Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Goodbye Rosie

© Adrian Sherratt
When I first met Carol Fowler, she was in two minds whether or not to be interviewed for Pedigree Dogs Exposed. She was nervous both in general of the media and because the breeders of Bonnie, her first Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to suffer from syringomyelia, had threatened to sue her if she spoke out.

It was, of course, an idle threat - but nevertheless intimidating for a retired schoolteacher from Gloucestershire whose natural inclination is to modesty, to circumspection.

Carol agreed to be interviewed, though, because she thought that speaking out might just prevent other Cavalier owners and their dogs going through the agony she had endured. By then Bonnie had already died from syringomyelia and her second Cavalier, Rosie, had also been diagnosed with it.

Carol's bravery has played an enormous part in ensuring that the genetic health of Cavaliers has become a priority with everyone involved with the breed.

Today, Carol is a formidable advocate for not just Cavaliers but for all dogs... chivvying politicians, vets, welfare bodies, puppy buyers and the Kennel Club to do better via her Dog Breeding Reform Group, her Dog Breed Health website and her Cavalier Campaign.

On Sunday, Carol lost her beloved Rosie. In the end, it wasn't the the sryingomyelia. What  killed Rosie was the 'other' Cavalier problem: heart disease. 

No dog was ever more loved - as is evident from these out-takes from Pedigree Dogs Exposed.

None of you will be surprised to hear that Carol is absolutely heart-broken.


  1. Very sorry for Carol's loss. Rosie could not have had a better owner who did right by her and all dogs. This poor breed was, literally, created at Crufts out of a universe of one, and is a basket case of health defect and misery.

  2. Run free sweet Rosie, no more pain xx

  3. My thoughts are with Carol at this sad time. Rosie was beautiful and reminds me so much of my first Cavalier who was a Ruby. Mine died at a much younger age due to Heart problems. Carol can hopefully take comfort in the fact that Rosie with her help has started a path that will save others from suffering.

    Thinking of Carol and Rosie��. Too many dogs are going to the bridge at the moment. Hugs to all.

    Run free at the bridge Rosie��

  4. Very sorry to hear this. I met Carol in London once at an APGAW meeting. She was so refreshing to talk to, with some fantastic (though sadly unachievable) ideas about the future of dog breeding and dog shows. She must be devastated. Carol, if you are reading this, have a cyber hug. x

  5. Very sorry to hear this. Carol has been robbed of her friend too soon. 11-years-old is a poor age for a small dog; she should have been living nearer 15-17-years.

    "[T]he breeders of Rosie, her second Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to suffer from syringomyelia, had threatened to sue her if she spoke out." This succintly sums up why Cavaliers are in such a mess.

    I wonder if the reason why Cavalier registrations have gone down, whereas Pug registrations have rocketed, is that people could visibly see and hear that the Cavalier with SM was in agony. Whereas the Pug, for all its myriad of health problems, didn't look in pain because dogs are so good at being stoical.

    1. This is a very good point, Fran. The recent RVC study showed that 50-ish per cent of owners of pugs in respiratory distress simply did not recognise it.

      The sound of the Cavalier with SM screaming in pain in PDE is not something anyone can forget.

      We will have to teach the pugs to scream.

    2. I am so sorry to hear Carol lost Rosie. Run free at Rainbow Bridge with out pain. We also lost our Rosie to SM at Easter, she would have been 8 in June. I have to disagree about the screaming Cavaliers. So many Cavaliers live in pain as the owners don't know the small signs of SM. My other 2 cavaliers that also have SM have seen Clare Rusbrige , she is the leading neurologist in SM in this country if not Europe and she said to me a cavalier doesn't need to scream to be in pain. Just scratching, paw licking and all the other signs means they are in pain. When a Cavalier screams it's almost always at the point of where the SM is very very severe. My Rosie had severe SM and never screamed or yelped once.

    3. 11 is older than usual for a cavalier.
      I think with pugs it may be because it is not an actual disease there is no test , symptoms can be subtle to the owners eyes. Nothing to worry about, just normal cute snuffling. They are also quite distinctive and unique , with cavaliers people may just get a cocker or similar.

      Contrary to what show breeders may say the market for cavaliers had dropped before PDE, puppyfarmers were already moving onto more profitable breeds like pugs. The fact they have heart issues was becoming well known by the public.

