King Charles spaniels and heart condition

(32 Posts)
HepburnKNotA Fri 13-Sep-19 11:05:20


DH, DD and I are all very keen to add a dog to our family - DH has owned before but I'm a novice and though we are all crazy about springer spaniels I don't think we're the right sort of people to have one! They are wonderful but I can't commit to quite that level of exercise, physical or mental!!

We're starting to research King Charles spaniels as we have met several lovely ones and they seem like a lovely friendly, good-natured breed, perfect for our family, our lifestyle and our size of house etc.

However I am discovering that many are prone to a genetic heart condition (?) and there is no way I can take on a puppy if there is a concern they will have serious health problems and die young - I couldn't do that to the puppy! Not much of a life for the poor thing sad We have already talked DD out of a pug because I gather they have terrible breathing problems. I want to put the idea of a King Charles out of her min RIGHT NOW if it'll be the same story on the health front!

However I am also discovering that the Kennel Club have very recently started to try to do something about this issue and that they are starting a scheme to try to limit the possibility of a puppy being born with the genetic defect in their heart.

Does anyone (FAR more knowledgable than me!!) know where I could find out more than I can simply read on the Kennel Club website etc? Are there certain very careful breeders you can speak to, who take this seriously and are trying to improve the breed's health?

Basically, does anyone know any more, and/or are there any KC Spaniel owners out there who might be able to tell me their experiences?

It's early days for us but we want to be sure we're doing everything we can to get a healthy puppy and with regret we would steer clear of a lovely King Charles if the risk wasn't extremely limited.

OP’s posts: |
HepburnKNotA Fri 13-Sep-19 11:12:06

Sorry, I should have been more specific - we are looking at Cavalier King Charles spaniels rather than King Charles spaniels - I have only recently discovered there is a difference!!

OP’s posts: |
FirstTimeDogParent Fri 13-Sep-19 11:24:51

So I assume you’ve read the health page on the KC website about them? Is it mitral valve disease that you’re concerned about?

Have you read the breed club info on heart disease?

I’m a Labrador person, so not helpful in that sense but I would say read everything you can from breed clubs and KC. Have a chat with a vet too.

We sourced our lab breeder through ChampDogs (who list litters where at least one parent is health tested). We spoke to breed club, looked at KC lists, Champ dogs, googled names (anything negative? Mentioned in the doggy world? Good reviews from owners? Website - what’s it like?), google earthed addresses (to see what the set up looked like), narrowed it down and emailed breeders, narrowed it down again and spoke to breeders on the phone, asked loads of questions. Narrowed it down again and visited breeders to see their set up and meet their bitch/bitches and check their paperwork (health tests, up to date worming/flea etc, council and KC registrations, etc).

FirstTimeDogParent Fri 13-Sep-19 11:28:11

A breeder of ANY breed should have health of their own litters and the ongoing health of the breed standard as their top priority.

PriscillaTheHun Fri 13-Sep-19 11:30:46

I've had 2 CKCS. They are the best dogs ever!

But our last one, although his heart was OK suffered from syringomelia where the brain is too big for the skull. He suffered terribly at the end of his life. The problem is that a lot of these issues aren't apparent until the dog is 3 years or so so if parents are also young, they are deemed healthy at the time you look at the puppy. (This is what happened to me).

I also had friends who lost theirs at 5 or 6 from heart problems.

I now have a cavalier x bichon because I wanted the friendly cavvy personality but not the health problems. (She's 4 and so far so good).

So my advice would be to be really careful and avoid all lines with a very domed head or protruding eyes.

Good luck!

SleepyKat Fri 13-Sep-19 11:34:29

I’ve also got a cav x bichon. Afaik they can still be prone to inherited cardiac conditions but less likely to have syringomelia. Less likely to come from health tested parents though some cavachon breeders do health test.

I’d be wary of having a CKS. If you want a pedigree how about a bichon?

