Cavaliers are the most wonderful family pet. Sadly, they suffer from many serious and painful hereditary diseases. Always search for a breeder that health tests thoroughly, as research has proven that breeding from clear parents reduces the risk of disease. This search could take several months and still does not guarantee that your Cavalier will not succumb to illness, but it gives you a better chance.
- Please read about one owner’s successful search for a healthy puppy: ‘The Long Search for a Puppy‘
Ask Lots of Questions
A good breeder will happily answer questions and be proud to illustrate the length they go to produce healthy puppies. A caring breeder will have many questions for you regarding the home you are going to provide.
You should always see the puppies with their mother; the father may be with another breeder. Some less‐than‐scrupulous dealers bring in an unrelated bitch to pose as the mother, so make sure you observe play and interaction between mum and puppies. For health reasons, good breeders do not breed their dogs under the age of two and a half years. In England from 6th April 2020, licensed dog breeders are required to show puppies interacting with their mothers in their place of birth, a change to regulations known as ‘Lucy’s Law‘.
- For more information please see ‘How to Tell a Real Mum from a Fake’
It’s All about Results
Being told a puppy’s parents have been health tested is not enough. You should see the results and ask for copies of the certificates. Puppies inherit an equal number of genes from each parent, it is essential both the mother and father are tested, and that you see the grandparent’s health certificates.
Heart Disease in Cavaliers
Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) is the biggest killer of Cavaliers and 20 times more prevalent in this breed than other dogs. A Danish heart scheme, where all breeding Cavaliers MUST be tested, has reduced the risk of MVD by 73%, so please make sure the parent dogs have been heart checked.
Cavaliers should not be bred from before two and half years of age. Your prospective puppy’s parents must have a recent certificate showing they are free of a heart murmur. This test should be carried out by a specialist cardiologist. “Vet Checked” is not adequate. Ask at what age the puppies’ grandparents had their last clear heart test. The heart test should be clear at age 5 years.
Chiari‐like Malformation / Syringomyelia (CM/SM)
This can be an extremely painful neurological condition. Cavaliers have to be MRI scanned to determine whether they are affected. Sadly, most Cavaliers do have CM. Dogs with early onset SM should not be used for breeding. There is an official Kennel Club and British Veterinary Association Scheme to test for CM/SM, the results of which are made public. This scheme is underused and most breeders who have MRI scans taken do so independently of the scheme.
These should be examined by a specialist and tests carried out every 12 to 18 months for breeding dogs. If your Cavalier suffers from eye disease, this can result in life long medication or at worst eye removal.
Episodic Falling Syndrome and Dry Eye / Curly Coat
There are definitive one‐off DNA tests available to show whether a Cavalier is affected by either Episodic Falling Syndrome (EFS) or Curly Coat/Dry Eye (CC/DE). Dogs can carry genes but as long as they are mated to a clear dog they will not produce affected offspring. Two carriers must never be mated together.
Do the Background Research before Viewing
Cavalier puppies are irresistibly cute; because of this ask your questions and see copies of parent’s health certificates before going to see the litter. It takes extraordinary willpower to walk away from an adorable puppy, even if it has not been bred responsibly. Health certificates can be confusing. It is best to ask someone independent to help you interpret the test results. Cavalier Matters is always happy to help.
Even the most careful breeder sometimes produces puppies that go on to develop health problems. Other problems can develop, and accidents may happen. An insurance policy for life is strongly recommended.
The Puppy Contract empowers puppy buyers and ensures good practice from breeders.
How does it work? The breeder completes the Contract before a puppy is sold with information about the puppy and its parents. This will include details of any health screening tests the puppy’s parents have had and the experiences that the puppy has had to prepare him/her for life in a new home.
The breeder and puppy buyer sign two copies of the Contract. The breeder’s signature means that the information is true and complete. The buyer’s signature confirms that they will meet the puppy’s future health and welfare needs.
Do not buy a puppy unless you use this contract:
The Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF):
Questions to Ask A Breeder (Video)
Download the Puppy Contract and Information Pack:
Puppy Contract and Information Pack [PDF]