Tuesday 5 April 2011

How many more Cavaliers have to fall?

The above video shows a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Penny with Episodic Falling Syndrome - a distressing condition induced by exercise, excitement or frustration, in which the dogs' muscles become rigid and spasm, causing the dog to fall over. Affected dogs usually start to demonstrate clinical signs before one year of age, with most cases having their first episode aged four to seven months. The condition can become so severe that dogs have to be euthanised.

Yesterday, the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust (AHT) launched a new DNA test for the condition - and, in a twin breakthrough, also one for Dry Eye and Curly Coat (congenital keratoconjunctivitis sicca and ichthyosiform dermatosis). DE/CC affected dogs produce no tears making their eyes incredibly sore. Their skin becomes very flaky and dry, particularly around the foot, and this can make standing and walking difficult and painful. The syndrome is thought to be unique to Cavaliers and most dogs diagnosed with the condition are put to sleep.

You can read about Cavalier Flossie, who has this condition, on the AHT website.

The AHT estimates currently that around 50 Cavaliers a year are diagnosed with either condition - with only about 3 per cent of the breed thought to be carriers (again of either condition). This means that the DNA tests offer a real chance of eradicating both conditions from the breed without further eroding genetic diversity. As both conditions are recessive there is no need to eliminate carriers from breeding (as long, of course, as they are bred to a clear).

Owners and breeders can access the DNA tests for dry eye and curly coat and episodic falling, from 18 April 2011, through the AHT’s online DNA testing webshop at: http://www.ahtdnatesting.co.uk/

Congratulations are in order to the researchers, but when you add mitral valve disease, syringomyelia, PSOM, luxating patellas, deafness, retinal dysplasia and other health issues in the Cavalier, one has to ask just how many health problems does any one breed have to suffer before one starts to question whether it is morally or ethically acceptable to continue breeding them.

It's a question being asked in the Netherlands at the moment, where an animal rights organisation is trying to bring a legal case against breeders and the Dutch Kennel Club, arguing that health problems are so severe in the breed that breeding Cavaliers should be banned.

I appreciate that people are passionate about the breed - and of course not every Cavalier is doomed to ill-health and an early death. But at what point does one say "enough is enough" - particularly if we are by and large continuing to breed in the same way that created all the problems in the first place (ie inbreeding to a greater or lesser extent within a closed gene pool)?

Some researchers caution against an outcross until the genetics of mitral valve disease and syringomyelia (the breed's two most serious problems) are nailed, but there could be a very long wait for this. Surely we are already way past the point at which a proper, monitored outcrossing programme should be started?


  1. I've thought about outcrosses for this breed.

    I think the Papillon or Phalene is the best choice.

    They are relatively healthy and they are also toy spaniels.

    Further, the dog on which this breed is based, which won a prize for looking like the dogs in the old paintings, had some papillon or phalene in his background. (Or so I have read.)

    I have always felt that if they were going to recreate the old English toy spaniel that they should have used papillons and phalenes and cocker spaniels and less of the King Charles breed, which is known to have been created through some crossing with toy bulldogs.

  2. I think it is premature to calle for a ban on any breed. That sort of thing only plays into the hands of the Animal Rights movement.

    I think that a corageous breeder should try and outcross, as stated above. After all, both Papillons and Phalenes are Spaniels.

    Such an effort could be carefully monitored by the breed club.

    1. Dorothea, you are cruel, and you're WRONG. Cavaliers often live their lives with many of these awful conditions, including painful SM. If you can look the other way and complain about the animal rights movement, then I'd say that you're a monster. I have three rescued Cavaliers, and after watching them deal with their conditions, I'd like to scream at a person like you! This breed should be allowed to fade away. That's the only humane thing to do. I doubt you understand what humane means, though, do you, Dorothea.

  3. I once met, briefly, a cross between a Welsh springer and a cavalier.

    I am not a little dog person; I WANTED that little dog *on sight.* His family reported that he was everything one could want in a family dog. I believe his conception was "accidental," i.e. not intended by a human.

    Welsh springers are uncommon in this country; I know little about their health issues. They have a reputation for having none of the temperament problems of the English springer, and I hope that is true.

    If I were to undertake the project of engineering a small, healthy family pet spaniel -- largely to fill the niche that the American cocker fails to -- I think I'd start with the healthiest OLD cavalier studs I could find, and some good Welsh springer bitches, and go from there.

  4. Margaret Carter5 April 2011 at 18:10

    Uncomfortable reading Jemima, especially as I have just mated a cavalier bitch.

    There has been studies that prove that breeding cavaliers according to the health guidelines will lessen the number of SM affected cavaliers.

    Drastic action may not be necessary if only those that run the breed clubs would lead by example.

    Since 2001 members of the Cavalier Club have received Yearbooks displayings a heart protocol, designed to breed away from early onset MVD.

    It is there again in the just published 2010 edition, but as usual every dog on the Best Stud Dogs list was bred too young to fit the criteria.

