View Full Version : Need advice on buying a Cavalier puppy

6th October 2005, 04:07 AM
We are in the process of talking to breeders and I can't help but feel nervous about the apparently frequent occurance of SM in Cavaliers. I've been reading as much as I can on the subject and at the moment feel overwhelmed with what to do with this knowledge.

So I would just like to get some input from others on what you would do or have done while looking for a puppy. I understand that the only way to diagnose SM is with an expensive MRI, and it looks like most breeders are not doing that right now. Would you do your best to find a breeder that is as careful as possible? Would you only buy from a breeder that does the MRI testing? Would you not buy a Cavalier puppy at all at this time?

I appreciate any and all comments, it will help me feel less overwhelmed I am sure!


Cav Fan
6th October 2005, 04:44 AM
ooops......sorry that post was from me, fogot to log in.........

6th October 2005, 01:42 PM
That's a really good question. At the moment some breeders are only just beginning to MRI some of their dogs as this is an expensive process. Also it is hard to know, even if you do ask and you do get a reply, whether a breeder is being straightforward with you. Unfortunately there's so much misunderstanding and fear that a lot of people feel they can't or won't yet talk openly about SM in the way they might about MVD. And unfortunately, there's no way to ask for certificates of testing as there is with MVD.

I would certainly ask any breeder about SM and whether they have MRI'd or plan to MRI; and if they have worked at all with the breeding recommendations on SM which have been around now for around two years (the current ones are far more detailed and are acknowledged as a beginning, based on the best knowledge available right now, but the club sites were posting earlier versions of this as well, so any breeder SHOULD know about them and if they don't, that alone would concern me). You can read the breeding protocol on my SM website, linked at the top of this forum.

I would be looking for lines that have not introduced unknown quantities such as new lines from imports for this breeding. Though it is currently said not to have any known relevance by researchers, I would also be considering head size -- rather than looking for a breeder who opts for those really truncated skulls and small heads and very compact (cobby) cavaliers, I think I'd be looking for the older style of longer leg, larger skull, maybe flatter skull.

If you PM me I can suggest a couple of people, depending on where you are based.

Personally I feel it is important to raise SM with breeders and talk it through -- both your own concerns, and what they are doing or plan to do in future. Anyone who is very cagey or says it is overblown and so on, I would avoid at this time. I actually think pet buyers are extremely important and powerful. They more than any other factor I think, will ultimately force change in breeding around SM because they hold the purchasing power and if breeders understand this is a concern to the pet owner it will be more likely to be seen as something that should be a concern to them for more than just the health of the breed (and I don't mean that in a derogatory way to breeders, it is just the way things tend to work and where the pressures come to excel -- speaking broadly, in any market, products improve when consumers demand quality or want certain features).

Making sure breeders are aware that you are concerned about SM and want to know what they are doing about it is one way people can have a very direct impact on what happens with this breed.

On the other hand -- do keep in mind that very few dogs will ever develop serious SM at this time. So while it is a growing threat it is not a common problem *in its most severe forms*.

Cav Fan
8th October 2005, 06:32 AM

Thank you for your candid response, I now have lots of reading to do before we continue our search for a puppy. I will continue to read your message board and other sites to keep current on this topic.

8th October 2005, 09:33 PM
Hi Cav Fan I can only second what Karlin has said. ALWAYS go to a reputable breeder and keep asking questions. My Maxx has got SM as well but tbh I don't really see it as a major problem as it is under control with medication.

When I first found out about SM I will freely admit to being absolutely terrified at Maxx's prospects but after talking to lots of other people whose dogs are also affected (including my Vet) I have begun to realise that it is not always a 'life sentence'.

Good luck in your search for a puppy but please don't be panicked into the thought that every Cavalier is going to die from SM. It's just not so.

18th November 2005, 07:00 AM
One additional thing. Even if you found a breeder that MRI'd both parents, if the Cavalier doesn't have SM it only means that Breeders cavalier will not get SM.

It doesn't mean they didn't pass the gene to the puppies.

18th November 2005, 03:45 PM
AS scary as SM and MVD are, I hope to never be without a cavalier. Would I suggest a cavalier as a pet-- you bet. But make sure you go into this empowered with all the information. Sandy

18th November 2005, 04:13 PM
I agree, I hope to never be without a cavalier. :)

18th November 2005, 05:16 PM
Those why say they'd still get a Cav may change their minds after helplessly watching their dog deteriorate from SM at less than 2 years old. I know Karlin has a mildly affected SM dog. I really hope he never deteriorates. It is so frustrating to feel so helpless. The options for treatment are grim at this point. And it is affecting younger and younger dogs.

