Like every other breed of dog the Cavalier has its share of inherited and acquired health problems.
Heart problems, particularly MVD or Mitral Valve Disease remains the most prevalent problem affecting the Cavalier.
This disease is a condition which eventually affects most Cavalier King Charles Spaniels worldwide to some degree. In some cases it may shorten the life of the Cavalier, though some may live past the average lifespan for the breed despite having symptoms of MVD.
The mode of inheritance is unknown but is thought to be polygenic, that is involving a number of genes.
MVD occurs when a defect or weakness in the mitral valve allows some blood to move back into the left atrium of the heart. This is known as mitral regurgitation. It means the heart is less efficient at pumping blood through the body.
Mitral valve disease is the most common of the acquired cardiac diseases in older dogs, affecting over 1/3 of dogs older than 10 years. However, in certain breeds, mitral valve insufficiency develops at a younger age, due to an inherited predisposition for the disorder.
Fortunately more and more breeders are recognizing the problem of MVD within our breed and are having their breeding cavaliers checked annually by a cardiologist. In this way affected dogs can be withdrawn from the breeding plan.
While debilitating eye problems are not common, conscientious breeders have their Cavaliers seen by specialist veterinary ophthalmologists on a regular basis to screen for the possibility of hereditary eye disease such as retinal dysplasia, detachment, and cataracts. Eye problems do occur in the breed at times and only by testing can Cavaliers with debilitating eye defects be removed from breeding programs.
yringomyelia also known as SM.
This is a fairly recently recognized condition affecting mainly toy
breeds including the Cavalier. It is not confined to any particular country,
bloodline or kennel.
Syringomyelia is a condition whereby fluid filled cavities develop within
the spinal cord. Some refer to SM as "neck scratcher's disease" because
scratching in the air near the neck is a common sign.
Syringomyelia is caused by an
obstruction to the flow of cerebro-spinal fluid which normally circulates freely
around the brain and spinal cord. In SM a blockage is caused when the cerebellum
is pushed through the hole at the back of the skull due to the space at the back
of the skull being too small. This blockage results in the formation of a fluid
filled cavity or syrinx which causes irritation and pain to the neck
area. This condition occurs in many small breeds but has only
quite recently become recognized.
A dog affected by SM may seem to be
overly sensitive to touch on one side of the neck, ear, shoulder or chest. In
addition some affected dogs scratch at one area of the shoulder, ear, neck or
chest. This is typically on only one side of the body. Symptoms may be more
pronounced when the dog is excited or when put on a lead.
Signs of syringomyelia
usually appear between 6 months and 3 years of age. However, dogs of any age may
be affected and dogs more severely affected by the disease tend to show
symptoms before two years of age.
Dr. Rusbridge in the UK has undertaken a DNA study which includes
Syringomylia, Mitral ValveDisease and Epilepsy. Information on this study can
be found atthe Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, UK site at http://www.thecavalierclub.co.uk/