HepburnKNotA Fri 13-Sep-19 11:41:07

Thanks v much everyone - incredibly fast responses!

SleepyKat I will look into a cav/bichon - don't know any but will investigate.

Priscilla, I've only just begun to come across the syringomelia issue but obv that would be something we wanted to be assured about too.

FirstTimeDog, yes, I've been on the breed website and am just beginning to navigate my way around all the info. I love your approach to finding a good breeder - that's the level DH and I would commit to!

We do know a vet socially so I will ask him next time I see him.

Perhaps a chat to any passing dog walkers I meet in the park too? Ones who own Cavaliers, I mean!

Thanks everyone, this is all very helpful.

OP’s posts: |


FirstTimeDogParent Fri 13-Sep-19 12:14:37

I am a bit anally retentive when I get an idea in my head blush

Registeredvetnurse Fri 13-Sep-19 13:41:56

Lovely breed but with all their problems I wouldn’t recommend one. I’ve seen many die prematurely from heart disease and it’s awful to see.
Even a crossbreed does not mean that it won’t inherit these problems.

HepburnKNotA Fri 13-Sep-19 14:34:52

Thanks registeredvetnurse sad that’s very sad to hear and precisely what I want to avoid.

Do you happen to know if a really specialist breeder might be able to hugely reduce the risks?

OP’s posts: |
ArkLover Fri 13-Sep-19 14:39:44

We have a cavalier King Charles and he is the best. Really good with kids, very loyal but a little piggy.
We were worried about the heart problems but all dogs have their issues so you kind of just have to bite the bullet.
We try to make sure that we keep his weight down as we see an awful lot of overweight cavaliers.
Our MIL treats ours like her first born grandson (all of her friends know him as her grandog) we have to keep her under control with the treats and can always tell he's been to hers for a sleepover (once a week hmm) as he puts on a couple of pounds.

PrettyPretty Fri 13-Sep-19 14:44:42

We have a cross cavalier who developed mitral valve disease. We paid £15k for him to have open heart surgery. We took out a loan to pay for it. Some people understand and some people say we are mad. It was just so difficult to see him struggling to breathe when he was just 6 years old that we had to make the decision to try and save him.

HepburnKNotA Fri 13-Sep-19 14:50:21

Pretty, I’m so sorry to hear you had such a tough time but what a lucky dog to have you on the case!!

Do you mind if I ask: when you bought him did the breeder assure you of his health? I’m just trying to work out whether breeders breed to different standards. I’ll happily research breeders til I’m blue in the face but I don’t know if they have varying levels of concern about the health issues with this breed or if a good reputable breeder is ‘as good as it gets’.

OP’s posts: |
MarbleCake Fri 13-Sep-19 15:23:05

My cav was gorgeous ❤️ we were lucky that he had a big head though - they're prone to their brains outgrowing their skulls which is an incredibly painful cruel condition - we didn't know this until after we had got him.

The grooming is a challenge with cavs as well!

We now have a cross breed - she's pawesome! Generally better health than pedigrees from what I can gather.

Ylvamoon Fri 13-Sep-19 19:00:32

The Animal Health Trust AHT is the go to if you really want to find out more about genetic conditions. They have a list of breeds and what genetic screening is available.
If you go forward looking / buying a puppy make sure that all health tests are done and results are good.

Ffsnosexallowed Fri 13-Sep-19 19:03:17

My mum has had 3 ckc. 2 had heart problems and her current one has syringomyelia. Lovely dogs, but I'd never get one.

GrumpyMiddleAgedWoman Fri 13-Sep-19 19:39:53

Mitral valve disease is incredibly widespread in CKCS - see here. The rate of syringomyelia is lower, but many cases go undiagnosed.

Have you considered checking out show-line cocker and springer spaniels? IME they are generally not as massively energetic as the field-bred ones - the lines diverged 50-odd years ago, and if you're not breeding for working ability, that's a lot of generations for it to quietly disappear, and for 'drive' - the enthusiasm to work - to reduce.