    There would probably be enough Club members to try and establish a nucleus of healthier cavaliers and avert the need to outcross, but the will to do anything that would bring about a change in breeding practices is lacking.


    I have often thought about suitable outcrosses. Certainly not King Charles, they have as many health issues as cavaliers.

    I have wondered about Tibetan Spaniel, they seem relatively healthy & long lived ( just one eye condition I believe? )
    The problem is you never know whether the seeming good health in any breed is true or just a successful cover up.

  5. Well you would if you could find the Margaret Carter-equivalent in other breeds. They ARE out there...

    I know you will have taken the very greatest care over your recent mating (and it was to an older stud dog, yes?). Would you mind saying what the considerations were for you and what health tests were done etc?


  6. There are cavalier breeding protocols for mitral valve disease (MVD) and syringomyelia and eye diseases, hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, and incipient deafness. The MVD protocol has been around for nearly 15 years. The problem has been getting breeders to test their CKCS breeding stock and then follow the protocols (i.e., if the cavalier does not pass the genetic test, then don't breed it; and always wait until at least 2.5 years of age).

    Most cavalier breeders are the spoiled, instant gratification types and either refuse to test or refuse to wait or, worse yet, some of them ignore the bad news results of tests and breed anyway. -- Rod Russell, Orlando, Florida USA

  7. Margaret Carter5 April 2011 at 20:54

    My cavalier bitch was originally bought because I so admired the small number of breeders that started scanning when the low cost centres were first established in 2005.

    These breeders tried so hard, sometimes had such disappointng results, but they kept trying and it is because of them and the few equally admirable Cavalier Guild breeders in the Netherlands that I wanted to play a small part in what they were trying to do.

    I became even more determined to breed to the protocol when PDE was shown and less scrupulous breeders started scanning very young dogs, declaring them 'clear' and breeding them too early.
    We cannot know if guidelines will or won't work if they are not followed in their entirety. As it is the Dutch breeders have shown that it should be possible to breed away from SM.

    My bitch is from a line that had some early SM free scans and that is why I bought her as a puppy. I then kept my fingers crossed until she was scanned at 2.5 years. She had no SM ( that is not to say she won't develop it later ) and is therefore Grade A under the SM guidelines.

    With MVD in mind, she has a current heart certificate and both parents are said to be clear of murmur at 5 years old ( actually getting the certificates for dogs you don't own is not always easy )

    Her eyes have been tested.and she is free of HC and MRD.

    She has been mated to a Grade A dog, scanned SM free at eight years old, with certified clear heart and eyes.
    I don't know yet if the mating has been successful and half the time I am not sure whether I want it to be.

    Cavaliers have been part of my life for thirty five years, they are a wonderful, sweet, loving, family dog. I hate to think they will not survive but I often question whether we have the moral right to continue to breed them.

    I have done my best, but I know it may not be enough. Studies show that A x A matings produce 75% grade A offspring, but that is a statistical average and I am scared that I may produce a litter of badly affected cavaliers. It can be such painful and hard to manage condition.

    I will test my bitch for the two less common conditions mentioned in your blog and hope she does not carry either condition.

  8. And of course, if you throw away the breed, you totally discount the healthy specimens.

    Cavaliers CAN suffer from about a dozen diseases/problems. That does not mean they all suffer from any or all of them.

    Cross bred dogs, I understand suffer from 150 diseases.

  9. Margaret Carter:
    If only all breeders were like you and did all that tests! Keep up the good work :-)

  10. We rescued a cavalier with episodic falling , The owners vet had said it was behavioral !

    It is a very odd thing to see , almost as if a poltergiest is picking the dog up and throwing it around. He was very badly affected and any excitement at all would trigger it.

    I made a video but dont know how to get it from an old camcorder onto the pc.

    He was rehomed to someone who had a large garden so he did not need to be walked.

    I have also had king charles who would go into spasm when scared or startled.

  11. Quote anon 6th April 01:28

    "Cavaliers CAN suffer from about a dozen diseases/problems. That does not mean they all suffer from any or all of them."

    nobody is saying that, but with 50% of cavs having MVD by the age of 5, and 54% by the age of 5 being found to have SM (Netherlands), SOMETHING has to be done to help this beautiful breed.

    "Cross bred dogs, I understand suffer from 150 diseases."
    I do not see the point to that comment?

  12. "Cavaliers CAN suffer from about a dozen diseases/problems. That does not mean they all suffer from any or all of them.

    Cross bred dogs, I understand suffer from 150 diseases."


    Those statistics are as meaningless as they are misleading.

    Those numbers, if true, say nothing about probability. Crossbred dogs have a lower incidence of these diseases-- you can look it up, use Google. But because they represent the broader section of dogdom, they tend to have more than the isolated population we call Cavaliers. Cavaliers have statically higher rates of their known genetic diseases than the crossbred dog population.

    That is the problem.

