Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Infobox Dogbreed

image_caption = Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
name = Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
country = flagicon|England England
nickname = king cavalierFact|date=August 2008
fcigroup = 9
fcisection = 7
fcinum = 136
fcistd =
akcgroup = Toy
akcstd =
ankcgroup = Group 1 (Toys)
ankcstd =
ckcgroup = Group 5 - Toys
ckcstd =
kcukgroup = Toy
kcukstd =
nzkcgroup = Toy
nzkcstd =
ukcgroup = Companion Breeds
ukcstd =
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a small breed of dog of Spaniel type, usually considered one of the toy dog breeds. It is a small spaniel with a substantial silky coat of moderate length, often with a mild wave, and long ears. Four colors (Blenheim, Tricolor, Black and Tan, and Ruby) are recognized. The breed originated in the 20th century, though has its roots in the older King Charles Spaniel of the Restoration.


The Cavalier is quite intelligent and easy to train. For example they seem to be able to learn (and remember) tricks (lay down, roll over, shake, etc.) within a day or two. They can be easily trained to do other things (like go to bed, go upstairs, etc.) with a good treat. The bad comes with the good though, as they often use their smarts to their advantage. For example he or she might wait until you're not looking, then run off with a sock or something they're not supposed to have.



The Cavalier (along with the Pug) is perhaps the largest toy breed: though historically a lap dog, modern day fully-grown adults tend to fill a lap rather amply. It is nonetheless quite small for a spaniel, with fully-grown Cavaliers roughly comparable in size to adolescents of more conventional spaniel breeds. Breed standards call for a height between 29 and 33 cm (12–13 inches) with a proportionate weight between 4.5 and 8.5 kg (10 and 18 lb). Unlike most other spaniels, the Cavalier has a full-length tail, well-feathered with long hair which is usually not docked, which is typically carried aloft when walking. The Cavalier's head is nearly flat between the ears and has a well defined nose, its eyes are large and round and this gives the dog its characteristic endearing look. Its neck is strong and is slightly arched and its ears are long and drooping and have plenty of feathering. The body of the Cavalier is small but well balanced, this dog moves with a somewhat elegant and royal gait.


The breed naturally grows a substantial silky coat of moderate length. Breed standards call for it to be free from curl, with a slight wave permissible. In adulthood, Cavaliers grow lengthy feathering on their ears, chest, legs, feet and tail; breed standards demand this be kept long, with the feathering on the feet cited as a particularly important feature of the breed.

A Cavalier's coat may be beautiful, but, because it can be long, it is very important to keep it well groomed. Daily brushing is recommended to ensure that the coat does not get matted and that foreign objects, such as grass and sticks, do not become entangled in the feathering. It also should not be bathed more than twice a week otherwise it may cause skin irritation.Fur on the feet and on the hind legs should be trimmed regularly. In hot climates, the ears should be thinned.


The breed has four recognized colors:
* Blenheim (rich chestnut on pearly white background)
* Tricolor (black and white with tan markings on cheeks, inside ears, on eyebrows, inside legs, and on underside of tail)
* Black and Tan (black with tan markings)
* Ruby (rich reddish-brown all over)Parti-colors are the colours that include white: Blenheim and Tricolour. Whole-colors have no white: Black and Tan, and Ruby. The Blenheim is the most common color.


The breed is highly affectionate, and some have called the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel "the ultimate lap dog" or the "love sponge" of dogs. Most dogs of the breed are playful, extremely patient and eager to please. As such, dogs of the breed are usually good with children and other dogs. A well-socialized Cavalier will not be shy about socializing with much larger dogs. (However, on occasion, this tendency can be dangerous, as many cavaliers will presume all other dogs to be equally friendly, and may attempt to greet and play with aggressive dogs.)Cavaliers will adapt quickly to almost any environment, family, and location. Their ability to bond with larger and smaller dogs make them ideal in houses with more than one breed of dog. Cavaliers are great with people of all ages, from children to seniors, making them a very versatile dog. The breed is most comfortable in areas with a temperature of -1 to 23 degrees celsius, or 30 to 73 degrees fahrenheit.


The extremely social nature of the Cavalier KC Spaniel means that they require almost constant companionship from humans or other dogs, and are not suited to spending long periods of time on their own. This breed is one of the friendliest of the toy group. It is important for Cavaliers to have a hand-reared puppyhood to ensure security and friendliness. If bought as mature dogs, they may not be playful or social towards humans. When they greet somebody they tend to lick them on the hand. They connect with their owners almost immediately, but are a little delayed with strangers.

