The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is a small dog breed that falls within The Kennel Club’s toy group, and these affectionate little dogs are a popular choice of pet with people all over the UK and further afield. They aren’t overly onerous in terms of their need for exercise and are widely considered to be a good choice of first dog for a new owner, as well as suiting experienced dog owners and people looking for a relatively quiet and very personable little dog.
However, the Cavalier King Charles spaniel dog breed as a whole is one that tends to be more prone to developing heart problems than most other breeds, including heart murmurs – which can vary hugely in terms of their severity and impact, and which all prospective Cavalier King Charles spaniel owners should be aware of.
In this article we will look at heart murmurs in the Cavalier king Charles spaniel in more detail, explaining what they are, the impact they have on affected dogs, and how they can be diagnosed and managed. Read on to learn more about Cavalier King Charles spaniel heart murmurs.
A heart murmur is simply an abnormal heart sound that can be heart when the dog’s heart is listened to with a stethoscope, and the specific sounds that indicate a murmur are caused by the flow of blood as it is pumped by the heart.
These abnormal sounds can indicate a disease or problem with the heart itself, and heart murmurs come in different types depending on their location and cause.
Heart murmurs can be present from birth (and may sometimes clear up on their own as the pup gets older and larger) or may develop later on, which is known as an acquired heart murmur. Heart murmurs can be diastolic or systolic, depending on when and where in the heart’s beat they occur.
Heart murmurs are graded according to their severity, and may be mild enough to cause no problems at all, or severe enough to pose a real risk to the life of the affected dog. In the Cavalier King Charles spaniel, heart murmurs can be indicative of mitral valve disease, which is one of the breed’s best known common health issues.
Like virtually all pedigree dog breeds, Cavalier King Charles spaniels have a small number of breed-specific health conditions that tend to present more often within dogs of the breed than they do in the wider canine population.
There are several different types of heart conditions that are considered to be risks to the breed, and heart murmurs are just one of them.
Why this dog breed is more at risk of heart murmurs and other heart problems is something that has yet to be definitively pinpointed to a specific gene or anomaly, but heart problems of this type are hereditary in nature, and so the presence of heart problems across the breed as a whole means that curbing its ongoing spread to future generations of pups is considered to be one of the breed’s most serious challenges.
Parent dogs with a heart murmur or other heart defects can pass on these same conditions to their own offspring, and the risk factors increase when both parent dogs have a heart problem rather than just one of them.
You won’t usually be able to tell if your dog has a heart murmur without getting them checked out by your vet, and it is important to ensure that your Cavvie gets an annual check up at the clinic so that any problems of this type can be identified.
If your dog’s heart murmur is severe, there may be some symptoms that you will pick up at home, although they can be hard to correlate with a heart problem if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Such symptoms include exercise intolerance, a persistent, soft cough, and potentially, fainting spells or dizziness.
Your vet will listen to your dog’s heart sounds and monitor them for any abnormalities, and if they detect a murmur and/or suspect anything else is wrong, they may undertake further tests in order to confirm diagnosis, n reach a verdict on the severity of the murmur and its impact on the dog in question.
Heart murmurs cannot be corrected surgically, and there is no way to reverse or fix them once present. However, certain types of medications can help to regulate your dog’s heart functions and reduce the impact of a murmur, although this won’t be required if the murmur is mild.
Pre-breeding health screening for mitral valve disease is advised for Cavalier King Charles breeders, to ensure that only dogs with healthy hearts are used for breeding. If you are considering buying a Cavvie puppy, choose one from a breeder whose parent stock are health tested, and ask to see proof of their results before committing to a purchase.