ACKCSC Response to the 12/10/09 Today Show Segment

 The sensationalist segment that aired on the Today Show, Dec. 10, 2009, gave a bleak and non-scientific picture of the world of purebred dogs in general and the breeder in specific. Unfortunately, it highlighted the Cavalier in its bias.
Reputable Cavalier breeders the world over acknowledge that, like all breeds, the Cavalier does have health concerns. But the percentages of dogs affected with various ailments were exaggerated, and the Today interview with the animal "welfare" professor from the Univ. of PA was designed to put breeders in the worst possible light. Ironically, it is the ACKCSC Charitable {Health} Trust that is funding research at this VERY university (among others) to help investigate health concerns in the breed. Some of these projects earn matching grants from the AKC Canine Health Foundation.  Most recently, in November of 2009, the ACKCSC funded 12 grants in the USA plus one in the UK (studying Syringomyelia).  Since its inception, the ACKCSC Charitable Trust has donated over a quarter of a million dollars to health research projects benefitting the Cavalier. Click Here for a breakdown of Charitable Trust Funding
It is important to understand that the members of the ACKCSC have pledged themselves in writing to uphold the highest ethical standards and breeding practices. In part, they pledge “…not {to} breed from any Cavalier known to have inheritable, disqualifying, disabling, or potentially disabling health defects.”  This would, in most cases, include not breeding too closely so as to risk potential concentration of genes that might predispose to disease of any sort.

Nature is not perfect, and no one can absolutely guarantee that the puppy they sell will not at some point develop a genetic condition that challenges his/her good health. But the great majority of Cavaliers live long and happy lives in caring households.  It is not uncommon for many to reach the age of 12-14.
We urge the public to ask the breeder for health records and longevity reports on his bloodlines. Good breeders will be happy to supply you with detailed information. In the meantime, enjoy your Cavaliers (and take a moment to enjoy pictures of some of our Golden Oldies)!

Patella Luxation

Toy breeds are very prone to lateral luxating patellas.

Patellar luxation is most common in Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians, Pekingese, Chihuahuas, Miniature Pinschers and Boston Terriers. Females have the highest risk for this condition.

Diagnosis is relatively simple for a veterinarian familiar with orthopedics. It involves palpation of the joint and manual luxation of the patella. Care must be exercised with the examination to avoid injuring the joint, or making an incorrect diagnosis. Patellar luxation may be classified in four grades, with grade I being the mildest. This grading system is subjective so it is important in the present of luxation to have the same veterinarian perform the follow-up screening. Mild patellar luxation (grade 1-2) may be discovered as an incidental finding especially in a growing dog or a female in season. In addition, patellar luxation may occur in any breed because of trauma.

Patella luxation (also called slipped stifles) results from abnormalities in the bones of the rear legs, such as a shallow trochlear groove. This condition is easily checked by manipulation by a veterinarian. Patella luxation is graded into 4 degrees of severity.

The four degrees are:
Grade 1 - the stifle joint is almost normal and luxation is found on examination. Usually there is no gait abnormality.

Grade 2 - the patella lies loosely in its normal position but will luxate when the joint is flexed. Dogs with a Grade 2 may have a "bunny hop" gait where the patella moves out of the trochlear groove and the dog hops along on the good leg trying to kick the bad leg straight to move the patella back in place.

Grade 3 - the patella is dislocated much of the time but can be manipulated back into the joint when the leg is extended.

Grade 4 - the patella is dislocated all of the time and needs surgery to correct.

In both Grade 3 and 4 the dog shows varying degrees of lameness, often with a bowlegged appearance with the toes pointed in due to the deformity of the rear legs.

Pain is usually not associated with this condition unless it is the result of trauma or until degenerative arthritis has occurred due to chronicity of disease.

The treatment and long-term outcome (prognosis) depend on the severity of disease. Severity is determined how often the kneecap slips out of place, and how easily it slips back into the normal position. Treatment is based upon severity of signs and the affected Cavalier’s age, breed and weight. Conservative therapy (non-surgical) and veterinary observation is often the treatment of choice. However, if the patellar luxation has persistent lameness, or other knee injuries occur secondary to the luxation, then surgery intervention needs to be evaluated.

