Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

October 12, 2022 - 4 min read
cavalier king charles spaniel sitting

Vital stats

  • Breed type: Companion
  • Size: 12 - 14 inches
  • Weight: 9 - 22 pounds
  • Lifespan: 9 - 15 years


  • Size

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  • Intelligence

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  • Trainability

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  • Exercise needs

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  • Good with kids

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  • Levels of shedding

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  • Good for new owners

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  • Overall health of breed

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This guide actually deals with two breeds of dog: the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the King Charles Spaniel, most commonly called the English Toy Spaniel in the US.

These toy Spaniels were originally recognized 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 drafty homes and carriages.

Dogs with flatter faces and shorter muzzles became popular around the start of the 20th century, and King Charles Spaniels were then deliberately bred with these traits.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels became recognized as a separate breed by the UK Kennel Club in 1945; the American Kennel Club didn’t follow suit until 1995. 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 an English Toy Spaniel?

These two breeds are quite similar.

Here’s a summary of the main differences:

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel King Charles Spaniel
Size and weight Small – 12-13 inches and 13-18 pounds A little smaller – 9-10 inches and 8-14 pounds
Shape of head Flatter between ears Tall and domed
Ears Higher ear placement Lower ear placement
Muzzle More pointed Short and squashed
Coat Heavy and luxurious Lighter and shorter
Commonness Common — the American Kennel Club's 15th-most popular breed in 2021 Rare – the American Kennel Club's 137th-most popular breed in 2021
Recognized by American Kennel Club Since 1995 Since 1886

As you can see, you’re far more likely to encounter a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel than an English Toy Spaniel. In the US, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were the second-most popular breed in the toy group in 2021 and the 15th-most popular breed overall. English Toy Spaniels were far less popular — 137th on the overall list.

King Charles Spaniel temperament and characteristics

Both Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and English Toy 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.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy

Their calm nature makes them quieter and less barky than other breeds—another characteristic that helps make them great family companions. And they 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 English Toy Spaniels are predisposed to quite a few health issues. Norway even banned the breeding of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in 2022 on animal welfare grounds, essentially deciding the breeds had so many health problems that they should no longer be bred.

There are no such laws in the US, but there are a few conditions you need to look out for in both Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and English Toy Spaniels.

Here are some common health conditions in these breeds:

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

  1. Heart murmur

  2. Lameness

  3. Diarrhea

  4. Syringomyelia

  5. Patella Luxation

  6. Canine chiari-like malformation

  7. Conjunctivitis

English Toy Spaniel

  1. Epilepsy

  2. Heart disease

  3. Mitral Valve disorder

  4. Bronchitis

  5. Lameness

  6. Patella Luxation

  7. Syringomyelia

Heart problems are sadly very common in both Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and English Toy 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 usually first detect it as a heart murmur. (In 2022, ManyPets received Cavalier King Charles Spaniel claims for heart murmur that ran as high as about $1,100.)

When your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is suffering from this condition, you may also notice that they're coughing and becoming tired easily. Sadly, if it’s untreated, you’ll likely have to make the difficult decision to have your dog euthanized.

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. It’s not usually treated surgically in canines, as it is in humans.

Syringomyelia and patellar luxation (AKA luxating patella) are two other conditions to which Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and English Toy Spaniels are prone.

  • Syringomyelia is a condition where pockets of fluid form in the spine due to an abnormality in the bones where the spine and skull meet, called a Chiari-like malformation. Syringomyelia and Chiari-like malformations in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and English Toy Spaniels can usually be managed with pain-relief medications. Surgery can be an option, though these types of surgeries have a fairly high failure rate.  

  • Patellar luxation is more likely to result in a recommendation for surgical treatment. This is when the kneecap moves out of position, causing your dog to limp. Over time, it can cause problems like arthritis.

Surgery for patellar luxation can be expensive, costing anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 per knee.

Epilepsy is a common condition in English Toy Spaniels. As with Chiari-like malformation, this is likely 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 medications that can greatly reduce the frequency of your dog's seizures.

Due to the congenital health problems of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, healthy mixes have become popular. Mixes like Cavapoos, Cavachons, and Cockerlears have fewer health problems because they’re bred from a wider gene pool.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and English Toy Spaniel Insurance

As you can see from the list of conditions above, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and English Toy Spaniels are prone to quite a few chronic conditions that may have to be managed for life. This can get very expensive, often with several vet trips per year. 

The average claim ManyPets received for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels was $492 in 2022 — but we received Cavalier King Charles Spaniel claims that ran as high as about $8,600.

In 2022, the average annual cost to insure a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel with ManyPets was $35 per month. (Keep in mind, this is just an average based on data from all customer premiums. Your pet's age and location will heavily affect your monthly price, and it's possible your premium will differ from the average —get a quote here!)

Some pet insurance companies place annual or lifetime limits on reimbursement — which means you could run out of coverage when you need it, especially if your dog is particularly prone to illness. ManyPets policies don’t have any such limits. A no-limit pet insurance policy like the one offered by ManyPets is a great investment for Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and English Toy Spaniel owners. 

Just remember: It’s a good idea to purchase dog insurance when your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is still a puppy. That way, you're far less likely to run into any pre-existing condition exclusions, and they'll still be covered if conditions develop later in life.

Frequently asked questions about Cavalier King Charles Spaniels s

Where can I get a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel or English Toy Spaniel?

Sadly, these dogs have proven popular with illegal puppy farms. This means you can often see them in rescues, either because they’re ex-breeding dogs or were rescued as pups. There are even some specialist Cavalier King Charles Spaniel rescue organizations.

if you want to buy one of these dogs as a puppy, make sure you find a reputable breeder and show up with a detailed list of questions to ask about the health of the parents. You can start by taking a look at the American Kennel Club's marketplace.

What’s a teacup Cavalier King Charles Spaniel?

It’s just a very small Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – it isn’t a breed in its own right.