View Full Version : Tricky to find breeders who SM test?

Leah Seaward
4th September 2012, 10:28 AM
Hi Everyone,First, thanks for running this forum. I have been reading through some of the buying advice already, and also a few discussions. Nice to know that most SM is manageable. Like HalinaHB who posted about buying an unhealthybreed, I've had my concerns. However, I grew up in a large family of dog lovers and have seen many other breeds withhealth problems, so I am aware that it's impossible to avoid them completely.We are looking for breeders who test for SM. I've followed the advice on this site about contacting my local breed club.I have also emailed every Assured Breeder in my area (Cheshire). I have heard from 2 breeders - onewho has a litter planned between an untested bitch and an MRI clear stud dog. ?? Another who fully tests both parentsbut isn't planning any litters for at least a year. Not the most encouraging start. It feels as if it is a sensitive subject.I've read a few times on this site that help has been given with finding a breeder who SM tests. I would be very gratefulfor any information that could be passed to me. I do not mind travelling - the breeder does not have to be in the NW. A bit about us: We have 3 lovely energetic children. The boys are 6 and 4 and in full-time school. Our daughter is 2 and with me full-time.Our first thought had been to adopt an ex-racing grey, but our 4 foot fencing isn't high enough. We then looked into rescuinga Cavalier (the breed my hubby grew up with) but found that most rescues are from puppy mills :( and not child-friendly. Andthen we discovered SM...Our reservation with adopting a special needs Cav comes from the same place as our desire to narrow the health risks of a new puppy -- this will be the first pet that our children will have in their lives. Their bond will, no doubt, be deep. We want itto be as long and positive an experience as possible.... Having said that, if there were a way for us to arrange an MRI scan for a rescue dog that was happy to live with children, then we would be prepared to go down that route. We simply don't want totake on a complete unknown in our circumstances.Thankyou for reading this and we do appreciate any help or advice you may have. Kind regards,Leah

4th September 2012, 12:51 PM
Hi Leah and welcome to the board. :)

It's great that you are being considerate about exactly what you want in a dog and are taking the time to think all of this through really carefully. I guess the 1st thing I have to say is–most cases of SM, once the dog is symptomatic, are not easily manageable and I am sorry if that impression was given because I don't think any of us here with SM dogs would find this to be the truth, including Kate, who knows what an exhausting emotional experience it is to have a dog with the condition. There is also a study by the leading researcher in the area that, while informal, indicates that dogs with surgery do better than dogs with medications in terms of mortality. That said, the same neurologist and researcher also does not recommend surgery generally unless medications are no longer working. This approach differs from some other neurologists who believe that an early intervention gives the dog the best chance of as normal a life as possible. This is a very poorly understood condition in both humans and animals–one reason why human researchers are very interested in the research on Cavaliers–and regardless of how one cares for a dog with the condition, you do live with the constant worry about the condition worsening. A dog on medication will almost always steadily worsen over time to some degree, sometimes which can be managed on increasing levels of medications, and sometimes which can't. Some of the medications can contribute to eventual fatality as well, such as liver damage. Most of the pain killers gradually cease to be as effective and the dose must be increased. Many of our dogs are on 3 or 4 medications at a time.

I think you need to consider the lifetime picture. You could get a rescue Cavalier, but MRIing it would only give you a picture at that point of time, and this is a progressive disease that can happen at any time. Younger dogs are far more likely to scan clear. But in a study of over 500 Cavaliers, around 70% had a syrinx (had SM) by the time they are over 7 (and most of the dogs in this sample would have been breeders' dogs). The issue with hearts should be an equal concern, however, when you are looking for a breeder. You really want somebody who strictly follows the MVD protocol, whose parent dogs are heart clear, and you want all 4 grandparents to have been heart clear still when they had reached age 5.

You may also find it difficult finding breeders who will home a cavalier to families with children under about age 7. This is particularly true of rescue dogs, as you have found. Many breeders just feel that the dogs are quite small and that many parents, even the most well-intentioned, will allow more unsupervised interaction than is good for either the child or the dog. It's a matter of personal preference, and not true of all breeders, but something to keep in mind. A lot of breeders and people in rescue (me included in most cases, but not all! :) ) will suggest people hold off getting a dog till their youngest child is at least 5 or 6 because it is too often an unexpected and then unwanted extra burden on the parents and family management. But other families are great at responsibly managing the whole shebang. :D

If you want to Cavalier, I would hold out for a breeder who is doing proper MRIs on both parent dogs, who follows the MRI and the MVD breeding protocols and does other relevant health testing. :) it is actually quite normal to need to wait a year or more to get a puppy from a really good breeder, and that's regardless of breed. My partner spent about a year finding a good breeder and then waiting For a puppy to get his German Shepherd, and is going through the same process again for a different breed–at this point it looks like it will be at least 7 months to wait for a puppy from the breeder he is interested in.