Some Cavaliers have been known to exhibit traits in common with cats, such as perching in high places (the tops of couches, the highest pillow, etc), cleaning their own paws and can also show some birding qualities. Cavaliers have been seen to catch small birds in mid-flight that are flying too close to the ground. Such behavior is a result of their earlier use as a hunting dog, and as such, they can develop habits that predispose them to chase small animals such as chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, birds etc. Because of this, it is recommended that care should be taken when walking a Cavalier off-leash, as they can single-mindedly chase a butterfly or rabbit onto a busy road or other dangerous situation without regard for their own safety if not properly trained.


Cavaliers can suffer from a number of severe genetic defects. Unfortunately, two possible genetic conditions, mitral valve disease and syringomyelia, can be both severe and very common. It is very important to buy from a reputable hobby breeder who screens all their breeding dogs for these conditions. Consider using the reputable breeder-referral services offered by the national club(s) in your country. You may consider seeking a breeder who MRI screens dogs for syringomyelia (although this is as yet an extremely expensive--around $700-2000 US dollars--and uncommon test; some Cavalier clubs in the US are currently exploring the possibility of lower-cost MRI group clinics for breeders), to reduce the chance the puppy will have the defects described below. Breeders who breed for health willingly supply heart, hip, eye and patella clearances for their breeding dogs, and responsible breeders choose pairings to try to reduce the incidence of all these defects in the breed. Due to the large size of the Cavalier's ears and eyes, they are prone to infections. It is most important to find a reputable breeder who tests their dogs yearly for the following health defects, to ensure the owner they are getting a puppy with a healthy background.

Mitral valve disease

Virtually all Cavaliers eventually will suffer from mitral valve disease, with heart murmurs which may progressively worsen, leading to heart failure. This condition is polygenic, and therefore all lines of Cavaliers worldwide are potentially susceptible. It is the leading cause of death of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the reason the breed's expected life span is only between seven and ten years. The 'hinge' on the heart's mitral valve loosens and can gradually deteriorate, along with the valve's flaps, causing a heart murmur (as blood seeps through the valve between heartbeats) then congestive heart failure, can begin to emerge at an early age, and statistically may be expected to be present in more than half of all Cavalier King Charles Spaniels by age 5. It is rare for a 10-year-old Cavalier not to have a mitral valve heart murmur. While heart disease is common in dogs generally -- one in 10 of all dogs will eventually have heart problems -- MVD is generally (as in humans) a disease of old age, but unfortunately, the Cavalier is susceptible to early-onset heart disease, at as young as age one or two. Veterinary geneticists and cardiologists have designed breeding guidelines to eliminate early-onset mitral valve disease in the breed; but it is unclear if a statistically significant number of breeders follow these guidelines. Reputable international CKCS clubs all recommend that puppy buyers seek reputable hobby breeders who have cardiac clearances for their breeding dogs from a vet cardiologist, and who follow the MVD breeding protocol (parents should be at least 2.5 years old and heart clear, and their parents (eg the puppy's grandparents) should be heart clear until age 5). * [$file/98heartsymp.PDF Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Mitral Valve Disease Symposium abridged transcript] ]


Syringomyelia (SM) is a condition affecting the brain and spine, causing symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain and partial paralysis. It is caused by a malformation in the lower back of the skull which reduces the space available to the brain, compressing it and often forcing it out (herniating it) through the opening into the spinal cord. This blocks the flow of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) around the brain and spine and increases the fluid's pressure, creating turbulence which in turn is believed to create fluid pockets, or syrinxes (hence the term syringomyelia), in the spinal cord. Syringomyelia is rare in most breeds but has become widespread in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, with international research samples in the past few years consistently showing nearly all (90%+) cavaliers have the malformation and that between 30-70% have syrinxes, though most dogs with syrinxes are not symptomatic. Although symptoms of syringomyelia can present at any age, they typically appear between 6 months and 4 years of age in 85% of symptomatic dogs, according to Dr Rusbridge. Symptoms include sensitivity around the head, neck, or shoulders, often indicated by a dog whimpering or frequently scratching at the area of his neck or shoulder. Scratching is often unilateral -- restricted to one side of the body. Scratching motions are frequently performed without actually making physical contact with the body ("air scratching"). The scratching behavior appears involuntary and the dog frequently scratches while walking -- without stopping -- in a way that is very atypical of normal scratching ("bunny hopping"). Scratching typical of SM is usually worse when the dog is wearing a collar, is being walked on leash, or is excited, and first thing in the morning or at night. Chiari-Like Malformation and Syringomyelia in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, by Clare Rusbridge]

Not all dogs with SM show scratching behavior. Not all dogs who show scratching behavior appear to suffer pain, though several leading researchers, including Dr Clare Rusbridge in the UK and Drs Curtis Dewey and Dominic Marino in the US, believe scratching in SM cavaliers is a sign of pain and discomfort and of existing neurological damage to the dorsal horn region of the spine. If onset is at an early age, a first sign may be scratching and/or rapidly appearing scoliosis. If the problem is severe, there is likely to be poor proprioception (awareness of body position), especially with regard to the forelimbs. Clumsiness and falling results from this problem. Progression is variable though the majority of dogs showing symptoms by age 4 tend to see progression of the condition.