      Though many people will ignore the symptoms of Syringomyelia in their dogs the same as pug owners ignore the gasping. Oh its just a bit itchy , it yelps now and then but its nothing, He is antisocial he likes to hide in the corner. He has this funny habit of digging his bed and rubbing his head on the furniture. He limps now and then but its nothing.
      Its not SM its just a bad ear. He's snooty he doesn't like cuddles.

      If you look through old yearbooks you may even find joking mentions of show dogs who had this cute habit of scratching on the lead , surely just to wind up their owners in front of the judge.

      Dogs are stoic by nature and must go through a lot of pain without their owners realising unless they really look for it.

    4. I am very sorry. Last year at a health clinic a breeder wheeled in a cart with dozens of CKC spaniels for echocardiograms. I thought of Carol and her CKC spaniels, and Carol's courage to put her dogs over show world connections, and to speak up in the film. Chapeau! Thinking of her during her time of intense grief.

      My border terrier has degenerative valve disease, currently moderate/severe, and just started a host of medications. He is only nine or ten, and his life expectancy is about like dear Rosie's. Chip is such a brilliant and loving dog. He was a stray, and we could not find out who his breeder was. We asked the local BT breeders for help. They were very supportive, but he remains a mystery dog. He donated a blood sample to the BT data base with OFA. Carpe diem.

  6. Beautiful Rosie, she was such a special girl, I was privileged to have spent some time with her some years back. Carol, you are in our thoughts at this very sad time. Dogs and dog guardians have much to thank you for, you are truly an inspiration. Love from us all, Nicki.

  7. I have so much respect for Carol for speaking out, even people outside the dog world think it's crazy to care about this issue so much. Sorry about Rosie, she was a beautiful dog, I'm sure Carol cared for her to the ends of the earth. xxx

  8. One of my grooming customers cavalier as all of the sighs of Syringomyelia..I told her to have him checked at the vets..she did and vet thought so too and said she would refer him for tests..but the lady is in her 80's and could not aford to do this...I feel so angry towards breeders...what is there but silent suffering for this dog??

    1. Pain killers may ease the symptoms.

    2. Cimetadine or omperazol can help

  9. R.I.P. Rosie.

  10. Rest In Peace Rosie, you will never be forgotten.

  11. So so sorry for your loss I lost my little tri coloured cavalier jack when he was just three due to side effects of the drugs he needed to cope with this awful condition xx

  12. You were both so lucky to have had each other. So sorry for your loss. The video brought me to tears.

  13. I want to thank Carol for her courage, first in speaking out and then in taking on the effort to bring about change. It is a very good thing to do, to try and diminish the grief and pain of others. I wish there was a way for us to soothe yours now, Carol.

    Bodil Carlsson

  14. May I say how much I respect Carol for bringing attention to the terrible suffering of some of these poor dogs. So sad. They have the most gorgeous natures.

    RIP Rosie. She clearly had a wonderful life, only marred by her health problems.

  15. Margaret Carter23 May 2014 at 23:33

    A beautiful companion dog owned by a very remarkable woman who I am proud to call my friend.
    I am so sorry your special partnership ended all too soon. RIP little Rosie

  16. I wanted to add how wonderful it is that this poor little suffering dog and its kind have managed to throw such a spotlight on the suffering of all pedigree dogs. Those with permannet itching scratchy eyes, those unable to breath, run normaly, see normaly, those unable to walk hear or play live a long happy life all of them Im sure will be grateful to you.

    I think Im not the only one but the haunting screams of pain from her kind have been etched permanetly on my thoughts.

    We wont let it happen again, we can't. We owe it to thousands of dogs like little Rosie.

    Thank you Rosie!

    May they all rest in peace and may we change our ways and stop producing these suffering souls.

  17. Margaret Carter25 May 2014 at 14:15

    But it is still happening.......especially for cavaliers, because those that should act to improve their suffering are not doing anything to prevent the spread of Syringomyelia throughout the breed.

    The Breed Clubs and Kennel Club are foot-dragging while cavaliers becomes completely unfit for purpose as a companion dog............ Harsh words?.Try telling that to owners that have had to put their puppy to sleep before it is a year old.

    It would seem that in this breed it is only the pet cavalier owners that are prepared to spend time, money and effort trying to improve the health of these lovely little dogs.