  13. I think we have the award for the most ignorant comment of the week, of course by an Anonymous.

    The number of named diseases is irrelevant and we have no reason to believe that Cavs are magically immune from most of them.

    The REAL and important issue is what is the Incidence of Disease X Severity of Disease in Cavs vs. other breeds and vs. mutts.

    No one can show that Cavs are healthier than mutts nor that they are a relatively healthy breed! Nor can they show that breeds are healthy and getting more so.

    Inbred disease is EPIDEMIC in dogs.

    Anon's comments are ridiculous. They are like saying "Although there are 400 nuclear reactors in the world, I'm safe because I only live near one of them." Purebreds live near Chernobyl or Fukushima. The other 399 reactors are irrelevant when the one you're near is melting down. That 398 of them are safe is no protection to you either.

    And this "testing" scheme is not going to save purebreds either. It's like testing for mold instead of radiation at Chernobyl. Or requiring AIDS tests around Fukushima. There very well might be mold or AIDS in those populations, but they are hardly the most significant disease paths worth looking at.

    For most breeds, the tests are just as irrelevant. The worst diseases often don't have tests at all and the ethic of quickly breeding away from some minor disease that does have a test is likely to further limit gene pools.

    Idiot breeders are more likely to use an axe instead of a scalpel and create a stigma against open test results instead of reaching the goal of lower disease incidence instead of immediate eradication.

  14. Margaret thanks for your comment you made in regards to testing, I must ask you made no mentioned of hips or patellas? Our cavaliers are also OFA'd for hips and patella's at two years of age. To ensure structural soundness and movement don't you feel this is also as important as testing for MVD, SM/CLM and eyes? In my books it is!


  15. There is a population of wolves on the Isle Royale in the US which is effectively a natural experiment on the effects of inbreeding alone, with continuing natural selection and no artificial selection for appearance.

    "The scientists found that 58 percent of the wolves on Isle Royale exhibit a congenital malformation in the lumbosacral region or lower back, and 33 percent display a specific deformity—lumbosacral transitional vertebrae—which can cause full or partial paralysis of the rear legs and tail, as well as back pain."

    "For the last 12 years, every one of the dead wolves the researchers have found has displayed bone deformities. In contrast, these deformities occur in only 1 percent of studied wolf populations that are not inbred."


    The wolves are cut off on the island because ice bridges to the mainland only form when winters are unusually severe.

  16. What is important in deciding if a breed has a future or not is not how many disease it has but the severity of these and their frequency within the population.
    The finding of a gene mutation, and the launching of a commercial DNA test does not always mean the mutation is commonplace, or has severe effects. Some are found as by-products of other research, or research into human genetic problems.
    For the disease with identified single gene recessive mutations there will be no need to outcross cavaliers unless there are found to be too few 'clear' dogs to breed from. It must be remembered that genetic 'carriers' identified by DNA testing should be kept IN the breeding programme initially to keep genetic diversity as high as possible (Mated to clears they will only produce 'clear' and 'carrier' pups, none will be affected.
    The more difficult diseases for the cavalier to overcome are MVD and SM. Both can only be assessed by phenotypic screening tests and even a good result is no guarantee that the parents aren't going to produce affected pups. Symptoms don't show early, meaning a responsible breeder could use a stud dog at 3years old then find he has MVD at 6. Waiting to breed until your dog has a clear heart test at 2 1/2 with clear parents of over 5 slows and reduces the influence 'good' dogs can have. SM is even less clear cut with an expensive screen and sometimes poor correlation between conformation and clinical symptoms.
    If outcrossing is considered it must be embraced by the breed as a whole. The dogs used to 'donate' genetic diversity must be screened clear of all their own breed problems as well as all the cavalier problems. The LUA dalmatian can be held up as both a success and a failure. Success; LUA dalmatians exist which look/behave just like regular dalmatians. Failure; this was (as far as I am aware) a very small effort. How many LUA dalmatians has it produced? Can these improve the breed as a whole without bringing us back to overuse of a popular (albeit healthier) sire?
    If the cavalier was 'banned' by the KC it would not disappear. A loyal following would set up their own registration, club shows etc. Those wanting a similar dog within the KC may switch to tibetan spaniels, phalenes etc then these would be in more demand and would fall victim to the factory breeders much as the poor cavalier did.
    Good breeders, good scientists and good education of the buying public are what is needed. Good luck cavaliers, I want to see you survive and thrive!

  17. Margaret Carter7 April 2011 at 17:12


    Interesting the difference in our two Countries.

    Cavalier hips are not routinely screened in the UK, and as far as I know there has been no suggestion there is a significant problem in Cavaliers.

    I do not know of any formal screening scheme for patella, although I think most vets will automatically check for slipping stifle when any toy dog is presented for examination.

    Although I am not one to blame puppy farmers for all canine health issues, I am on a cavalier pet forum and I do get the impression that non-show dogs are more affected with joint problems.
    I suppose that selection for good movement would see cavaliers with poor gait taken out of exhibitors breeding programmes.

