This guide actually deals with two breeds of dog: the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the King Charles Spaniel.
These toy Spaniels were originally recognised as one breed until the early 20th century. They became popular in aristocratic circles from the 16th century onwards as lapdogs. They had the very important job of keeping their owners’ knees warm in draughty stately homes and carriages.
Around the start of the 20th century dogs with flatter faces and shorter muzzles became popular and King Charles Spaniels were deliberately bred with these traits.
In response, the ‘older’ type of Spaniels became recognised as a separate breed by the UK Kennel Club in 1945. They kept the ‘Cavalier’ naming while the smaller, flatter-faced and ‘newer’ breed was rebranded simply as the ‘King Charles Spaniel’.
The breeds are very similar in many ways so we’ll look at both types in this guide.
What’s the difference between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a King Charles Spaniel?
As the names suggest, these two breeds are really very similar indeed.
Here’s a summary of the main differences:
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
King Charles Spaniel
Size and weight
Small – 30cm and 6-8kg
A little smaller – 4-6.5kg
Shape of head
Flatter between ears
Tall and domed
Higher ear placement
Lower ear placement
Short and squashed
Heavy and luxurious
Lighter and shorter
Common – 2,979 registered with Kennel Club in 2020
Rare – 56 registered with Kennel Club in 2020
Recognised by Kennel Club
Since its start (1873)
As you can see, there are very few King Charles Spaniels around. You’re far more likely to see a Cavalier King Charles as they’re the second most popular toy breed after Pugs.
King Charles Spaniel temperament and characteristics
Both Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and King Charles Spaniels are known for being gentle and very docile.
This makes them good family dogs and they’re small enough that they can live alongside young children with less risk of knocking them over.
Their calm nature also makes them less barky than other breeds so they’re also relatively quiet as a family companion and don’t need large amounts of exercise – a couple of shorter walks a day will keep them happy.
King Charles Spaniel health conditions
Despite being mild-mannered and easy to live with, Cavaliers and King Charles Spaniels are predisposed to quite a few health issues.
You may have heard that Norway banned the breeding of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in 2022 on animal welfare grounds. Basically, they decided they had so many health problems that they should no longer be bred from.
There are no such laws in the UK but there are a few conditions you need to look out for in both Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and King Charles Spaniels.
Heart problems are sadly very common in both Cavalier King Charles and King Charles Spaniels. They’re prone to a condition called mitral valve disease where the blood flows the wrong way through a heart valve.
Your vet will normally first detect it as a heart murmur. You’ll also notice your King Charles becoming tired easily and coughing. Sadly, if it’s untreated it’s likely you will have to make the difficult decision to have your dog euthanised.
If mitral valve disease is caught early it can be treated with medications like diuretics and beta blockers to prolong your dog’s quality and length of life but it’s not usually treated surgically in canines like it is in humans.
Our claims data shows that King Charles Spaniels are prone to two particular skeletal issues: syringomyelia and Patella luxation.
Syringomyelia is where pockets of fluid form in the spine due to an abnormality in the bones where the spine and skull meet, called chiari-like malformation.
Usually it’s medically managed, but surgery can be an option. The average claims cost for chiari-like malformation in King Charles and Cavelier King Charles Spaniels was £981.05 in 2021. For Syringomyelia it was £279.35.
Patella luxation is more likely to have surgical treatment recommended. It’s where the kneecap moves out of position, causing your dog to limp. Over time it can cause problems like arthritis.
Surgery for patella luxation can be expensive. Langford Vets lists a price of £4,000 for a small dog like a cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
Epilepsy is the leading reason for pet insurance claims in King Charles Spaniels. As with chiari-like malformation, this could be as a result of the shape of their head and the way their skull can put pressure on their brains.
There’s no cure, but there are drug treatments that can greatly reduce the frequency of your King Charles Spaniel’s seizures.
Due to the congenital health problems that Cavalier King Charles Spaniels healthy cross breeds with King Charles Spaniels have become popular instead. Crosses like Cavapoos, Cavachons and Cockerlears have fewer health problems due to being bred from a wider gene pool.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel insurance
You can see from the list of conditions above that Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and King Charles Spaniels are prone to quite a few chronic conditions that may have to be managed for life.
That can get really expensive with several vet trips a year and some types of pet insurance put limits on either the time (i.e. 12 months) you can claim for or the amount you can claim for each condition, so you could run out of cover when you really need it.
That’s why lifetime pet insurance can be a good investment for King Charles Spaniels as it has an annual vet fee limit that refreshes each year. As long as you keep renewing your Spaniel will be covered for these long-term issues, year after year.
All our policies are lifetime because we don’t want you to run out of cover when you need us most. We even have a Pre-existing condition policy that could provide some cover if your King Charles Spaniel was diagnosed before you had a policy.
The average cost to insure a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel with us in 2021 was £487.20 and for a King Charles Spaniel it was £422.47. That’s pretty much the same as the average cost for all breeds of dogs which is £599.54.
Frequently asked questions about Cavalier King Charles Spanielss
Where can I get a King Charles Spaniel?
King Charles Spaniels have sadly proved popular with illegal puppy farms. This means you can often see them in rescues, either because they’re ex-breeding dogs or rescued as pups.
There are even some specialist Cavalier King Charles rescues centres like Bliss Cavalier Rescue which is a registered charity.
if you want to buy a puppy make sure you find a reputable breeder and go armed with a list of questions to ask about the health of the parents. You can get a list of assured breeders from the Kennel Club.
What’s a teacup King Charles Spaniel?
It’s just a very small King Charles Spaniel – it isn’t a breed in its own right.