Cavalier King Charles Spaniel health problems

Heart disease

Heart failure is the leading cause of death among Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Most heart disease in dogs is caused by the weakening of one of the four heart valves; also known as mitral valve disease. This can be indicated by a heart murmur or outward signs suggestive of a heart problem.

Your vet can perform testing to determine the severity of the disease. The same tests will need to be repeated at least annually to monitor progress. If heart disease is diagnosed early, prescription medications can be used to prolong life for many years. Veterinary dental care and weight control can help reduce symptoms.

Ear problems

One of the most notable characteristics of the Cavalier King Charles is their long, floppy ears. Unfortunately, the very feature that make them distinctive also makes them prone to ear problems.

Allergies, swimming, overgrowth of hair in the ear canals, or accumulation of earwax can predispose your dog to ear infections, which are painful and irritating. The earlier this disease is diagnosed, the less discomfort and pain your dog will suffer. Be on the watch for head shaking or scratching, a foul odour from the ears or if your dog’s ears seem painful to touch.

By monitoring and treating ear infections early, we can reduce the likelihood of eardrum damage that can lead to deafness. Most ear infections tend to recur until you can control the underlying cause.

Dental disease

If your dog’s teeth aren’t kept clean, tartar will eventually build up and lead to irritation, inflammation of the gums, damage to your dog’s teeth and eventually tooth loss. Dental disease can also lead to complications in other bodily organs which could all be prevented with regular cleaning of their teeth and dental checks with the vet.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel running in a field


Obesity is the excess of body fat, resulting in an overweight condition which makes our pets more susceptible to a range of associated health issues. Common conditions suffered as a result of the extra weight include osteoarthritis, diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer.

Obesity is preventable by making sure your dog has enough exercise and is fed the right amount.

Neurological problems

Several neurological diseases can afflict Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Symptoms can include seizures, imbalance, tremors, weakness, or excessive sleeping. If you notice any of these symptoms, seek veterinary attention immediately.


Epilepsy is a common cause of seizures in dogs and is often a genetic condition passed down from a parent. Sometimes called idiopathic epilepsy as they have no underlying cause, these seizures are a period of uncontrolled body movements as a result of abnormal activity in the brain.

Because different types of seizures can affect dogs, multiple tests are required to rule out different causes before idiopathic epilepsy is diagnosed. Epilepsy can’t be cured, so treatment is key to managing the condition.

Bone and joint problems

Patellar luxation

With patellar luxation, the spaniel’s kneecap slips out of its normal position. It is often associated with skeletal deformities that are present at birth. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight and avoiding too much exercise can help ease pressure on the joint and knee cap and reduce the severity of the condition in the future.

Elbow and Hip Dysplasia

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are prone to hip dysplasia, an inherited disease which prevents the hip from developing properly during growth. This condition results in early arthritis and causes severe joint pain for affected dogs. Elbow dysplasia is a little more complex but is also a genetic developmental condition that results in arthritis and lameness.

Responsible breeding can help prevent these conditions and keeping dogs healthy can help ease the pressure on their joints.

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)

IVDD is caused when the gel-like centre between one or more vertebrae slips or ruptures, causing the disk to push on the spinal cord. Because the disk has moved away from its correct position, it causes pain, damage and even paralysis.

Because Cavaliers are predisposed to the condition, it cannot always be prevented but there are measures you can take to reduce the risk. Keeping your pet fit and thin, providing steps or ramps to get on and off furniture and using a harness instead of a collar will help reduce any unnecessary strain on their bodies.

Eye problems


Cataracts are often an inherited condition which can lead to blindness. A cataract develops when the lens of a dog’s eye clouds, stopping light from reaching the back of the eye. Cataracts in dogs can be surgically removed but if this is not possible, anti-inflammatory eye drops may be prescribed to ease a dog’s inflammation.

Dry eye

Dry eye, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a condition where a dog cannot produce enough tears, which results in dry and painful eyes. It occurs more commonly in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels than some other breeds and if left untreated it can result in blindness.

While Cavaliers seem to be predisposed, infection, trauma and autoimmune reaction can all cause dry eye.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Progressive Retinal Atrophy is an inherited disease which causes slowly progressive blindness. It is not contagious and is painless, but there is currently no cure for the condition, which means affected dogs are likely to become completely blind.

A genetic test is available for this condition, to identify affected dogs before they develop any symptoms.

Bladder or kidney stones

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are more likely to develop stones that can form in the kidneys or bladder. Regular (6-12 month) urine testing would check for any indication of their presence. They are painful! If your dog has blood in their urine, can’t urinate or is straining, this is a medical emergency.

Allergies and skin problems

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from allergies but rather than sneezing, allergies can make a dog’s skin itchy. This itch can be caused by a reaction to fleas, food or environmental allergens among other factors, with a dog’s feet, belly, ears and folds of the skin most commonly affected.

These can all be treated, and can even be prevented, once a vet has diagnosed an allergen.


Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are particularly prone to Ichthyosis, a condition which causes thick paw pads and skin with large, dry flakes that resembles fish scales.

Several palliate treatment options are available, like special shampoos and fish oils to give variable relief, but there is no definitive cure for this inherited disease. There is a genetic test to determine if your dog is clear, a carrier or affected. This is important if you are considering breeding, to prevent this debilitating disease in future generations.

Breathing problems

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) affects dogs with short noses. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have the same amount of tissue in his nose and throat as a longer-nosed dog. As a consequence, the soft palate can be too long and hangs down into the airway. The nostrils are often too small, and sometimes the trachea is narrow and undersized.

This means a brachycephalic dog’s airway is narrow and obstructed. Watch for exercise intolerance, loud breathing, coughing, bluish gums or fainting. Surgical correction may be indicated in severe cases.


While responsible owners will always pay special attention to any health conditions their breed is susceptible to, unexpected events can always happen - check our "King Charles Spaniel insurance" page for more information on insuring your Spaniel with our dog insurance policies.


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