Cavalier health issues

Every Cavalier buyer should know the truth about Cavalier issues and educate themselves using other sources on potential problems. Lots of purebred dogs have their own set of potential issues and this is not to say that each dog WILL develop some sort of problem. It’s only a list to make each buyer aware that these are the prevalent issues that could affect a Cavalier.

Read up on your diseases! An informed well read and versed pet owner is a smart pet owner! Or, ask your veterinarian, or ask me and I’ll help as much as I can (and then send you to your vet when I’m out of info).

Below is a list of the most common heath issues that are associated with Cavaliers:

Heart Disease is by far the biggest of the issues. Cavaliers are prone to Mitral valve disease which is a condition that causes one of the heart valves to leak blood backward forcing the heart to work harder in order to circulate the blood. It shows up as a murmur and can be detected by a canine cardiologist. Nearly every Cavalier will develop a heart murmur after the age of 10 which could be meaningless. However, it could be an issue if it develops into the mitral valve disease. After the age of 2, a certified canine cardiologist would be able to evaluate if there is a clear heart and testing each year thereafter.

Eye Problems

There are several genetic eye diseases prominent in the Cavalier including cataracts and retinal dysplasia. After age 2, a trained canine ophthalmologist can get a better feel if there is a current issue or possible future issue. You will need to repeat the testing on a yearly basis.

Hip Dysplasia

Many breeds are prone to hip dysplasia which is where the top of the thigh bone does not fit tightly into the cup of the hip and can cause minor discomfort to severe lameness. X-rays evaluated by a trained specialist is the only way of determining if there is an issue.

Patellar Luxation

Otherwise known as the floating kneecap. This condition is present when the kneecap on the dogs rear leg becomes dislocated and slips out of it’s proper position. This genetic condition can be easily detected by your veterinarian and does not require a specialist to analyze.


SM is much easier for me since I have trouble with the pronunciation.

SM is caused by a malformation in the back of the skull which disrupts the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid between the brain cavity and the spinal cord. This blockage causes pockets of fluid to form in the spinal column and symptoms can range from a mild scratching to severe pain. Mild cases are often diagnosed as allergies or skin problems and if properly diagnosed can be managed with medication. The only reliable method of diagnosing SM is by doing an MRI and there really is no way of telling that a non symptomatic dog will produce puppies with SM. SM is a hereditary disease however, all research on it is in its early phases.

Parvo- not specific to Cavaliers but a good one to read up on

The disease is caused by a highly contagious virus that is transmitted mostly by dogs orally contacting infected feces. As in many viral diseases of the intestinal tract, some dogs can pick up the disease and shed the virus without significant symptoms in themselves. The virus is extremely small, just 1 thimble full of stool can contain millions of virus particles. It is easy to see why contamination occurs so readily. The majority of dogs presented with parvovirus show signs of lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and lack of appetite. In severe cases the diarrhea is very watery and frequently bloody, with a telltale odor. They are very ill, with significant abdominal pain. The virus is so strong that it literally causes the lining of the intestines to slough. It is painful to eat, and with the severe diarrhea and vomiting that is present, they rapidly become dehydrated. The also have a disruption in their electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chlorine) that adds to the weakness.

Heartworm- general disease also

Heartworm disease is becoming more common in many parts of the United States and can infect dogs and cats. It is caused by the heartworm, Dirofilaria immitis. This parasite lives in the right side of the heart, the nearby large vessels (pulmonary arteries), and lungs (especially cats). The female worm produces large numbers of microscopic, immature heartworm that circulate in the blood. These immature worms (microfilariae) are taken up with the blood by a mosquito feeding on an infected pet. After living in the mosquito for 10 to 14 days, the microfilariae can then infect another dog or cat that the mosquito feeds on. The feeding mosquito deposits infective microfilariae into the skin of another pet, and these enter the body through the mosquito bite wound. The microfilariae eventually travel to the heart where they develop into adult heartworm. The adult heartworm produce new microfilariae within 3 months. It takes at least 190 days from the time the dog (or cat) is bitten by an infected mosquito until the animal becomes a new source of infective microfilariae.

Most cases of heartworm are diagnosed by a blood test that detects the body's immune response to the adult heartworm. Finding the microfilariae in the blood can confirm the diagnosis. Sometimes, however, no microfilariae are found in the blood (occult heartworm disease). These cases are diagnosed by a combination of blood tests and chest radiographs (x-rays). Failure to treat heartworm disease may result in heart failure and/or serious disease of the liver and kidneys. Untreated heartworm disease is usually fatal.