    I find it so hard to understand how breeders that claim to love their breed will not do everything possible to minimise the risk to their puppies?

    Breeders are still boycotting the official BVA/KC CMSM Scheme set up to grade Chiari Malformation ( skull too small for the amount of brain tissue ) and Syringomyelia ( pockets of fluid destroying the nerve tissue within the spinal cord ) They complain about the £100 fee charged to have the MRI scans graded. With each puppy selling at around £700-£800 and buyers willing to pay extra for puppies from older parents scanned after the age of three, is that so very expensive?

    Breeders claim they are scanning outside the official scheme, but most of them are being "economical with the truth".............. I send out cavalier puppy buying advice and I know that buyers search for months to find a litter with both parents properly tested. They come back and tell me the lies they have been told. Even breeders that advertise MRI'd stock cannot produce certificates that back up their claims. Second hand car salesmen could learn a lot from some cavalier breeders.

    In the meantime it is the sweet loving little dogs like Rosie that suffer. If they are lucky they have an owner who takes out a lifetime insurance, can afford expensive medication, and recognises symptoms before they are so severe the cavalier is screaming in pain and hiding under furniture. If they are unlucky their symptoms will be unrecognised or ignored and their suffering will be continuous.

    1. Well lets hope the puppy buying public get the message, only buy from pet breeders.

      This makes sense anyway as this is their function in life devoted little pets, no animal can have as a function "showing" it has to fulfil the requirements of being a pet foremost.

      Reminds me of those ridiculous "show" hibiscus Rosa sinensis, they cant thrive in a garden! You figure. Flowers burn and wilt at the touch of sunlight, wind or rain, so heavy they droop downwards facing the floor on a weak, disease, damage prone bush, no function at all except to be presented on a show table in a special vase that keeps them flat, facing up and open!

      Show breeders will if not already hopefully find themselves stigmatised out of the market. Change wont wait.

      Do these dogs need a bigger skull? Wouldn't it be best if they were simply given one? Outcrossed to a breed with such? Surely all the health testing in the world isn't going to enlarge the cranium or make sure the brain fits?

    2. A lot of the " pet " bred dogs hvae cocker in their ancestry. they stll look like cavaliers but are bigger with longer heads and less heart and brain issues.

      The argument that the only good reason to breed is to show is not logical. I hate showing , I find it boring and very often it is not the best dog that wins. Fashion for extremes means that its not even the most breed standard dog that wins.

      But according to some if I want to breed I MUST show .
      So they are telling me I must buy a dog of a currently fashionable type I don't like . Drag it around shows that I find boring in order to allow me the right to breed it with winning a stud I don't like so that I can have more puppies to repeat the process

      But carefully breeding dogs because I want my own line of dogs bred for a type and temperament that suits me is unethical ?

    3. It's not quite as simple as the skull being to small or the brain does not fit and Cocker Spaniels have been recorded with this condition and in fact it has been recorded in a lot of different bigger breeds, the problem with the Cavalier is we see it at a very high level, that is not exceptable. It seems that all Cavaliers that have been scanned have evidence of Chiari Malformation (CM), a deformity at the back of the skull, this condition is also seen in humans and research into dogs is of great interest to the treatment and management of this condition in humans.
      Stats show often that dogs with CM that go on to progress to having Syringomyelia (SM) have a bigger than average cerebellum.
      The only way forward for the Cavalier with a population riddled with early onset MVD and CM/SM is crossbreeding or watching the breed painfully breed it's self to extinction.

    4. But what kind of cocker spaniels ? working cocker , show english cockers or american cockers , which are bred for a shortened nose and domed head

