top of page

Over the last decade, extensive research has been done regarding the health of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. There are many tests which are now being utilized by responsible breeders all around the world to help eliminate the health issues which have been identified in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. 

Careful and selective breeding, however, can never be a 100% guarantee for any living being. All creatures are succeptible to health problems, but responsible breeders are doing their best to improve the health and longevity of this precious breed!!




  • Heart. - Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are susceptible to abnormalities of heart valves on both the right and left side of the heart.  At the 1998 symposium, the panel reported that mitral valve disease is the leading cause of death of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Cavaliers are 20 times more prone to have MVD than other breeds. It is hereditary, passed on from generation to generation by the parents. It is important for breeders to schedule yearly cardiac evaluations.

  • Eyes. -  Cavaliers, as a breed, do not have a tendency towards many debilitating eye diseases. The purpose of the OFA Companion Animal Eye Registry (CAER) is to provide breeders with information regarding canine eye diseases so that they may make informed breeding decisions in an effort to produce healthier dogs. . CAER certifications will be performed by board certified veterinary ophthalmologists.

  • Episodic Falling (EFS). - Episodic Falling (EFS) is a syndrome of muscle stiffness and collapse. Episodes are induced by exercise or excitement and can manifest themselves as simply rigidity in the hindquarters, falling, or in seizure-like events lasting from minutes to hours. Although symptoms almost always arise by five months of age, there is no pattern of progression and episodes can be less or more severe over time. EF is often misdiagnosed as epilepsy. Test breeding results along with pedigree analysis indicate that EF is a recessive genetic disorder. Genetic testing (for BCAN) should be done by breeders to ensure these genes are not passed down to offspring. 

  • Syringomyelia (SM)- is a neurological disease that varies in severity. Cavaliers unfortunately are affected by SM in larger numbers to any other breed. It is found in all colors, in all lines, and affects both sexes. Signs are usually noticed in dogs between 6 months and 3 years. SM occurs when a Cavalier is born with not enough room in the space in the skull that contains the back of the brain. Damage is caused when fluid (CSF) surrounding the brain is forced through a smaller than normal opening, into the spinal cord. Some refer to SM as “neck scratcher’s disease” because scratching the neck is often a sign of the disease. At present the condition can only be identified by MRI scans.  

  • Degenerative Myelopathy. - is a disease affecting the spinal cord, resulting in slowly progressive hind limb weakness and paralysis. The exact cause of DM is unknown. In its early stages, the symptoms of DM resemble those of osteoarthritis (arthritis). The exact cause of degenerative myelopathy is unknown although a genetic mutation is highly suspected. Only dogs with two copies of the mutated SOD-1 gene can develop DM. However, two copies of the gene does not mean DM will develop. It only means that it is possible. Genetic testing for SOD1 should be done by breeders.

  • DU. Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) - Muscular dystrophy is an inherited disease that affects the muscles.  Signs of muscular dystrophy are typically seen early in life (at one to three months of age) and they progress as the dog ages. there are genetic tests available that screen for muscular dystrophy in certain breeds. Genetic testing can be used to identify whether a dog is affected with muscular dystrophy, an asymptomatic carrier of muscular dystrophy, or clear of the mutation.​​

  • Patellar Luxation. - The patella, or kneecap, is part of the stifle joint (knee). In patellar luxation, the kneecap luxates, or pops out of place, either in a medial or lateral position. Bilateral involvement is most common, but unilateral is not uncommon. Cavaliers can be affected at a very young age as well as later in life, but typically it occurs in Cavaliers within the first year to eighteen months. Most Cavaliers can lead a normal, pain free life with Grade 1 patellar luxation; however surgery is highly successful for the more severe forms of this disease. Breeders must test for Patellar Luxation.

  • Hip Dysplasia. - The use of preliminary radiographs as early as four months of age can be used by breeders to add valuable information on the hip status of dogs they choose to use in a breeding program.  In the year 2001, 87.4% of Cavaliers passed their OFA hip screenings and 12.6% of them failed. Since x-ray results are not always sent to OFA by breeders whose vets consider them dysplastic, this number is not exact and one can assume that 12.6% is a low figure.

bottom of page