Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
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The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a small breed of Spaniel-type dog, and is classed as a Toy dog by
most Kennel Clubs. It is one of the most popular breeds in the United Kingdom. Since 2000, it
has been growing in popularity in the United States. It is a smaller breed of Spaniel, and Cavalier adults are often the same
size as adolescent dogs of other spaniel breeds. It has a silky coat and commonly an undocked
tail. The breed standard recognizes four colours (Blenheim, Tricolour [black/white/tan], Black and Tan, and Ruby). The breed
is generally friendly, affectionate and good with both children and other animals.
The King Charles had changed drastically
in the late 1600s, when it was interbred with flat-nosed breeds. Until the 1920s, the Cavalier shared the same history as
the smaller King Charles Spaniel. Breeders attempted to recreate what they considered to be the
original configuration of the breed, a dog resembling Charles II's King Charles Spaniel of the
Various health issues affect this particular breed, most notably mitral
valve disease, which leads to heart failure. This will appear in most Cavaliers at some
point in their lives and is the most common cause of death. The breed may also suffer from Syringomyelia,
a malformation of the skull that reduces the space available for the brain.
Cavaliers are also affected by ear problems, a common health problem among spaniels of various
types, and they can suffer from such other general maladies as hip dysplasia, which are common
across many types of dog breeds.
Five children of King Charles I of England
(1637) by Anthony van Dyck
a spaniel of the era at the bottom right.
During the 16th century, a small type of spaniel was popular
among the nobility in England. The people of the time believed that these dogs could keep fleas
away, and some even believed that they could prevent forms of stomach illnesses. These dogs were sometimes called the "Spaniel Gentle"
or "Comforter", as ladies taking a carriage ride would take a spaniel on their laps to keep them warm during the
winter. Charles I kept a spaniel named Rogue while residing at Carisbrooke Castle,
however it is Charles II that this breed is closely associated and it was said of him that "His
Majesty was seldom seen without his little dogs".
There is a myth that he even issued an edict that no spaniels of this type could be denied entry to any public place.
reign of King William III and Queen Mary II, the long nosed style
of spaniel went out of fashion. The Pug was the favoured dog at the time in the Netherlands,
and with William's Dutch origin, they became popular in England too. At this time interbreeding
may have occurred with the Pug, or other flat nosed breeds, as the King Charles took on some Pug-like characteristics, but
in any event the modern King Charles Spaniel emerged. In The Dog in 1852, Youatt was critical of the
change in the breed:
The King Charles's breed of the present day is materially altered for the worse. The
muzzle is almost as short, and the forehead as ugly and prominent, as the veriest bull-dog. The eye is increased to double
its former size, and has an expression of stupidity with which the character of the dog too accurately corresponds. Still
there is the long ear, and the silky coat, and the beautiful colour of the hair, and for these the dealers do not scruple
to ask twenty, thirty, and even fifty guineas.
the early part of the 18th century, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, kept red and
white King Charles type spaniels for hunting. The duke recorded that they were able to keep up with a trotting horse. His
estate was named Blenheim in honour of his victory at the Battle of Blenheim.
Because of this influence, the red and white variety of the King Charles Spaniel and thus the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
became known as the Blenheim.
were made to recreate the original King Charles Spaniel as early as the turn of the 20th century, using the now extinct Toy Trawler Spaniels. These attempts were documented by Judith Blunt-Lytton,
16th Baroness Wentworth, in the book "Toy Dogs and Their Ancestors Including the History And Management of
Toy Spaniels, Pekingese, Japanese and Pomeranians" published under the name of the "Hon. Mrs Neville Lytton"
from King Charles Spaniel
Two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels on Great South Bay, Long Island
In 1926, American Roswell
Eldridge offered a dog show class prize of twenty-five pounds each as a prize for the best male and females of "Blenheim
Spaniels of the old type, as shown in pictures of Charles II of England's time, long face, no
stop, flat skull, not inclined to be domed, with spot in centre of skull." The breeders of the era were appalled, although several
entered what they considered to be sub-par King Charles Spaniels in the competition. Eldridge died before seeing his plan
come to fruition, but several breeders believed in what he said and in 1928 the first Cavalier club was formed. The first standard was created, based on
a dog named "Ann's Son" owned by Mostyn Walker,
and the The Kennel Club recognised the breed as "King Charles Spaniels, Cavalier type".
War II caused a drastic setback to the breed, with the vast majority of breeding stock destroyed because of the hardship.
For instance, in the Ttiweh Cavalier Kennel, the population of sixty dropped to three during the 1940s. Following the war, just six dogs would be
the starting block from which all Cavaliers descend.