    5. The dog was a working cocker. Deformity of the occipital bone known Chiari Malformation can occur in any type dog and it's whether then that they go on to develop SM, the prolapsing of the cerebellum.
      Until more breeds are scanned and recorded I don't know that we can truly define it as yet as a problem of just short nosed, doomed headed breeds, as the Cavalier unlike the King Charles is not doomed headed, but bred to be flat across the top of the head with the skull wider than the length and it is this coupled with the CM that probably leads to the higher occurrence of them developing SM.
      So CM/SM might be present in more breeds, but unfortunately not many breeds are putting their dogs forward onto the BVA MRI scheme to help in research of these conditions, the scheme is open to all breeds and crossbreeds.
      The higher occurrence of then SM developing in certain breeds may be down to two factors, the skull being shorter in length and/or the cerebellum being larger than average. Cavaliers can have CM Grade 2 and not necessarily then go on to develop SM.
      Until more data is collected across dogs in general about CM/SM and that is going to be hard, as breeders really don't like testing dogs with the potential to record a negative for a breed, we can only assume as most data on this is from breeds that have skulls that are brachy and short noses, that being short nosed and brachy with CM the dog is more likely to develop SM.
      Lots of dogs could have SM out their and live with it without it being noticed and I believe as time goes by more breeds will be seen with this as a problem within it and especially as the gene pools deplete further.

    6. There's a recent study which contest the big brain in small skull theory for CM.

    7. Im not understanding any of this? The brain is too big the skull is too small (deformed), the breeds shape is not functional? Simple.

      Health testing won't change that, it's a lottery. Will the dogs brain fit its skull will the skull fits its brain?

      Surely it is as simple as giving the "breed" a slightly more proper head rather than a deformed one?

      Little Rosie is an intentional deformity, the skull looks to be compressed from front to back popping up into a dome on top.

      Literally like squeezing a water filled balloon in a vice grip.

      There also seems to be something fishily cleft about her stop like there is hole in there!

    8. "bred to be flat across the top of the head with the skull wider than the length and it is this coupled with the CM that probably leads to the higher occurrence of them developing SM."

      So its the shape of the skull that's the probable cause of a prolapse of the cerebellum in the Cavalier?

      I wonder how this is not genetic when you are breeding, that is intentionally selecting for a dog with this shape skull and also line-breeding for it too be ever more so?

      Only 12% of humans with this condition are considered to have inherited the condition, heredity, while 90% the rest and majority are considered environmentally influenced congenital conditions.

      This points to some kind of virus and or immunity related cause, diet, pollution heavy metals, medication..... anything whatever in our case causing something to go wrong for us to be born with the deformity but its not intentionally selected for or inherited as is the case with dogs.

      Humans are born with it, congenital so it happens sometime from when sperm and egg get produced, get toghether conception pregnancy but not in the code of the genes. It's not selected for either. So Im assuming these dogs wont be teaching us much about the "disease" at all only in the slice and dice solution which is surgery.

      Even if you exclude any dogs with obvious symptoms this would be an extremely long winded route to maybe solving the problems while dogs suffer. You would need a mutation that allows sufficient space for the cerebellum while maintaining the flat topped, wide, but front to back compressed skull all in could be never!

      I would be interested to know how closely bred the sufferers generally are in the Cavalier, are there any statistics on the condition? What about Bonnie and Rosie's COI?

      Im thinking do it the proper way, that is to improve the skull with outcross to a different breed, enrich the genetic pool, solve the problem, change the the poor dogs head.

      Is it a magic wand?

      It is tempting to believe such given the horrific problems in most of our show pedigree dogs which almost all suffer some terrible problem/s as a direct result of ilinebreeding/inbreeding to an exaggerated ideal.

      It doesnt just arrive even "before there were any breeds" as one breeder put it.

      However maybe things aren't as simple in the minds of those amongst us who like showing? We might be tempted to see "our breeds" as complete, finished no longer a work in progress even when it has failed? After all there is a fixed standard and we are being rewarded for thinking just like this?

    9. That was for Nymous number: 26-5-014-12:16

      "things aren't so simple" .......... (:

