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"One reason a dog
can be such a comfort when you're feeling blue
is that he doesn't try to find out why."


Author Unknown
 



 

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a small breed of dog usually considered one of the toy dog breeds. It is a small spaniel with substantial silky coat of moderate length, often with a mild wave, and long ears. Four colors are recognized. The breed originated in the 20th century, though has its roots in the older King Charles Spaniel of the Restoration. This breed was loved by King Charles the second of England. He passed a law that they were allowed in parliament.

Appearance
The Cavalier (along with the Pug) is perhaps the largest toy breed: though historically a lap dog, modern day fully-grown adults tend to fill a lap rather amply. It is nonetheless quite small for a spaniel, with fully-grown Cavaliers roughly comparable in size to adolescents of more conventional spaniel breeds. Breed standards call for a height between 29 and 33 cm (12–13 inches) with a proportionate weight between 4.5 and 8.5 kg (10 and 18 lb). Unlike most other spaniels, the Cavalier has a full-length tail, well-feathered with long hair, which is typically carried aloft when walking.

Coat
The breed naturally grows a substantial silky coat of moderate length. Breed standards call for it to be free from curl, with a slight wave permissible. In adulthood, Cavaliers grow lengthy feathering on their ears, chest, legs, feet and tail; breed standards demand this be kept long, with the feathering on the feet cited as a particularly important feature of the breed.

A Cavalier's coat may be beautiful, but, because it can be long, it is very important to keep it well groomed. Daily brushing is recommended to ensure that the coat does not get matted and that foreign objects, such as grass and sticks, do not become entangled in the feathering. It also should not be bathed more than twice a week otherwise it may cause skin irritation. Fur on the feet and on the hind legs should be trimmed regularly. In hot climates, the ears should be thinned.

Color
The breed has four recognized colors:

Blenheim (rich chestnut on pearly white background)
Tricolor (black and white with tan markings on cheeks, inside ears, resembling eyebrows, inside legs, and on underside of tail)
Black and Tan (black with tan markings)
Ruby (rich reddish-brown all over)

Parti-colors are the colours that include white: Blenheim and Tricolour. Whole-colors have no white: Black and Tan, and Ruby. The Blenheim is the most common color.

Temperament
The breed is highly affectionate, and some have called the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel "the ultimate lap dog" or the "love sponge" of dogs. Most dogs of the breed are playful, extremely patient and eager to please. As such, dogs of the breed are usually good with children and other dogs. A well-socialized Cavalier will not be shy about socializing with much larger dogs. (However, on occasion, this tendency can be dangerous, as many cavaliers will presume all other dogs to be equally friendly, and may attempt to greet and play with aggressive dogs.) Cavaliers will adapt quickly to almost any environment, family, and location. Their ability to bond with larger and smaller dogs make them ideal in houses with more than one breed of dog. Cavaliers are great with people of all ages, from children to seniors, making them a very versatile dog. The breed is most comfortable in areas with a temperature of -1 to 23 degrees celsius.

Personality
The extremely social nature of the Cavalier KC Spaniel means that they require almost constant companionship from humans or other dogs, and are not suited to spending long periods of time on their own. This breed is one of the friendliest of the toy group. It is important for Cavaliers to have a hand-reared puppyhood to ensure security and friendliness. If bought as mature dogs, they may not be playful or social towards humans.

Some Cavaliers have been known to exhibit traits in common with cats, such as perching in high places (the tops of couches, the highest pillow, etc), cleaning their own paws and can also show some birding qualities. Cavaliers have been seen to catch small birds in mid-flight that are flying too close to the ground. Such behavior is a result of their earlier use as a hunting dog, and as such, they can develop habits that predispose them to chase small animals such as chipmunks, squirrels, birds etc. Because of this, it is recommended that care should be taken when walking a Cavalier off-leash, as they can single-mindedly chase a butterfly or squirrel onto a busy road or other dangerous situation without regard for their own safety if not properly trained. The one downside to the Cavalier is that they have a poor sense of direction, it is highly recommended that when out they be on a leash.

