Cavalier King Charles hereditary diseases and how to avoid them

The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is one of the most loveable and adorable dogs ever and that’s not a biased opinion by any means. The love, attention and joy the breed can bring to an owner’s life more than justifies this statement. Unfortunately, the Cavalier does suffer from a variety of genetic defects.

As a pet owner you want a dog that is disease free and happy in its lifetime. Health problems in dogs are due to either hereditary, environmental or injury factors. This article covers two of the most common hereditary diseases suffered by Cavaliers and offers tips on breeder’s responsibilities and suggestions about how to avoid the diseases.

Mitral Valve Disease (MVD)

One of the most common causes of death for the Cavalier King Charles is mitral valve disease or MVD. The disease is a polygenetic one, affecting half the Cavalier population by age 5 and almost all dogs of this breed by the age of 10 if the dog survives that long. The disease is degenerative and as the mitral valve in the heart starts to degenerate, the valve does not close properly after each pumping action. This allows blood to flow back into the atrium, which is not a good thing. Over time the struts of the valve can break, causing the valve to collapse completely and cause congestive heart failure.

Breeders need to be careful about breeding Cavaliers under 5 years of age. If the dog develops MVD before it reaches 5 years of age, it should not be bred after 5 years.

There really is no way to avoid this problem except by breeders taking adequate precautions to have the dog screened for heart murmurs from one year of age. Constant monitoring of the progression of the disease can be done with x-rays and colour Doppler echocardiograms. Drugs can help alleviate symptoms to some extent, but they generally have severe adverse side effects on the liver, kidneys and other internal organs.

Luxating Patella

Luxating Patella is a hereditary condition and it is believed that as much as 30 percent of the Cavalier King Charles breed may be affected by it. The kneecap or patella, due to weak ligaments, shallow grooves and muscle misalignment can move out of its groove.

Neglecting this problem will cause complete degeneration as the groove becomes even shallower with time. The dog will go lame and arthritis and poor mobility will be the result. Orthopaedic surgery is the solution to correcting this problem which has 4 grades of severity.

Breeders have a responsibility to ensure 6-8 week old puppies are checked for this condition. Adult dogs need an examination every 6 months though an annual one is usually sufficient. In fact, it is recommended that dogs with this problem not be bred.

Next time we will discuss how to know if your Cavalier King Charles dog is a pure breed.  Till then, bye from George ‘woof’.

Please comment on this article!  Your opinions are always welcomed!

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