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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel common health problems

Mitral Heart disease (MVD)

MVD is a degenerative disease that causes the mitral heart in dogs to not fully close after the pumping action, which allows the blood to backflow into the atrium. In later stages this can lead to sometimes the valve breaking resulting in heart failure

Mitral valve disease affects more than a third of dogs over 10 years of age in ALL breeds, however in cavaliers the 'presence of this is more prominate and can occur in earlier stages of life' (Beardow & Buchanan., 1993)

diagram of the heart

Fig:1 drawing of the heart showing the mitral valve * [Diagram from ]

Most vets can identify heart murmers, an early indication of MVD by use of stephoscope examination and tell you how sever it may be. But be warned as over excitment and/or stress can hinder this, making the heart sometimes, even to a trained certified vet sound worse than it may be.

As good practice most breeders have their breeding stock heart tested to reduce the risk of this occurring in future generations, however the chance of MVD is still possible in cavaliers despite these measures.

Syrongomyelia (SM)

Syringomyelia is a disorder affecting the brain and spinal cord (Williams., 1980; Wolfe & poma., 2010), Cavaliers with this disorder first show signs “between 6 months and 3 years”(Rusbridge., 2005) with the progression differing with each individual dog.

One of the main problems with syringomyelia is that there is not much ability to predict which dogs may develop it, there is no prejudice between colours or gender and SM does not only affect cavaliers but is seen in many dog breeds, including but not limited to ‘Yorkshire terriers, Pugs, Bichon frise, Bull terriers, Miniature pinshers, Toy poodles, French Bulldogs, Griffon Bruxellois and Pekingese.’ (Rusbridge., 2007; Wolfe & Poma.,2010., Jung et al. 2006,)

Clinical Signs

  • Ongoing pain along the Cervical Spine (The part of the spine that moves through the neck).
  • Behavioural signs.
  • Sleeping with their head elevated.
  • Difficulty lowering head for activities such as feeding.
  • Persistant scratching often without co-ordination in the air(not to be confused with skin disorders , mites and fleas!)
  • Facial paralysis and deafness has also been seen in cases but may be coincidental as there is no clear association and is not seen in all cases.


Beardow, A.W and Buchanan, J.W ., (1993) Chronic mitral valve disease in cavalier king charles spaniels: 95 cases 1987-1991, J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1;203(7):1023-9.
Jung, D,I, Park, C, Kang BT, et al., (2006). Acquired cervical syringomyelia secondary to a brainstem meningioma in a maltese dog. Vet Med Sci. ;68:1235–1238.
Rusbridge, C., (2005). DNA for healthy cavaliers, The cavalier club website. [Avaliableonline:] [Cited: 21st April 2010]
Rusbridge, C.,(2007). Chiari-like malformation and Syringomyelia in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Vet Surg, 36:396-405.
Williams, B., (1980). On the pathogenesis of syringomyelia: a review. J R Soc Med. 73(11): 798–806.
Wolfe, K.C and Poma R., (2010) Syringomyelia in the Cavalier King Charles spaniel (CKCS) dog, Can Vet J. 51(1): 95–102.


Additional resources & links

Brief introduction to syringomyelia by Claire Rusbridge at a conference downloaded from the CKCS syringomyelia infosite (warning: the infosite has video clips that may be distressing to the viewer)

A support group forum for owners of cavalier king charles that are affected by Sm MITRAL VALVE DISEASE IN THE CAVALIER KING CHARLES SPANIEL by Anne French

The purpose of this page is to take information about the most common major problems that affect cavalier king charles and condense this into a basic jargon free form. I did not study vetinary science and therefore the information found here is the result of research about the diseases from other peoples work and talking to breeders. If there are any discrepancies with anything mentioned here feel free to message me via email at with reliable supporting evidence and I will change things as soon as I am able to, as the thing i least want to do, is provide incorrect information.

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