A vet should be asked to rule out basic causes of scratching or discomfort such as ear mites, fleas, and allergies, and then, primary secretory otitis media (PSOM - glue ear), as well as spinal or limb injuries, before assuming that a Cavalier has SM. PSOM can present similar symptoms but is much easier and cheaper to treat. Episodic Falling Syndrome can also present similar symptoms. An MRI scan is normally done to confirm diagnosis of SM (and also will reveal PSOM).

Because of the prevalence in the breed, SM is increasingly being considered as important a health issue as mitral valve disease (MVD). Just as many breeders follow the MVD breeding protocol, many breeders are now starting to follow breeding guidelines recommended by international researchers (November 2006), to try to decrease the incidence and severity of SM in the breed. The guidelines stipulate that breeding dogs be MRI screened (again, unfortunately, the test is very expensive and not widely available yet) and graded according to whether they show the malformation, syrinxes, or both. Neurologists give scanned dogs a signed certificate noting its grade. At least one dog in a breeding pair must be graded A (clear of syrinxes). [* [ Rusbridge Cavalier Breeding Protocol] ] A limited breeding scheme by a group of Dutch breeders has shown so far that, encouragingly, AxA matings are consistently producing A puppies.

Episodic Falling (EF)

Episodic Falling is an 'exercise-induced paroxysmal hypertonicity disorder' meaning that there is increased muscle tone in the dog and the muscles are unable to relax. Although it is often misdiagnosed as epilepsy, the dog remains conscious throughout the episode. Severity of symptoms can range from mild, occasional falling or freezing to seizure-like episodes lasting hours. Episodes can become more or less severe as the dog gets older. Onset of symptoms is usually before five months but may be noticed only later in life. [* [ Neurological diseases of the Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Rusbridge, C. J Small Animal Practice, 30 June 2005, 46(6): 265-272] ]

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia (HD) is a genetic disease that affects up to a third of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. It is never present at birth and develops with age. Hip dysplasia is diagnosed by x-rays, but it usually does not appear in x-rays of Cavaliers until they mature. Reputable breeders screen all breeding animals for HD as well as luxating patellas.

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca

A common disorder among Cavaliers is keratoconjunctivitis sicca, colloquially known as "dry eye". The usual cause of this condition is an autoimmune reaction against the dog's lacrimal gland (tear gland), reducing the production of tears. According to the Canine Inherited Disorders Database, the condition requires continual treatment and if untreated may result in partial or total blindness.This disorder can decrease or heal over time. If treating with the ointments vets prescribe, pay careful attention to your pet's eyes, as they can be under- and over-medicated. [* [ Canine Inherited Disorders Database] ]

Other Eye Disorders

A 1999 study of Cavaliers conducted by the Canine Eye Registration Foundation showed that an average of 30% of all CKCSs evaluated had eye problems. [Ocular Disorders Presumed to be Inherited in Purebred Dogs, Genetics Committee, A.C.V.O. 1999.] They include hereditary cataracts, corneal dystrophy, distichiasis, dry eye syndrome, entropion, microphthalmia, progressive retinal degeneration, and retinal dysplasia. [Crystalline Stromal Dystrophy in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Crispin SM, Proc Am Coll Vet Ophthalmol 17:18, 1986. Posterior Lenticonus, Cataracts, and Microphthalmia: Congenital Defects in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Narfstrom K, Dubielzig R, J Small Animal Practice 25:669;1984. Control of Canine Genetic Diseases, Padgett, G.A., Howell Book House 1998, pp. 198-199, 241. Guide to Congenital and Heritable Disorders in Dogs, Dodds WJ, Hall S, Inks K, A.V.A.R., Jan 2004, Section II(256). Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs & Cats, Alex Gough, Alison Thomas. 2004; Blackwell Publ. 44-45. Ophthalmic Disease in Veterinary Medicine. Martin C.L. Manson Publ. 2005.]

Luxating patella

Cavaliers are subject to a genetic defect of the femur and knee called luxating patella. The disorder is believed to affect 20% to 30% of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. This condition is most often observed when a puppy is 4 to 6 months old. In the most serious cases, surgery may be indicated.The grading system on the patella is grade 1-4; 1 being a tight knee to 4 which the knee cap will come out of place easily. If your cavalier has a grade 1-2 you can use physical rehabilitation therapy and exercise to reduce the grading and potentially avoid surgery. The grades 3-4 are most severe where surgery will most likely be needed to correct the problem or they will end up with arthritis and may develop lameness.

