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Muscular Dystrophy (md) Dna Testing For The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Dog Breed

The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is a small dog breed from the Kennel Club’s toy grouping, and it is also one of the most popular small dog breeds in the UK, as well as the 19th most popular overall. Cavalier King Charles spaniels have a lot to recommend them to people who are looking for a toy dog that is affectionate, loving and very loyal, and that is not overly challenging in terms of providing the dog with enough exercise.

This dog breed is also notable for being very good with children, as well as quick to learn and very amenable to training. They’re average in the intelligence stakes as well as their need for grooming and coat maintenance, and they aren’t particularly heavy shedders either.

As one of the oldest recorded toy dog breeds of them all, Cavalier King Charles spaniels are very well established in the UK, and there is a large population of dogs of the breed. However, over the course of the breed’s history, there are a number of hereditary health issues that have become established within the breed too, which can be passed on from parent dogs to their young.

Limiting the spread of hereditary health conditions within the breed and reducing the percentage of dogs of the breed with such conditions relies upon picking and breeding from only healthy dogs; and you cannot always tell by looking at a dog if they might be affected by or a carrier of any specific health condition.

Fortunately, DNA health testing schemes are in place for many hereditary canine health conditions found in specific breeds, which dog breeders can make use of to help them to choose healthy dogs to breed from. One such condition that can affect dogs of the Cavalier King Charles spaniel breed is called muscular dystrophy (MD) and this is a serious and progressive condition that ultimately results in death.

If you own a Cavalier King Charles spaniel and are considering breeding from them, it is strongly recommended to undertake DNA screening for all of the hereditary health conditions that can affect the breed (including muscular dystrophy) prior to breeding from your dog.

In this article we will explain the basics of muscular dystrophy in the Cavalier King Charles spaniel, outline how the condition is passed on from dog to dog, and share advice on how to get a Cavalier King Charles spaniel DNA tested for muscular dystrophy. Read on to learn more.

What is muscular dystrophy (MD) in the Cavalier King Charles spaniel?

Muscular dystrophy is a health condition that most of us associate with people more than dogs, but that can also affect dogs too.

As is the case within human populations, muscular dystrophy in dogs can come in different forms and variants depending on the genes involved in the condition, and so the designator of “muscular dystrophy (MD)” is the name we use to refer specifically to hereditary muscular dystrophy in the Cavalier King Charles spaniel dog breed.

Muscular Dystrophy (MD) is a progressively developing disorder that ultimately proves fatal in affected dogs, and which is an X-linked hereditary health condition.

Cavalier King Charles spaniels with muscular dystrophy (MD) suffer from raised creatine kinase levels and cardiomyopathy, as well as a range of other imbalances and anomalies in their blood chemistry and body in general. This all combines to cause atrophy of the dog’s muscles along with a wide range of other issues, which all worsen over time and that cannot be cured or reversed.

How is muscular dystrophy passed on through Cavalier King Charles spaniel breed lines?

Muscular dystrophy (MD) in the Cavalier King Charles spaniel is an X-chromosomal linked recessive health condition.

Any given dog can be totally clear of the condition if they carry no gene markers for it, which is known as being homozygous/normal, or if they carry one copy of the gene fault for the condition along with one normal, healthy gene, they are referred to as being heterozygous. Dogs that possess two copies of the faulty gene are affected by the condition.

This all means that the status of any given dog for muscular dystrophy (MD) depends upon the status of both of their parents, and which parent contributed which gene combinations to their DNA.

Here’s how the heredity of muscular dystrophy (MD) works in the Cavalier King Charles spaniel:

  • A clear sire mated with a clear dam will also have clear offspring.
  • An affected sire mated with an affected dam will have affected offspring.
  • A clear sire and a carrier dam will have male offspring with 50:50 chances of being clear or affected, and female offspring with 50:50 chances of being clear or a carrier.
  • A clear sire and an affected dam will have male offspring that are affected, and female offspring that are carriers.
  • An affected sire and a clear dam will have male offspring that are clear, and female offspring that are carriers.
  • An affected sire and a carrier dam will have male offspring with 50:50 chances of being affected or clear, and female offspring with 50:50 chances of being affected or carriers.

How to get a Cavalier King Charles spaniel DNA tested for muscular dystrophy

Because you cannot tell by looking at a dog if they might be a carrier of muscular dystrophy (MD) or affected without yet showing symptoms, the only way to find out for sure the status of any given dog is by undertaking DNA testing on them, to identify the presence or absence of the gene fault in question.

If you’d like to get your Cavalier King Charles spaniel DNA tested for the markers of muscular dystrophy (MD), you need to ask your vet to take a DNA sample from them, which is then couriered to an approved laboratory that can test it. The lab then returns a complete result on the status of the tested dog to their owner.


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