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Clare Rusbridge Wins RCVS Impact Award

RCVS Impact Award Professor Clare RusbridgeCongratulations to our patron, Professor Clare Rusbridge, who has collected her RCVS Impact Award.

Many thousands of dogs have benefited from Prof. Clare Rusbridge’s Treatment Algorithm preventing pain and suffering.

There are over 27,000 vets and 17,000 registered veterinary nurses in the UK – and only up to 2 RCVS Impact Awards can be bestowed in any year.

The award is bestowed upon a veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse who has recently, or is currently, undertaking a project, initiative or similar that has a significant impact on the profession at large, animal health or welfare, or public health. Such impact could have been made through any field of veterinary endeavour, including clinical practice, research, education or veterinary politics.

RCVS Impact Award Professor Clare RusbridgeCavalier Matters supported Clare’s nomination – we felt it was important to acknowledge Clare’s contribution to the understanding and management of Chiari-like malformation and Syringomyelia [CM/SM].

Clare chose to investigate Chiari-like malformation and Syringomyelia [CM/SM] for her PhD. Sadly this painful condition is very prevalent in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (and also affects other breeds). Clare provided the first comprehensive description and her work since has enabled further understanding in addition to greatly improving treatment.

Clare helped establish a health scheme for testing for CM/SM [requested by breeders].

Clare created the treatment algorithm, which is now used worldwide; it revolutionised the prescribing of appropriate medications by veterinarians. Thousands of pet owners are sadly unable to afford to consult with a neurologist, so this prevents unnecessary suffering.

The Cavalier Matters charity has over 42,000 followers on social media; the Companion Cavalier Club has over 220 members. Clare donates her precious free time helping with their websites and in particular, information posters about CM/SM to ensure they are distributing correct information.

Professor Clare RusbridgeClare also gives presentations at health seminars for Cavalier owners, supplying information on the latest research and answering questions, including how to achieve the best quality of life for their companion and understanding the management of pain relieving medications.

Many owners travel hundreds of miles with their companions to consult with Clare; they truly value her expertise and experience.

 

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Beebee Loses Her Battle

Beebee Blenheim CavalierWe are so very sorry to share the news that Beebee has lost her battle with CM/SM [Syringomyelia] and MVD. Beebee was famous for her petite size and extraordinary appetite, she was also the face of the Cavaliers are Special Campaign.

This was started by a group of pet owners campaigning for a healthier future for their beloved Cavaliers, including the petition for mandatory health testing, as little was being done by the UK Kennel Club to encourage breeders to use the testing schemes available to them.

At its close, the petition held 70,088 signatories.

REST IN PEACE BEAUTIFUL BEEBEE
April 2012 – June 2022

Written by owner Charlotte Mackaness

Beebee was born in a Jubilee year and died in one too – a true little Princess.

I can’t believe that my precious little one is gone forever and that I’ll never again see her pootling around the field with me on a “horse poo safari” or catch her opening a cupboard for an illicit snack.

Beebee Blenheim CavalierI feel so lucky to have had 10 years with her; more than we could ever have imagined after the devastating diagnosis of severe CM/SM at such a young age and the long list of health problems that followed. I suspect she never knew a normal life but was such a trooper and so good natured considering everything.

People were always drawn to her because she was the cutest little button but what a price she paid for it – a life of constant headaches and pain, although we did our very best to manage her symptoms.

It was most definitely her time and she left in an instant while munching on a chocolate digestive. As I left her for the last time, Beebee didn’t look like a 10 year-old-dog but one far older; her body ravaged by ill health. I truly hope something good came out of Beebee’s life: hopefully a few people became aware of Cavalier health issues and asked more questions about health tests before buying a Cavalier puppy.

Beebee Blenheim CavalierI’ve met some amazing people because of Beebee and for that I will be forever grateful. However, I’ve also seen the other side of Cavaliers: I feel deeply depressed that so little has been done to improve the outlook for the breed other than meaningless lip service, and that the foxes are well and truly in charge of the hen house.

To those who bred her, she was Pascavale Nola. To us she was our little Beebee, Libby Libster – totally adored bundle of fluff, galloping gourmet and Queen of the house!

She will be greatly missed by the whole family.

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The Norwegian Ban on Breeding Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

Norweigan Ban on Breeding Cavaliers & BulldogsThe announcement of the results of the court case in Norway has generated an enormous amount of discussion and outpouring of emotions on all sides. We all adore our Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and do not wish to see a ban on breeding in the future in the UK and internationally.

