View Full Version : First Time Cav Mom, Scared of all the Illnesses

15th September 2006, 09:20 AM
I am so happy I found this site, but it is scaring the crap out of me.

I had no idea that there were so many health issues with Cavs. I LOVE my puppy so much, I don't know how I could stand it if he got sick.

So far, in reading all of the threads here, the only thing that I have seen in Toby is a coughing kind of thing, but that was only a time or two and nothing in the last week or so.

Can someone please tell me why there are so many deadly health issues with Cavs? I am really looking for some assurance that my baby isn't going to die from a terrible illness. What can I do to screen my baby from these illnesses and what can I do to prevent them?

My puppy was sired by artificial insimination, can I possibly assume that that makes him safer?

His breeder kept him for several months because he appeared to be perfect for showing, then as the puppy grew older, his underbite was noticed by the vet. Is there any information about underbites in Cavs?

Is there some kind of database that would reveal lineages that are carriers of disorders?

I didn't buy an investment, I bought a pet. So a defective investment who may die, is not my focus. I need to know how to be sure that my baby dog, the dog I've only dreamed of for years, is not going to get sick.

I thank you very much for any assurances you can give me.

15th September 2006, 09:40 AM
There are experts and many threads on the health issues surrounding the Cavalier.... but it is basically due to breeding many many moons ago to get the breed to look, etc as they do now.... did your breeder heart, eye, etc. check your puppy's parents, grandparents and so forth, these small tests if clear can make your puppy's health a small percentage better.

15th September 2006, 09:59 AM
Clair, thank you for your reply.

My thinking is that the reason my puppy's breeder went for AI was that they were going for a more healthy lineage. I know that she was greatly disappointed with the underbite. She proudly said that Toby even had the "thumbprint" and he would have been a show dog. They didn't discover the very minor underbite till he was about 6 months old.

I don't know what things she checked, I have emailed her about these things.

As a person who dreamed of having a Cavalier for more than 10 years, and now have one, now I am very afraid.

Is this breed doomed? Can it be saved?

15th September 2006, 10:05 AM
All breeds have a genetic disorder.... Dalmations, GHS, etc. (plus I think that some humans will probably have a gene problems descended through the ages.....) - we are probably lucky that vets and specialists are investigating the illness's, have the ability to produce better drugs and have a more technical approach also in this day and age.

I don't think we can ever breed out problems but can make it better - I know it is hard but enjoy your dog and don't worry about it.

15th September 2006, 10:25 AM
Thanks again Clair

I just love my baby and I don't want him to get sick. I've heard about the DNA testing. Is that to make sure that ppl arent inbreeding?

As I said before, I sent an email to the breeder explaining my concerns. She wrote back and said that she will answer on the weekend. Unfortunately, they have a serious illness in the family,

I am just praying that out here in the wild west of California, whatever genetic issues there are, are thinner here than in the birthplace of the Cavaliers.

BTW. have you heard that ppl are cross breeding Cavs and poodles?
I swear, that is not the first line of a joke. I forget what they are calling the new "breed"

15th September 2006, 10:45 AM
May be worth checking out the US Cavalier Club website, there is lots and lots of information on there in line with US breeding....

A poodle and a cavalier - I hope not.... we have cross breeding here also but I don't think that is going to be fair.... :yikes

matties mum
15th September 2006, 11:35 AM
:) They are called cavapoo :yikes :roll: Aileen

Bruce H
15th September 2006, 12:28 PM
You really can't let all the information on the potential health problems get you down. The information is there to make you aware of possible diseases and problems a Cavalier MAY have to deal with. It in no way means that your baby will get the diseases.

It's a bit like watching the news. You see all the problems going on around you, but it doesn't mean you are going to be mugged or shot on your way home from work tomorrow. What it does do is give you information to be aware of so you know what you should watch out for.

Every breed has its predominant health issues. I am quite sure if you went to any comparable list like this for any other breed, you would find the same type of discussions.

So don't worry about your baby! Just be aware of the health issues and love him. In my VERY biased opinion, you selected the best breed there is!

