View Full Version : Why to buy such an unhealthy breed?

3rd September 2012, 03:33 PM
MOST cavaliers never reach an age which would be considered truly elderly for a small breed, because they die of heart disease that on average hits more than 50% when they are only age 6. SIX. And that means the other half have murmurs before age six!!!

Almost every cavalier owner will eventually have a dog with syringomyelia (as affected rate is about 70% at age 6+), though not all, thankfully will have symptoms or severe symptoms (which does NOT mean this isn;t an urgent and severe situation already!). Almost every cavalier will have a skull malformation causing its skull to be a bit to small for its brain, which will sometimes be forced out into its spinal canal. For some dogs, this alone will cause symptoms.

Well, I think that first of all, we must love DOGS, not Dalmatians, Goldens or CKCS. And if the breed is so unhealthy and suffer so much (even if it's from a great litter, it will suffer at some point of life, more or less), why do you keep buying and wanting this breed. If it is a breed with so much pain and suffering for the DOG (which should be our main concearn), why don't we just let it be extinct and why don't we choose other breeds to buy? Why insist in something that clearly goes wrong?

If there was any natural selection, CKCS would never make it. We are forcing the breed to exist. These dogs suffer a lot, they are in pain... why keep buying those, even from an EXCELLENT breeder, full of exams and health certificates?

I am thinking about buying a puppy myself, but after reading this post I am just wondering...why keep buying this breed?

Again, we are supposed to love dogs above anything, and if a breed is suffering so much, why continue?

Imagine if there was a "human breed" with three legs. Some people love those. But after 40 years old, that third leg causes a lot of pain, some humans die from it and some don't die, but struggle with LOTS of pain. So, why keep making humans with three legs? Because we like it? Because they look pretty? Because they are nicer? Because we want to? What about their pain? Isn't it too selfish??

I would like to know your opinions...because I'm almost buying one but I started to think those things... :(

3rd September 2012, 04:03 PM
All of these are good questions, and ones that many who love the breed, especially many good breeders, consider all the time.

I would start by saying that ironically, you named two other breeds with serious health issues too! -- dalmations and goldens. Pedigree dogs by their very nature have narrow gene pools and almost ALL breeds would never survive on their own because even though there may be millions of dogs of that type, they often have a genetic diversity of only a hundred or fewer individual dogs and thus they are way, WAY below what is considered sustainable for genetic diversity in the wild. So just about ALL purebred dogs would go extinct if we humans didn't maintain artificial breeding programmmes!!

If you watch Pedigree Dogs Exposed, the BBC documentary (you can find it on YouTube, or buy the DVD) you will see many of these issues explored, and cavaliers are highlighted (rightly) as one of the more problematical breeds. Therefore, many of us here feel that perhaps health testing should be mandatory for breeding and showing dogs as a result of these issues.

Many of us get this breed because we wish to support rescue and have rescue cavaliers, or to support the good breeders who are trying hard to reduce the incidence of these conditions. IF you work with a truly health-focused and testing breeder, you can reduce significantly the chances of either of these conditions causing a cavalier problems during its lifetime.

Cavaliers for us raise significant worries though because the common health issues in the breed are sadly very serious and can bring terrible pain.

The comparison to humans with 3 legs is actually a false comparison because humans regularly and knowingly 'breed' when quite aware that their children risk serious diseases that run in families -- higher rates of cancer, Parkinson's, syringomyelia, MS, severe conditions of all types. Humans do not 'die out' because there's billions of us and a massive general genepool that can easily absorb these deaths (if you wish to look at it from a quite coldly biological point of view). Also we generally feel people have the right to make their own decisions as to whether to have children and potentially pass along such risks. We also no doubt find the issues less obvious or urgent because many of these conditions only affect people when they are older adults. For people they do indeed form serious philosophical and moral issues -- REAL disease and REAL risk of pain, not three legs...

Dogs have a far shorter life and also we humans make the breeding decisions thus a single poor breeding decision made by a breeder or a pet owner who thinks they want 'just one litter' etc, can have wide and detrimental impact on the breed as well as all the puppies born from that mating. :(. Here on CavalierTalk we strongly advocate working with reputable breeders who do the proper testing, and we encourage all puppy buyers to research the breed to make sure they are ready to take the risk of owning a breed that can have such problems -- and to only please ever support good breeders. Therefore we offer puppy buying guides, links to good websites that give further information on choosing a cavalier breeder and on breed health issues. We raise funds for research into the problems in the breed (which is supplying valuable information to researchers on the human forms of the same diseases). We lobby and educate.

Anyoie is very foolish though if they think they will easily find any purebred breed that doesn't have a long list of potential genetic issues that can compromise their lives -- or that are bred with physical features that we humans find 'cute' or attractive but can cause anything from discomfort to devastating pain and illness for the dog.

Take pugs (also featured in Pedigree Dogs Exposed). I would far rather deal with cavalier potential health issues than support the current appearance of the pug which directly causes many serious problems and means ALL pugs lead a life compromised by their appearance at least to some extent! The wrinkled face can cause painful skin irritations between the folds which need to be kept clean (hardly something that breed could do on its own!). The flat face creates breathing problems for about 100% of the breed, many of which so struggle for breath that the breed is known for seeming to fall asleep while sitting upright (YouTube is full of videos of what owners think is a 'cute' sleeping behaviour! It is because their dogs cannot get enough oxygen and thus fall asleep -- and often sleep in odd positions to open up the breathing passages). Pugs have such shallow skulls that eyeballs are actually at risk of falling out of the sockets. The large exposed eyes lead to eye problems and infections and a high rate of a painful condition in which their eyelashes grow in the wrong direction and scratch their eyeballs and need surgical correction. That 'cute' corkscrew tail is linked to a gene that regularly causes their spines to be deformed. Many of these problems need surgical intervention for the dog to even be comfortable.

Yet many owners and breeders insist they are happy and cute and the snoring and gasping breath is just 'normal'. You'd be hard pressed to find a single vet or canine researcher who would say the same. :(

Many of these breeds did not look this extreme 50 to 100 years ago (pugs had a snout and normal eyes, to start with, and didn't have corkscrew tails). We humans have made these decisions for them.

Most of us here would rather work toward pedigree dog health, not abandon the breed or pedigree dogs. We support researchers and we argue that far greater responsibility is needed in breeding and showing, as well as protections for puppy buyers (which would be the single fastest way to get breeders to start to work toward health -- if they had some cost liability if it were shown they failed to test their breeding pair for the illnesses suffered by the offspring. You can't eliminate anything totally but you can reduce incidence and if a breeder isn't testing they are breeding with no knowledge at all of the state of their breeding stock when they have internal problems that are not obvious in the outer appearance of the dog).

I would be the first to encourage anyone who is concerned about cavalier health problems to consider another breed immediately. But I would also be the first to say: you will have a hard search and a very narrow range of breeds to select from if you think you can find a purebred dog that doesn't have a menu of potential genetic problems and/or physical problems caused by our desire for a dog that looks a certain way. The most healthy choice for a dog tends to be a mixed breed -- as demonstrated by the fact that insurance premiums are lower for them as they have fewer illnesses (NOT 'designer crosses' however which can have all the problems of the two parents breeds if the health history and tests are not known for the parents!).

Anyone who truly cares about dogs will be concerned about all these issues. And we are.

3rd September 2012, 04:33 PM
My answer isn't going to be as long an educational as Karlin's but here is my answer. When I purchased my first cavalier I had no idea they had so many health issues. but the experience of owning and loving my cavalier brought me so much joy I would not now be without a cavalier. Every breed of dog has just that one little characteristic that makes it stand out. For me the cavalier is my baby dog that loves to cuddle and be loved but also has the ability to run and romp like an athletic.

Cavaliers actually have the potential to live very long lives, into their teens and be healthy. Choosing a breeder that focuses on health is where you as the owner will make the most difference in the cavalier as a whole.

And to be honest, I always wondered why people would own a Great Dane as their life span is only about 7-8 years. I can't imagine losing a dog so young, just as it is getting into its good years. :)

3rd September 2012, 05:37 PM
I would like to raise a few points.

1. If you are considering buying a cavalier you SHOULD and need to be thinking about this stuff. Owning a cavalier is a very unique and extremely rewarding thing however you need to be completely informed and aware. A cavalier owner need to be able to be an advocate, prepare for high vet bills (buy insurance), carefully monitor your cavalier's weight and health and be ready to find an solution when something is not right. Cavalier Talk has story after story of dogs suffering for years medically because the vet was uninformed on this or that medical condition. You must be ready to seek a second or third opinion when necessary. Oh yeah, and be prepared to the worry too we all balance careful watch and worry over our cavaliers. IF you are concerned about your willingness or ability to do any of this then a cavalier is NOT for you.

2. Sure you could think about the natural selection stuff. But couldn't you take that train of thought into humans? I mean there are thousands and thousands of people who use fertility treatments to have children, should those people be told "sorry natural selection you cannot be a parent"? Or what about vaccination for children? Or artificial limbs? Heck if only the "fit" survive why do we turn the modern medicine at all. I think you get my point. The key to improving cavalier health is medical advancement.

3. Owning a cavalier is not for everyone. It is a huge commitment however for me the good things way outweigh the bad and even when the bad hits home I am willing and ready to face it head on. It is a personal decision. I have only been a cavalier owner a short time so I cannot speak from experience. My cavalier Fletcher is the perfect dog for me because, he is loyal and only wants to be around us, he is so sweet and loving, he's smart and is learning very fast he aims to please, he loves to do any activity we do as a family, including sleeping in, swimming, camping, and even kayaking. He will run and play for hours then lay on the back of the sofa and use your shoulder as a pillow. He is a true best friend and a full member of our family. If you causally just want a dog please do not choose a cavalier. This is a very special breed and does require special care and attention.

I think it is good that you are asking these questions tho, you have some very serious questions to ask yourself from the answers. I encourage you to continue to question and seek answers. I believe it is part of the PROCESS in research. Please take your time, trust me there are lots of owners like us who want health happy cavalier's in the future. Don't rush when and if you ever decide to own a cavalier we will do our best to make sure they are around.

3rd September 2012, 05:40 PM
Hi, Karlin! Perfect explanations.

Yes, I've seen Dogs Exposed and I even endorse people to watch it all the time on my website. I talk about puppy mills here (http://www.tudosobrecachorros.com.br/2012/05/nao-compre-cachorro-em-petshop.html) and about the documentary here (http://www.tudosobrecachorros.com.br/2010/10/segredos-do-pedigree.html). Sorry, it's in portuguese. What I want to explain is that I am a well-informed person and now that I want a Cavalier, I'm going deeper about their health issues. I've been searching for a good breeder in Canada and Brazil and I haven't found the perfect one yet (it seems a really hard task). I've read almost all your guides about breeders, puppies etc. You're great.

My first call was a pug, but I gave up because their fragile health and problems. My friend has a pug that has never been 100% healthy and he is 5. He is always with a skin condition.

I love CK, but I'm getting frightened about it's health. I don't know if I want a dog that will have such a poor life. Many reasons: the dog will suffer, I will suffer, money and supporting a breed that should not be around anymore (such as pugs!).

I wanted to adopt a street dog but I live in a really small apartment and you never know what size they will be.

I don't want any nervous breed, such as cockers, poodles, etc.

I don't like long hair dogs.

I think I will buy a pomeranian, they seem more healthy...do you agree?

3rd September 2012, 05:44 PM
1. If you are considering buying a cavalier you SHOULD and need to be thinking about this stuff.

Yes..I wanna be the perfect owner, that's why I need to know everything about the breed...and question myself about "is it the right breed for me?".

The temperament is PERFECT for my personality, I'm so sad I'm figuring out that I'm maybe not the best person to look after a Cavalier's fragile health (I spent all day out working....if I have a sick dog, how can I take care of him? Also, I'm not emotionally prepared to have a sick dog and watch it suffer...)

Maybe a Pom is better for me...

Thank you, you're all helping me a lot!

3rd September 2012, 06:36 PM
I know of a few Pomeranian breeders who Mri scan their breeding stock.
Pomeranians suffer from both CM and SM.They can be quite symptomatic, even from mild CM.
Unfortunately many other toy breeds also have the same condition.
Cavaliers were the first breed to become so closely associated with CM/SM but the reality is that several toy breeds are predisposed to the same health issue and as breeders begin to realise that their dogs have similar symptoms to cavaliers,and Mri them,they find they also have a problem with CM.
I had considered buying one,then I realised that I'd prefer to stick with cavaliers.
Once you fall in love with cavaliers,you need a compelling reason to change.
If you know the risks and buy wisely,you can reduce your chance of having a poorly pet.
Sadly,there are both breeders and puppy buyers who do not see health as a priority.I can never understand why people who know the health issues,decide to take crazy risks when buying a puppy...
No matter what breed you decide to buy,please do all the research you can find.Then find a reputable breeder,who is a member of a breed club and who will be available to support and advise you if you have a problem.
Tests are important,but also try and find out as much information about grandparents/great grandparents as you can.If the breeder cannot tell you anything about the dogs behind your puppy,then walk away..fast!

Super Princess
3rd September 2012, 06:55 PM
its interesting you mentiond the delmation and the golden retriever... because.

when we were really little 1990's our parents suprised us with a delmation. boomer. oh boy were we excited. Boomer was crazy to say the least.. he had a LOT of energy..and was known for dragging people down the road if they werent strong enough to hold on (me... and my older cousin who got dragged acrossa busy intersection once)
the thing none of us knew at thet ime.. was this delmation...like many ive heard over the years (although tbh i havn't completly researched it) was violent. he bit twice when people (young people) came into his space. (he'd be put away in a room) we had to put him down after that. i was heart broken. and unfortuantly..the only memories i really have of this dog..just arn't good ones.

a golden has always been my first choice..i begged my parents for years and years to let me get a golden retriever pleaseee. moms response after oh maybe 8 years was 'no..a golden retriever is too big..find me a small spaniel and i will THINK about it'..that sentence changed my life forever. :)
I found the king charles cavalier.

oliver was born with a heart murmer..and none of us thought about it again after the breeder mentiond it when handing him over. he had many other issues that were front and center... a sensitive stomach, itchy skin..dry eye..all issues that made him our 'high maitnence dog'. we never did find out hte skin itch..although we tried..vet after vet..
he was my best friend though. full of charachter, love. you could take him anywhere..he'd curl up and fall asleep..during family get togethers with 3 other dogs..hed be the one you never had to worry about.
he was having caughing spells and dad took him to emerg..where at 9 years old they told him he had MVD.
I was acutaly coming off a few bad years (thing after thing just seemd to be happening) and when i got news that my baby was sick..there was no cure and it was a mater of time..less then a year before we'd loose hiim) people on here who knew me then know how devestated i was.
as a long standing member of the board..i was blind to the illnsesses that inflict this breed. and when oliver got sick..i did my research..i couldnt belive it.
i decided i would never own another cavalier again.
we lost oliver on valentines day 2011. the little guy with the big heart...acutally had a big heart...died of a broken heart..on the day of hearts..and it broke mine.

well..it wasnt long after we lost him..its been a year and half ish..when i find myself in a place that alows small dogs. so no golden retriever. and i NEEDED another dog in my life.
i reallly researched my breeds...i spent hours researching others trying to find just the right one for me.. came close with the shar pei's and westies.. but shar peis actually have their own isseus..which i thoguht 'if i go into it knowing ...maybe itll be okay'. then i thought if i was willing to do that for the shar peis why not the cavaliers who have stolen my heart? I am never more happy then when i cross paths with cavalier. seriously. it makes my entire week.
i knew then that although a year anda half ago i said never again..i knew my deision was made.

Ive spent months and months trying to find the right breeder..and i thought i found her..then recieved a fatefull email..and came on here to ask for help. everyone was amazing and ive found a breeder who dos the right testing. it may not gurentee anything.. but my puppy will be born at the end of the month.

when i think back to oliver. i wonder if maybe he had a mind case of SM and we just never knew. i seem to remember him scratching the air by his ears..and we thought nothing of it..only that he was being silly. he never yalped in pain. and no doctor ever told us about it, i guess ill never know.

i wish you the best of luck in your search for the right fur friend for you. its an exciting time, from this decision on..youll be faced with important decisions that will effect your life forever..weather you know it at the time or not. 'if you find a small spaniel i will THINK about it'. a sentence that changed our lives forever :)

Super Princess
3rd September 2012, 07:06 PM
Also, I'm not emotionally prepared to have a sick dog and watch it suffer...

its interesting..ive lost two pets in recent years.. oliver as i mentioned..and our 13 year old cat max. These were so significant for me because i have not lost anyone close to me..since grade 6 when my dads mom died. these deaths were the first in over 13 years. they hit HARD. they are your friends..your babies.
as i type this..im sitting next to my 16 year old cat..who i know im on borrowed time with. and in my opinion..it dosnt matter how much notice you get..it dosnt matter if hes 16 or 9..if hes healthy or sick..if he was diagnosed or he got hurt.
i dont think any of us are really prepared for the pain and heart ach of loosing an animal. its by far one of the worst heart breaks ive ever experianced and i know many who experiance the same.

a pet is like a story..it will never have a happy ending, but the chapters inbetween are the ones that really count.
(sounds lame lol but ive been thinking alot of this when i look at my 16 year old!)

oh and i wanted to add.. that i think the very very best way to know what your getting into..is by doing what your doing. get yourself on a breed specific message board and talk to people who already know the breed well because they own. i didn't do that last time, but have this time around. i joind several boards when trying to make my decision.
Good for you. :)

Kate H
3rd September 2012, 10:37 PM
Halina(?) wrote: I love CK, but I'm getting frightened about it's health. I don't know if I want a dog that will have such a poor life.

I entirely agree with Karlin that we need to be doing our best to at least minimise the health risks in Cavaliers, but I want to say that not all Cavaliers with SM have 'a poor life'. Many are well controlled with medication and lead active and normal lives. My Oliver is 11; he had unrecognised symptoms of SM from the time I had him at a year old but was only diagnosed at the age of 6. Last Saturday we went to a family day in a nearby town, where I had a stall. Oliver spent the whole day greeting everyone who passed by and being cuddled by toddlers and children; his tail never stopped wagging. We had to use two buses each way to get there and back, and as always he took the travelling in his stride. The day before we had walked for an hour, most of it he spent trotting off-lead in a local park. A few weeks ago we camped in a tent for the weekend, and until he retired last year Oliver regularly competed (and was often placed) in obedience competitions and was a Pets as Therapy visitor at a home for people with dementia. No-one but an expert would ever guess that there was anything wrong with him. He is on medication three times a day (but so am I - we're about the same age in dog/human years!) and I anticipate possible problems - I take a lift at railway stations so that he doesn't have to go up stairs - but generally he is no worse than other old dogs and a lot better than many, and has certainly led a full and (I believe) enjoyable life. My other Cavalier, Aled, a rescue, has just developed SM at the age of 5 but so far has no symptoms except a very occasional slow scratch at his head and is not on medication. He too leads an active life, doing everything with me and Oliver.

The fact that Oliver has been able to live such a happy and full life in no way excuses us from doing our best to eradicate SM from the breed. But in the meantime researchers are discovering more about the disease, new medications are being tried, more breeders are doing their best to breed healthy stock - SM can be excruciatingly painful for some dogs, but doesn't inevitably lead to 'a poor life'.

Kate, Oliver and Aled

4th September 2012, 12:49 AM
The fact that Oliver has been able to live such a happy and full life in no way excuses us from doing our best to eradicate SM from the breed. But in the meantime researchers are discovering more about the disease, new medications are being tried, more breeders are doing their best to breed healthy stock - SM can be excruciatingly painful for some dogs, but doesn't inevitably lead to 'a poor life'.

Strongly agree with that!

i seem to remember him scratching the air by his ears

If Oliver was doing this, then the odds are overwhelming -- I think without doubt, he had CMSM. Neurologists say air scratching is exclusively associated with CM/SM.

4th September 2012, 03:01 PM
Cavaliers actually have the potential to live very long lives, into their teens and be healthy. Choosing a breeder that focuses on health is where you as the owner will make the most difference in the cavalier as a whole.

In huge agreement here. It's not a guarantee that all that breeder's puppies will have a clean bill of health, but it assures that reasonable precautions have been taken to care for the puppies and future owners. The breeder should have at least one story about a mother or father that developed symptoms earlier than expected and had to be neutered/spayed.

I think a good comparisson is to Penn State football and child molestation. The leadership of their team developed a culture that valued winning in football over protection/justice for children. Likewise there are CKCS breeders that value the sale of litters over the well being of those litters. You're looking for a breeder that does more than dots their i's and j's - you're looking for one that calls their puppies children.

Margaret C
4th September 2012, 09:08 PM
If it is a breed with so much pain and suffering for the DOG (which should be our main concearn), why don't we just let it be extinct and why don't we choose other breeds to buy? Why insist in something that clearly goes wrong?

If there was any natural selection, CKCS would never make it. We are forcing the breed to exist. These dogs suffer a lot, they are in pain... why keep buying those, even from an EXCELLENT breeder, full of exams and health certificates?

This is a question that most Cavalier Health Campaigners have asked themselves many times over the last ten years.
Some believe that it is morally wrong to carry on breeding puppies that have such a chance of suffering from painful inherited conditions. They feel we should be campaigning to stop the breeding of Cavaliers.

I cannot disagree with them. It is, as you say, the dogs that suffer. I just cannot find it within myself to give up on a breed that has given me so much joy for over thirty five years, although I know that my decision to try and educate buyers, so that breeders are forced to improve their breeding practices, means more at-risk cavaliers are bred.

When, as UK Cavalier Club Health Representative, I wrote a flyer about SM that went out to all members in 2003, I truly believed that the danger to the breed was so self evident that even the most calculating of breeders would realise that if nothing was done they put the breed & therefore their own self-interest ar risk.

I was wrong. Some great breeders immediately took what steps they could to identify problem dogs in their kennels, but most of the others were too greedy or too stupid or both.........and they continue with their wilfull blind stupidity today.

Too many top breeders denied the problem, despite the evidence that was there for all to see, and they continued to use unscanned dogs and add further generations of increasingly affected cavaliers to the gene pool.

A few of these breeders may now pay lip service to the guidelines by MRI scanning cavaliers, but much too young. Others try and minimise the risk of SM by producing puppies with only one scanned parent, although this will still producing litters where the majority of puppies will have early-onset SM.

Are these breeders still too moronic to realise their failure to identify and remove affected dogs in their breeding programmes are the reason that SM has become entrenched in this breed?

National & Regional Club committee members, health representatives, puppy register coordinators. The Breed Record Supplement, which records details of all litters, show how many of them are denying and ignoring what has been well researched & proved conclusively all over the world.
They are destroying this breed because they do not think of the dogs rather than themselves.

And do you know what will happen once these blind fools that don't eye test, don't heart test, don't MRI scan properly, and continue to use puppies and young dogs at stud read what I have written here..............................They will once again try and get me removed from the Cavalier Club.

As far as they are concerned the sin is not to disregard the rules that they signed up to and to continue to destroy any hope of saving this breed. The sin is mine for reading about the litters they have produced and daring to comment on their lack of commitment to health protocols.

Choosing a breeder that focuses on health is where you as the owner will make the most difference in the cavalier as a whole.

And isn't that the truth.

I advise Buyers to walk away from someone who is not able & willing to show all the health certificates............You cannot give a stronger message than that.