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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Betty Verdure.Photo Ph.BRIZARD.JPG
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Nicknames Cav, Cavalier, Cavie
Country of origin England
Weight Male 13–18 lb (5.9–8.2 kg)
Female 13–18 lb (5.9–8.2 kg)
Height Male 12–13 inches (30–33 cm)
Female 12–13 inches (30–33 cm)
Life span Average 10 to 12 years

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a small breed of dog of Spaniel type, considered one of the toy dog breeds. It is one of the most popular breeds in the United Kingdom and has become more popular in the United States over the last ten years. It is a smaller breed of spaniel, and adults are often the same size as adolescent dogs of other spaniel breeds. It has a silky coat and commonly an undocked tail. Four colours (Blenheim, Tricolour [black/white/tan], Black and Tan, and Ruby) are recognized by the breed standard. It is a friendly, affectionate breed which is good with both children and other animals.

The Cavalier shares the same history as the smaller King Charles Spaniel until the 1920s, at which time breeders attempted to recreate a spaniel resembling Charles II's King Charles Spaniel of the Restoration. The King Charles had changed drastically in the late 1600s following interbreeding with flat nosed breeds, and the Cavalier is seen as a return to the type of spaniel before that interbreeding.

There are a few health issues that affect this particular breed, most notably mitral valve disease which over times leads to heart failure. This will appear in most Cavaliers at some point in their life and is the most common cause of death. Syringomyelia is also present which is a malformation of the skull, reducing the space available for the brain. They are also affected by ear problems which are common among spaniels of various types as well as issues such as hip dysplasia which are common across many types of dog breeds.



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 30 and 33 cm (12–13 in) with a proportionate weight between 6 and 10 kg (10 and 18 lb). The tail is usually not docked, and is well feathered with long hair, although standards record that it should be free from curl.[1] The Cavalier has a silky coat of moderate length. Standards state that it should be free from curl, although a slight wave is allowed. It can grow feathering 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.[1]

The 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 6 and 10 kg (10 and 18 lb), the Toy is smaller at 4 to 5.5 kg (9 to 12 lb). In addition their facial features whilst similar, are different, the Cavalier's ears are set higher and its skull is flat while the Toy's is domed. Finally the muzzle length of the Cavalier tends to be longer than that of its Toy Spaniel cousin.[2]



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.[3] Black and Tan are dogs with black bodies with tan highlights, particularly eyebrows, cheeks, legs and beneath the tail.[3] Black and Tan is referred to as "King Charles" in the King Charles/Toy Spaniel.[2] Ruby Cavaliers should be entirely chestnut all over, although some can have some white in their coats. 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.[3] This colour is referred to as "Prince Charles" in the King Charles/Toy Spaniel.[2]


According 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.[4] 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.[5] They ranked higher in some individual US cities in the 2008 statistics, being eight in both Nashville and Minneapolis-St.Paul,[6] seventh in Boston, Atlanta[7] and Washington D.C.,[8] and sixth in both New York City[6] and San Francisco.[8]

In 2008, the Cavalier was the fourth most popular breed in Australia with 3113 registrations behind only Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers.[9]

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.[10]


The breed is highly affectionate, they are 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.[11] Cavaliers 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. Cavaliers are great with people of all ages, from children to seniors, making them a very versatile dog. They rank 44th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, being of average working/obedience intelligence. Cavaliers are naturally curious and playful, but also enjoy simply cuddling up on a cushion or lap.[12]

Cavaliers 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".[13] As Cavaliers tend to regard all strangers as friends, they will also never make a good guard dog. Being a spaniel they have a strong hunting instinct, and therefore should be watched around birds and small animals. However, owners have reported that through training their Cavaliers live happily with various hamsters, gerbils and so on.[12]


Two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels on Great South Bay, Long Island

Cavaliers can often suffer from health problems, including the very common mitral valve disease (MVD) and the potentially severe syringomyelia (SM). 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.[14] The health problems shared with English Toy/King Charles Spaniels include mitral valve disease, luxating patella, and hereditary eye issues such as cataracts and retinal dysplasia.[15]

Mitral valve disease

Nearly all Cavaliers eventually will 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 potentially susceptible. It is the leading cause of death of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. A survey by the 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%).[16] 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, 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 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 (eg the puppy's grandparents) should be heart clear until age 5.[15]


This Blenheim's coat has rich chestnut markings on a white pearly coat

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 Dr Rusbridge. 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. [17]

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.[17]

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 will recommend an MRI scan. Neurologists give scanned dogs a signed certificate noting its grade.

