Cavalier King Charles Spaniels – Breed Information
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as we know it has been around for less than 100 years. Though their ancestors have been noted in historic paintings dating as long ago as 1440 when they were known commonly known as Comfort Spaniels. They were dogs of aristocrats.
The first Cavaliers came to America in the 1952. The breed club was formed in 1956. They received AKC recognition in 1996. The American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club was established in 1993 and remains the parent club in this country.
According to the ACKSC standard, adult Cavaliers should weigh between 13-18 lbs. They should stand 12 to 13 inches at the withers and be of moderate bone.
Cavaliers come in 4 recognized colors; Blenheim (chestnut and white), Tricolor (black, white and tan), Ruby (solid red), and Black and Tan.
Though Cavaliers have an elegant silky coat, they do not require a large amount of grooming. Brushing them out once a week or so will help them not to develop mats. It is important that their ears be kept clean as not to allow them to develop infections. Cavaliers that are shown in AKC conformation events must not be trimmed.
Most would agree that Mitral Valve Disease (hearts) and SM (Syringomyelia) are the most important health issues in our breed, there are more but these are focus issues. Both MVD & SM are believed to be poly-genetic. The mode of inheritance is not yet really understood, and even researchers disagree on things. As more is discovered, breeding approaches are changed, over time. Many breeders are addressing these issues by screening and using the information gained to make informed breeding decisions. Please note; even with testing, things can pop up. There are no guarantees in nature. Genetics are just not that simple. We prioritize doing the best we can with the information we have at the time.
A large percentage of cavaliers will develop MVD to some degree at some point in their life. With testing and selective breeding ethical breeders have made improvements as a whole in our breed over time. MVD has many presentations and we still have much to learn about it. Many Cavaliers live long full lives and never even require medication. Some will need medication at some point, usually in their elderly years. These are factors that MUST be considered when getting a Cavalier.
SM is estimated to be in 40% to 50% of cavaliers, though a relatively small percentage (2 – 4%) will ever develop symptoms of the disease. There is always a risk. We believe in taking a proactive approach to SM by scanning our dogs. It is our hope that by participating in MRI scanning and selective breeding, over time we can greatly reduce the number of affected dogs in our breed as a whole. We are rather new to this, but we have wonderful mentors in the breed helping us. Health testing only gives us a snapshot in time when looking at our dogs. With all the changes in the medical testing and discoveries being made (especially with MVD & SM) it is sometimes hard to keep up on all the new information. But for us and our dogs, we have decided this is the direction we desire to proceed in.
It is important to purchase your Cavalier from a committed breeder. Every person has to weigh out what is important to them, they should have a whole picture approach to breeding. Breed type, temperament, structure, movement, health testing, longevity in the pedigree… everything must be considered when choosing which two dogs to mate together. Breeder may have different goals and focuses. Hopefully health and breed standard/type are at the top of that list.
There are disagreements among breeders as to the ideal age to breed a Cavalier but most would agree that female Cavaliers should not be bred before age 2, (or) not before 18 months and their 3nd heat cycle. Health considerations concerning the parents and grandparents also need to be considered.
Most reputable breeders are addressing health issues as best they can by participating in various tests offered for their breeding stock. In our opinion that minimally they should have their Hearts screened annually by a Board Certified Cardiologist, CERF eye exams should also be done, DNA tests or by parentage to identify carriers of Curly Coat, Dry Eye and Episodic Falling, and MRI’s. It should be noted that Hips and Patella’s should also be a consideration within this breed.
With all of the testing available there still are no real guarantees. There is still too much unknown about some of these conditions and varying opinions and documentation. Health tested parents are a good place to start. Please, be sure to deal with an committed breeder who has an interest in the dogs they have bred. They want to have an overall picture for the future generations. Websites can be deceiving. Visit the home of the breeder, if at all possible. Look for a breeder that takes genetic testing seriously. Otherwise your less expensive Cavalier will likely cost you a lot more in the long run. By purchasing a puppy from a committed breeder, you are also gaining a mentor and friend who also has a vested interest in your puppy. They are not just making puppies, they are planning by doing pedigree research, health research and have a goals in their breeding programs. Every puppy matters.
Contrary to popular belief, many breeders do not have both parents on site. When breeders are researching lines and working on a goal they may use stud dogs from other parts of the country or even out of the country. As a breeder you are looking for the best possible match for your girl. You want to select a stud dog with specific qualities. That may include longevity in pedigrees, specific health testing, knowing what improvements your girl needs and looking for the stud you best believe can improve the next generation. Sometimes its a wonderful combination, other times its not what you hoped for. Again, genetics and mother nature.
A reputable breeder will work with their adoptive families if or when health issues arise. They will be available for questions regarding a variety of issues: health, diet, supplements, and other recommendations. Remember, the breeder you choose should desire to have a vested interest in any puppy they produce. They CAN NOT guarantee your dog will never have an issue. That is just unrealistic. However they will want to celebrate with you on your victories, and they will mourn with you during disappointment.
In our opinion dealing with a reputable breeder lowers some of the risks through research and testing, but the reality is just like in people, things do come up. A seasoned breeder friend once told me “If you breed enough, long enough, you will see things come up.”
On the average serious breeder prices start at $2500 and go up from there. However just because a puppy is expensive it does not mean the breeder is testing for these conditions. Prices of Cavaliers can vary greatly in different areas of the country depending on geographic location & health testing etc.
Serious breeders will not sell a puppy with an AKC full registration (unless to an approved show home), or will not sell a pet puppy without a spay/neuter contract of some type. This is NOT a breed served well by back yard breeders or puppy mills. The Cavalier gene pool is relatively small. It is critical that not only is health testing is done, but everything is considered with breeding stock, to ensure the survival and health of the breed overall.
All of our pet puppies are placed on a limited AKC Registration only. We rarely sell a puppy on an open registration. We either register the puppies ourselves on a Limited Registration to the adoptive family and/or hold the registration papers until proof of spay or neuter is provided on our puppies. This is for the safety and protection of our puppies. Please ask me why, and I will be happy to share our reasons. Our first responsibility is to provide our puppies with the best and safest homes possible. We will provide a 3 generation pedigree on every puppy we place.
Whether you choose to adopt a puppy from us or from someone else, please become informed about the breed. If we do not have what you are looking for, please contact us. We know many other reputable breeders who may have what you are looking for.
Kingslee Cavaliers is a member is good standing with Great Lakes CKCSC breed club. Jennifer currently serves as the Club Vice-President, Web Design & Media, and Breeder Referral.
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