Oh, BTW, don't worry about the bite if its as minor as you say. We bought an absolutely beautiful boy to show that had an off bite to show. A few people told us we were crazy for buying Cooper, but he came from very healthy lines and was beautiful in every other way. Well, long story short, he is now an AKC champion.

15th September 2006, 12:44 PM
Ask your breeder if she has eye and heart checked parents and gd parents, also MRI scanned for SM from both parents, hip scored etc...ask to see certificates for the health checks....ask as much as you can, your breeder should be happy to help with all this information.

You can only be aware of the problems and know what to do if you see them, if your breeder has done all the health checks that they can then you stand a far better chance of a health pup than from a puppy farm/mill or back street/yard breeder.

Enjoy your little one but keep the health knowledge safe just incase, and make sure you have the very best life long CONDITION cover insurance for the vets bills.... especially with the well known things like heart and SM problems within the breed, that way you will be covered for most of the expense.

NOW ENJOY your Cavalier!

Alison, Wilts, U.K.

16th September 2006, 12:24 AM
Check your puppy's pedigree too for names of Cavs who have gone beyond the age of five without developing MVD. It doesn't guarantee anything, but since MVD and early onset (before 5) MVD in particular, is genetic, if you have a dog where a number of ancestors were heart-clear at 5 plus, you're increasing your chances. I read an article the other day that said the early-onset variation of MVD was the most pernicious, since it tended to progress more quickly. I understand a dog can live quite happily for years with a low grade murmur, so a diagnosis of a grade 1 murmur, for instance, is not an immediate death sentence!

Having said that, I sympathise with you feelings of panic. I have one 3 yr old B/T bitch and will be getting a ruby bitch puppy in a few weeks, and sometimes I think I'm mad. But then, at the end of the day, no dog will ever live long enough for it's owner, regardless of whether that life was fifteen years or five. Just make the most of every day!

16th September 2006, 05:52 AM
Sounds like you have already gotten a lot of very good advice, but I just wanted to say, every breed of dog has it's potential list of health problems (if that is what you can call them), but it doesn't mean that the dog will develop any of them. I worried a bit over the MVD at first, before I got Bentley, and then I realized that there is not one breed out there that doesn't have at least some kind of health issue associated with the breed. Cavaliers are worth the worry! LOL!

16th September 2006, 06:08 AM
I have the application for his AKC registration, so I have the names of his sire and his dam. How would I use that information to check the backgrounds?

16th September 2006, 07:55 AM
Ring and ask your breeder for all the info you need, they should want to help you. A good health conscious breeder will be more than happy to talk with you and will be pleased that you are taking the time to investigate etc.

Alison, Wilts, U.K.

17th September 2006, 04:30 AM
they call them either cavapoo's or cavoodles...my uncle who is a vet has a black lab and a cavoodle (which they took in after his father died)...its such a gorgeous dog!! i dont know much more on the subject about the illness other then whats been already mentioned in all the other posts... but dont worry! enjoy toby!

17th September 2006, 05:23 AM
Bruce offers good advice: the information is there for you to be aware of health problems in the breed and is not a list of what to expect. Nearly every breed has health problem possibilities common in the breed because the narrower gene pools from selective breeding for a purebred dog bring genetic problems to the fore over time.

However what the breeder did BEFORE you got your puppy is important: choosing the best dogs possible in health terms for parents and matching pedigrees so the right mix of genes have the best chance of coming to the fore. Artificial insemination wouldn't have anything to do with improving the good-health chances of your puppy unless the semen came from a sire who is cardiac tested and cleared, which comes from a line of cavaliers with good hearts and long lives; and ditto for good hip scores, good patellas, good eyes, and ideally, also screened for syringomyelia by MRI. Not many breeders are doing the latter yet but the numbers are steadily increasing. The same would hold for the dam.

Did your breeder show you the cardiac clearances for both parents of your dog? Also for the grandparents? Many would consider these are the most important of the various test results good breeders have for their breeding stock because MVD is the most likely condition you will see over the life of your cavalier. Also you need to realise that a puppy is a living thing and cannot be guaranteed against health problems just as a child cannot be guaranteed to have good health genes (and environment!) over its lifetime. You can improve a puppy's odds though by choosing a breeder wisely.