    I don't discount the importance of any health issue or any screening, but at the moment SM and MVD seem to be the most serious and widespread cavalier health issues in the UK, and that is why UK Cavalier Clubs have included breeding guidelines for those conditions in their Codes of Best Practice.

  18. Margaret Carter7 April 2011 at 17:23


    I am really very interested in your statement......

    "Waiting to breed until your dog has a clear heart test at 2 1/2 with clear parents of over 5 slows and reduces the influence 'good' dogs can have."

    Although I can see the point of what you are saying, surely the MVD guidelines were drawn up to slow and reduce the influence of 'bad' dogs on the cavalier population?

    Do you think those guidelines are having the opposite effect?

    Do you feel there is something better that could be devised?

  19. Margaret,
    Several breed clubs in the UK DO screen for Patella Luxation - Affenpinschers, Miniature Pinschers and Cesky Terriers for example. All use the Putnam (1968) Scoring Scheme.

    (Incidentally [for Jemima's benefit] we test NOT because we have a problem, but because we want to ensure that we don't!)

    Another difference I have found with US breeders is that, in many breeds, they also routinely screen for thyroid problems - but that is rarely done here in the UK.

  20. I lost my Cavalier cross to MVD, a condition she only started to showing signs of at the age of 9.
    I don't know the answer, but no dog deserves what my beautiful girl went through. I really think we need to look seriously at allowing crosses. The cavaliers breeding history is pretty horrific (although I realise alot of breed history is) and the gene pool needs to be widened.
    I don't know the answer, but I do know this cannot be allowed to happen any more. Our human obsession with labelled "breeds" and breed standards is not doing many of our dogs any favours.
    I rescue dogs, so would never say no to any dog, but my heart sinks when I see a cavalier in rescue with heart disease. My Aunties and cousins have cavaliers and cavalier crosses and all of them are on vetmedin and/or diuretics, one of them has suspected syringomyelia and is deaf. The pedigree cavaliers all come from reputable breeders and their grandfather is a crufts champion.
    Although it will help, breeding dogs after the age of 5 isn't going to save those who develop MVD in later life.

  21. Margret; I don't think there is a better answer yet unfortunatley. Heart screening isn't making things worse- I'm a vet in general practice and I feel the cavaliers I'm seeing are getting less MVD and getting it later. But the very nature of the disease and it's screening means progress will be slow and sometimes a dog which passes as a youngster will fail later on after producing offspring. If MVD in cavaliers proves to be a single gene simple recessive condition you can screen it out earlier. I applaud what good breeders (in all breeds) are trying to do, but I can understand how frustrating it can be too.

  22. Anonymous; many dogs get heart disease aged 8+. Yes, even crossbreeds and mongrels, though I'll admit cavaliers have higher risk. It won't be the KC which stops cavaliers or any other breed being bred but people power. If people feel strongly enough they'll stop buying and the breeders will stop breeding. YOU have a choice when you buy a dog...we all do. Puppy farming, genetic problems, over exaggeration would all go if the pubic did what the public says they want to do. Even show breeders rely on placing most of their pups in pet homes. We must research our chosen breed, cross or type with care and make provision for routine and unexpected veterinary care and think well in advance what level of intervention we will allow if that dog is sick or injured. My heart sinks every single time I see a cavalier or bichon placed on my table, it's new owner clutching a dog eared, hand written pedigree. "Can you check 'im over. The place we got 'im from was a bit dodgy. Think they might 'ave been puppy farming but we couldn't leave 'im there could we?"

  23. Margaret Carter8 April 2011 at 00:49


    Thank you for the information about Patella Luxation. I will check out my dogs.

    My Japanese Chins are unlikely to score well.


    The problem is how do you make first time buyers aware that there is research that needs to be done?

    If there was a real will to get that message out to the Public then the Welfare Organisations, the Kennel Club, and the Veterinary Associations ( the so called 'stake holders' ) would have an advertising campaign with hoardings in the tube stations, adverts on the television, and posters plastered across the side of buses.

    If a large scale poster campaign is deemed too expensive then the internet would offer other ways of getting the message across.
    Googling 'cavalier puppy' brings up my buying advice website in 4th place. The tag line contains the warning 'be sure to do some homework!'

    The RSPCA does have their 'puppysmart' site and it is effective, but unfortunately it does not seem to show up well on a search.

    While it will always be impossible to stop all uninformed impulse buys, more could be done by these larger organisations. It should not be individuals that are taking these initiatives.

  24. Margaret: I am in Canada and I am not sure what you mean about our 2 countries being different in your reply to the other poster. In Canada our breeders "don't have to" check patellas any more than the UK. Good breeders just do it. Along with hearts, MRI's, eyes, hips and some I know even do a few thyroid panels.

    I noted elsewhere you stated you had little hope for this breed. Yet you are breeding yourself. Do you not have faith in anyone other than yourself to breed? I do, I have faith in the breeders I know that do all the testing I listed above. Those are GREAT breeders – don’t you think?