These dogs were Ann's Son, his litter brother Wizbang Timothy, Carlo of Ttiweh, Duce of Braemore, Kobba of Kuranda and Aristide
of Ttiweh. The
numbers increased gradually, and in 1945 The Kennel Club first recognised the breed in its own right as the Cavalier King
history of the breed in America is relatively recent. The first recorded Cavalier living in America
was brought from Britain in 1956 by W. Lyon Brown, together with
Elizabeth Spalding and other enthusiasts, she founded the Cavalier King
Charles Club USA which continues to the present day. In 1994, the American Cavalier King Charles
Spaniel Club was created by a group of breeders to apply for recognition by the American Kennel
Club. The Cavalier would go on to be recognised in 1997, and the ACKCSC became the parent club for Cavaliers.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels traditionally come in four colours. Blenheim, Tricolour and Ruby are shown here, respectively.
See below for Black and Tan.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is one of the largest toy breeds. Historically
it was a lap dog, and modern day adults can fill a lap easily. Nonetheless, it is small for a
spaniel, with fully grown adults comparable in size to adolescents of other larger spaniel breeds.
Breed standards state that height of a Cavalier should be between 12–13 inches (30–33 cm) with a proportionate
weight between 10–18 pounds (4.5–8.2 kg). The tail is usually not docked, and the Cavalier should have a silky coat
of moderate length. Standards state that it should be free from curl, although a slight wave is allowed. Feathering can grow
on their ears, feet, legs and tail in adulthood. Standards require this be kept long, with the feathering on the feet a particularly
important aspect of the breed's features.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the English Toy Spaniel can be often confused with each other. In the United
Kingdom, the English Toy Spaniel is called the King Charles Spaniel while in the United States, one of the colours of the Toy Spaniel is known as King Charles. The two breeds share
similar history and only diverged from each other about 100 years ago. There are several major differences between the two
breeds, with the primary difference being the size. While the Cavalier weighs on average between 10–18 pounds (4.5–8.2
kg), the King Charles is smaller at 9–12 pounds (4.1–5.4 kg). In addition their facial features while similar,
are different, the Cavalier's ears are set higher and its skull is flat while the King Charles's is domed. Finally the muzzle
length of the Cavalier tends to be longer than that of its King Charles cousin.
The fourth colour, Black and Tan is seen on this dog.
The breed has four recognized colours. Cavaliers
which have rich chestnut markings on a pearly white background are known as Blenheim in honour of Blenheim
Palace, where John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, raised the predecessors to the
Cavalier breed in this particular colour.
In some dogs there is a chestnut spot in the middle of the forehead: this is called the "blenheim" spot. Black and Tan are dogs with black bodies
with tan highlights, particularly eyebrows, cheeks, legs and beneath the tail. Black and Tan is referred to as "King Charles"
in the King Charles Spaniel.
Ruby Cavaliers should be entirely chestnut all over,
although some can have some white in their coats which is considered a fault under American Kennel Club
conformation show rules.
The fourth colour is known as Tricolour, which is black and white with tan markings on cheeks, inside ears, on eyebrows, inside
legs, and on underside of tail.
This colour is referred to as "Prince Charles" in the King Charles Spaniel.
to statistics released by The Kennel Club, Cavaliers were the 6th most popular dog in the United Kingdom in 2007 with 11,422 registrations in a single year. Labrador Retrievers
were the most popular with 45,079 registrations in that year.
Their popularity is on the rise in America; in 1998 they were the 56th most popular breed but in both 2007 and 2008 they were
the 25th most popular.
They ranked higher in some individual US cities in the 2008 statistics, being eighth in both Nashville
seventh in Boston, Atlanta and Washington D.C., and sixth in both New
and San Francisco.
In 2009, the Cavalier was the fourth most popular breed in Australia with 3,196 registrations behind only Labrador
Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. In addition, there
are also national breed clubs in Belgium, Canada, Czech
Republic, Denmark, Finland, France,
Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa and Sweden.
breed is highly affectionate, playful, extremely patient and eager to please. As such, dogs of the breed are good with children
and other dogs. Cavaliers are not shy about socializing with much larger dogs. They will adapt quickly to almost any environment, family,
and location. Their ability to bond with larger and smaller dogs make them ideal in houses with more than one breed of dog
as long as the other dog is trained. The breed is great with people of all ages, from children to seniors, making them a very
versatile dog. Cavaliers rank 44th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence
of Dogs, being of average intelligence in working or obedience. Cavaliers are naturally curious and playful, but
also enjoy simply cuddling up on a cushion or lap.
are active and sporting. They have an instinct to chase most things that move including while on busy streets, and so most
Cavaliers will never become "street-wise".