To be honest, if I wanted to have the best chance of a healthy dog over a lifetime, and you are really worried about the experience your children will have if a cavalier becomes ill, and this is a top priority, I would probably consider either a different breed (and as someone who ran cavalier rescue here for many years, I would also recommend a breed a bit larger than the Cavalier for children as young as 2 and 4) , or a mixed breed puppy from a responsible animal shelter (statistically, most likely to have few or no health problems compared to any pedigree dog). There is no way any breeder can give you less than a 1 in 4 chance that your Cavalier will eventually have SM to some degree, even if they do follow the SM breeding protocol (that said, the likelihood is also probably for milder versions, and perhaps the dog that is never symptomatic anyway, but there is such a high genetic likelihood now because the genes for the condition are very widespread across the breed).

If you feel strongly that you do want a cavalier, then I would contact Anne Eckersley or Laura Lang in the US (I believe this is where you are based). Both are breeders and are aware of other health testing breeders and can at least give you a steer to people you should talk to or they may have puppies themselves. But of course, it is important to talk through health testing with any breeder, including these 2. there is a very recent discussion about both of these people and why to contact them, so if you search for their names I know they will come up, and you can also get their contact details easily just by googling them.

If if discussing MRIs is a sensitive issue with ANY breeder, I would hang up the phone or walk away because that would tell me all I needed to know about their (poor) breeding program. It is not a sensitive issue with any health focus breeder! –the people that I know who MRI and work toward real breed health are proud of the effort they are putting into their breeding programs and work to MRI several generations to get a truly informative picture of their breeding program. They are all very eager to discuss what they are doing, what their approaches to breeding, and to give guidance and advice. Anyone who loves this breed will definitely want to work with such a breeder and not those who shy away from discussing something as basic and critical to the breed's future as health testing.

Leah Seaward
4th September 2012, 06:19 PM
Thanks for all the info. I will pass it along to my husband. I think Cavs are just lovely and the kids have been remarkably relaxed around Cavs we've met out and about, but the health of a family pet is far more important to me than the breed. I will try to get him to consider a mixed breed. What you've said about children is also an issue. I keep coming up against it - it seems no rescues will give medium to large breeds to families with young kids either, bc of a high instance of toddlers being knocked over and dogs returned! It feels that we can't win with rescues at times, but I do understand that they see what they see. Actually it sounds as if people who return dogs come up with a lot of 'reasons' that boil down to not being able to cope with the extra work... which is actually completely understandable by itself, but I suppose not as easily admitted. It's a shame for families like ours... but I'm sure we'll find our way eventually. :) We are not in the US, btw, although I've been told that my accent is audible even over the internet (ha!). We live just outside Manchester. Thanks again! We have a lot to discuss at home now. :):)

Super Princess
5th September 2012, 02:51 AM
i live in canada..and emaild every breeder in bc asking the same questions. After learning all i did about SM i felt it was something imprtant to me.
i was discouraged the first round of emails i got back.. none of them tested for sm..all saying something different 'tests are too expesive and they can develop sm the next week after the expensive test' 'my dogs dont have any signs of sm so why bother.'

i ended up finding a breeder who didn't test for sm but sounded really good..and got on her waitlist...while i was waiting..it was still on my mind. so i again emaild everyone i didn't hear back from.
i got a response from a breeder who had both the male and female tested. i came here imedatly to ask what i should do..and everyone was of course so helpful as they are.

so yeah..it can be really hard to findthe right breeder who dose the right testing..took me about 25 different emails to various breeders before i found someone that sounds great and has done the testing.

Take your time.. you'll know when the breeder is right for you. like others have said on the board..finding the right breeder is the most imprtant decision you make...one of many over the course of your puppies life :)

my cavalier oliver spent most of his time living in a in home daycare..and he was absolutly amazing with the kids :)

5th September 2012, 10:16 AM
Hi Leah,
If you PM me,I can put you in touch with some breeders who have a litter or who have bitches in whelp.
Both parents would be fully health tested but of course you will need to verify this directly with the breeders.
Some breeders are happy to sell puppies to families with young children,it depends on the family situation.Some families have perfectly adorable and well behaved young children who will respect dogs, and you could have the local vicar with a crypt full of horrid little heathens...:D....Also bear in mind that breeders would occasionally have older puppies that they've been running on to see if they're show potential and very often they go as pets.
I would say not to concentrate solely on SM.
Ask about hearts too.It's all very well looking for a cavalier who won't have early onset SM,but look for dogs who have grandparents/great grandparents who have good hearts and some decent longevity behind them.
Also if you get a chance,try to visit some local Open shows where you can meet breeders who I'm sure would be happy to talk to you and advise.
The cavalier club www.thecavalierclub.co.uk (http://www.thecavalierclub.co.uk/) have a list of shows for the year and perhaps contact the midland regional cavalier club.
If you have your heart set on a puppy where both parents are fully health tested,then you shouldn't feel you have to accept anything less.
Margaret C on this board has a list of breeders who say they health test their breeding stock.
Don't give up!

