Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Health Problems

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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel sadCavalier King Charles Spaniels are a favorite dog breed but, sadly, the breed is also know to have more than average adverse health risks. Don’t let what you find out here deter you from owning this lovable toy dog, though. As with any animal, every living being has its share of health risks. There is no guarantee that your dog will be diagnosed with any of these illnesses, but it’s always good to be prepared.

Article Overview

What Are Common Health Problems For Cavalier King Charles Spaniels?

On average, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels live to be 9 to 14-years-old. Unfortunately, it’s not always old age that takes our sweet dogs from us. Some dogs develop health issues, which can result in a shorter life. However, there are some illnesses that your dog may be diagnosed with that don’t necessarily shorten their life, but do decrease their quality of life.

According to Petplan Pet Insurance, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are commonly treated for heart murmurs, mitral valve insufficiency and seizures. Petplan’s claims show that the average cost for these illnesses are as follows:

  • Heart murmurs: $990
  • Mitral valve insufficiency: $1,143
  • Seizures: $1,454

Below are other common health problems and symptoms for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

Canine Hip Dysplasia

Canine hip dysplasia is typically associated with larger breeds but can be a common issue for Cavaliers. Because this breed is so small, symptoms may not present until your dog is older. Vets often take x-rays to help diagnose hip dysplasia at 2-years-old. Symptoms may include lameness, stiff back legs, difficulties getting up and unable to enjoy physical activities.


Cavaliers are rarely born being completely deaf. Most cavaliers who experience deafness are partially or prematurely deaf. However, some do become entirely deaf around 6 to 8-years-old. Symptoms include lack of response to sounds including your voice, squeaky toys, clapping, whistling, doorbells, etc.


Entropion is an inward rolling of the eyelid edges and is typically in the lower eyelid of one or both eyes. The hair on the affected eyelid rubs against the cornea and causes discomfort and trauma to the cornea. This is a painful and potentially blinding disease inherited from the dog’s parents.

It usually develops within the first few months after birth. Symptoms include redness in the eye, inflamed eye, light sensitivity, squinting and eye discharge.


Seizures are common among Cavaliers. The most frequent type of seizure is “Fly Catcher’s Syndrome,” which is when the dog lunges at imaginary flies. Drugs can be prescribed to help treat this. Symptoms include collapsing, stiffening, twitching, loss of consciousness, drooling, tongue chewing and foaming at the mouth.

Weakened Immune System

This can include allergies, digestive or metabolic disorders, dry eye, cancer, breeding issues, muscle or nerve disorders, thyroid problems, blood problems, etc. Symptoms can vary based on the immune issue.

Patellar Luxation (Slipping Patellas)

Your dog may not feel much discomfort, especially if they’re young. Surgery is a form of treatment available if your dog is in pain, their quality of life is diminished or to prevent further joint deterioration. Symptoms include lameness, decreased range of motion, difficulty getting up, swelling and weakness. Dogs who have experienced Patellar Luxation are more prone to developing CCL/ACL injuries.


This is potentially caused by a small occipital bone (located on the back of the skull) preventing cerebrospinal fluid from moving freely. The fluid goes into the spinal cord and creates a cavity called syrinx. Common symptoms include shoulder, neck and ear scratching (common when walking on leash or excited) on one side but could become bilateral.

Dogs with this may also be sensitive around their head, neck and forelimbs and sometimes cry/yelp/scream for no clear reason. Head posture may be the culprit for your dog’s pain, and some prefer to sleep and eat with their head up. Young dogs may develop neck scoliosis (a twisted neck).

Wobbling hind limb while walking and forelimb weakness are also symptoms. Cavaliers show signs between 6-months and 3-years, but any age of dog can show symptoms. MRI scans are taken to diagnose syringomyelia.

