The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel or “Cavvie” is one of the most popular dog breeds in the UK, and is one that is classed as a toy dog by the UK Kennel Club. They stand up to 13” tall at the withers, and can weigh up to 8.2kg, with males usually being slightly larger than females. The breed’s coat is smooth and silky, and can be seen in four colour variants, being Blenheim, Ruby, tricolour, and black and tan.
They are closely related to the similarly named King Charles spaniel, and up until the early 20th century, the two breeds were considered to be one and the same. The Cavalier variant became a breed in its own right due to efforts by breeders to recreate the historical appearance and conformation of the King Charles spaniel breed, leading to a smaller build and notably smaller head and flatter muzzle than the dogs that were considered to be good examples of the King Charles breed at the time. However, this type of selective breeding has led to a range of health and conformation problems within the Cavalier King Charles spaniel breed, and as a result of this, dogs of the breed are at risk of inheriting a reasonably wide range of health defects.
If you are considering buying or adopting a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, it is of course vitally important to appraise yourself of the various health conditions and hereditary problems that some dogs of the breed possess. In this article, we will look at the average longevity, hereditary health and conformation of the breed in more detail. Read on to learn more.
The Cavalier King Charles spaniel’s average lifespan ranges from 9-14 years, and such variation is present due to the various hereditary defects and problems that are relatively prevalent across the breed. Breed lines that are afflicted with serious hereditary health problems are unlikely to produce dogs that live towards the higher end of the scale, while dogs in good health and without a significant amount of defects will commonly live for 12-14 years in good health.
The Cavalier King Charles spaniel breed is one whose shape and appearance has been created by means of selective breeding, and this has created a fairly diverse range of potential problems for dogs of the breed, particularly those that show exaggerated appearance traits.
The coefficient of inbreeding statistical average for the breed is 5.5%, which is considered to be a reasonably low figure for a pedigree dog breed.
Due to the high occurrence rate of hereditary health problems within the breed as a whole, the British Veterinary Association manages various breed-specific health schemes for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and advises that breeders of the Cavvie test their breed lines for several common hereditary conditions. These include:
This condition is both disabling and incredibly painful for dogs of the breed, and causes them to be afflicted by a permanent severe headache as well as other symptoms. Potential Cavalier King Charles spaniel buyers are strongly advised to ensure that they only consider buying dogs from breeders who are enrolled in the BVA/Kennel Club testing scheme for syringomyelia, to ensure that their dogs live a life free of pain and disability.
As well as the testable hereditary problems listed above, there are also a significant number of other hereditary conditions known to occur within Cavalier King Charles spaniels, but for which no current pre-breeding tests exist. Some of the most common of these are: