Breed Tips

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Understanding Health Concerns

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Like many dog breeds, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is prone to a variety of health issues as they age. Today, we’re going to break down some of the most common Cavalier King Charles Spaniel health problems so that you can provide the best care for your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel!

About the Breed

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a graceful, gentle, and friendly dog within the toy breed group and is known for their fantastic athleticism. Named for the 17th Century British monarchs, King Charles I and his son King Charles II, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was a favorite among aristocrats. Despite their royal background, these dogs are more than happy to chase a squirrel or play with children.

5 Cavalier King Charles Health Problems

What health problems do Cavalier King Charles Spaniels typically have? Here are five common health conditions that pet parents should consider:

  1. Mitral Valve Disease

  2. Otitis (Ear Infections)

  3. Syringomyelia

  4. Conjunctivitis

  5. Gastritis

Mitral Valve Disease

Considered the number one health concern that Cavalier King Charles Spaniels face, mitral valve disease is a health condition that begins as a heart murmur that progresses into heart failure. Many Cavalier King Charles Spaniels will develop mitral valve disease before their fifth birthday. You may also be interested in the Tibetan Spaniel

Signs & Symptoms:

Your veterinarian will check your Cavalier King Charles Spaniels’ heart at your routine veterinary appointments. When they do, they will listen for any heart murmurs, which are abnormal heart sounds that may indicate an underlying health problem, such as mitral valve disease. If they suspect that something is off, they will run a series of tests on your pup as a next step.

Prognosis & Treatments:

Mitral valve disease can be treated with heart medications, and many dogs can still enjoy an average lifespan with proper treatment from their veterinarian.

Otitis (Ear Infections)

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have stunning, long ears that are a hallmark of their breed. However, their ears are more prone to infections which can be highly painful.

Signs & Symptoms:

If your dog has an ear infection, they may shake their head and scratch their ears excessively in an attempt to alleviate their discomfort. You may also notice discharge, odor, and redness.

Prognosis & Treatments:

While ear infections are not typically dangerous to the affected dog’s long-term health, they can be highly uncomfortable and even painful.This health issue should be immediately addressed by your veterinarian. In many cases, your veterinarian will send you home with medication to fight the ear infection.


By six years of age, 70% of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels will develop signs of syringomyelia, according to one study by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare. As your Cavalier ages, pet parents should be aware of this issue.

Signs & Symptoms:

Syringomyelia occurs when cavities form and fill with fluid in the spinal cord due to abnormal pressure in the skull. Common signs of syringomyelia include yelping after a change in posture, inability to move their neck without discomfort or pain, yelping, crying, and developing a wobble when they walk.

Prognosis & Treatments:

Unfortunately, syringomyelia has no cure. However, medical therapy can help to manage your dog’s pain levels, typically through medication.


Commonly known as “pink eye,” both humans and dogs can develop this uncomfortable eye condition. Dogs have a third eyelid that is covered by the conjunctiva of their eyelid. If they have a conjunctivitis infection, the conjunctiva becomes inflamed and red.

Signs & Symptoms:

Common conjunctivitis symptoms include redness, swelling, discharge from the eyes, squinting, and excessive blinking. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have beautiful doe eyes that make them especially prone to pink eye and other eye problems, like cataracts.

Prognosis & Treatments:

If you notice your Cavalier King Charles Spaniels is experiencing any irritation in their eye area, immediately reach out to your veterinarian. Many eye conditions, like conjunctivitis, can be treated quickly, relieving your pup’s discomfort.


Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are especially prone to gastritis, which is inflammation of the stomach lining. Gastritis can occur in acute or chronic episodes. Some cases are due to underlying health problems, while others result from eating spoiled or raw food, eating human foods, overeating, or eating non-food items, such as plants, foreign objects, or garbage.

Signs & Symptoms:

Signs of gastritis include: 

To diagnose gastritis, your veterinarian may run tests, such as blood work, urinalysis, ultrasounds, or fecal tests, on your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Prognosis & Treatments:

The prognosis for gastritis is usually favorable. Many cases can be treated from home with your veterinarian’s guidance. More severe, chronic cases of this health condition may require ongoing medication and fluid therapy if your dog becomes dehydrated.

Other King Charles Spaniel Health Conditions

Although these are the five most common health problems for your King Charles Spaniel, there are a few other health conditions to look out for. The American Kennel Club cites hip dysplasia and patellar luxation as other conditions the breed is prone to.

It is best to have cardiac exams, hip and patella evaluations, and ophthalmologist exams completed at your regular vet visits to ensure the continued health of your spaniel.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Health Outlook

The average life expectancy of a Cavalier King Charles is 10 to 14 years of age. Mitral valve disease and syringomyelia are two of the biggest health issues that this breed faces, but with preventative care and medicine, these spaniels can live long and healthy lives.

Get Pet Insurance for your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Our toy spaniels are beloved companions who deserve the best pet health care and long, happy lives.

Routine veterinary care is critical to help keep your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel happy and healthy, as well as preventing and minimizing the risk of disease later on. Our pets’ health is important at all stages of life.

It may be a good idea to consider getting pet insurance while your dog is young and healthy, and give yourself peace of mind knowing that your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is covered for unexpected accidents and illnesses!

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