Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Health Problems: Symptoms & Diagnosis


Last Updated: July 28, 2023 | 5 min read | 8 Comments

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Here’s how it works.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy at veterinary. Selective focus on hand.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are a favorite dog breed but, sadly, the breed is also known 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.

Common Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Health Issues

On average, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s lifespan is 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 Fetch Pet Insurance, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are commonly treated for heart murmurs, mitral valve insufficiency, and seizures. Fetch’s claims show that the average cost for these illnesses is 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 according to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club and PetMD.

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 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 a 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 a syrinx. Common symptoms include shoulder, neck and ear scratching (common when walking on a 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, or 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 limbs 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 diagnose 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 eye-related 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 Fetch Pet Insurance Customers

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

Lola, a 10-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Condition: Laryngeal collapse
Fetch 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 Fetch 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 Fetch 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 Fetch 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, Fetch settled the claim (less our deductible) in less than two weeks.I really cannot say enough positive things about Fetch. Claims are dealt with quickly. Fetch 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 Fetch!

– Debbie G.

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

If you do nothing else as a dog owner, purchase Fetch 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 Fetch 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. Fetch 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. Fetch 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. Fetch 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.

Tagged With:

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

Notify of
Oldest Most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Scroll to Top