View Full Version : Tips on puppy choosing

26th June 2006, 06:55 PM
We went to visit a breeder yesterday that has 2 litters of puppies we're interested in... a litter of blenheims and a litter of tricolours :D :jump: .

The blenheims are 2 weeks old and the tricolours newborns. We don't really mind which but I thought the blenheim mum had more of the cavalier look than the tricolour mum. We'll be going back in 2 weeks or so to choose our pup and I hoped someone might have advice on what to look for in a young puppy.

Here are the pictures of the mums...
They've had their coats clipped for the summer (they also live on a farm, so it's practical!)


This is the blenheim I liked... she's the only girl in the litter. We wanted another girl! In the litter photo she's second from the top.


Finally this is the tricolour litter! The only girl in this is the one at the bottom of the photo, with the most black markings.

Any advice would be most appreciated... Can hardly contain my excitement. i'd love to buy them all :D[/img]

26th June 2006, 07:13 PM

Awwww - you're so lucky having a choice of one of those beautiful pups.

It all depends what you're looking for in a Cavalier. Are you looking for a pet or a show-dog? Are 'looks' important to you?

For me, I'd be following my gut instincts and look for the friendliest, liveliest pup. As you have a choice of litters, I would also quiz the breeder about any history of mitral valve disease in parents/grandparents etc.

They're all beautiful though - good luck.


26th June 2006, 07:22 PM
It's very unlikely we'd be showing the dog. We really just want a pet & companion! We'll have to choose before we go on holidays however, so the blenheims will only be about a month old and the tricolours will only be about 3 weeks old. I haven't had much contact with puppies this young so I don't know how much their personalities will have developed by that stage? Last time we definately went for personality over looks and we got a fantastic dog.

As regards MVT the breeder's parents were also breeders before her (and still breed AFAIK). She claims there is absolutely no MVT in her breed. They'll be checked by the vet but not the cardiologist before they go. Does that sound reasonable??

brid kenny
26th June 2006, 10:57 PM
I made my decision by making sure the pup was willing to come to me when called and was willing to let me hold it. The three pups all allowed that so I chose the bitch with the best markings and so Phoebe and I have been together since!!
Go with your gut and good luck.

27th June 2006, 12:51 AM
Cecily: I am sorry to be this blunt, but what this woman has said is alarming and I would not take puppies from a breeder who says there is no MVD in her lines, as this is impossible. There is MVD in EVERY line and this either indicates that she is knowingly midleading you and your family, or knows so little about the breed that she actually thinks she could honestly make such a claim.

MVD affects 50% of ALL cavaliers by age 5 and nearly 100% by age 10. These are statistics very well known in the breed and there is simply no way anyone with any familiarity with cavaliers could not know this or produce a cavalier without MVD. If they have not had their dogs cleared of murmurs by a vet cardiologist -- NOT a vet, as most cannot hear most murmurs before age 5 -- they cannot possibly say that the parents are heart clear -- leading to a higher likelihood that the puppies will be affected with early onset murmurs. You need to know both parents were cardiologist tested in the past year and were heart clear, and that the grandparent dogs were also ALL heart tested and clear of murmurs at until at least age 5. That is the standard breeding protocol for producing healthy hearts in the breed. Puppies cannot be tested for MVD -- it is a condition that usually won't even begin to show til age two or older as it is progressive. Sometimes puppies have other murmurs however, but this will not have anything to do with MVD.

The chances of having a dog that will die young from MVD is massively higher when you take a puppy from a breeder who doesn't heart test. You will pay the same to get a puppy from a more responsible breeder and be far less likely to suffer the tragedy and pain of losing your dog to MVD at age 6 or 7. Early death from MVD is much higher in dogs not bred for heart health. Please do not take a puppy from these people if you wish to have a puppy with the best chance of a healthy life.

More info from elsewhere on this site:

MVD - mitral valve disease
Acquired degenerative valvular disease is the most common cardiac disease in the dog, with the mitral valve most often affected. MVD can result in progressive cardiac enlargement and congestive heart failure. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, coughing, fainting and exercise intolerance. Heart medications, diet and weight management can give years of good quality life for Cavaliers living with MVD. Although MVD is very common in elderly small breed dogs, in the case of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, the disease has an earlier onset and a faster progression. Studies indicate that 50% of Cavaliers aged 5 and older have MVD, with nearly 100% affected by the age of 10. These statistics are the same for lines from American, English, Irish and European kennels. Cavaliers with MVD exhibit heart murmurs, which are graded I to VI depending on the intensity. Some regular veterinarians have difficulty hearing low grade murmurs, which is why breeders and owners use board certified veterinary cardiologists to listen for murmurs.

It is currently the most serious and prevalent disease in the breed. In advanced stages it can lead to heart failure and death. If a breeder does not seem to know much about it, is unwilling to share information with you, claims the tests unreliable, or tries to tell you their dogs don't get it, find another breeder. Responsible breeders try to delay the onset and severity of MVD by screening ALL of their breeding stock for this condition, using a veterinary cardiologist or the OFA*. Ask to see certificates. Look closely at the date of the examination, as the clearance is only good for one year. The certificate should state that the dog is clear. If they cannot or will not show you the certificates, find another breeder.

