Common Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Diseases

The Cavalier King Charles spaniel has gone through hundreds of years of selected crossbreeding. Here you can learn about the consequences this has had on their health.
Common Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Diseases

Last update: 01 July, 2022

The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is a dog with a cheerful temperament and elegant appearance, characteristics that earned them their enormous popularity among the English nobility, beginning in the 15th century. However, it wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that this breed started to be in demand all over the world.

That’s why, due to the growing popularity of this breed, we felt it important to bring you an article regarding the common diseases of the Cavalier King Charles spaniel. If you’re thinking of welcoming one of these beautiful and loyal dogs into your home, this article is a must-read if you want to look after their health. Don’t miss it!

What are the common diseases of the Cavalier King Charles spaniel?

You have to take into account that pure breeds are the product of artificial crossbreeding and the criterion of choice is usually the demand for functional characteristics for man. This means that dogs are sometimes crossed taking into account specific temperaments or physiques, but without thinking about the health consequences for the dogs.

That’s why the Cavalier King Charles spaniel often suffers from a number of congenital diseases. This doesn’t mean that it’s condemned to suffer from them, but simply that it’s more prone to develop them than other dogs of “less pure” lineages. Let’s see the most common ones in detail.

King Charles spaniel.

1. Syringomyelia

A typical pathology associated with this breed is syringomyelia. This disease is hereditary and occurs when the size of the skull is insufficient to contain the brain. As a result, the movement of the cerebrospinal fluid is altered and causes the development of abnormal cavities in the spinal cord.

These cavities, as you can imagine, fill with cerebrospinal fluid and put pressure on the spinal cord. The consequences of this are intense pain for the animal and the appearance of motor problems, such as incoordination, weakness in the legs, or an abnormal head position.

2. Degeneration of the mitral valve

Although cardiac pathologies are among the common diseases of the Cavalier King Charles spaniel, among all of them, the degeneration of the mitral valve stands out. In this condition, the atrium separates from the left ventricle. In addition, due to the genetics of this breed, the propensity for the worst forms of this pathology is higher than in other breeds.

The degeneration of this valve results in heart murmurs, in which blood leaks into the atrium during contraction because the mitral valve doesn’t close properly. Consequently, blood flow to the aorta will be less, so the heart will try to compensate by increasing the heart rate. This, in turn, causes an increase in the size of the heart.

Ultimately, and in the long run, the result will be heart failure, as the heart will progressively lose its pumping capacity. Although this pathology can be corrected through surgery, sometimes it’s only possible to treat it with drugs.

3. Ocular problems

The large eyes of this breed (another of the characteristics sought through selective breeding) aren’t exempt from problems. The most frequent ocular pathologies that you will find in this breed are the following:

  • Nystagmus: Its causes are alterations of the nervous system, which cause an involuntary and constant movement of the eyeballs.
  • Retinal dysplasia: This is a congenital degenerative anomaly that consists of the abnormal development of the retina, in which folds are formed over time. It causes progressive visual impairment.
  • Microphthalmia: A pathology that causes a reduced and abnormal size of the eyeball.
  • Cataracts: The crystalline lens, the internal structure that allows focusing sight in the distance, becomes opaque in this disease. In this way, light can’t project onto the retina and visual capacity decreases.

4. Ear pathologies

The ears are another weak point of the Cavalier King Charles spaniel. Apart from being prone to infections of the pinna and ear canal if their ears aren’t cleaned regularly, there are other ailments associated with this breed.

Specifically, one of the common diseases of the Cavalier King Charles spaniel is hyperacusis, or hearing loss. Although it’s most often found to be unilateral (i.e., affecting only one ear), it can also be bilateral. Over time, there’s a possibility that the dog may become deaf.

5. Episodic Falling Syndrome

This is a congenital disease that gives symptoms such as loss of balance, numbness, spasms, and sudden falls due to loss of muscle tone. These symptoms are usually triggered by intense exercise or at times of high excitation. Its origin is neuromuscular and the symptomatic manifestations begin early, generally at 2 months old.

The peak incidence of episodic falling syndromes occurs between 3 and 7 months of age.

A King Charles Spaniel.

Can Cavalier King Charles spaniel diseases be prevented?

Something that’s important to emphasize is that the genetics of these dogs predisposes them to the presence of certain pathologies, but doesn’t guarantee that they’ll exhibit them. For a Cavalier King Charles spaniel to suffer from these diseases, its parents need to have inherited the genomic defects.

For this reason, the best thing to do is to get to know the health history of the pet’s ancestors (family tree) in depth before adopting it. With this, it’s possible to foresee if the dog will suffer from any of these diseases, and to be able to take action as soon as possible. There’s currently no cure for diseases of genetic origin, but it’s possible to prepare yourself to deal with them before they appear.

It’s also crucial to remember that many “clandestine” breeders don’t have adequate protocols for the healthy crossing of dogs. In this way, they cause congenital pathologies to appear more frequently. Because of this, it’s best to go with certified breeders to reduce the probability of your dog suffering from these diseases.

If you’re thinking of bringing a dog into the family home, then a Cavalier King Charles spaniel is a great option. However, we just wanted you to be aware that some of these problems could appear, even though it’s also possible for it to be in good health. The important thing is that, when the time comes, you don’t delay in going to the veterinarian.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Axelsson, E., Ljungvall, I., Bhoumik, P., Conn, L. B., Muren, E., Ohlsson, Å., … & Lindblad-Toh, K. (2021). The genetic consequences of dog breed formation—Accumulation of deleterious genetic variation and fixation of mutations associated with myxomatous mitral valve disease in cavalier King Charles spaniels. PLoS genetics17(9), e1009726.
  • Comesaña dos Santos, A. (2020). Morfología y diagnóstico por imagen de la malformación de tipo Chiari y siringomielia en el perro.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.