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Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

Wendell & Cindi Rackler
Oklahoma, USA

Est. 2005

Black & Tan Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Puppy

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Health



Currently there are 4 screenings recommended for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels: Heart, Eye, Patellar, and Hips

Hip Displasia: includes OFA evaluation (prelim before 2 yrs, official after 2 yrs), OVC evaluation, and PennHip evaluation (anytime after 16 weeks of age through adulthood)

Eye Clearance: Initial evaluation recommended at 8-12 weeks of age, follow up at 12 months of age, annually until 5 years of age, every 2 years until 9 years of age.

Patellar Luxation: OFA evaluation at 12 months of age or older

Congenital Cardiac Database: OFA evaluation with examination performed by Board-Certified Cardiologist. Recommended annually.



CHIC provides a source of health information for owners, breeders, and scientists that assist in breeding healthy dogs. The CHIC database is sponsored by American Kennel Club/Canine Health Foundation (AKC/CHF) and Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).

Once a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is screened for eyes through an OFA or CERF form, heart screened by a cardiologist and submitted to OFA, patellar screened by a practitioner and submitted to OFA, and hips x-rayed by an experienced practitioner and sent to OFA the CHIC number will automatically be issued. Hips can also be done by Penn-Hip versus OFA and submitted to CHIC for inclusion.

NOTE: A CHIC number can be obtained even if a failed reading occurs with one of the tests. CHIC does not penalize a dog for not passing all the tests and if all tests are perfomed by the proper technician and submitted a CHIC number will be issued automatically.



PennHip is another method for screening for hip dysplasia, however it is different from the method used by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). Both OFA and PennHip are recognized as approved methods for screening Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

One advantage to PennHip screening versus OFA is the age they can be first screened. PennHip can be screened at 16 weeks of age. OFA will do a preliminary screening at 6 months of age. PennHip studies have shown that the laxity number at 16 weeks is only off by a few points at 2 years, but testing done in between 16 weeks and 2 years will have a tendency towards a higher laxity number due to the growth process.

PennHip is a scientific measurement from 3 separate x-rays of different views. OFA is an opinion of certified Orthopedics from the view of one x-ray.

Hip Dysplasia (HD) is a disorder found in numerous breeds and has been studied for decades. The genes that attribute to HD have yet to be discovered because they are polygenic and multifactoral. Polygenic traits are controlled by unknown numbers of genes. The gene expression is also influenced by a variety of factors, such as gender (females seem to be more prone to the disorder than males), environment, development, etc. Heritability varies from breed to breed as well as within different dogs within a breed. It is difficult to control disorders with a polygenic mode of inheritance as the exact genes which cause such a disease and the non-genetic factors which will influence expression are unknown.

*** Breed Count and Mean ***

The numbers in the chart below are from test results I have done and appear on my Penn-Hip certification.

The above chart shows the date, breed count, and medium Distraction Index (DI) for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. When the PennHip method is used for testing it must be sent in unlike veterinarians across the country that might take an x-ray for OFA and then give the breeder their opinion and if the diagnosis is not passing as far as the vet is concerned the breeder does not send the x-ray to OFA. This lack of reporting hurts the breed overall.

When reading a PennHip diagnosis the dog will be given a number for their left hip and their right hip somewhere between "0" and "1". By using the above mean it is best to always breed dogs that are higher than the mean with dogs that are lower than the mean to improve the breed. It is common for each hip to have a different number outcome and averages are taken from the hip with the highest number when comparing against the breed, so when a breeder is making a decision about pairing their dogs together they need to go by whichever hip has the highest number. PennHip is NOT a pass/fail screening like OFA is. When new breeds come out it is very common to have a very high laxity in the hips giving a high number and if using only the OFA method a new breed could be eliminated instantly if all the dogs were eliminated from the gene pool from a failed OFA reading. PennHip is a constantly changing mean number since the mean is adjusted within each breed semi-annually, but as a whole a dog should be scored against its own breed norm versus the norm of all breeds put together I think. If the PennHip comes back with a higher number than the mean on both legs they will also tell you if degenerate joint disease is present or not. If it is NOT present then breeding to a mate below the mean is the quickest way to achieve improvement. If degenerate joint disease is present then that dog should be eliminated from your breeding stock.

