The Dog Scene
The Dog Scene
  RSS Feed

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

 Photo of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Photo: courtesy of Lesley Hirstwood

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Books

Group: Toy - Breed Standard

History

For many centuries, small breeds of spaniels have been popular in the United Kingdom. In the eleventh century, in the reign of King Canute, it was illegal to hunt with any dog that could not fit through a gauge that was eleven inches in diameter. Hence, the "birth" of the Toy Spaniel 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.

Description

Weight: 5.4-8.2 kgs (12-18 lbs). A small, well balanced dog well within these weights desirable.

The Cavalier is by most measures the largest toy breed: though clearly a lap dog, fully-grown adults tend to fill one rather amply. It is nonetheless quite small for a spaniel, with fully-grown Cavaliers roughly comparable in size to an adolescent of a more conventional spaniel breed. Breed standards call for a height between 29 and 33 cm (12-13 inches) with a proportionate weight between 5,5 and 8,5 kg (13 and 18 lbs). Unlike most other spaniels, the Cavalier has a full-length tail well-feathered with long hair, which is typically carried aloft when walking. 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.

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 colors that include white: Blenheim and Tricolor. Whole-colors have no white: Black and Tan, and Ruby. The Blenheim is the most common color, although the others are not rare.

Character/Temperament

The breed is highly affectionate, and some have called the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel "the ultimate lap dog". However, Cavaliers require a great deal of human companionship and do not tolerate well being left alone for long periods of time. 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).

Breed Health

The breed suffers from a number of severe genetic defects. If considering a puppy, ask to see its parents' heart and eye certificates to reduce the chance your puppy will have the defects described here. Many breeders supply these and most breeders choose pairings to try to reduce the incidence of these defects in the breed.

Virtually all Cavaliers suffer from mitral valve disease, causing progressively worsening heart murmurs leading to heart failure. This condition can begin to emerge at an early age, and is present in more than half of all Cavalier King Charles Spaniels by 5 years of age. It is extremely rare for a 10-year-old Cavalier not to have at least a slight heart murmur. It is the leading cause of death of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Veterinary geneticists and cardiologists have designed breeding guidelines to eliminate early-onset mitral valve disease in the breed, but only an insignificant minority of breeders follow these guidelines.

Syringomyelia (SM) is a condition affecting the brain and spine, causing symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain and partial paralysis. Syringomyelia is rare in most breeds but has become widespread in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Veterinary neurologists who have been researching the disease in Cavaliers have estimated that at least half of all Cavaliers have either syringomyelia or occipital hypoplasia, the skull bone malformation believed to cause SM. The 2005 Cavalier Heath Survey done by the AKC Cavalier club indicated that about 4% of Cavaliers showed clinical symptoms consistent with SM. Although symptoms of syringomyelia can present at any age, they typically appear between 6 months and 3 years of age. 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. The scratching behaviour appears involuntary and the dog frequently scratches while walking -- without stopping -- in a way that is very atypical of normal scratching. Scratching typical of SM is usually worse when the dog is wearing a collar, is being walked on leash, or is excited.

Not all dogs with SM show scratching behaviour. Not all dogs who show scratching behavior appear to suffer pain. If onset is at an early age, the first sign may be 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.

A vet should be asked to rule out primary secretory otitis media (PSOM - glue ear) before assuming that a Cavalier has SM. PSOM can present similar symptoms but is much easier and cheaper to treat. An MRI scan is normally done to confirm diagnosis of SM.

Episodic Falling is an 'exercise-induced 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 for 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.

Cavaliers, like many toy breeds, 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.

Another common defect 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. The condition requires continual treatment and if untreated may result in partial or total blindness.

Training

See our books on training


submit Actions
submit Category Stats
Links: 14
Breed Club: 10
Affiliate: 4
Last link added: 12 Mar, 2008