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Buying a cavalier puppy

Margaret C

Well-known member
Many people will be aware that I keep a list of breeders that say they scan their cavaliers.

I am getting more and more enquiries every week, especially now I have a puppy buying advice website www.cavalierpuppy.co.uk , so I would be pleased to pass on the names of anyone with puppies from health tested parents.

I also send out information that tells buyers how to read health certificates and I thought it may be a good idea to put it here as a blog.

Please feel free to pass this on to anyone you know that is considering buying a cavalier puppy.


As a puppy buyer you have a tremendous ability to influence breeders and encourage them to try and breed for the healthiest puppies possible.

Whether you are looking for a pet or a show dog, you should be aware that if you buy from a breeder that health tests you will have the best chance of a healthy puppy, and you will be supporting a responsible breeder.

Every buyer that walks away from breeders that do not care about the puppies they produce is giving these irresponsible people a very powerful message.

The two main pieces of advice I would give any body looking for a cavalier is that a successful show career, or decades of breeding dogs, does not make a responsible breeder............
A responsible breeder is one that health tests and is proud and eager to show puppy buyers the certificates.

The other piece of advice is check the age of both parents......... No responsible breeder should be breeding cavaliers that are less than two and a half years old. ( see the MVD guidelines below )

If you buy from a kennel or dealer that sells cheaper ‘battery farmed’ puppies, or from a breeder that does not test, you make it worth their while not to bother about the health of the puppies they produce.
Your puppy will have a much greater chance of suffering painful inherited diseases, and your family will be left to cope with distress and substantial vet bills

the blog linked here illustrates what it is like to find your much loved pet is affected with SM.

When looking for a cavalier puppy you should be aware that the breed has two main inherited health problems, Mitral Valve Disease ( MVD ) and Syringomyelia ( SM ), a very painful neurological condition that is rapidly spreading through the breed ( Studies show it is now affecting over 30% of cavaliers )

You should also know that there can be no guarantees when you buy a puppy, even when breeders have carried out all the health tests. I would therefore advise you to take out insurance on your puppy as vet fees can be very expensive.

Grade 'A' cavaliers (cavaliers that do not have pocket of fluid, 'the syrinx' when they are 2.5 years old or over ) when mated together can still produce affected offspring but, until the researchers come up with a gene test, identifying affected cavaliers and breeding away from the problem is the best that responsible breeders can do at the moment.

MVD can still show up in a young cavalier that has parents that remain free of heart murmur ( have not developed signs of MVD ) until late in life.

The MVD guidelines issued by the UK Cavalier Club are as follows................
Should be a minimum of 2½ (two and a half) years old with a clear heart, and parents with clear heart certificates, issued at 5 years or older.
Should preferably be at least 2½ (two and a half) years old with a clear heart, and with parents with clear heart certificates issued at 5 years or older.


To use an older stud dog with a clear certificate issued as late in life as possible is highly desirable.


Please remember, dogs do not have to have a clear heart to be used at stud.
It is the dogs with EARLY ONSET murmurs (under five years of age) that we are so strongly advised to avoid using for breeding.

Breeders should aim at raising the age of onset of MVD by selecting breeding stock with a good heart record................

At the moment it may be difficult for breeders to supply information on the puppies' grandparents, especially if they do not own them, but at the very least I would recommend that when you look for a cavalier puppy, you make sure that........

1. The Mother of the puppies has a heart certificate, dated within the last year, that shows she has no heart murmur, whatever her age.

2. The Father has a current heart certificate that shows he has no murmur if he is under the age of 5 years of age, thereafter a mild murmur, depending on age, would be acceptable.

3. Mother has a clear eye certificate.

4. Father has a clear eye certificate.

(Most good breeders will also try & get the puppies' eyes litter screened by a Canine Ophthalmologist before they are sold, but this can sometimes be difficult.

5. Both parents have a MRI certificate to show they have been scanned for syringomyelia.

The mating that gives the best chance of SM free puppies is Grade 'A' to Grade 'A' but the condition is so common that this is not always possible.... However make sure that at least one parent is a grade 'A'
( A cavalier must be over 2.5 years when scanned and have no SM to be a grade 'A' under current guidelines)

You may find that some certificates do not show any grades. This is because Neurologists at Chestergate Veterinary Hospital do a lot of the low cost scanning but do not grade.
If cavaliers are over 2.5 years of age when scanned, and the certificate shows there is no syringo(hydro)myelia, then they would, at this time, be considered as the equivalent of a grade 'A' Cavalier.

An E or F grade cavalier as a parent is not acceptable, as they should not be bred from.

If a breeder says their cavalier has scanned 'clear', check at what age the dog was scanned.

Remember that both parents should be over 2.5 years when tested for heart murmur. A cavalier must be over 2.5 years when scanned and have no SM to be a grade A under current guidelines.

(To read about SM breeding guidelines & the grading system go to: http://www.veterinary-neurologist.co.uk/syringomyelia/docs/breedguide.pdf
or click on:

To see examples of the two main MRI scan certificates......http://www.carolus.co.uk/#/mri-scans/4519458568 )

6. The puppies should have been Vet health checked before being sold.

7. The breeder should be a member of one of the Cavalier Clubs ( this means they should be aware of health problems in the breed)

To see examples of heart, eye and MRI scan certificates look on the health problems page of www.cavalierpuppy.co.uk

When you first contact the Breeder make it clear that you expect to see all these certificates when you first go to see the puppies.
Do not make the mistake of looking at the puppies before you have seen the certificates, as you are unlikely to be able to resist taking one home, and unscrupulous breeders know that.

There are many breeders who are expert sales people. They can 'talk the talk' and appear caring and responsible.............but if they cannot show ALL the health certificates, you should question their commitment to the cavaliers they breed and to the future of this lovely breed.

Do not believe any breeder who says they have no problems with MVD or SM in their dogs.
There are no lines that are clear of these health problems.

Even with breeders that are recommended to you by other people it would be wise to ask to see the certificates that prove the parents are unaffected.
It is your responsibility as the buyer to make sure you know what certificates to ask for, & how to read the results shown on them.

Remember that buying a puppy from a puppy farm or from an irresponsible hobby or show breeder could leave you with the heartache and expense of caring for a sick dog, and, in the end, it is the gentle little dogs that live a life of pain.