Primary Secretory Otitis Media

Primary Secretory Otitis Media (PSOM), also known as glue ear, consists of a highly viscous mucus plug which fills the dog's middle ear and may cause the tympanic membrane to bulge. PSOM has been reported almost exclusively in Cavaliers, and it may affect up to 40% of them. Because the pain and other sensations in the head and neck areas, resulting from PSOM, are similar to some symptoms caused by syringomyelia (SM), some examining veterinarians have mis-diagnosed SM in Cavaliers which actually have PSOM and not SM. [Primary secretory otitis media in Cavalier King Charles spaniels. Clare Rusbridge. J Small Anim Pract. 2004 Apr; 45:222]

Deafness: Congenital or Progressive

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are predisposed to a form of congenital deafness, which is present at birth, due to a lack of formation or early degeneration of receptors in the inner ear. In addition, more recent studies have found Cavaliers which develop a progressive hearing loss, which usually begins during puppyhood and progresses until the dog is completely deaf, usually between the ages of three and five years. The progressive nature of this form of deafness in Cavaliers is believed to be due to degeneration of the hearing nerve, rather than the lack of formation or early degeneration of the inner ear receptors. [Investigation of hearing impairment in Cavalier King Charles spaniels, using auditory brainstem response audiometry, Munro, K.J., Cox, C.L. J. Small Animal Prac.1997,38:2-5. Hearing Assessment in Cavaliers. Podell, M. CKCSC,USA Bulletin, Fall 1998; p. 21.]

Thrombocytopenia and Macrothrombocytopenia

As many as half of all Cavalier King Charles Spaniels may have a congenital blood disorder called idiopathic asymptomatic thrombocytopenia, an abnormally low number of blood platelets, according to recent studies in Denmark and the United States. Blood platelets (also called thrombocytes) are disk-shaped blood elements which aid in blood clotting. Excessively low numbers are the most common cause of bleeding disorders in dogs. The platelets in the blood of many Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are a combination of those of normal size for dogs and others that are abnormally oversized. Cavaliers' oversized platelets are called macrothrombocytes. Macrothrombocytosis also is a congenital abnormality found in at least a third of CKCSs. These large platelets function normally, and the typical Cavalier does not appear to experience any health problems due to either the size or fewer numbers of its platelets. There are, however, exceptions to this typical situation. [Macrothrombocytosis in cavalier King Charles spaniels. Brown SJ, Simpson KW, Baker S, Spagnoletti MA, Elwood CM. Vet Rec. 1994 Sep 17;135(12):281-3. Thrombocytopenia in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Eskell P, Häggström J, Kvart C, Karlsson A. J Small Anim Pract 1994; 35:153-155. Giant platelet disorder in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Cowan SM, Bartges JW, Gompf RE, et al.; Exp Hem, April 2004; 32:344-350. Comparison of methods for determining platelet numbers and volume in cavalier King Charles spaniels. W. Bertazzolo, S. Comazzi, L. Sesso, P. Scarpa, G. Ru, S. Paltrinieri. J Small Animal Practice, Oct 2007;48(10):556-561.]


For many centuries, small breeds of spaniels have been popular in the United Kingdom. Some centuries later, Toy Spaniels became popular as pets, especially as pets of the royal family. In fact, the King Charles Spaniel was so named because a Blenheim-coated spaniel was the children's pet in the household of Charles I. King Charles II went so far as to issue a decree that the King Charles Spaniel could not be forbidden entrance to any public place, including the Houses of Parliament. Such spaniels can be seen in many paintings of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. These early spaniels had longer, pointier snouts and thinner-boned limbs than today's.

Over time, the toy spaniels were replaced in popularity by short-snouted, dome-headed dogs of Asian descent, such as the Pug and Japanese Chin. The King Charles Spaniel was bred with these dogs, resulting in the similar-shaped head of today's English Toy Spaniel breed. The King Charles Spaniel remained popular at Blenheim Palace, home to the Dukes of Marlborough, where the brown and white version was the most popular - resulting in the name Blenheim for that color combination.

In the 1920s, an American named Roswell Eldrige offered twenty-five pounds as a prize for any King Charles Spaniel "of the old-fashioned type" with a longer nose, flat skull, and a lozenge (spot) in the middle of the crown of the head, sometimes called "the kiss of Buddha," "Blenheim Spot," "lozenge" or "Kissing Spot". So, the breed was developed by selective breeding of short-snouted Spaniels. The result was a dog that resembled the boyhood pet of the future Charles II of England ("Cavalier King Charles"), hence the name of the breed.

See also

* Companion dog
* Companion Dog Group
* Toy Group



External links

* [ Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Health]

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