Places to find more information on MVD:

MVD & cavaliers:

Living with MVD:

Health and care:

Canine heart disease:

*The OFA doesn't do any heart screening but is just a database where results can be posted.

Many may not realise that the CKCS club breeding protocol on MVD, now widely recommended across all the worldwide CKCS breed clubs (and in some cases, like Sweden, an actual requirement for breeding) was brought in in 1998, nearly a decade ago. This was at the CKCS USA club's symposium on MVD, which considered the results of studies by researchers on thousands of cavaliers. Out of that came the recommendation many will be familiar with: to only breed dogs when they reach age 2.5 minimum, and have been certified heart clear AND if their parents were heart clear at age 5. Otherwise, it is advised not to breed any cavalier of unknown heart history until age 5, and only if it is murmur-free (certified by a cardiologist, not a vet, as vets are known to be poor at picking up murmurs until they are fairly serious. See: http://www.cavaliertalk.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=64 ).

There is an abridged transcript of the proceedings here: http://www.ckcsc.org/ckcsc/formsdocs.nsf/filelookup/98heartsymp.PDF/

It's an important piece of cavalier history and also might help people better understand the issue of MVD (mitral valve disease) in the breed.

27th June 2006, 09:01 AM
Are there any symptoms you could spot in an adult that would lead you to suspect they had MVD?

27th June 2006, 09:17 AM
Are there any symptoms you could spot in an adult that would lead you to suspect they had MVD?

MVD is usually symptom-free until the dog is in heart failure. The most common symptom is coughing.

By this time, the heart is already enlarged, which restricts breathing. Also, because the heart is starting to fail, fluid is building up in or around the lungs.

It is such a shame that some irresponsible breeders have bred for quality/type/money and not cared enough to try and reduce MVD by breeding with heart-clear dogs.

This is a subject that brings me great pain, as I have only recently lost my precious Declan to MVD at the age of 7. His son, Cailean, is 6 and coughing :( :(.

27th June 2006, 10:53 AM

I know it hurts but I am inclined to agree with the others :( . Both of Maxx's parents are still heart clear at the ages of 11 and 13. When Maxx started coughing I panicked, immediately suspecting MVD as my friend had just lost her darling little boy from it. Luckily he has no signs of a murmur at all but he has got enlarged tonsils that swell when he runs around like a lunatic and make him cough :roll: .

These poor babies have so many health problems that I would always make sure that if I was buying a pup now I would ensure that the parents held clear heart and eye certificates and had also been MRI'd clear of Syringomyelia too.

There is nothing worse than losing a furbaby and most of all at a young age from something that could have been prevented by 'selective breeding'.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do though xxxxx

27th June 2006, 11:04 AM
There are symptoms listed at the top of the quoted piece above -- generally coughing comes first, because the lungs are filling with liquid, but also the dog will be more lethargic and reluctant to walk any distance, will need to stop to catch its breath and may seem short of breath, may have fainting spells as it progresses.

Every cavalier owner needs to watch for these symptoms, but ideally, also have their dog *cardiologist* (not vet) checked for murmurs from about age 2 or 3. Certainly you'd want to be doing this annually or every 18 months or so by age 5.

There's much more here on this condition and what to watch for, and how it can be treated, written by board member PatB, who is an expert on cavaliers seniors and cavaliers with MVD:


There's MUCH that every owner can do to help prevent a dog getting MVD til as late as possible and to not exacerbate the condition. Number one among them is KEEP YOUR CAVALIER IN GOOD WEIGHT. That means a noticeable waist when viewed from above and that you can feel the ribs. On this page about halfway down you can see examples of what good weight means:


I have met very few cavaliers that fit into categories 1 or 2 on these pictures -- most people around here keep cavaliers that are very overweight -- and this puts those dogs at far higher risk as their hearts must work much harder every moment of every day, which wears out the mitral valve faster. Think of walking around carrying two large bags of flour in a backpack at all times and you will get a sense of the extra stress that weight puts on hearts.

Two cavaliers locally have died of MVD at under age 7 and the deaths are not very nice -- having seen a friend go through this with her much loved cavalier I've really become frustrated with breeders -- who should be the guardians of breed health -- ignoring the most basic heart protocols and perpetuating this awful condition in the breed. A nd that they in turn knowingly breed dogs and send them on to families that will be devastated by the early loss of their dog. To me they are no better than the puppy farmers who breed their dogs in disgusting conditions in small cages. Knowingly allowing a terrible affliction to remain rampant in the breed is just a different and equal form of cruelty.

27th June 2006, 11:23 AM
For the reasons stated above, I would not choose to buy another Cavalier puppy, but that's just me. I just don't want to encourage breeding of these beautiful animals for pure profit. This is a purely personal decision.

As it happens, a puppy wouldn't fit into our lifestyle at the moment, as I work part-time.

Having said all that, I am actively looking to give a forever home to a rescue Cavalier. If it turns out down the line that they have MVD, we will do everything in our power to make their lives comfortable, just as we did with Deccie.

27th June 2006, 05:56 PM
thanks everyone for the advice. We're looking at other options to get the healthiest pup we can. If both parents are clear of MVD what are the chances of the pup developing it? And does that mean the parents have to be over the age of 5 to be sure they're clear of MVD?