Cavaliers just have waaaaay too many health problems. I know all purebred dogs do, but Cavs are out of control. The 2 vet geneticists I worked w/ this summer (who make their livings knowing all the genetic diseases of purebred dogs) can't believe how many problems Cavs have.

I'm currently researching English Cocker Spaniels as an alternative. :D

18th November 2005, 05:55 PM
I have always had dogs -- These 3 were much more afflicted by health issues than any cavalier I've had (so far, knock wood) 1. an english cocker rescue - byb- had many health issues from malformed anal gland, bells palsy, thyroid issue, early cateracts. 2. Brittany- immune mediated disease (had to be pts at 3). 3. Rescue american cocker (severe seizures, pts at 2 1/2).

I own or co-own 11 cavaliers- I had one anal gland infection, I have a five year old with a grade 1 murmur, 2 totally asymptomatic SM cavaliers and 1 symptomatic SM cavalier.

18th November 2005, 06:02 PM
Rory- English Cockers are the 2nd best dog (of course Cavs are #1!). I grew up with several English Cockers and seriously thought of getting another before my husband surprised me with Spencer. The only downside is that most of the ones we had suffered from ear problems and all got heart disease, but none before 10 years.

I hope Rory's doing well. I saw your post about having surgery after Christmas. Please know that I think about you and he a lot and wish that everything goes well and that he's comfortable.

18th November 2005, 06:44 PM
Insurance statistics in the UK and Ireland still show boxers and then westies as the number 1 and number 2 claiming breeds; cavaliers are third. I know many people with other breed dogs that have had quite serious, breed-related health problems -- cancer, severe hip dysplasia, awful skin conditions, and many cockers with the 'cascade of rage' problem making them unreliable for family homes. By contrast I see so many cavaliers over here, all the time -- many are fine older dogs 10 or older, never have had more than maybe some ear infections. Cavaliers have very few genetic problems compared to other breeds when you look at the lists but the problem is that two can be severe -- SM and MVD. My vet feels at least a cavalier with MVD can usually be successfully treated for years and have an excellent quality of life, whereas a Westie with a skin problem can be utterly miserable much of its life with conditions that often cannot be diagnosed or treated. Even with all the cavaliers my vets see -- they are in the top 10 of dog breeds in Ireland -- they only could think of three in their practices (three separate operations) that are showing any really noticeable potential SM problems. That's very few. But they see lots of boxers with very serious conditions.

Leo actually has moderate grade SM, but he is mildly affected at this time.

I don't think I'd find severe SM harder to deal with than I found, say, my cat Maisie's feline AIDS. She had bouts on and off with various maladies and rallied, lived with very poor teeth which in restrospect must have brought her much pain (cats are even better than dogs at hiding pain, my vets say) and finally she began to literally waste away. At that point, I let her go. She was probably not older than 4, and had had a tough life including a car accident. But she was a cheerful, self-contained little cat, and deserved a chance to live her life, short as it turned out to be.

But we all have our levels of what we can tolerate and what we can't. Having had Maisie, I know I would offer a hospice spot to a cavalier with known, serious SM, until the point came to let him or her go. I know others might find such a prospect unbearable.

18th November 2005, 09:56 PM
I know that many people are able to handle a much higher level of heartache than I am. most of my vet school friends have several "special needs" animals at home and readily take in more when the opportunity comes along. many feel drawn to these "special needs" animals. I am the exception, in this group, in that I do not want to give my heart and home to an animal that will be chronically ill with problems and all the heartache that follows. I much prefer healthy animals. ;) Obviously this doesn't mean I'll turn away my Rory or any other animal that I own if it develops problems!! I'm committed to these animals for life and love them as my family! But I just can't knowingly invest my heart in another dog that seems almost guaranteed to have a problem.
My husband still says that if we could get a puppy and MRI it as a puppy to guarantee it wouldn't develop SM, he'd take it. And I think I'd agree. My parents have newfs and they always die of cancer, but the benefit outweighs the risk/cost because you usually have at least 10 years with the animal before it gets sick. So you know what to expect. With Cavs i feel like all I can expect is to freak out every time i see my dog scratch at its ears and assume it will develop SM and break my heart again. :(

I know there's always the chance your dog (of ANY breed, purebred or not!) will get sick and develop an unexpected horrible illness or get hit by a car or anything heartbreaking, but at least if that happens it's not like you intentionally got a dog that you knew would likely have this problem.....