Episodic Falling (EF)

A ruby Cavalier enjoying 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. Although it is often misdiagnosed as epilepsy, the dog remains conscious throughout the episode.[18] 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 is usually before five months but can appear at any age.[19] It is similar to Scotty Cramp, a genetic disorder in Scottish Terriers.[20]

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 platelets.[21]

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. Hip dysplasia is common in many breeds of dog, including German Shepherds, Portuguese Water Dogs and Rottweillers to name only a few.

Cavaliers 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 on the patella is grade 1–4; 1 being a tight knee to 4 which the knee cap will come out of place easily. If your cavalier has a grade 1–2 you can use physical rehabilitation therapy and exercise to 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.

Eye problems

A Cavalier with 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. If treating with the ointments vets prescribe, careful attention to the dog's eyes should be paid, as they can be under- or over-medicated.[22]

A 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.[23] They include hereditary cataracts, corneal dystrophy, distichiasis, dry eye syndrome, entropion, microphthalmia, progressive retinal degeneration, and retinal dysplasia.[24]

Ear disorders

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.[25]

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 which 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 due to degeneration of the hearing nerve, rather than the lack of formation or early degeneration of the inner ear receptors.[26]


A young King Charles II with his King Charles Spaniels

During the 16th century, a small type of spaniel was popular among the nobility in England. It was believed that these dogs could keep fleas away, and some even believed that they could prevent forms of stomach illnesses.[27] 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.[28] 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.[27]

During the 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 Toy/King Charles Spaniel emerged.[29]

During the early part of the 18th century, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough kept red and white spaniels of the Toy/King Charles type used 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 Toy/King Charles Spaniel and thus the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel became known as the Blenheim.[29]

Attempts were made to create the original King Charles Spaniel as early the turn of the century 1900s, using 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" in 1911.[30]

Divergence from King Charles Spaniel

In 1926, an American named 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'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 Toy/King Charles Spaniels in the competition. Eldridge would die before seeing his plan come to fruition, but several breeders believed in what he said and in 1928 the first Cavalier club was formed.[2] The first standard was created, based on a dog named "Ann's Son" owned by Mostyn Walker,[29] and the The Kennel Club recognised the breed as "King Charles Spaniels, Cavalier type".[2]

World 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, numbers went from around 60 to only 3 in number during the 1940s.[31] Following the war, just six dogs would be the starting block from which all Cavaliers descend.[2] These dogs were Ann's Son, his litter brother Wizbang Timothy, Carlo of Ttiweh, Duce of Braemore, Kobba of Kuranda and Aristide of Ttiweh.[32] The numbers increased gradually, and in 1945 the The Kennel Club first recognised the breed in its own right as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.[2]