    Have you heard the scream from a dog that slips a knee? I have and it does not pale to the yelps I hear in my CM symptomatic dog being treated thankfully now quite well on gabepentin.

    Surgery here is close to $3,000 for a knee far more than an MRI, and crate recovery 6wks. I know Rod's site has some great information on why breeders should be testing breeding stock for this. Obviously living with a dog with symptomatic CM I am not making light of this. But having had friends with dogs that have undergone heartbreaking patella surgery, I won’t make light of it either. Just my personal expectations and opinion

  25. Sheila, your post is a breath of fresh air and thank you so much for it. My studs have thyroid panel done on them as well. My breed is the cavalier. Hips and patellas are must, just as hearts, eyes and also SM screening, though none of these are mandatory - breeders do carry them out in my country. I couldn't imagine not doing hips and patella's - it would just be wrong!!! And this is for the very same reason as you quoted, to ensure we don't have a problem!I wouldn't use a stud unless hips and patellas were also carried out along with SM/CLM,heart and eye testing. And Margaret your wrong hips and patellas most certainly can be a problem in cavaliers as well as any other breed. And you can't see all hips problems... you can have a beautiful mover, and be devastated when having hips OFA'd certified... at 24 months of age. Or a luxating patella even it's a grade 1 you're not going to see it. I need more then just heart and SM,eye testing/history in my breeding program. It's all or nothing.


  26. I have a cavalier with severe SM, do not show cavaliers, never would take on responsibility of breeding, ella is my heart and soul and I speak about her a lot but I am commenting and will say that I know there are great breeders who are trying to help research, follow protocols, and hope for best yet will not speak but have helped me, like margaret and others have. Margaret, I am not a breeder and only started to try to learn more about health when ella got sick, yet I know about hips and patellas.

    It is referenced several places so as someone who would take on a huge responsibilty of breeding and even being active in the health of the breed, it is shocking to read that you did not know it was a concern.

    I am concerned that we are so focused on one thing that cavalier breeders are the first to start this understanding of this complex condition, people can not pick and choose.

    When one creates a genetic stigma, then that causes harm. That's how I feel.

    Anne, proud owner of ella

  27. Here's how the US + UK compare on hip and patella testing:

    US: Over 5000 cavs tested; 12 per cent dysplastic
    UK: fewer than 300 tested. The breed mean is 16, which is not high but not low either. I would guess that if cavs here have been tested it is because a particular dog's hips have given cause for concern as testing is clearly not routine.

    US: 3570 cavs tested - 2.2 per cent affected
    UK? Can't find the data but I am sure very few cavs will have been tested.

    I have observed that there is a culture in the US that good breeders hip/patella score in a much more routine way than here - across many breeds.

    Margaret will help here but there isn't much evidence to suggest that HD or patellas are a problem in UK cavs and I believe there is a debate to be had regarding whether or not you should be testing for conditions that are of very low prevalence. It looks like hip-scoring should, perhaps, be considered more by UK breeders given that the breed mean is not 0, but patellas? Not sure. Margaret will know of cases if there are any.

    I'd wager, however, that there are some US breeders who frown upon Margaret for not hip/patella testing and yet who are breeding outside of the recommended MVD protocols and do not screen for SM, two far more serious problems.


  28. National awareness....wouldn't that be great.

    How about storylines in the soaps? The masses don't read dog magazines, blogs, the KC website, the RSPCA websites or all the good info out there.

    Ms Harrison- any conections who could make that happen?!

  29. Really good idea, Vicky. I'll see what I can do.


  30. Jemima,

    I hate numbers because to me, ella is for more than a % I wish to be debated by several sides. However, rod will be able to speak about the usa and has even posed the topic should pedigree dogs exposed been done in the usa? Well when you see a rescue being fostered needing patella surgery, by cavalier rescue usa, daisy is also not a number but a prodict of not factoring all genetic issues. One that is being helped by an organization that talks about importance of responsible breeding

  31. Really? 2.2% in the US? Are you saying Rod Russells site that quotes 20% could be wrong on data?

    That is an interesting concept that one country could have more dogs affected with a problem over another. I guess we need to look at figures for other issues like MVD CM/SM as possibly being geographical according to that concept.

    That brings me to data on CM/SM grades. In Canada dogs were being FULL BODIED scans. Head to tail (like my dog who was found SM clear - but symptomatic CM). Now MANY of these Canadian dogs have syrinx in the LOWER LUMBAR. If they were to be graded ONLY on the cervical as are the UK dogs or US dogs, then we would have a whole bunch of A dogs up here. I wonder, do the current research figures make note of which dogs results are from a FULL scan? I think we might need to do that - regard based on whether its a full scan or a mini scan to be correct in any findings.

  32. The US patella stats I quoted come for the OFA database.


    It is perfectly possible for different populations to have different rates of disease.

    Better data surveillance which woud enable us to know for sure would be really helpful (and is in the pipeline here in the UK).


  33. Margaret Carter8 April 2011 at 19:11


    There were 17,000 cavaliers registered in 2009 & 2010.
    5 cavaliers were hip scored under the BVA/KC Scheme.

    Hips and patellas may be a must to breeders in Canada, and I admire you for what you do, but here in the UK it would be nigh on impossible to find a cavalier stud dog that had hip and patella scored.
    It would be totally impossible to find one that had also been tested for clear eyes and had been MRI scanned and MVD tested after 2.5 years of age.

    Hip dysplasia has not been flagged as a breed specific problem in the UK and it is unlikely that UK breeders will embrace hip scoring without the Veterinary Profession here raising some concerns about the incidence in cavaliers.

    I suppose it is possible that may happen. As Jemima hinted, the UK will soon have a disease Surveillance project that will give much more information about the health issues in the different breeds.
    I think this is such an exciting prospect.


    VEctAR Veterinary Electronic Animal Record.

    "The Royal Veterinary College (RVC), in collaboration with the University of Sydney, is undertaking a nationwide survey of small animal disease. The aims of this project are to investigate the range and frequency of small animal health problems seen by veterinary surgeons working in general practice in the United Kingdom and highlight major risk factors for these conditions.

    We are doing this through the routine capture of first opinion clinical data via electronic patient records held with practices’ Practice Management Systems (PMSs)."

    Miss Kodee,

    I don't suppose there is anyone who would disagree that a full body MRI scan is to be preferred. Unfortunately such scans are too expensive for use in a breeders scanning scheme.

    If you do have scans that show syrinx only in the lumbar area, and you believe the type of scan should be separately noted, then I suggest the best idea would be to share your information with the SM researchers.

  34. It does seem to me that the downside of screening for everything is that it must increase the price good breeders have to charge for puppies and encourage the over-use of dogs and bitches who have good scores so reducing the size of the gene pool. If a breeder has invested a huge amount of money in testing her stud dog it is human nature to want to recoup at least some of it.

    1. I would happily pay more for a well screened puppy rather than have another dog that had to suffer. My dear little dog had CM, SM 8mm, Keratoconjunctivitis (dry eye) and MVD. I love this breed and if it is to survive as a viable breed then please please do all the tests available. I will say no thank you, to any breeder who doesn't. But expect to pay a higher price for a puppy that's parents have had the relevant scrrening and tests
      PS. My name is Chris Meatyard but as I dont have an URL and am not computer literate have logged as anon

  35. Yes, the over-use of the few comprehensively tested stud dogs could become a real problem. It seems strange to talk about the narrowing of the gene pool in a breed as numerically strong as the CKCS, however it appears to me that there are already virtually two separate breeds - the show strain and the puppy farmer strain, which as Margaret has indicated on an earlier thread possibly have different health concerns. Since it is the show breeders that in general do the health testing, there could be a dramatic narrowing of the genetic material available to caring and responsible breeders.

    With regard to costs, I agree that it is natural for breeders to want to recoup at least some of the expenses involved in health testing and naturally puppies from health-tested parents will cost more (but will hopefully be less expensive in terms of vets bills). However, with Cavalier pups selling at around £850 it seems to me that it is not unreasonable to spend, if necessary, the cost of up to one puppy on health testing. Similarly, if a stud dog is to be used regularly, then surely every possible health test should be carried out by the owner.

  36. Margaret when only lumbar syrinx are found and they are found ask Dr Rusbridge, and with clear cervical, I'd say it shouldn't matter the cost of the full spinal scan it is in the best interest of the breed. Would you only listen to part of the heart, or test only one eye?

    cambsteasurer, if it a hobby which it is for me, with only a litter year. I don't expect new owners to re coup to cost of testing. Even with testing,it still isn't going to guarantee that nothing is going to pop up in the pup down the road. By testing it's like a comfort blanket for me and my dogs, I at least know I've done everything in my power to produce a healthy litter.


  37. The OFA statistics of 2.2% of US CKCSs being affected with patellar luxation are completely meaningless. They apply to fewer than 3,600 dogs' exams in over 37 years -- an average of less than 100 cavaliers a year. The fact is that, even more so than with OFA hip x-rays, the breeders know in advance of submitting the patellar exam reports to OFA what the results of those exams are. So, few breeders are going to submit their breeding stocks' failed patellar tests to OFA.

    More telling of the extent of this disorder in the breed in the US is the fact that both national clubs include separate webpages warning breeders and pet owners about patellar luxation. See http://www.ckcsc.org/ckcsc/ckcsc_inc.nsf/founded-1954/patellar.html and http://ackcsc.org/Health/patellas.html

    The ACKCSC goes to the extraordinary extent of even endorsing the OFA breeding protocol for patellas, stating "Cavaliers used for breeding should have within normal limits patellas as determined by an OFA examination at age one. The patellas should be reevaluated as the Cavalier’s ages." The reason this is extraordindary is because the ACKCSC does not endorse either the MVD breeding protocol or the SM breeding protocol. So, apparently the ACKCSC is more concerned about patellar luxation in the breed than it is about MVD and SM combined!

