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Puppy Buying Advice.......... UPDATE

Margaret C

Well-known member
I am about to update my puppy buying advice website: www.cavalierpuppy.co.uk and so have been checking breed club websites.

I must admit I was dismayed to see that the Cavalier Club has removed their puppy register from the health testing breeder that was running it so well, despite the fact she is now back again on their committee.

On my website I have suggested that puppy buyers should contact the Cavalier Club. I was confident that buyers would be given information about the inherited health problems in the breed from someone representing the organisation that should be taking that responsibility.

I am no longer confident that will happen. The latest Breed Record Supplement shows that the new puppy register coordinators do not support health testing initiatives. For details see my post:


For those interested, below is the updated the advice I send out to people enquiring about buying a cavalier puppy. ( I also send a list of breeders that MRI, but I have not included that )



First let me say that 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.

If you walk away from those that do not care enough about their dogs to
health check, you are giving them a very powerful message.

The two main pieces of advice I would give you is that a successful show
career or decades of breeding does not make a responsible breeder.

A responsible breeder is one that health tests and is proud and eager to
show a puppy buyer their 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.................

Health testing

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 seems to be rapidly spreading through the breed.

I would advise you to take out a really good level of insurance on your puppy as vet
fees can be very expensive

Unfortunately there can be no health guarantees when you buy a cavalier puppy even when breeders have carried out all the health tests possible.

Even the best breeding cavaliers, those that do not have a pocket of fluid (called a syrinx) in their spinal cord when they are two and a half years old or more, can still produce early affected SM puppies when mated together.

Until the researchers come up with a gene test, trying to breed away from the problem by waiting for cavaliers to become mature, and then scanning for SM before breeding, is the best that responsible breeders can do.

MVD can also show up early in a cavalier that has parents that are free of heart murmur ( The first signs of the disease) until late in life.

Specialist researchers for both conditions have drawn up breeding guidelines based on the results of their research findings……….

The MVD guidelines:.

Should be a minimum of 2½ (two and a half) years old with a clear heart,
and with parents with clear heart certificates, issued at 5 (five) 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 (five) years of age 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.

Before 2012 the advice for both MVD and SM was that both parents should be at least two and a half years old before being health tested and then mated, and this is still useful as a general rule of thumb.

This advice still remains true for the MVD guidelines, but the new SM guidelines now recommend that one parent at least should be over three years old when MRI scanned.

Things to check before you see the puppies:

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

* The Father has a current heart certificate that shows he has no murmur if he is under the age of 5 years of age. ( If older, a mild murmur could be acceptable )

* Mother and Father both have a clear eye certificates issued when they were over one year old.

All responsible breeders should have these eye certificates.......... It is a long established official health scheme and there are many opportunities to have these tests done before breeding.

You can check that these tests have been done for yourself on the Kennel Club Health Test Result Finder. Just put the KC registered names of the parent cavaliers on the link shown:
(You are welcome to practice with my cavalier’s name. She is Wyredell Keeping Faith )

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

In January 2012 a new official scheme to grade MRI scans was launched together with updated breeding guidelines. This will eventually make it easier for puppy buyers to check on the KC website that the parent dogs have been scanned, but it does mean things are more confusing for puppy buyers at the moment.

The new Official BVA/KC Scheme issues lilac coloured certificates. The safer mating will have at least one parent with grade 0a, 0b or1a……….. Grade 2 denotes the cavalier has SM.

The older unofficial scheme issued white certificates and the mating that gave the best chance of SM free puppies under the old guidelines was grade 'A' to grade 'A'

There are examples of both certificates on my website: http://cavalierpuppy.co.uk/cavalier-puppies-health-problems/

You may find that some older white certificates do not show any grades. If cavaliers are over 2.5 years of age when scanned, and the certificate shows there is no syringo(hydro)myelia, then this could be counted as the equivalent of a grade 'A'…………..An old scheme E or F grade means the cavalier should not be bred from.

New unofficial white certificates should be checked carefully for grade and age of scanning.

Because of the difficulties caused by the existence of an unofficial scheme and a new official BVA/KC scheme, I will be more than willing to explain the significance of the gradings on any certificates you are shown………. Just email [email protected]

More information is available on:


To see the new (2012 ) SM breeding guidelines & the grading systems:

To see the old ( 2006 ) SM breeding guidelines & the grading systems:

A breeding guideline conversion chart:
http://www.veterinary-neurologist.co.uk/downloads/chart_2006_ to_2012.pdf

A word of warning……………If a breeder says their cavalier has scanned 'clear' be sure to check at what age the dog was scanned.
Some less scrupulous breeders scan their dogs very young when they have the best chance of not showing the tell tale pocket of fluid.
Please remember the younger the cavalier when scanned the less reliable the result will be.

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

* It is an advantage if the breeder is a member of at least one of the cavalier clubs as they would then be aware of health problems in the breed.


When you first contact the Breeder make it clear that you expect to see all the health 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.

There are many breeders who are expert sales people. They can 'talk the talk'. Do not let them make you feel guilty for asking for the paperwork.

Do not believe any breeder who says they have no problems with MVD or SM in their dogs. These problems are in every line and every coat colour.
A little more information (Blog was too long to include this )

DNA test

There is now a DNA test that will show whether a Cavalier carries the genes for two less common but serious inherited conditions called Dry Eye/Curly Coat and Episodic Falling Syndrome. http://www.aht.org.uk/genetics_curleycoat.html
These simple and inexpensive tests only needs to be done once and Cavaliers that are carriers can safely be bred as long as their mate is completely clear of the condition.


Inbreeding can contribute to poor health in an individual dog and in the breed as a whole.

While the most important thing you can do when buying a puppy is to check that the parent dogs have been properly health screened, it is now possible to check how inbred your pet will be.

Cavaliers are an inbred breed. They were created in 1925, when a prize was awarded at Crufts to the dog that most resembled the little spaniels in old paintings.

All Cavaliers descend from a very few flat faced King Charles Spaniels, so they all share a great many of the same genes.
Because of this 'small gene pool' cavalier puppies are at increased risk of inheriting the same bad genes from both parents. Responsible breeders will consider this risk when planning to breed.

The Kennel Club now have a Mate Select programme that will give you some indication how ‘inbred’ a puppy will be. This figure is known as the inbreeding coefficient ( COI ) and if a breeder is unable or unwilling to tell you the COI of their litter you can work out the figure yourself following the instructions here……..

If you know the puppy’s registered name, you can use the link for an individual dog.
If the litter is not yet registered ask for the parents' registered names and use the link for a hypothetical mating ( this also works for existing matings)

The average COI for a cavalier is shown as 5.2%, so any figure very much above this should be regarded with great caution.