The 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.[33]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Cavalier King Charles Spaniel". Retrieved 2009-11-15.  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Coile, D. Caroline (2008). Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (2nd ed.). Barron's Educational Series. p. 9. ISBN 0764137719.  
  3. ^ a b c "Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Colors and Coats". Retrieved 2009-11-14.  
  4. ^ "2007 Top 20 Breed Registrations". The Kennel Club. Retrieved 2009-11-15.  
  5. ^ "AKC Dog Registration Statistics". American Kennel Club. Retrieved 2009-11-15.  
  6. ^ a b "Top 10 Most Popular Breeds in the 50 Largest U.S. Cities Page 3". American Kennel Club. Retrieved 2009-11-17.  
  7. ^ "Top 10 Most Popular Breeds in the 50 Largest U.S. Cities Page 1". American Kennel Club. Retrieved 2009-11-17.  
  8. ^ a b "Top 10 Most Popular Breeds in the 50 Largest U.S. Cities Page 5". American Kennel Club. Retrieved 2009-11-17.  
  9. ^ "ANKC: National Animal Registration Analysis". Australian National Kennel Club. Retrieved 2009-11-17.  
  10. ^ "Overseas Cavalier Clubs". The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club. 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-17.  
  11. ^ "Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Training and Cavalier Dog Breed Info". Retrieved 2009-11-15.  
  12. ^ a b "Cavalier King Charles Spaniels". Retrieved 2009-11-15.  
  13. ^ "General Information". Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club – USA. Retrieved 2009-11-15.  
  14. ^ Coile, D. Caroline (2008). Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (2nd ed.). Barron's Educational Series. p. 69. ISBN 9780764137716.  
  15. ^ a b "Breed Profile: The English Toy Spaniel or King Charles Spaniel". English Toy Spaniel Club of America. Retrieved 2009-11-22.  
  16. ^ "Summary Results of the Purebred Dog Health Survey for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels". Kennel Club/British Small Animal Veterinary Association Scientific Committee Summary results. Retrieved 2009-11-14.  
  17. ^ a b Rusbridge, Clare (2007). Chiari-Like Malformation and Syringomyelia in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. (Thesis). Doctoral thesis Utrecht University. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
  18. ^ "Episodic Falling Syndrome (Muscle Hypertonicity): Cavaliers Collapse Suddenly After Exercise". Retrieved 2009-11-14.  
  19. ^ "Cavalier Episodic Falling: Symptoms". Retrieved 2009-11-17.  
  20. ^ Slatter, Douglas H.. Textbook of Small Animal Surgery (3rd ed.). W.B. Saunders Company. p. 1094. ISBN 9780721686073.  
  21. ^ "Blood Platelets in Cavaliers: Too Few (Thrombocytopenia) and Too Large (Macrothrombocytopenia)". Retrieved 2009-11-14.  
  22. ^ "What is keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS)?". Canine Inherited Disorders Database. 2000-05-11. Retrieved 2009-11-14.  
  23. ^ Wheeler, Cynthia A. (1999). Ocular Disorders Presumed to be Inherited in Purebred Dogs. American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists. ISBN 0-96 35163-2-0.  
  24. ^ "Corneal Dystrophy and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel". Retrieved 2009-11-14.  
  25. ^ "Primary Secretory Otitis Media (PSOM) in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel". Retrieved 2009-11-14.  
  26. ^ "Deafness in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels can be Congenital or Progressive". Retrieved 2009-11-14.  
  27. ^ a b Dupre, Malcolm. "Cavalier King Charles Spaniel History". Retrieved 2009-11-14.  
  28. ^ Moffat, Norma (2006). Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Your Happy Healthy Pet (2nd ed.). John Wiley & Sons. p. 30. ISBN 0471748234.  
  29. ^ a b c Moffat, Norma. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Your Happy Healthy Pet (2nd ed.). Howell Book House. p. 19. ISBN 0471748234.  
  30. ^ Lytton, Mrs. Neville (1911). Toy Dogs and Their Ancestors Including the History And Management of Toy Spaniels, Pekingese, Japanese and Pomeranians. London, England: Duckworth & Co. pp. 81-82. Retrieved 2009-11-29.  
  31. ^ "A Potted History". The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club. 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-17.  
  32. ^ "History". The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of BC. Retrieved 2009-11-17.  
  33. ^ Moffat, Norma. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Your Happy Healthy Pet (2nd ed.). Howell Book House. p. 23. ISBN 0471748234.  

External links

Simple English

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a small dog breed. It was bred in the 20th century from the English toy spaniel. It can stand up to 12 inches in height. It is 13-18 pounds in weight. It is very popular in England.


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