MattMagnolia Fri 13-Sep-19 20:51:19

Even if a responsible breeder has their dogs health -checked that is no guarantee that the puppies will be free of inherited diseases.
Many young puppies have innocent heart murmurs and MVD in Cavaliers appears later.
Breeds with truly awful health issues, like Pugs and Cavaliers, should not be bred or bought. It’s sad because both breeds have lovely natures.

PrettyPretty Sat 14-Sep-19 08:20:05

Hi OP, I’m ashamed to say we didn’t get him from a reputable breeder. In retrospect it was a puppy farm although we were unaware of that at the time. We love our dog and he is very happy and well now but I wouldn’t wish what he went through on any animal.

PrettyPretty Sat 14-Sep-19 08:22:44

When I see people with cavaliers and cavalier crosses I feel anxious on the owners behalf knowing the trauma we went through nursing our dog. They have a beautiful nature but too many health issues

Grammar Sat 14-Sep-19 09:41:01

Our KCC we have been so lucky with, private breeder, though that's no guarantee of good health.
He's 13 now, he's got a grade 2-3 heart murmur ( mitral valve disease) he's on Vetmedin 1.25mg x4 day.
He gets as puppyish as they come, racing up and down the hall when we get back from somewhere. Yes, he's v deaf, but he's happy, not breathless, not suffering, slower, generally, but for a KCC not bad going.
The whole family, my 3 Docs and DH and I are absolutely dreading him getting ill, symptomatic, dying.
He has been the best thing we have ever done for the family, and he is a happy, contented dog too.
We adore him, but I am very alert to any suffering. We've been lucky.

ScreamingValenta Sat 14-Sep-19 09:49:15

I have a 13 year old cavalier - he's had a slight heart murmur since he was 7, but it's only really in the last few months that he has started slowing down generally. His sight and hearing are still OK and he still enjoys his walks. We got him from a breeder who was very health-aware - the breeder has retired now, unfortunately.

TheNavigator Sat 14-Sep-19 09:53:31

I had a lovely wee CKCS who lived to 14 only getting health problems in the last 12 months of his life, so very much age related. He did come from an excellent breeder (Turretbank in Comrie, near Crieff, Scotland) and was such a part of the family with his huge personality. I loved him so much and miss him every day, they are truly wonderful wee dogs. But a good breeder who breeds responsibly is a must.

bluebluezoo Sat 14-Sep-19 09:57:44

Yes- it’s the syringomelia i’d be concerned with in these breeds.

I will look into a cav/bichon - don't know any but will investigate

Please be aware as @PrettyPretty said crosses are very often puppy farmed or byb. It is extremely hard these days to find a reputable breeder of a “designer” cross with a portmanteau name.

Cross breeds won’t need KC papers, they aren’t regulated by anyone, so they don’t have health checks and as many litters can be bred as possible.

Also bear in mind that litters can be puppy farmed, then placed with a fake family to sell. Including “stunt mum” while genuine mum is on to the next litter.

Warning flags:

Puppies available immediately or “one unsold from a litter”
Not being given the third degree as to being a suitable owner.
Owning both parents
Having more than one breed/crossbreed for sale
Offering to bring the puppy to you.

Probably mire but can’t think atm.

TeacupRex Mon 16-Sep-19 22:13:26

What about a show-type English Cocker spaniel? They are more chilled out than Springers or working Cockers, and don't suffer as many health issues as Cavs. Cavvies usually have wonderful, gentle temperaments but I wouldn't touch them with a bargepole due to fears of heart failure and syringomyelia. The Cavalier crossbreeds are not immune either - I recently saw a Cavapoo that had developed syringomyelia.

Cockers are usually a lot more healthy. I've got two and rarely ever need to go to the vet with them, and they are both health tested clear for Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Familial Nethropathy. Health testing, eye tests and hip scoring are important to have in any breed.

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