Health
Cavaliers can suffer from a number of severe genetic defects. Unfortunately, two possible genetic conditions, mitral valve disease and syringomyelia, can be both severe and very common. It is very important to buy from a reputable hobby breeder who screens all their breeding dogs for these conditions. Consider using the reputable breeder-referral services offered by the national club(s) in your country. You may consider seeking a breeder who MRI screens dogs for syringomyelia (although this is as yet an extremely expensive--around $700-2000 US dollars--and uncommon test; some Cavalier clubs in the US are currently exploring the possibility of lower-cost MRI group clinics for breeders), to reduce the chance the puppy will have the defects described below. Breeders who breed for health willingly supply heart, hip, eye and patella clearances for their breeding dogs, and responsible breeders choose pairings to try to reduce the incidence of all these defects in the breed. Also the cavalier king charles spaniel can suffer from heart problems. Due to the large size of the Cavalier's ears and eyes, they are prone to infections. It is most important to find a reputable breeder who tests their dogs yearly for the following health defects, to ensure the owner they are getting a puppy with a healthy background. They are great with children and families and pets.

Mitral valve disease
Virtually all Cavaliers eventually will suffer from mitral valve disease, with heart murmurs which may progressively worsen, leading to heart failure. This condition is polygenic, and therefore all lines of Cavaliers worldwide are potentially susceptible. It is the leading cause of death of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the reason the breed's expected life span is only between seven and ten years. The 'hinge' on the heart's mitral valve loosens and can gradually deteriorate, along with the valve's flaps, causing a heart murmur (as blood seeps through the valve between heartbeats) then congestive heart failure, can begin to emerge at an early age, and statistically may be expected to be present in more than half of all Cavalier King Charles Spaniels by age 5. It is rare for a 10-year-old Cavalier not to have a mitral valve heart murmur. While heart disease is common in dogs generally -- one in 10 of all dogs will eventually have heart problems -- MVD is generally (as in humans) a disease of old age, but unfortunately, the Cavalier is susceptible to early-onset heart disease, at as young as age one or two. Veterinary geneticists and cardiologists have designed breeding guidelines to eliminate early-onset mitral valve disease in the breed; but it is unclear if a statistically significant number of breeders follow these guidelines. Reputable international CKCS clubs all recommend that puppy buyers seek reputable hobby breeders who have cardiac clearances for their breeding dogs from a vet cardiologist, and who follow the MVD breeding protocol (parents should be at least 2.5 years old and heart clear, and their parents (eg the puppy's grandparents) should be heart clear until age 5).

Syringomyelia
Syringomyelia (SM) is a condition affecting the brain and spine, causing symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain and partial paralysis. It is caused by a malformation in the lower back of the skull which reduces the space available to the brain, compressing it and

 

Cavalier
Nicknames: Cavalier, Cav
Country of origin: England

often forcing it out (herniating it) through the opening into the spinal cord. This blocks the flow of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) around the brain and spine and increases the fluid's pressure, creating turbulence which in turn is believed to create fluid pockets, or syrinxes (hence the term syringomyelia), in the spinal cord. Syringomyelia is rare in most breeds but has become widespread in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, with international research samples in the past few years consistently showing nearly all (90%+) cavaliers have the malformation and that between 30-70% have syrinxes, though most dogs with syrinxes are not symptomatic. Although symptoms of syringomyelia can present at any age, they typically appear between 6 months and 4 years of age in 85% of symptomatic dogs, according to Dr Rusbridge. Symptoms include sensitivity around the head, neck, or shoulders, often indicated by a dog whimpering or frequently scratching at the area of his neck or shoulder. Scratching is often unilateral -- restricted to one side of the body. Scratching motions are frequently performed without actually making physical contact with the body ("air scratching"). The scratching behavior appears involuntary and the dog frequently scratches while walking -- without stopping -- in a way that is very atypical of normal scratching ("bunny hopping"). Scratching typical of SM is usually worse when the dog is wearing a collar, is being walked on leash, or is excited, and first thing in the morning or at night.

Not all dogs with SM show scratching behavior. Not all dogs who show scratching behavior appear to suffer pain, though several leading researchers, including Dr Clare Rusbridge in the UK and Drs Curtis Dewey and Dominic Marino in the US, believe scratching in SM cavaliers is a sign of pain and discomfort and of existing neurological damage to the dorsal horn region of the spine. If onset is at an early age, a first sign may be scratching and/or rapidly appearing scoliosis. If the problem is severe, there is likely to be poor proprioception (awareness of body position), especially with regard to the forelimbs. Clumsiness and falling results from this problem. Progression is variable though the majority of dogs showing symptoms by age 4 tend to see progression of the condition.