PennHip does not share its database at this time for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, but when I filled out the paperwork for the screening on each of my dogs I gave approval for my results to be posted if they resulted in the top 40% for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed. I believe eventually they will post a database for Cavalier breeders to resource, but there may be a certain number of Cavaliers that must be tested before they can accurately report the top 40%. I was able to produce the above chart on the breed count and mean by reading each report sent back to me when I have one of my Cavaliers tested. I will continue to update the above breed count and mean chart as I continue to test more of my Cavaliers in the future.

Once I receive my PennHip report screening back on my Cavalier I can then pay $25 to the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) and they will publish the screening results to OFA.



The Animal Health Trust located in the United Kingdom has developed the following two DNA tests for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels:

Test #1 - For Dry Eye/Curly Coat

Test #2 - For Episodic Falling Syndrome

DNA testing is another tool breeders can use to help guide them through breeding choices when deciding which dogs to pair together to produce a litter. By considering the DNA test results we know if we have two clear dogs for both disorders that all the puppies produced will automatically be clear for both disorders. If we have a dog that is a carrier for one or both disorders then we must breed to a clear dog to avoid producing any affected puppies. Dogs that are carriers are not taken out of the gene pool because with the DNA testing we have the ability to control the outcome for both these disorders. As long as a carrier is bred to a clear all the puppies produced will either be clear or a carrier and either way none of the puppies will ever exhibit symptoms or become affected for these two disorders.

We DNA test all our breeding stock for this disorder and while we prefer to breed clear to clear we will only breed a carrier to a clear and therefore ensure all our puppy buyers that they will not be affected by these two disorders. Hopefully, with continued research we will embark on more DNA tests to continue our efforts in avoiding more health disorders.

DNA testing can only be done on puppies that have been weaned for at least two weeks and the turn around time from ordering a test, receiving the test, doing the test, sending it back to AHT, and receiving the results for the tests can take 3+ weeks. Therefore, we only test puppies that we are holding on to longer as show prospects and since we have already taken the precautions in which dogs we have paired together before the breeding we will only be producing clear or carriers and therefore none of our puppies will ever be affected by these disorders specifically.

Below is a graphical representation of what we know about how genetic defects are inherited through breeding:

Breedings Produce

100% Clear

Clear to Clear Breedings

Breedings Produce

50% Carriers
50% Clear

Clear to Carrier Breedings

Breedings Produce

100% Carriers

Clear to Affected Breedings

Breedings Produce

50% Carriers
25% Clear
25% Affected

Carrier to Carrier Breedings

Breedings Produce

50% Carriers
50% Affected

Carrier to Affected Breedings

Breedings Produce

100% Affected

Affected to Affected Breedings

Click here to print a copy of this chart put out by the Cavalier Fanciers of Southern Ontario, Canada

Dominant Traits

Head: Low-set ears, long ears, long head, wide ear leather, dark eyes, correct bite, black nose, short face

Body: Sternum, deep chest, straight topline, high tail-set, good spring of rib, heavy bone, compact foot, short coat, weight, body height, poor shoulder angulation, short and choppy gait

Mental: Intelligence, shyness and/or dominant temperament

Recessive Traits

Head: Large skull size, short ears, fine skull, light eyes, bulging eyes, overshot or undershot bite

Body: Good shoulder angulation, good stifle angulation, long and reaching gait, low tail-set, no feathering on tail, kinked tail, long coat, longer and straight legs (correlates with light bone)

Mental: Lack of intelligence, mild or non-aggressive temperament

Health Disorders

Allergies: In Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (dogs), allergies often show up as skin conditions, itchy ears, head-shaking, scratching, or bald or raw spots, though they can also cause runny eyes and nose, sneezing, coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (Dogs) can be allergic to many of the same things people can: dust, pollen, grasses, mold, flea bites, and many foods. The biggest causes of allergies in my opinion is in the type of dog food you are feeding and/or the products you are using to groom your dog with. Please visit the links on the left on "Dog Food" and on "Grooming". On the dog food link there are several links at the bottom of the page for researching dog food...if you take the time to read the information posted through those links you can then analyze the food you are feeding and instead of going to store to get advice on what dog food to feed you can decide at home through your research which dog food you want to try and then locate a place to purchase it from. Dog food really isn't one bag fits all you must consider your lifestyle, weather conditions, etc. The other area is grooming and most shampoo's readily available on the shelves at pet stores are too high in PH and just add another level of problems along with the dog food. I have a couple of links on my grooming page where you can order a shampoo and conditioner and you will see a remarkable difference instantly.