Common Tests

There are specific tests that are recommended for Cavaliers:

  • Cardiac: Veterinarians will look for a murmur to help diagnosis chronic, degenerative mitral valve disease. Other heart defects that they will look for include pulmonary and aortic stenoses as well as Patent Ductus Arterious.
  • Eye: Cataracts and retinal dysplasia are concerns that vets will look for. Progressive retinal atrophy is also something that this breed can experience, but it isn’t frequent.
  • Hip: Vets will look for signs of hip dysplasia and syringomyelia.
  • Knee: Your dog’s vet will monitor patellar luxation, syringomyelia and other knee-related illnesses.

Real Claims From Petplan Pet Insurance Customers

Below are some claims from real Cavalier pet parents who were insured through Petplan.

Lola, 10-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Condition: Laryngeal collapse
Petplan protected since September 2009
Total reimbursed: $15,130.64

We have two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels; Lola, who is nearly 8, and Fido, the baby, at 4. When I purchased pet insurance with Petplan nearly ten years ago, my husband asked me why I would pay for insurance. Knowing the problems that Cavies have, I felt it was a worthwhile investment. Fast forward to later down the road. Lola was having problems breathing properly, and at night would snore like you wouldn’t believe. We took her to our vet who referred us to a specialist veterinary hospital. After tests, more tests and minor surgeries, Lola was diagnosed with laryngeal collapse. The veterinary hospital gave us two options: a full tracheostomy or euthanasia. Obviously we opted for the tracheostomy. The cost of this with all the pre-testing was $15,989.79. I forwarded my claim for to Petplan for the full amount and they paid it (after our deductible) with no questions asked within two weeks.
Since the tracheostomy, Lola has had to have follow-up treatments, all of which Petplan has paid. Just recently, she had to undergo a skin fold resection around the tracheostomy site because the skin around her neck was causing obstruction to the stoma. In layman’s terms, she had a neck lift. On walks her lips and tongue would turn blue because she wasn’t getting any air. On one walk, she passed out completely and my dog walker had to give her “mouth to stoma” resuscitation to bring her around. The cost for the “neck lift” was $2,925. Again, Petplan settled the claim (less our deductible) in less than two weeks.
I really cannot say enough positive things about Petplan. Claims are dealt with quickly. Petplan keeps you informed via email about where the claim is in their system, and they reimburse you within two weeks. That’s why we love Petplan! – Debbie G.

Sadie, 8-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Condition: Abdominal obstruction and heart conditions
Petplan protected since June 2007
Total reimbursed: $12,932.67

If you do nothing else as a dog owner, purchase Petplan pet insurance for your dog. I am a proud owner of a beautiful Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. My dog, Sadie, underwent emergency abdominal surgery for an obstruction. Her surgical costs topped over $4,000, but Petplan paid for $3,600 of it. It was an incredible relief not to have to worry at the time whether I could afford life-saving measures for my dog. Petplan was a lifesaver–literally and not just in emergencies. Prior to getting Sadie, I researched several pet insurance companies because I knew that Cavaliers were prone to a heart condition. Petplan is the only pet insurance company I know that covers congenital defects and conditions to specific breeds. My dog, Sadie, now over 8 years old, recently developed early stages of the condition which require expensive tests and daily medications. Petplan has covered a majority of these expenses and in a very timely manner. I cannot recommend them enough! – Margaret C.

Save Your Dog (& Wallet) With Pet Insurance

The best way to protect your dog and your bank account is by signing your dog up for pet insurance quickly after they come home with you. Pet insurance companies do not cover pre-existing conditions, so the sooner you sign up, the fewer exclusions you’ll have. Learn more about the best pet insurance companies here.

What health problems are you most concerned about with your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel?

Sources: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, PetMD

About The Author:

Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism from Simpson College. She has been writing about dogs since 2014, covering subjects such as dog insurance, training, health, accessories, and more. Her work has appeared in many notable brands, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Reader's Digest, Forbes, People, Woman's World, and Huffington Post.