This decision means because of the severe health problems they may no longer be bred in Norway as ‘pure’ breeds.  However they may be crossed with another breed in a scientifically controlled way with the aim of breeding for health.

Part of our role as a charity is to offer support and advice to the many owners whose Cavaliers have serious health issues, (these includes Cavaliers from Puppy Farms and top show kennels) – often at a very young age. In addition we have cared for many Cavaliers ourselves with these devastating conditions and had our hearts broken over and over again.

Cavaliers are such an amazing breed and truly deserve the chance to live long, healthy lives – we need to find a way to make this happen.

The Companion Spaniel Project
The Companion Spaniel Project

Although there are many health focused, responsible breeders doing their best, there are not enough – sadly voluntary schemes have not been well supported over the decades so there has to be stronger laws around breeding and health testing. We need to keep campaigning for that and also encourage everyone to take responsibility to support those breeders fully health testing adults and puppies [at the appropriate ages] by ONLY purchasing puppies from them.

The Companion Spaniel Project is a good example of what can be achieved. Their aim is to produce healthy spaniels with improved head conformation eliminating CM/SM and early onset of MVD. After 5 years of careful selection and health testing the 2nd litter has just celebrated their 2nd birthday, it is still early days but so far the project has proved to be successful and the third generation is being planned.

The Companion Spaniel Project
The Companion Spaniel Project

Carol Beuchat of The Institute of Canine Biology has written an excellent blog on the subject:

“This is not an attack on breeders. It simply applies existing law to a group of animals, purebred dogs, that have been flying under the radar of animal welfare legislation. If there were no welfare issues for these two breeds – i.e., that the dogs being produced can be expected to be healthy and not suffer from serious or systematic health issues that could cause pain and suffering – there would have been a different outcome”…

“It is not the beginning of an indiscriminate attack on all breeds. It is, however, a test case based on two breeds that makes it clear that the existing welfare laws in Norway apply to dogs just as they do to other animals. Everybody must abide by these laws because they protect the welfare of animals”.

Fixing Cavaliers: A Call for Interest

A Message from Carol Beuchat, Scientific Director of the Institute of Canine Biology

You’ve no doubt heard that breeding of Cavaliers in Norway has been banned because of their serious health issues.

However, the court ruling encourages science-based cross breeding programs to solve the health issues of the breed, and we know from our success with the Lundehund (a Norwegian breed) that this can be done.

The Lundehund Project is proving that a well-planned cross-breeding program can restore health and genetic diversity to a breed while protecting type and the unique features of the breed.

Would you be interested in supporting or participating in a breeding program to restore the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to health?

If so, please contact me via email with a few words describing how you think you could contribute to this program.

Also, if you know somebody that might be interested, please share this message.

I will review the responses and organize a team that can get this project going.

Thanks!

Carol Beuchat PhD
Carol@nullinstituteofcaninebiology.org
www.instituteofcaninebiology.org

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Dogs and the Shape of Their Heads

New Research Points to the Importance of Headspace

Rosie – CM Headache
Rosie – CM Headache

In recent years, nobody could have failed to have noticed the boom in popularity of dog breeds such as Pugs, French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers. These breeds have a skull which is wider than it is long, defined as “brachycephalic”. Many less-obviously “flat faced” dogs are also brachycephalic, including Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

While it is generally accepted that such head conformation can be associated with health problems such as breathing and eye issues, a new research paper published by Professor Clare Rusbridge and Dr Penny Knowler points to increasing evidence that brachycephaly can also impair the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid leading to distressing and life-limiting conditions such as hydrocephalus and CM/SM (syringomyelia).
https://www.mdpi.com/2075-1729/11/2/139

Many of the brachycephalic breeds more likely to suffer from such conditions, including Cavaliers, Chihuahuas and Pugs, are hugely popular pets. The research paper concludes by questioning whether it is ethical to breed dogs predisposed to these issues and stresses the importance of educating the puppy-buying public about the importance of avoiding extreme conformation. It also calls for wider screening of (at risk?) breeding dogs (rather than stock, some people take offence at the term stock).

There is an official Kennel Club screening scheme for Chiari-like Malformation of the skull and Syringomyelia but it is not compulsory, nor widely used. Furthermore, a recent analysis of Cavalier litters registered by the Kennel Club in 2020 revealed that only four litters (out of 705) show evidence of any kind of screening for these two conditions and only two of the litters would have passed the breeding guidelines.

The cost of a screening MRI in the UK is £200 to £300 plus BVA reading fee £100. Cavalier puppies from fully health tested parents sell for £2,500 to £4,000 plus so cost should not be a deterrent in having the parents scanned.

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