As they tend to regard all strangers as friends, members of the breed will usually never make a good guard dog. Spaniels have
a strong hunting instinct and may endanger birds and small animals. However, owners have reported
that through training their Cavaliers live happily with a variety of small animals including hamsters
A ruby Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy.
Cavaliers can often suffer from some serious genetic
health problems, including early-onset mitral valve disease (MVD), the potentially severely painful
syringomyelia (SM), hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, and certain
vision and hearing disorders. As today's Cavaliers all descend from only six dogs, any inheritable disease present in at least
one of the original founding dogs can be passed on to a significant proportion of future generations. This is known as the
founder effect and is the likely cause of the prevalence of MVD in the breed. The health problems shared with King Charles
Spaniels include mitral valve disease, luxating patella, and hereditary eye issues such as cataracts and retinal dysplasia.
Mitral valve disease
For more details on this topic, see Mitral valve disease.
all Cavaliers eventually suffer from disease of the mitral valve, with heart murmurs which may
progressively worsen, leading to heart failure. This condition is polygenic
(affected by multiple genes), and therefore all lines of Cavaliers worldwide are susceptible. It is the leading cause of death
in the breed. A survey by The Kennel Club of the United Kingdom showed that 42.8% of Cavalier
deaths are cardiac related. The next most common causes are cancer (12.3%) and old age (12.2%). The condition can begin to emerge at an
early age and statistically may be expected to be present in more than half of all Cavalier King Charles Spaniels by age 5.
It is rare for a 10-year-old Cavalier not to have a heart murmur. While heart disease is common in dogs generally –
one in 10 of all dogs will eventually have heart problems – mitral valve disease is generally (as in humans) a
disease of old age. The "hinge" on the heart's mitral valve loosens and can gradually deteriorate, along with the
valve's flaps, causing a heart murmur (as blood seeps through the valve between heartbeats) then congestive heart failure.
The Cavalier is particularly susceptible to early-onset heart disease, which may be evident in dogs as young as one or two
years of age. Veterinary geneticists and cardiologists have developed breeding guidelines to eliminate early-onset mitral
valve disease in the breed, but it is unclear if a statistically significant number of breeders follow these guidelines. The
chairperson of the UK CKCS Club has said that "There are many members who are still not prepared to health check their
breeding stock, and of those who do, it would appear that many would not hesitate to breed from affected animals." The MVD breeding
protocol recommends that parents should be at least 2.5 years old and heart clear, and their parents (i.e., the puppy's grandparents)
should be heart clear until age 5.
For more details on this topic, see
Syringomyelia (SM) is a condition affecting the brain and spine, causing
symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain and partial paralysis. It is caused by a malformation in the lower back
of the skull which reduces the space available to the brain, compressing it and often forcing it out (herniating it) through
the opening into the spinal cord. This blocks the flow of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) around
the brain and spine and increases the fluid's pressure, creating turbulence which in turn is believed to create fluid pockets,
or syrinxes (hence the term syringomyelia), in the spinal cord. Syringomyelia is rare in most breeds but has become widespread
in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, with international research samples in the past few years consistently showing over
90% of cavaliers have the malformation, and that between 30–70% have syrinxes. However, most dogs with syrinxes are
not symptomatic. Although symptoms of syringomyelia can present at any age, they typically appear between six months and four
years of age in 85% of symptomatic dogs, according to Clare Rusbridge, a research scientist. 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 ("air scratching"). The scratching behavior appears
involuntary and the dog frequently scratches while walking – without stopping – in a way that is very
atypical of normal scratching ("bunny hopping"). Scratching typical of SM is usually worse when the dog is wearing
a collar, is being walked on leash, or is excited, and first thing in the morning or at night.
This Blenheim's coat has rich chestnut markings on a white pearly coat.
Not all dogs with SM show
scratching behavior. Not all dogs who show scratching behavior appear to suffer pain, though several leading researchers,
including Dr Clare Rusbridge in the UK and Drs Curtis Dewey and Dominic Marino in the US, believe scratching in SM cavaliers
is a sign of pain and discomfort and of existing neurological damage to the dorsal horn region
of the spine. If onset is at an early age, a first sign may be scratching and/or 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. Progression is variable though
the majority of dogs showing symptoms by age four tend to see progression of the condition.