Any breeder should be more than willing (and often supplies as a norm) a five (or at least, three) generation pedigree with the registration for the dog (at least they do over here). This makes it much easier to research lineages and health if you are so inclined. If your breeder didn't give you this then I'd ask for one. There are online pedigree databases (I list them in the Library) and you can also work backwards from the parents if the parents are listed in the database. As Alison says,a good breeder should be happy to go through the background of your puppy, discuss the testing she performs and supply prroof of same, and also discuss the breed health concerns, so hopefully you will get a chance to do this with your breeder when she is able to come back to you.

As for the bigger breed picture:

Cavaliers DO statistically have a higher degree of problems if one goes by a fairly neutral measurment -- the number of claims filed to pet insurance companies in the UK and Ireland by breed. Cavaliers are a very popular breed, about 7th overall amongst breeds in the two countries. But they are number two for claims, according to Allianz/PetPlan. Boxers have more claims, and Westies are number three on the list.

As you probably know, there are two quite serious conditions that are prevalent in the breed: MVD and COMS, which is the comprehensive term for syringomyelia as it includes the skull malformation alone, without necessarily syrinx formation. Almost 100% of cavaliers will eventually have MVD and your breeder should have discussed this with you as most of us will eventually deal with it. As others have noted the goal is to have onset come as late as possible so that it never has any impact on your dog's health. MVD is very common in elderly small dogs but sadly in cavaliers, it is present in 50% of cavaliers by age 5 -- so everyone needs to know about this condition and its signs. Choosing a breeder who breeds for heart health is the single best way of avoiding MVD or minimising its impact. It is Russian roulette if you get a puppy from a breeder who doesn't heart test -- then that 50% chance of having a murmur by age five is the figure you are dealing with, probably considerably higher as that figure includes all cavaliers including those bred by careful breeders.

While the majority of cavaliers seem to have COMS and about 35-50-plus% in research samples have syringomyelia, right now most dogs never show any symtpoms and seem to not have it affect either their behaviour or lifespan. However it is increasing in appearance and early onset and again, it is a condition that you should know to watch for. But also be aware that the vast majority of cavaliers at this time will lead normal lives with COMS/SM and owners will never know the dog even has it.

But there is serious concern about the breed because of these two serious problems. On the MVD side, the failure of many breeders to work for healthier hearts even when selectively breeding for heart health is known to greatly decrease the incidence and severity of MVD. The cardiologist who advises the UK CKCS club has expressed deep concern that in *15 years* of having the healthy heart breeding protocol, so few breeders follow it that the incidence of MVd in the UK *has not altered at all*!! he is currently asking club members to take the problem seriously and institute a more rigorous programme of compliance:


Personally I agree with the many neurologists working on SM, many of whom I have been directly in contact with because I run the SM Infosite at http://sm.cavaliertalk.com -- that this is likely a much greater threat to the breed than MVD because the long term implications -- and cost of treatment or even possibility fo treatment -- are much greater. Neurologists have reported a rapidly increasing number of cavaliers showing up with severly symptomatic SM at increasingly younger ages and this is likely to be due to the breed having reached some sort of genetic tipping point, and not likely to be due to any increase in awareness of the condition as a dog in neurological pain is going to be referred to a neurologist regardless of whether a vet recognises SM -- and neurologists who perform the surgeries for SM are seeing almost nothing but cavaliers with this condition as a genetic problem, rather than due to say a head impact.

I for one am concerned for the future of the breed and think it will take a very concerted effort from both breeders AND pet owners to make a difference. Both, because breeders make the breeding decisions, and clubs should offer if not carrots, then sticks to get breeders to breed for health... and pet owners make the vast majority of buying decisions. As long as pet owners buy dogs on the basis of cost or convenience rather than being stringent about health and making sure their chosen breeder breeds for health, the vast majority of cavaliers will come from puppy mills, mass breeder, brokers and backyard breeders, all of whom have profit and not breed health their priority. No puppy mill or BYB breeds with ANY regard for health. We as buyers need to ask for the health clearances for the conditions we DON'T want to see in our dogs or this breed generally.