Cavaliers used for breeding should have within normal limits patellas as determined by an OFA examination at age one. The patellas should be reevaluated as the Cavalier’s ages.


Eye Diseases

Cavaliers do not generally suffer from any serious eye problems. They can inherit juvenile cataracts, retinal dysplasia, and other eye diseases. Breeders must screen their Cavaliers with board certified veterinarian ophthalmologists and only breed Cavaliers that fall within normal limits or with CERF breeder options.

The following information is listed by the American College of Veterinary Opthamalogists as eye conditions that occur in the Cavalier in high enough percentages to be considered of concern to the breed and breeding stock should be checked for the following by a certified opthamalogist. Breeding advice is given for the various conditions. For some of the conditions they are listed as "breeders option" to use a dog diagnosed with the condition as the hereditary links are not established. Where they are listed as no, this means an affected should not be bred.

Microphthalmia with multiple ocular defects.

Inheritance - not defined.

Breeding advice - NO.

Microphthalmia is a congenital defect characterized by a small eye often associated with other ocular malformations, including defects of the cornea, anterior chamber, lens and/or retina.


Inheritance - not defined.

Breeding advice - breeder option.

Eyelashes abnormally located on the eyelid margin which may cause occular irritation. Distichiasis may occur at any time in the life of a dog. It is difficult to make a strong recommendation with regard to breeding dogs with this entity. The hereditary basis has not been established although it seem probable due to the high incidence in some breeds. Reducing the incidence is a logical goal. When diagnosed, distichiasis should be recorded; breeding discretion is advised. 

Corneal dystrophy-epithelial/stromal.

Inheritance - not defined.

Breeding advice - breeder option.

A non-inflammatory corneal opacity (white to gray) present in one of more of the corneal layers; usually inherited and bilateral. In these dogs, lesions are circular or semicircular central crystalline deposits in the anterior corneal stroma that appear between 2 and 5 years of age. It may be associated with exophthalmos and lagophthalmos common in these dogs.

Exposure keratopathy syndrome/macroblepharon.

Inheritance - not defined.

Breeding advice - breeder option.

A corneal disease involving all or part of the cornea, resulting from inadequate blinking. This results from a combination of anatomic features including shallow orbits, exophthalmos, a large eyelid opening (macroblepharon) and lagophthalmos.


Inheritance - not defined.

Breeding advice - NO.

A partial or complete opacity of the lens and/or its capsule. In cases where cataracts are complete and affect both eyes, blindness results. The prudent approach is to assume cataracts are hereditary except in cases known to be associated with trauma, other causes of ocular inflammation, specific metabolic diseases, persistant pupillary membrane, persistant hyaloid or nutritional deficiencies. Cataracts may involve the lens completely (diffuse) or in a localized region. In the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, onset is at an early age (less than 6 months), affecting the cortex and nucleus with rapid progression to complete cataract, resulting in blindness.

Retinal dysplasia-folds.

Inheritance - not defined.

Breeding advice - breeder option.

Linear, triangular, curved or curvillinear foci of retinal folding that may be single or multiple. Its significance to vision is unknown. There are two other forms of retinal dysplasia (geographic, detached) which are known to be inherited in other breeds and, in their most severe form, cause blindness. The genetic relationship between folds and more severe forms of retinal dysplasia is undetermined.

Retinal dysplasia-geographic, detached.

Inheritance - not defined.

Breeding advice - NO.

Abnormal development of the retina present at birth.

Retinal dysplasia - geographic: Any irregularly shaped area of abnormal retinal development containing both areas of thinning and areas of elevation representing folds and retinal disorganization.

Retinal dysplasia - detached: Severe retinal disorganization associated with separation (detachment) of the retina.

These two forms are associated with vision impairment or blindness. Retinal dysplasia is known to be inherited in many breeds. The genetic relationship between the three forms of retinal dysplasia is not known for all breeds.


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