A vet should be asked to rule out basic causes of scratching or discomfort such as ear mites, fleas, and allergies, and then, primary secretory otitis media (PSOM - glue ear), as well as spinal or limb injuries, before assuming that a Cavalier has SM. PSOM can present similar symptoms but is much easier and cheaper to treat. Episodic Falling Syndrome can also present similar symptoms. An MRI scan is normally done to confirm diagnosis of SM (and also will reveal PSOM).

Because of the prevalence in the breed, SM is increasingly being considered as important a health issue as mitral valve disease (MVD). Just as many breeders follow the MVD breeding protocol, many breeders are now starting to follow breeding guidelines recommended by international researchers (November 2006), to try to decrease the incidence and severity of SM in the breed. The guidelines stipulate that breeding dogs be MRI screened (again, unfortunately, the test is very expensive and not widely available yet) and graded according to whether they show the malformation, syrinxes, or both. Neurologists give scanned dogs a signed certificate noting its grade. At least one dog in a breeding pair must be graded A (clear of syrinxes). A limited breeding scheme by a group of Dutch breeders has shown so far that, encouragingly, AxA matings are consistently producing A puppies.

Episodic Falling (EF)
Episodic Falling is an 'exercise-induced paroxysmal hypertonicity disorder' meaning that there is increased muscle tone in the dog and the muscles are unable to relax. Although it is often misdiagnosed as epilepsy, the dog remains conscious throughout the episode. Severity of symptoms can range from mild, occasional falling or freezing to seizure-like episodes lasting hours. Episodes can become more or less severe as the dog gets older. Onset of symptoms is usually before five months but may be noticed only later in life.

Hip dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is not a common genetic disease in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. It is never present at birth and develops with age. Hip dysplasia is diagnosed by x-rays, but it usually does not appear in x-rays of Cavaliers until they mature. Reputable breeders screen all breeding animals for HD as well as luxating patellas.

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca
A common disorder among Cavaliers is keratoconjunctivitis sicca, colloquially known as "dry eye". The usual cause of this condition is an autoimmune reaction against the dog's lacrimal gland (tear gland), reducing the production of tears. According to the Canine Inherited Disorders Database, the condition requires continual treatment and if untreated may result in partial or total blindness. This disorder can decrease or heal over time. If treating with the ointments vets prescribe, pay careful attention to your pet's eyes, as they can be under- and over-medicated.

Luxating patella
Cavaliers are subject to a genetic defect of the femur and knee called luxating patella. The disorder is believed to affect 20% to 30% of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. This condition is most often observed when a puppy is 4 to 6 months old. In the most serious cases, surgery may be indicated. The grading system on the patella is grade 1-4; 1 being a tight knee to 4 which the knee cap will come out of place easily. If your cavalier has a grade 1-2 you can use physical rehabilitation therapy and exercise to reduce the grading and potentially avoid surgery. The grades 3-4 are most severe where surgery will most likely be needed to correct the problem or they will end up with arthritis and may develop lameness.

They are also good with children and families and get on with other pets.

History
For many centuries, small breeds of spaniels have been popular in the United Kingdom. Some centuries later, Toy Spaniels became popular as pets, especially as pets of the royal family. In fact, the King Charles Spaniel was so named because a Blenheim-coated spaniel was the children's pet in the household of Charles I. King Charles II went so far as to issue a decree that the King Charles Spaniel could not be forbidden entrance to any public place, including the Houses of Parliament. Such spaniels can be seen in many paintings of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. These early spaniels had longer, pointier snouts and thinner-boned limbs than today's.

Over time, the toy spaniels were replaced in popularity by short-snouted, dome-headed dogs of Asian descent, such as the Pug and Japanese Chin. The King Charles Spaniel was bred with these dogs, resulting in the similar-shaped head of today's English Toy Spaniel breed. The King Charles Spaniel remained popular at Blenheim Palace, home to the Dukes of Marlborough, where the brown and white version was the most popular - resulting in the name Blenheim for that color combination.

In the 1920s, an American named Roswell Eldrige offered twenty-five pounds as a prize for any King Charles Spaniel "of the old-fashioned type" with a longer nose, flat skull, and a lozenge (spot) in the middle of the crown of the head, sometimes called "the kiss of Buddha," "Blenheim Spot," "lozenge" or "Kissing Spot". So, the breed was developed by selective breeding of short-snouted Spaniels. The result was a dog that resembled the boyhood pet of the future Charles II of England ("Cavalier King Charles"), hence the name of the breed.