A veterinarian will rule out basic causes of scratching
or discomfort such as ear mites, fleas, and allergies, and then,
primary secretory otitis media (PSOM – glue ear), as well as spinal or limb injuries,
before assuming that a Cavalier has SM. PSOM can present similar symptoms but is much easier and cheaper to treat. Episodic
Falling Syndrome can also present similar symptoms. An MRI scan is normally done to confirm diagnosis
of SM (and also will reveal PSOM). If a veterinarian suspects SM he or she will recommend an MRI scan. Neurologists give scanned
dogs a signed certificate noting its grade.
Episodic Falling (EF)
A ruby Cavalier in the snow
Episodic Falling is an "exercise-induced paroxysmal hypertonicity
disorder" meaning that there is increased muscle tone in the dog and the muscles cannot relax. Except for severe cases,
episodes will be in response to exercise, excitement or similar exertions. Although EF is often misdiagnosed as epilepsy,
which typically results in loss of consciousness, the dog remains conscious throughout the episode. Severity of symptoms can range from mild,
occasional falling to freezing to seizure-like episodes lasting hours. Episodes can become more or less severe as the dog
gets older and there is no standard pattern to the attacks. The onset of symptoms usually occurs before five months but can
appear at any age.
It is similar to Scotty Cramp, a genetic disorder in Scottish Terriers.
Thrombocytopenia and macrothrombocytopenia
As many as half of all Cavalier King Charles
Spaniels may have a congenital blood disorder called idiopathic asymptomatic thrombocytopenia,
an abnormally low number of platelets in the blood, according to recent studies in Denmark and
the United States. Platelets, or thrombocytes, are disk-shaped blood elements which aid in blood clotting. Excessively low
numbers are the most common cause of bleeding disorders in dogs. The platelets in the blood of many Cavalier King Charles
Spaniels are a combination of those of normal size for dogs and others that are abnormally oversized, or macrothrombocytes.
Macrothrombocytosis also is a congenital abnormality found in at least a third of CKCSs. These large platelets function normally,
and the typical Cavalier does not appear to experience any health problems due to either the size or fewer numbers of its
Hip and knee disorders
Hip dysplasia (HD) is a common genetic
disease that affects Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. It is never present at birth and develops with age. Hip dysplasia is
diagnosed by X-rays, but it is not usually evident in X-rays of Cavaliers until they mature. Even in adult spaniels with severe
HD, X-rays may not always indicate the disease.
In a series of evaluations by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, the Cavalier was ranked
78th worst out of 157 breeds. The worst affected breeds were the Bulldog, Pug
and Dogue de Bordeaux.
can be subject to a genetic defect of the femur and knee called luxating
patella. This condition is most often observed when a puppy is 4 to 6 months old. In the most serious cases, surgery
may be indicated. The grading system for the patella runs from 1 (a tight knee), to 4 (a knee so loose that its cap is easily
displaced). If a cavalier has a grade 1–2, physical rehabilitation therapy and exercise may reduce the grading and potentially
avoid surgery. The grades 3–4 are most severe where surgery will most likely be needed to correct the problem to avoid
the development of arthritis and lameness in the limb.
This Tricolour has a bandaged foot
A disorder occasionally seen in 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. According to the Canine Inherited
Disorders Database, the condition requires continual treatment and if untreated may result in partial or total blindness.
This disorder can decrease or heal over time.
1999 study of Cavaliers conducted by the Canine Eye Registration Foundation showed that an average of 30% of all Cavalier
King Charles Spaniels evaluated had eye problems.
They include hereditary cataracts, corneal dystrophy, distichiasis,
entropion, microphthalmia, progressive retinal
atrophy, and retinal dysplasia.
Primary Secretory Otitis Media (PSOM), also known
as glue ear, consists of a highly viscous mucus plug which fills the dog's middle ear and may cause the tympanic membrane
to bulge. PSOM has been reported almost exclusively in Cavaliers, and it may affect up to 40% of them. Because the pain and
other sensations in the head and neck areas, resulting from PSOM, are similar to some symptoms caused by syringomyelia (SM),
some examining veterinarians have mis-diagnosed SM in Cavaliers which actually have PSOM and not SM.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels may
be predisposed to a form of congenital deafness, which is present at birth, due to a lack of formation or early degeneration
of receptors in the inner ear, although this is relatively rare. In addition, more recent studies have found Cavaliers that
develop a progressive hearing loss, which usually begins during puppyhood and progresses until the dog is completely deaf,
usually between the ages of three and five years. The progressive nature of this form of deafness in Cavaliers is believed
to be caused by degeneration of the hearing nerve rather than the lack of formation or early degeneration of the inner ear