    10. River P, not sure you have understood what I said and I'm not condoning the breeding of dogs with the Cavalier shape head.
      I'm not breeding dogs like this and have never shown my dogs unless you count a family dog show with classes like dog with the waggiest tail, so not of a showing mindset, I'm from a working dog background and just as companions.
      If you look at the stats not all Cavaliers with a large cerebellum and grade 2 CM develop SM, as not all Cavaliers with small cerebellums don't develop SM. So although the most common markers seem large cerebellum and grade 2 CM, it's certainly not always the case, so other factors are to play such as neck strength etc in a dog being diagnosed with CM and then going on to develop SM.
      I have known Cavaliers with longer noses and less extreme skulls develop SM and I have known Cavaliers with the more extreme Cavalier skull not develop SM.
      The skull shape is wrong in the Cavalier and needs to be bred away from, totally agree on that, I personally think dogs should not be bred to be brachy, but it's not that simple getting away from CM/SM.
      I am cross breeding and the first dog we have scanned which is a first cross, we still have CM Grade 2, so with being bred with a dog that does not have CM we have offspring still at grade 2 for CM, so are we looking at something dominant ? The first cross the dogs cranium measurements are not brachy, so will they develop SM ? Only time will tell and the more people that put dogs forward to be scanned, the more we will understand to help with breeding dogs without CM, which is the precursor in most Cavaliers for the onset of SM. Health screening is very important in breeding away from this problem and also the understanding that the dogs head shape needs to be changed in that process.The head shape the show people want for this type dog is not healthy or functional for a dog and there does lie the problem with show Cavalier breeders, is unless they come to understand that the dogs head shape needs to change along with using the health screening for CM/SM they might as not bother to scan their dogs because they will never improve this condition in the breed until they get their head around the fact that the head shape is a major factor in the condition. See I don't see breeds when I look at dogs, I see types.

    11. Yes I understood but Im always learning too of course (: My argument was less aimed at you than at the phenomenon of CM, SM in the Cavalier here.

      Only little quibble is "in that process of health testing the head has to change"

      I think Im of the opinion that the head has to change for any health testing to be of any use at all. Surely?

      I was only yesterday reading up on Chiari malformation in humans and I have to say I was stilled and very deeply moved by the descriptions of the intense suffering voiced by people who have and had this condition. There is also a video showing a scan of the pumping throbbing constant extreme punishment it causes.

      Its almost unimaginable the level of pain and suffering. However the descriptions manage to convey extremely well exactly what it's like.

      A close family friend of ours hung himself it was so terribly constant and unbearable. He had had numerous operations but they couldn't help, long depressed he ended it all. To explain the extent of it all he had inherited the most spectacular farm in Africa, thousands of hectares, a vast open valley filled with game, a view almost unrivalled, through the centre a glistening river and rolling hills as far as the eye could see beyond, big blue skies all his, three lovely lovely children, beautiful ridgeback cross boerboel dogs shiny red as the earth, a garden over flowing into the valley bellow with flowers and coantant bird song. One couldn't almost envisage a more perfect place to be on this earth. Yet for him it was all filtered through the constant, extreme, excruciating pain, utter lethargy and despair, like being buried alive.

      To me its also almost unimaginable that an animal must endure the same without even a voice or a way out, even death suicide. Just the simple little pleasures of life forever beyond its reach. None of it.

      It is absolutely heart breaking to even think about it.

      At least thanks to Bonnie and Rosie all the Cavaliers who are suffering they do have one now thanks to Carol and Jemima, one we can all understand.

      Quite honestly in fact my initial response was definitely that the breed should be scrapped outright.

      I suppose I still think that. They need a complete rethink as a breed. Is it worth it? Probably not, there are so many other lovely little perhaps healthier dog breeds and types that make lovely healthier pets.

      This one might have run its course and we would only be serving it well if it were to disappear for good. I fail to see how its admirers could think any differently.

      Yes maybe a healthy Cavalier "type" would be far better though as you explain maybe even the general type would be a problem.

      I could only wish you well if that is the route you have chosen lets hope its a fantastic success.

    12. The best thing the general public can do for this breed is boycot it. Don't buy cavaliers at all. If you really must have one get it from a rescue instead and don't put any more money into the pockets of the breeders. Let them see that people are no longer buying their dogs and then they might have an incentive to do something about it.

      Anyway, there are prettier, healthier breeds (like working cocker spaniels) with a similar look so why go for a cavalier at all?

  18. I find it odd that certain cavalier breeders boast of MRI scanning but only do their cavaliers, Not their griffons or king charles, yorkies or chihuahua. If They scan because they care and not because of public pressure why do they not scan all of their dogs from affected breeds?

  19. Good Question ? I think I know the answer, but it would be interesting for breeders of the breeds you mention to answer this for you.

    The BVA MRI scanning scheme for CM/SM is open to all breeds and crossbreeds. I have already had one of my crossbreeds scanned on this scheme, so know this as a fact.

    1. The above was meant as a reply to Anonymous 25 May 14:26

  20. Watching Jemima’s video tribute to Rosie still makes me cry but each day that passes makes the loss easier to bear. Your messages have been a huge comfort and in time I will be able to watch the video and smile.