5th September 2012, 12:32 PM
Oops sorry I was thinking you were in the US. Sins would be good to contact or Margaret C here via PM for suggestions of breeders but do of course ask for test results and discuss what they mean, and all the elements Sins notes. :thmbsup:

There was also a thread here a while ago where someone asked if people who owned cavaliers would get them again given the health issues -- maybe worth reading through. There's a very broad range of responses.

I do understand the issue with kids and dogs and rescues/breeders -- I did make this a very general guideline when homing dogs but many times made exceptions for homes with young kids because it was clear the family were more than able for the challenge. :) I also grew up with a Pyrenean Mountain Dog, a huge breed, and I think we kids were 7, 5 and 3 when we got her. If we got knocked down, well jeez -- kids get knocked down all the time and get right back up. I actually think larger dogs as long as they aren't out of control and boisterous are great for small kids and probably a better mix then any really small breed. I find it sad that there are set policies that don't operate on a case by case basis for young kids and individual rescue dogs, most of which in my experience would be fine with younger kids. Almost all of us of a certain age grew up with dogs when quite small and that includes most people in rescue now determining that other kids shouldn't have the same experience. All a bit ironic as all families and dogs are different.

I think some reluctance relates to the fact that many families now have only memories of owning a dog in childhood and it is generally very romantic and they forget how their parents did all the work, and that one adult was generally home all day, meaning the dog mingled with people all day and had a lot of energetic play with kids and didn't end up with a lot of the problems I see regularly in dogs that are poorly socialised, or crated all day (a grim life for an animal and which we'd be outraged by if zoos routinely caged an animal of similar social inclination yet there's a whole pro-all-day-crating culture now), or never taken to a training class so get sloppily and unproductively trained at home by people who set the dog up for problems that sometimes cannot be resolved. :(

Dogs are so rewarding but not for everybody, and often just not a good idea when families are really young as the time commitment is generally underestimated by all of us, I think! :) People that I know who have given up dogs tend to do so for 3 reasons -- not allowed by landlord; 'deserves a better home' because owners are at work all day (not necessarily an issue and can be managed!) and don't want to spend their evening time and weekends with their dog; or have young families and the dog is too much work alongside kids.

So it just warrants always really thinking realistically and honestly through one's own situation before getting a dog. But don't feel discouraged as if you know you definitely want a dog and know the time commitment, that dog will be a rewarding part of your family! (BTW most pounds do not have policies about age of children.)

There are great breeders out there for cavaliers but the reality is that you will likely eventually deal with MVD (as almost all of us do -- most likely not til the dog is well into middle age at earliest however and probably not needing management til over 8, if at all) and have a significant chance of having SM in a cavalier at some point (though a significantly smaller chance of having it be compromising to the life of the dog and requiring management).

Leah Seaward
5th September 2012, 08:30 PM
Oh dear. I wrote a long response to this thread but somehow managed to lose it? Just wanted to say a quick thanks, again, and that I have read and heard everything you've had to say. My husband is still keen on a Cavalier and I am still keen to ensure we do what we can not to contribute to suffering, so we will start looking for breeders, with some help. :) Not very encouraging responses still trickling in from the Assured Breeders in my area, so we are very glad that some of you have some contacts to pass along!Leah

Leah Seaward
7th September 2012, 06:58 PM
Hi All,Just an update to say that we have 'started the process' with a breeder. Hopefully will be meeting in person soon but very happy with everything we have been communicated so far. Karlin, perhaps Irish pounds are less restrictive than English ones..? I have enquired after medium sized labmixes several times only to be told, "Purely because of his size, we feel he would be better suited to olderchildren." I think my husband was always secretly pleased as he has been trying to talk me into a Cavalierfor such a long time. ;) It's a relief to have been put in touch with a breeder that is straighforward with us and seems to be doing everything possible to reduce the risks. If all goes well, we might have good news by spring! :):)Leah

Princess Phoebe
9th September 2012, 01:10 PM
I wish you the very best of luck with finding a good breeder, Leah. But I will say that perseverence and patience pays off. I found a wonderful breeder over here in Ireland after contacting the cavalier club here. And one of the first things the breeder showed me when I went to pick up my puppy was MRI and Cardiologist results on both parents. I didn't even have to ask to see them. So I hope you are as lucky in your quest. Keep us updated.