Kimberly's natural curiosity helps her research as she seeks the truth when learning about, comparing, and personally testing canine products and services. With every piece she writes, her goal is to help our readers find the best fit for their unique needs. Kimberly grew up in a family that loved Labrador Retrievers and remembers running and playing in the yard with them as a child.

In 2017, she and her husband adopted their Coonhound mix, Sally, from a local shelter. Kimberly’s research was put to good use since Sally faced some aggression issues with other dogs and needed some training to be an inside dog. She worked daily with Sally and sought help from professionals to help Sally become the happy pup she is today. One of Kimberly’s favorite pastimes is spoiling Sally with new toys, comfy beds, and yummy treats (she even makes homemade goodies for her). She tries to purchase the safest products for Sally and knows that each canine has their own specific likes and dislikes. Kimberly is passionate about dogs and knows the bond between humans and canines is like no other.

Disclaimer: Information regarding insurance company offerings, pricing and other contract details are subject to change by the insurance company at any time and are not under the control of this website. Information published on this website is intended for reference use only. Please review your policy carefully before signing up for a new pet health insurance contract or any other contract as your unique circumstances will differ from those of others who may be used for example purposes in this article.
Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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Alex De Lara
November 19, 2019 2:34 pm

For the past 3-4 years, we regularly host a Cavalier King Charles.. a quite funny fellow but we noticed he would not come, or even turn to you at the sound of the call or anything else until we figured the poor thing was going deaf; we told the owners who came to the same conclusion…. and I came here just to check things out since I had no idea. Thanks for the article.

September 28, 2019 6:21 pm

Heard it all before they grab a bunch a possibilities for any small breed and use rare conditions as reason to “hate” on the breed. Half of which will never happen unless you buy the dog from a pet store.

I have bulldogs so i’ve Heard it all and been hated by people who think of themselves as canine humanitarians, for which their just jerks with. Intolerance if you don’t fully agree.

August 2, 2019 1:59 pm

To Kimberly, your section on Cavalier king Charles Spaniels is a little unfair,although very detailed on health issues it mentions very little about the long history of kcs or the development of the Cavalier (1925). You also fail to mention the characteristics of the breed , there are Four distinct variants:Ruby (Plain red/brown), Blenheim (White & red/brown), Black&Tan (!) and also Tri-colour. Tri-colours are also known (colloquially)as Prince Charles Cavaliers. Both the Kcs and Cavalier Kcs are the product of long breeding to produce a dog that is intentionally ‘courtly in appearance and good for ladies of station’. Basically bred to be a living hand warmer for ladies in stately homes or during coach journeys, these dogs are incredibly placid, good natured and people orientated. Cavalier spaniels are also renowned for their ability to adapt to an owners lifestyle,elderly and sedate OR hectic .Records suggest that Cavaliers rarely nip (warn) children even if provoked*. The cavalier club and Kennel Club (U.K) have schemes to reduce the known health issues , which seem to be successful so far. So PLEASE include more about this beautiful class of dog. STATEMENT: I own Charlie ,a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. *Google searches show a toddler being nipped (no blood drawn) after teasing the dog for several HOURS.A 69 year old was knocked off bicycle, resulting in hip fracture. These are the only incidents I’ve found- so far. Two incidents in 20years for such a popular breed (18th in A.K.C ratings)? Maybe a good choice for family safe pet

fanny morton
June 4, 2019 10:36 pm

My CKC has liquid in his stomach , heart enlarge , not eating much and to I notice that he is losing his teeth.

August 5, 2020 8:00 am
Reply to  fanny morton

I recently lost my cavoodle to enlarged heart following on mitral valve failure. This is quite a common outcome for cavoodles and CKCs diagnosed with heart murmur earlier on. Once your dog has liquid gathering in his stomach he would normally be on a diuretic drug that helps him release fluids. If he is losing his teeth, that is SHOCKING and he should have dental treatment IMMEDIATELY. It sounds to me as if he needs a visit to the vet and medication straight away. Urgently!