Anal Sac Conditions: Anal sacs are tiny organs, on either side of the lower half of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's (dog's) anus, which produce a liquid thought to help Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (dogs) mark their territory. The ducts that lead from the sacs to the anus can become blocked or infected. If your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (dog) starts scooting his bottom along the ground and licking his anus, this may be the reason. Your vet can clear the ducts or show you how to squeeze the glands yourself. If your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (dog) is scooting its bottom on the floor most likely they are needing their anal sacs expelled. Sometimes they are able to do this themselves, but if scooting continues after a day or two you should either check the glands yourself or take your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (dog) to a vet to be examined. If you take your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to a groomer once a month then your groomer will take care of this for you.

Correct Bite: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Puppies have 28 primary (baby) teeth that begin to erupt around 4 weeks of age. Between 4 and 5 months of age a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy will get his permanent teeth pushing out the baby teeth. If baby teeth have trouble falling out you will need to see your veterinarian as retention can lead to misalignment. A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's bite can take up to two years to settle into permanent position. A scissor bite at 8 weeks will usually remain a scissor bite in adulthood. An undershot bite will often correct itself, but an overshot bite will never correct itself. A scissor bite is most preferred, but a level bite in Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's is acceptable in the conformation show ring when being judged. An under bite occurs when the lower teeth protrude in front of the upper jaw teeth. An over bite (parrot mouth) occurs when the lower jaw is shorter than the upper. An over bite is never considered normal in any breed and is a genetic fault. I have witnessed a puppy having a scissor bite at 8 weeks and then around 6 months of age and slight under bite develops, but then around 12 months of age the bite returns to a scissor bite. As puppies develop they go through structural changes that can throw the bite off temporarily.

Scissor Bite
Level Bite
Under Bite
Over Bite
Scissor Bite
Level Bite
Under Bite
Over Bite

Colitis in Puppies: is an inflammation of the colon or lower bowel, and has many different causes, from bacterial infections to allergies. Since causes vary so do symptoms and treatments. Generally, you might see feces with mucus or blood in it, bloody diarrhea, or unproductive straining after passing feces. Severe dehydration can kill a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (dog) quickly so immediate veterinary care is crucial. Colitis can be found in adults as well. Usually if an adult has experienced a stressful situation then the Colitis can appear.

Diabetes: When the body stops making insulin or stops reponding to it, it can no longer process sugars in the blood efficiently. The kidneys will release sugar into the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's (dog's) urine, which makes her urinate more and have to drink more. The primary symptoms of diabetes are excessive drinking and urination, sometimes accompanied by weight loss despite increased appetite, or blindness or numb limbs. Treatment is available, and early detection is crucial.

Epilepsy: Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (dogs) can have seizures just like people, and the causes can be varied. There are several stages of a seizure, which in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (dogs) are generally expressed (to varying degrees) in these ways: changes in mood or behavior, sometimes for several days before a seizure; the "aura," which signals the start of the seizure, can include nervousness, whining, trembling, salivation, excessive affection, wandering, restelessness, hiding, and general apprehension; the seizure itself, lasting a few seconds to a few minutes, in which the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (dog) may fall to the ground, lose consciousness, gnash teeth, thrash his limbs, bark, paddle his feet, and lose control of his bladder and bowels; and the "anelean" stage, after the seizure, in which the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (dog) may pace, become temporarily blind or deaf, and eat or drink excessively. If you suspect your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (dog) may have had or be having a seizure, consult your vet.

Episodic Falling Syndrome: This condition appears after exercising when the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel suddenly collapses. The condition appears to be life-long, but not life-threatening. There is now a DNA test through the Animal Health Trust in the United Kingdom. Through DNA testing we can control this genetic disorder now and avoid producing affected offspring. We do test all our breeding stock...carriers are not discarded, but will only be bred to a clear mate therefore offspring will either be clear or a carrier and a carrier will never exhibit symptoms or be affected by the disorder.

