Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have an average lifespan that is shorter than other small breed dogs, averaging ten to twelve years. They do have a few major health issues that cannot only be pricey to diagnose and treat, but could eventually lead to early death. Whether you own a King Charles Spaniel or are thinking about getting one, here are the top three health concerns you should know about.
#1 – Syringomyelia
This serious condition is caused by the occipital bone being too small for the cerebrospinal fluid. When this is present, the fluid is forced into the spinal cord, creating fluid-filled cysts (syrinx). Symptoms will not show up until at least six months of age and include scratching at the neck/ears, crying in pain, sensitivity to being touched at the next and off-gaits. It can only be diagnosed via an MRI. Steroids can be given to alleviate the pain but there is no cure.
#2 – Degenerative Mitral Valve Disease (MVD)
This is a common issue in King Charles Spaniels. MVD is when the mitral valve between the left atrium and the left ventricle begins to fail. This is a one-way valve that is supposed to keep blood from flowing backward. The first sign of MVD is a heart murmur. Your Spaniel may also be unwilling to exercise, become out of breath easily, and have a lack of appetite. He may even sleep less than normal. MVD will progress and eventually lead to death. There are drugs that can be used to improve health, but it’s eventually fatal.
#3 – Keratoconjunctivitis
King Charles Spaniels are also prone to Keratoconjunctivitis, or “dry eye.” This is a genetic trait, so ask any potential breeder about instances in their lines. Lack of tear film over the surface of the eye and the lid lining is what causes this issue. If left untreated, it can cause cornea scarring, which leads to blindness. Look for chronic red eyes, yellow/green colored discharge and/or film covering the eye. Unlike the other issues on this list, this one is not fatal, but one you will have to keep up with for the lifespan of your dog. Treatment includes antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and eye drops that promote tear formation.