Our first cavalier, born in 1987, lived almost 15 happy, healthy years. Never a victim of mitral valve disease that afflicts many as they age, “Oliver” succumbed to kidney failure, tail wagging to the last. At present, we have an 11 year old, still with us though battling MVD and doing well on medication, just diagnosed at 10. We know of others with SM—syringomyelia, a progressive neurological condition affecting the normal flow of spinal fluid—also doing well. Other than inappropriate “scratching,” and what might be construed as mild neck pain (controlled on meds), they are enjoying a fine quality of life and remain loyal companions in their households—in short, doing what cavaliers and their forebearers have always done—living devoted, gentle lives among those they love best.

And yet, the naysayers and alarmists among us— some breeders, pet owners, self-seeking scientists and the ubiquitous animal rightists, would have us believe that the cavalier is in medical dire straits. The August 19 sensationalist program on the BBC-“Pedigree Dogs Exposed,” offered a biased and inaccurate picture of the overall health of the breed (and others), with seriously specious data to support it. Following the gloomy broadcast, UK veterinarians reported some Cavalier owners actually bringing healthy adults to be euthanized so that they would not have to suffer illness in the future—imagine! Hopefully, the vets cited a 2006 scientific health survey among UK breeders that found that the Cavalier there has an increased life expectancy-- from 9.5 years 20 years ago to 11.5 years today.  The 2005 Purdue Health Study commissioned by the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club revealed that the average age of death for bitches was 10.5 and for dogs 10.9. The oldest bitch and dog (in the study) were 14.9 and 15.9 years, respectively. These results probably equate closely with those of the UK.

Reasonable and informed breeders realize that the Cavalier is subject to many of the ills that afflict most purebred dogs, mixed breeds, and indeed people, as they age—heart disease, cancer, and kidney failure. SM is a real concern to the fancy, but by no means afflicts all Cavaliers. Indeed, some that appear to have it as diagnosed by MRI, remain symptom free.  For severe cases, where quality of life is sadly compromised, pioneering surgery is a possibility, though not without risks and the potential for complications.  Ongoing studies commissioned by the ACKCSC and other parent clubs around the world will undoubtedly afford us much valuable insight into this condition. The ACKCSC Charitable Trust donated $25,000 in July to the AKC Canine Health Foundation, specifically to study SM. SM is not being ignored, but sound scientific conclusions remain elusive at this time.  In the meantime, responsible breeders are doing all that they can to breed away from affected dogs or suspected carriers.

Moderation and common sense should prevail whenever we hear that such-and-such breed is medically fragile.  The Cavalier, whose antecedents decorated the laps of royalty as early as the 15th century, enjoys the support of many responsible and medically aware breeders around the world. Through their efforts, as well as those of the public who also loves them just as much, the Cavalier will surely continue to enjoy his well deserved popularity through many centuries to come.


---Stephanie Abraham, P.O. Box 346* Scotland, CT 06264   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.