The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has been a breed for over 1000 years. However, during that time there were “bottlenecks” in the breeding of these dogs where only a small number of dogs were bred.
Researchers studied eight different breeds and found that the Cav had the greatest number of disease-causing genes than any of the other breeds studied. They are especially prone to heart disease.
Note: The study only sampled a limited number of dogs of each breed studied. While this is a good indicator, I would have liked to see a larger number of dogs tested from a wider geographical area. However, breeders who sincerely love their breed, what ever it is, can improve the breed by selective breeding for the right reasons. Too many people breed indiscriminately and do not test their dogs for genetic defects. As a canine behavior consultant, I have seen the results of this for my entire career.
The public demand for certain toy dogs to have rounded head shapes and short muzzles have caused them to suffer from Chiari malformation and Syringomyelia disorder.
Chiari malformation is when the bones in the skull fuse too soon and causes fluid pockets in the spinal cord. The fluid pockets which are called Syringomyelia can cause permanent damage to the spinal cord and pain for the dogs. The most common breed that is affected by this is the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chihuahua and the Affenpinscher.
A new study using an MRI mapping technique has allowed scientists to study how this happens and hopefully will help them develop ways to correct this painful condition.
It goes without saying that breeders can help by carefully breeding dogs who do not suffer from this condition and not breed for a style or look but rather for the dog’s health and opportunity for a pain free life.