About the Breed
The Companion Cavalier
Bred for centuries to be a companion dog, Cavaliers, referenced in history as “ the spaniel gentle’ make an ideal addition to almost any family. A sweet, affectionate and gentle spaniel, yet still of a sporting nature, full of curiosity, even small feats of mischief, these little dogs are worthy of their royal status in society. Having no self protection instinct, they will
approach any stranger and venture into un-chartered territory without a second thought. It is these endearing qualities that make them a wonderful companion or family pet, a dog that greets everyone it passes with the same enthusiasm and
sure to be their new best friend. But this also means that they do not fear things that may harm them, and must be protected by their owners. Cavaliers rarely consider the possibility of danger, a fenced or secured area for them is essential. When outside those areas, they should be kept on a leash. Their abundance of personality in a neat little package makes them the ideal small-breed spaniel. Far from being barky, yappy, or nervous, they are curious, happy, and welcoming.
A natural “wash and wear” breed, with a silky soft coat, requiring no clipping or trimming, makes for easy grooming. They shed a little but that can be kept minimal with brushing and bathing each week or two. Trimming the nails, keeping the long hair on the feet tidied, and keeping the tangles out of ears and other furnishing completes the job. Always feed a premium dog food, as with any pet, and maintain an ideal weight. Provide a source of exercise, keep up on vaccinations and annual check ups with the vet and your Cavalier will be a healthy, happy addition to your family.
The ancestry of the Cavalier can be traced back to the 15th century in noble European societies. Charles II returned from exile in France and was crowned King of England in 1660, bringing with him his toy spaniels. He was known to have dozens around him all the time.
James II, succeeded the throne in 1685, and they continued to maintain royal status during his reign. Queen Mary I and William of Orange, took the throne in 1689, preferring the flat-nosed Chinese Pug. It is during this time, with the influence of the Pug, that the small toy spaniels began a transformation from the longer-nosed, tapered muzzle to the flat-faced spaniel commonly known today as the “King Charles Spaniel” or “English Toy Spaniel."
In 1926, an American. Roswell Eldridge, challenged breeders of the flat-nosed “King Charles Spaniel” to re-create the breed as it had been portrayed during the time of King Charles II. The reward offered twenty five pounds sterling, a lot of money in those days, to the best dog and best bitch.
Still a popular & coveted event today, the famous Crufts Dog Show in England, held the judging for the contest of the newly re-created Cavalier in 1927. The dog (male) winner, “Ann’s Son” was chosen as the best representative of the breed. “Ann’s Son” along with paintings of the longer-nosed spaniels during Charles the II time, modeled the breed standard for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel of today. Resulting from this contest were the 6 foundation dogs for the newly created breed which all of today's purebred Cavaliers can be traced back to. In 1945 the governing English Kennel Club agreed to grant separation in the registry, distinguishing the flat-nosed “King Charles Spaniel” from the longer-nosed “Cavalier King Charles Spaniel”.
The original registering body for the breed in the United States, the CKCSC-USA (Cavalier King Charles Spnail Club-USA) was formed in 1956. The breed gained AKC (American Kennel Club) recognition in 1996, of which the CKCSC-USA registry served as AKC’s foundation stock registration platform. The American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club (ACKCSC) was established in 1995 and granted "parent club" status for the breed with the AKC in 1996. These are the only two legitimate Cavalier registries in the United States.
As with all pure bred dogs, Cavaliers are not without their health concerns. It is fair to note that all genetics, good and bad, were compounded when the breed was re-created in 1927, at which time 6 foundation dogs became the groundwork from which all purebred Cavaliers today can be traced. This fact alone emphasizes how small the gene pool is for the breed. Some problems in the breed are of more proportionate concern than others, and more challenging for breeders to manage. However, as a whole, cavaliers are a hardy, healthy little spaniel. Reputable breeders will have a good knowledge of pedigree traits and attempt to breed from stock that are free of major health problems.
Eye, hip, and patella problems do exist in all toy breeds, including Cavaliers, however they are conditions that can be tested for before a dog is ever incorporated into a breeding program. Responsible
breeders will test & clear their breeding stock and will have very few incidences of these conditions. Still, recessive genes exist and can crop up when least expected.
Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) and Syringomyelia (SM) prove much more challenging problems to the breed and breeders. Although early onset and severe cases are minimal in responsible breeding programs, both conditions can show up later in life and there is no test or gene isolation available today to predict if or when a dog will encounter onset. Both these conditions have been the main focus of resource allocation of funds to genetic research, by breed clubs Health Foundations and Charitable Trusts funds, donated to by dedicated breeders. The actual mode of inheritance, genetic and environmental factors that influence these conditions are still unknown. All cavaliers are carriers of both conditions, regardless of the blood lines. Responsible breeders do a good job minimizing the number of cases of effected dogs.
Mitral Valve Disease (MVD)
Mitral Valve Disease, caused by endocardiosis, polysaccharide deposits in the valve leaflets which distorts the valve and allow it to leak. Although common in most toy dogs, it seems to present earlier in the cavalier. Cardiologist statistics world wide, indicate that about 50% of cavaliers will develop at least a mild heart murmur by the age of five, 70% by age 7 and over 98% by the age of ten. Cavaliers can still lead perfectly normal lives for years after developing a murmur, many never slowing down a bit from the disease. If affected with symptoms, it is usually very late in life and can be treated with medication.
A condition that has always been in the breed, as well as most other toy breeds- both large and small, is syringomyelia. Its symptoms vary drastically, thus a diagnosis was not made until recently. It is thought the condition is similar to Arnold-Chiari malformation, in humans. Based on current theory, of which many holes exist, the bottom half of the skull develops in a way that crowds the cerebellum of the brain, impeding the path of cerebrospinal fluid movement around the brain and spinal cord. The increased pressure and pooling of cerebrospinal fluid may cause irritation and damage to the spinal cord, resulting in symptoms of neck scratching, headache, and in extreme cases, paralysis. Dogs suffering life effecting symptoms of SM are rare. Research has turned up very little to date onthe hereditary or congenital connection. Most dogs with onset respond well to medications and live normal lives.