Cavalier Health


Details of research projects needing help from cavalier owners are shown on How You Can Help

IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR BREEDERS AND OWNERS……………………..  Breeders can protect against the risk of SM by selecting for head shape. There is a very short film clip that is well worth viewing. See details here

COMPANION CAVALIER CLUB HEALTH FUND……………………….Any Member who has paid their current subscription and is planning a low cost MRI or who has an existing MRI that is suitable for submission to the BVA/KC CMSM Scheme can apply for a £100 voucher. Details are shown here

Dogs’ lives are too short.  Their only fault, really.  ~Agnes Sligh Turnbull


Tommy with Bandana
Tommy with Bandana

Cavaliers are wonderful family dogs, sweet natured and very loving.

Unfortunately they have serious inherited health problems, so owners are well advised to make sure they have a good level of lifetime pet insurance for their dog.

We have detailed some of the more common health problems in cavaliers further down this page.

If you have a sick cavalier and need support or advice we will try and help. Please contact us through our website form.

You can also join our Club and ask your questions on our Facebook page  




MVD is a common problem in Cavaliers. It will cause the dog’s hearts to grow old too soon.

Sometimes a puppy or young cavalier will develop a heart murmur. This may cause no problem for many years but some dogs will die while still quite young because their heart fails.

When badly affected the cavalier may cough or find it difficult to breath. Sometimes their stomach fills with fluid. They may have fainting  episodes, and be unable to exercise. There are drugs that can help but they can sometimes be expensive.

Heart Certificate

Heart Certificate

The UK Cavalier Club recommends that Cavaliers used for breeding should be at least two and a half years old with no heart murmur.

Useful links about MVD

A simple explanation to MVD is shown on the Cavalier Matters website

Cavalier Club MVD Breeding Guidelines and over Five Clear Heart List

Detailed Description and Current MVD Research



Nearly every Cavalier has Chiari-like malformation (CM) This is when a dog has a brain that is too big for the space within their skull. CM by itself can cause pain in some dogs.

CM can cause the brain  to protrude through the hole at the base in the skull ( herniation ) and this blockage can cause a pocket of fluid (syrinx) to develop in the dog’s spinal cord. This is called Syringomyelia (SM)

Some dogs with SM will show very few symptoms, others may obsessively scratch or face rub, bunny hop while walking, yelp for no reason, be unable to jump and be unwilling to exercise or play. Sometimes they scream. The pain and discomfort can be very hard to control and some of the drugs are very expensive.

Older MRI Certificate

White MRI Certificate

SM is a progressive disease so dogs usually get worse with age

Good breeders are expected to breed from older MRI scanned cavaliers that have been graded through a CM/SM Scheme and follow breeding guidelines.

At the moment there are two valid certificates, a white one for scans taken up to December 2011 and graded under an unofficial scheme, and a lilac certificate for scans submitted to an Official BVA/KC CMSM Scheme launched in January 2012.

The results of scans submitted for grading through the new Official Scheme are published on the Kennel Club’s website.

Information about the new Scheme and the breeding guidelines that responsible breeders are expected to follow can be found here.

At the moment many certificates for the parents of puppies will be similar to the white copy shown above. It is possible to relate the old grading results with the new breeding guidelines using the conversion Chart shown here.   

The official BVA/KC Scheme will give buyers more information about the puppy they are buying, but for a few years, while two versions of the certificates are still being used,  it will make the search for a new pet rather confusing. We are always ready to give as much help and advice as we can. Please use the contact form if you have questions you want to ask.



Bonnie was a cavalier that had SM. She was put to sleep because her family did not want to see her suffer any more. Her brave owners allowed cell tissue samples to be taken for research. Read her story.

Useful Links about SM

A simple explanation to Chiari Malformation and Syringomelia is shown on the Cavalier Matters website.

Dr Clare Rusbridge ( Leading Neurologist’s website with a section on Frequently Asked Questions )

Low Cost MRI Scanning Centres 

Cavalier SM infosite

Detailed Description and Current SM Research



Pancreatitis has been shown to be increasingly common in Cavaliers. Specialist Dr Penny Watson has given some information on the Cavalier Matters Charity website here and a DVD of her talk at the Companion Cavalier Club Health Seminar can be bought from the Cavalier Matters on-line shop.



Flossie with Doggles to protect her eyesFlossie was born with Dry Eye/Curly Coat Syndrome. Read her story here

Dry Eye/Curly Coat Syndrome and Episodic Falling Syndrome (EFS) are two other inherited health problems that are found only in Cavaliers.

Certificate for Dry Eye/Curly Coat Syndrome

Certificate for Dry Eye/Curly Coat Syndrome

Studies show that almost 30% of UK Cavaliers of breeding age are carriers of episodic falling or the curly coat/dry eye syndrome, and a small number are carriers of both.

There is now an inexpensive one-off DNA test for these conditions and responsible breeders are recommended to test before mating their cavaliers. The certificates they will receive are shown here.

Certificate for Episodic Falling Syndrome
Certificate for Episodic Falling Syndrome

When planning a litter, breeders should choose a dog and bitch that cannot combine to produce affected puppies. There is nothing wrong at all in using a cavalier that is a carrier of either condition for breeding, as long as the other parent dog is certified as clear.

Kennel Club approval has been given to make these tests official, so from April 2013 the results will be shown on the Kennel Club Health Test Results Finder. The results will also be added to any new registration certificate issued for a cavalier and on the registration certificates of any puppies with tested parents.

Read about the DNA test here  

Read the AHT Mutation Frequency Report here

Information about inherited eye conditions and the BVA Eye Testing Scheme, including links to eye testing clinics can be seen here. is a very helpful and informative Cavalier health website which covers nearly every health issue that has been studied in Cavaliers. There is also a very interesting blog.

This blog describes the very common Reverse Sneezing or Cavalier snort.,_2015