Eye Disorders: Please click the following link to review eye disorders: Eye Disorders

Fleas and Ticks: Fleas can bother a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (dog) dreadfully, so adequate flea prevention is essential, especially in the warmer months. Ticks can pass on diseases such as Lyme disease, so if you live in an area with ticks (most of the country now), do frequent tick checks all over your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's (dog's) body--especially for Cavalier puppies, whose immune systems are not yet developed.

Hip Dysplasia: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel can sometimes develop hip dysplasia, but the breed risk ranks 81st according to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) data. To get a true diagnosis of this disorder a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel must be put under anesthesia by a veterinarian with experience in x-raying the hips. There are two organizations that can be used to get a diagnosis: OFA and the Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHip). This disorder can also be caused from trauma after a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy is born so not all cases of hip dysplasia are genetic, but most of the time if hip dysplasia occurs the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (dog) already had a predisposition to the disorder. Most Cavalier King Charles Spaniels with hip dysplasia live a long and normal life without clinical signs or much discomfort since they are a toy breed.

Hypoglycemia: (low blood sugar) is common in Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppies and they usually outgrow the condition by 6 months of age unless there is a problem causing the condition. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppies should be fed 3 to 4 times per day and especially Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppies with this condition. If a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy is traveling and needs to be without food for an extended period of time then the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy needs to be supplemented with Nutrical or Nutristat to maintain blood sugar levels during travel. Symptoms include but are not limited to: Slow heartbeat and breathing, weak, sleepy, disoriented, wobbly, glassy eyed, and seizures.

Inguinal, Umbilical, and Scrotal Hernias: Inguinal Hernia: The condition is the result of abdominal organs, fat or tissue protruding through the inguinal ring. Inguinal hernias are presented as skin-covered bulges in the groin. They can be bilateral, involving both sides, or unilateral, involving only one side. Inguinal hernias are more common in females than males, but do occur in both sexes. As with umbilical hernias most inguinal hernias will shrink and disappear as the puppy grows, although you must keep an eye on the size of the hernia(s). Inguinal hernias can also occur in unspayed, middle-aged female dogs. This may occur as the result of stretching of abdominal tissue due to pregnancy, or atrophy of abdominal tissue and musculature due to advanced age. Umbilical Hernia: This type of hernia is also very common in Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppies and seldom need to be repaired. It is most likely caused when the mother Cavalier King Charles Spaniel pulls too hard on the umbilical cord at birth causing the hernia. There are different opinions on this type of hernia about whether it is genetic or caused at birth. If the umbilical ring does not close immediately after birth sometimes a little fatty tissue is trapped on the outside of the abdomen after the ring closes causing a bubble-like area where the umbilical cord was attached. If the bubble cannot be pushed back up into the abdomen it is called a non-reducible hernia. If the bubble can be pushed back up into the abdomen then it is called a reducible hernia and surgery is advisable if the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is going to be bred. This umbilical hernia existing on a future show dog is still allowed to show in AKC sanctioned events and a dog with this type of hernia can still be bred. Since this type of hernia is very widespread in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and does not harm the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy as far as future health is concerned the condition does not lower the adoption price of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy with this condition. Scrotal Hernia: (Affects only male Cavalier King Charles Spaniels) The tube that descends into the scrotum is too large, which allows intestines to descend into the scrotal canal. This type of hernia will also need to be watched carefully and if it does not repair on its own it will need to be fixed during the neutering process.

Luxating Patellars: Is a dislocated kneecap that cannot stay in its groove. Normally the kneecap moves up and down in a groove along the femur, but if this groove is shallow, the kneecap may move laterally and slip out. Most of the time a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel with a luxating patella has a medial luxation which can be caused by a traumatic accident or it can be genetic in origin. This disorder can also occur from trauma and the only repair for the disorder is surgical. Signs of luxating patella include: difficulting straightening the knee, pain in the stifle, and limping.

