-quality brands with meat as the primary ingredient. 

Supplements, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, can boost the health and shine of your dog’s coat. Your vet will be your biggest resource for diet questions, so consult them first.

Don’t neglect grooming

A proper diet is essential for internal health, but your Cavalier’s internal care is just as important. The breed’s long, silky coats require regular grooming to prevent matting and tangling. And their floppy ears, while undeniably precious, can be a breeding ground for smelly ear infections if you don’t clean them regularly.

Keep them social

On the behaviour front, early training and socialisation harness your Cavalier’s natural sociability, ensuring that they're well-mannered and responsive throughout their lives. If they ever get off their lead near a busy road, you'll thank yourself for providing great recall training.

Consider dog insurance for the unexpected

With the right care, Cavaliers can be vibrant family members, bringing joy for years to come. But you can't predict every incident that might crop up in your beloved pup's life; that's where dog insurance comes in.

Pet insurance is designed to cover unexpected vet fees, resulting from illness and accidents. It can help you pay for the care your Cavalier needs, without focusing on the cost.

For a breed with higher-than-average health risks, removing any financial roadblocks to healthcare is essential for a long and happy life. And don't delay: Bouncy, well-bred puppies are much less likely to suffer from those pesky pre-existing conditions that can affect coverage if you opt for insurance later in life.

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