    The real extent of patellar luxation in the CKCS is a dirty little secret, but I have found from discussions with several breeders and veterinary surgeons that an average estimate of CKCSs having luxation is about 20%.

    I find it very unlikely that these averages would differ markedly on different continents. -- Rod Russell, Orlando, Florida USA

  38. Thanks Rod. So this breed is not just dealing with MVD (near ubiquitous); SM (50 per cent showing evidence on MRI - although considerably less clinically affected); but now luxating patellas at 20 per cent? (Apart from the smaller issues mentioned above). I actually find it hard to understand why breeders - in all good conscience - breed them. What a juggling act it is, with much more than plates smashing to the ground when it goes wrong.

    But, actually, I honestly think that Margaret would know about patellas if they were an issue here, and I disagree with you re different populations. Cancer in US goldies, for instance, appears to be a much bigger problem than it is in UK goldies.

    Would I also be right to say that most of the cav gene flow between the two countries is UK to the US, not the other way round?


  39. Jemima wrote "Would I also be right to say that most of the cav gene flow between the two countries is UK to the US, not the other way round?"

    That is correct. UK to Canada & US to Canada, more so UK to Canada.

    The only way to know is to test... there is also PennHIP too, there is not enough locations in Canada to have PennHIP to their protocol done.

    Yes I am from Canada.


  40. Jemima wrote: "I actually find it hard to understand why breeders - in all good conscience - breed them. What a juggling act it is, with much more than plates smashing to the ground when it goes wrong." --

    -- For each of these disorders, there are existing breeding protocols. While I'm not a breeder, I am not about to give up on the breed, as long as I can find puppies which have been bred according to those protocols.

    Some may speculate that with all of those disorders, each with its own breeding protocol, the cavalier gene pool is being narrowed too much with each generation. But they would be just speculating. The fact is that, on average, all pedigree breeders discard 80% of their gene pools every generation, simply because those offspring do not meet their conformation standards. That is before any gene disorder judgments come into play. And that is true for every breed.

    Now, I think I know why most cavalier breeders breed, and following protocols is not one of their reasons. But I ignore those breeders and seek out the responsible few.

    Jemima wrote: "... I disagree with you re different populations. Cancer in US goldies, for instance, appears to be a much bigger problem than it is in UK goldies. Would I also be right to say that most of the cav gene flow between the two countries is UK to the US, not the other way round?" --

    -- Apart from some inapparent, unique environmental differences, I don't understand why degrees of genetic disorders differ between the UK and anywhere else, for cavaliers or goldens. What could they be? Something in the water?

    Yes, the source of North American cavaliers largely has been the UK and Ireland. -- Rod Russell, Orlando, Florida USA

  41. In general practice I am not seeing patellar subluxation or HD as big problems in the CKCS. We have seen several bichon frise with it recently though.

    The incidence of any and all problems should be monitored and future testing considered...but perhaps good CKCS breeders should be encouraged to focus on the bigger health problems first? Luxating patella can be fixed in most cases by a surgery that many GP vets can perform. No-one can fix SM...

  42. Before I go! Why would different populations have different problems? It's simple! The breeding decision in the two countries alter the balance of things. If a dog is exported to canada and widely used and he carries a 'bad' gene this gene could occur more often in canadian dogs. Often this 'problem' has been introduce so far back in a breeds history it is hard to spot...but how often do you read about an influential sire imported from x country in a breeds history?

  43. Oh cool - no more hip or patellas testings.I'll let all ckcs breeders know this thanks vicky... NOT. Not all run to the newest import...

    Vicky where would your practice be? The entire point of hip xrays is to make sure you don't run into a problem...


  44. vicky wrote: "Why would different populations have different problems? It's simple! ..."

    -- vicky, your explanation is way too simple to explain why there are such differences in HD and patellar luxation statistics, if indeed there really are. What you describe about a popular sire does not come close to the reality of the continued importation of CKCS from the UK to Canada and the US. -- Rod Russell, Orlando, Florida USA

  45. Personal attacks, that's really nice, thank you.

    For what it's worth I work in the South East of England, on the coast. We see lots of cavaliers but I have yet to diagnose one with clinical hip dysplasia and have seen only a couple of mild patella problems, neither of which required surgery. I am not stating that the breed may not have a problem; simply that I (me, personaly, one person) am not seeing much in my area.

    I welcome as full health testing of dogs as possible; I have spent considerable amounts of money testing my own dog's eyes, hips and DNA though most people would consider it a healthy breed (working english springer). The ideal is for ALL breeding animals to be tested for ALL diseases their breed may suffer from but I also feel that in some cases a breed must prioritise breeding out the most common or most serious disorders whilst carefully monitoring others.