Mitral Valve Disease (MVD): MVD is a degeneration of the heart's mitral valve, one of four sets of valves in a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's heart. As the mitral valve degenerates, the valve no longer fully closes after each pumping action, allowing some blood to flow backwards through them from the ventricle back into the atrium. As the condition worsens, more and more blood is able to backflow through the valve. In the final stages, the valve’s struts sometimes break, causing the valve to collapse completely. MVD is the most common heart disorder in older dogs of all breeds, affecting more than a third of all dogs over 10 years of age.

Obesity: Obesity is just as dangerous for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (dogs) as it is for humans. Fat Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (dogs) are a higher risk in surgery, more prone to injury, as well as to metabolic disorders such as diabetes, and have more stress on their heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach, intestines, and joints. Consult your vet about a reasonable diet for your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (dog).

Open Fontanel: Congenital Open Fontanel is seen in several toy dog breeds, but most often it's seen in Chihuahuas. Occasionally is will appear in a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The fontanel is the area at the top of the skull where the bone plates merge. When babies (human and dog) are born the bony plates of the skull are usually partly soft and separated. Usually this area closes to about the size of a dime by the time the puppy is about one year old, but sometimes the bony plates never completely fuse, leaving a hole in the top of the skull that has a soft mushy feel when you touch it. The affected pup can still live a long, full and active life. There is no treatment for an open fontanel. Since open fontanels are either hereditary or genetic, once a good breeder determines which parent dog carries the gene the parent dog should be retired from the breeding program and spayed or neutered. Dogs with open fontanels should not be bred.

Parasites: Most canine parasites are worms (hookworms, round worms, tapeworms, heartworms), and can be taken care of by your vet. General symptoms include lethargy, diarrhea, and small worms or egg fragments in the feces, though specific parasites have different symptoms. Mites, fleas and ticks count among external parasites. Even indoor Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (dogs) can catch parasites via mosquitoes, or brief periods they spend outdoors or with other dogs.

Snorting: Some Cavalier King Charles Spaniels will snort, especially when excited. This is a common condition in all short-nosed breeds. It may seem like an asthmatic episode, but the condition is not dangerous. Simply place your hand over your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's nostrils and muzzle for a few seconds and restrict the intake of air and the snorting should stop. It can sometimes take a couple of tries, but if the symptoms occur along with lack of appetite or a persistent cough seek a veterinarian's assistance.

Syringomyelia (SM): is a condition in which fluid-filled cavities develop within the spinal cord near the brain.  It is also known as "neck scratcher's disease", because one of its common signs is scratching in the air near the neck. The back half of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s skull typically may be too small to accommodate all of the brain’s cerebellum, and so it squeezes through the foramen magnum – the hole at the back of the skull – partially blocking the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) down the spinal cord. The variable pressure created by the abnormal flow of CSF is believed to create the SM cavities – called syrinx – in the spinal cord.

Swimmer Puppy Syndrome: is when a young puppy develops a flat chest and sternum, which makes them unable to get their legs under them. If you were to look at them from above, they resemble a turtle. The puppy is unable to crawl or walk. Normally their chest is an oval shape, but when a puppy begins to develop Swimmer Puppy Syndrome as its crawling around in those first few weeks its bones – which aren’t yet dense but rubbery – begin to take on a flattened shape and the chest begins to splay out horizontally as opposed to lengthening. I have experienced a swimmer puppy...if you would like to call me I can help you through the process of rehabilitating your puppy. It usually takes about 2 to 3 weeks to get them back to normalcy, but it is truly miraculous to watch a swimmer puppy develop the ability to sit...then stand...and eventually walk and run just like their littermates. They can go on to live a normal life, so it is well worth the effort to rehabilitate them.

Undescended Testicles: Sometimes male Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppies are slow to have one or both testicles descend into the scrotum. It now becomes a waiting game until 6 months of age. If at 6 months of age the testicles are not in place then the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy needs to be neutered. When feeling for testicles in small Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppies one must keep in mind that the slightest pinch can cause the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy to automatically retract a testicle, so I always play it safe and never feel for testicles. I prefer to just wait and watch and usually around 8-10 weeks I can use one finger to gently touch and locate both testicles.

Ruby Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Puppy