    Rosie spent her last night at the vets on intensive intravenous treatment for heart failure. She was no better in the morning and I decided that I didn’t want her to suffer more. She greeted me with a waggy tail that Sunday morning and I spent ten minutes with her in the garden at Vale Vets. The sun was shining and the leaves were casting shadows on the grass. She wee’d and poo’d and mooched about almost in the normal way. Then I picked her up, carried her in and cuddled her gently until the end. Rosie always trembled when she was scared but she was not scared in those last minutes and moments. I am so grateful for that.

    Of course all breeders should use the BVA/KC CMSM scheme. This is a ‘no brainer’ if the Cavalier breed is to survive at all. An official BVA/KC scheme for Heart Disease is on its way and that will need to be embraced as well. There is no alternative. Add to this some judicious outcrossing and an acceptance that the Cavalier ‘type’ has to change – not drastically but just enough to avoid the skull shape that has given rise to CM. In the UK at least, the Kennel Club and Animal Health Trust have said they will advise and support breeders who wish to embark on their own outcross project or better still if a group of breeders want to work together.

    It is far too early for me to think about another dog but I do know that when/if the time comes, it wont be a purebred Cavalier. I can’t encourage the breeding of these dogs. Enough is enough.

    I gave Rosie the best possible life I could. She deserved no less. I am proud of the part she played in raising awareness of the genetic health issues of Cavaliers. I am proud of the part she played in highlighting the need to breed all dogs, purebred and mixed breed, ethically and compassionately.

    One day animal welfare will take precedence over human ‘sport’ and vanity. In the UK the Animal Welfare Act attempts to protect dogs from cruelty, neglect, pain and disease. It gives them the right to exhibit normal behaviour and to be housed in an appropriate environment. The law still does not protect them from suffering from preventable breed related genetic diseases and unnatural conformations. It does not protect the unborn. One day it will.

  21. "It does not protect the unborn..."

    And it should at least try to at the very least.

    Maybe line breeding inbreeding should be illegal. If it reaches a point (putting it kindly) as it has in most breeds where its impossible to breed without inbreeding then outcrossing to other breeds should be mandatory as should breeding away from conformation extremes and genetics that cause illness and suffering. If (putting it kindly again) that's also impossible as it is with most breeds outcrossing to other breeds again should be mandatory.

    The KC and breeders of show dogs need to take the lead on this if they want dog shows to survive they really must.

    Not as impartial observers, outcrossed dogs must be eligible for registration or it's complete sham.

    Judging based on improvements? Best improved in show and e.t.c. For the next decade forget any other kind of show.

    Or failing that in the interests of dog welfare others must take the lead.

    Let the government intervene with amendments to the Animal Welfare Act or a new act, The Breeding of Domestic Dogs act.

    In the British isles alone there are at a conservative 2006 census 10.5 million dogs kept as pets! This is important.

    It would be ideal if breeders came to these realisations all by themselves of course. Maybe we are on the cusp of that actually happening, maybe.

    They need to sort themselves out.

    Bless little Rossie and Bonnie, so glad Rosie went unafraid and Bonnie is safe at last.

  22. What ever happened to Sylvie and Angel from PDE?

  23. Carol Fowler. Thank you so, so much for your courage and dedication in educating people about the dangers of genetic diseases. I'm sorry for your loss... Rosie looks like such a sweetie.

    And Jemima, thank you for making the films that so needed to be made, to show the world what really goes on in the world of these animals.

  24. I dont agree with all thats been said above. I am very sad for your loss. But not every cavalier has SM in fact i know off very few with this condition. As for scanning under the bva maybe we would if we didnt have to pay another £100 just to have it looked at when we are paying £250 plus VAT just for the scan you need to look at the bva just another money making scheme. As for boycot the breed why an earth would you want rid off such a beautiful loyal breed. If thats the case why not boycot every pedigree dog because they can all have health problems? Just cavaliers seem to get the most stick. And buying from (So called pet breeders yes im sure that is the way forward!!! NOT

  25. So sad. Cute nice little dog. Bred with a time bomb in her head or in her heart? One of them got her. Glad she had a good home. Something needs to be done to save dog's from suffering from genetic pain.