  46. Just been re-reading some of this thread; Jemima- when you say 12% dysplastic (re hips) what does that mean? Is this based on clinical hip dysplasia or on a score or grade? I understand that they aren't your figures and you may not have an answer. Clarification would be good though (we all know about lies, damnded lies and statistics!)as a dog with a higher than mean hip score or a poorer than ideal grading is not necessarily what a clinician would term dysplastic. 12% crippled behind at a young age would be bad news.

    Rod; OK, I gave an over simple hypothesis of how two populations can have different disease problems. I just wanted to show there CAN be reasons for it and I didn't mean to imply this was definitley what had happened to cavaliers. I think what is probably happening in the cavaliers is that 'you' are finding more patella luxation because you are looking for it! Whenever a health scheme starts there will be two main interested groups who jump on board; the guys who test for everything just in case (often newbies to the breed wanting to get off on the right foot and a few forward thinking breed stalwarts) and people who know or think they have the problem in their line. This can skew the data; we can't really use screening data to give us population data- only a random sampling of the population could do that.

    Keep breeding good cavaliers!

  47. vicky asks: "...when you say 12% dysplastic (re hips) what does that mean? Is this based on clinical hip dysplasia or on a score or grade?" ----

    I think these stats come from OFA -- http://offa.org It operates a hip x-ray review process whereby three radiologists grade hip x-rays submitted to OFA. They grade the hips thusly: Normal (Excellent, Good, Fair), Borderline, and Dysplastic (Mild, Moderate, Severe). See http://offa.org/hd_grades.html

    The 12.3% is the percentage out of 5,536 x-rays of CKCSs (over a period of 37 years) found to be dysplastic, meaning Mild, Moderate, or Severe. See http://offa.org/stats_hip.html

    These OFA hip statistics are almost as suspect as its patella stats, since most all CKCS breeders who find from their own vets examining the x-rays, that their dogs' hips appear dysplastic, will not submit the x-rays to OFA. So, 12.3% is a real lowball figure. A more likely true percentage would be two to three times that number. --- Rod Russell, Orlando, Florida USA

  48. vicky writes: "I think what is probably happening in the cavaliers is that 'you' are finding more patella luxation because you are looking for it! Whenever a health scheme starts there will be two main interested groups who jump on board; the guys who test for everything just in case (often newbies to the breed wanting to get off on the right foot and a few forward thinking breed stalwarts) and people who know or think they have the problem in their line. This can skew the data; we can't really use screening data to give us population data- only a random sampling of the population could do that." ----

    vicky: I'm not looking for it; I just know it when I see it. When my dog hops around on three legs, holding his left rear leg up to his abdomen, I know he's hurting. I massage his knee cap, and soon thereafter he is okay again. Fortunately his case is not severe. Our first cavalier, back in the late 1960s, had such a bad knee that surgery was necessary. After that, we called her right rear leg "the Golden Leg" because the surgery cost more than she did.

    Believe me, in the USA, there are precious few CKCS breeders who could be classified as "the guys who test for everything just in case", or even "people who they have the problem in their line". We cannot even get more than a single digit percentage of them to follow the MVD breeding protocol. It is true that screening data can be skewed, but when patella and other exams are offered at conformation shows, many breeders do allow their breeding stock to be tested, and those results are more valuable than even a random sampling of the entire population, since at least 80% of purebreds never produce offspring. Most non-OFA statistics come from these dog show clinics, particularly cardiac and eye exams.

    Also, for a cavalier to qualify under the CHIC program in the USA -- see http://www.caninehealthinfo.org -- the dog must pass the patella exam (as well as exams for hips, eyes, and heart). See http://www.caninehealthinfo.org/brdreqs.html?breed=KCS --- Rod Russell, Orlando, Florida USA

  49. Interesting stuff. Thank you. Seems you are in some areas streets ahead of us in the US! Sadly most of the nice cavalier breeders locally have now given up finding they can't afford to do all the screening to prodcue occasional litters of happy, healthy pets and not wanting to risk producing the 'other sort'.

  50. Rod, take a look at http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.2005.226.387

  51. Anonymous wrote: "Rod, take a look at ... " ---

    This is a comparision between OFA's x-ray protocol and analysis and that of Dr. Gail Smith's PennHip method. In 2010, Dr. Smith wrote another article on the same topic -- http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.237.5.532

    I think PennHip is superior to OFA's method, but OFA's x-ray protocol is easier on the dogs.
    -- Rod Russell, Orlando, Florida USA

  52. Vicky's last comment sums up what is worrying me. If the good breeders give up and cavaliers remain popular we will end up with nothing but puppy farm dogs. That's surely the worst possible outcome all round.

  53. Thank you for the follow-up - and the resulting debate, as a lay person that just wants a healthy pet, it feels like walking round a minefield.

    It was smashing to read about MC's breeding experiences, please keep us updated, I have huge faith in you since you spoke out on PDE. Your efforts to breed for health are incredibly reassuring.

  54. http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/item/4942/23/5/3

    I just saw this today and I immediately thought of you Jemima Harrison. I was wondering if you knew about this?