The cavalier King Charles spaniel is one of the most popular breeds in the world, thanks to their black and tan appearance and well-balanced demeanor. These pups make great lap dogs but love to play with their family too. Whatever they do, they just want to do it with you!

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Chiari Malformations

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What is it?

Chiari malformations are a group of neurologic disorders occurring in roughly 95% of cavalier King Charles spaniels. Syringomyelia is the most common, estimated to be found in 35% of the breed.

When it occurs, fluid build-ups in the spinal cord cause pain or discomfort in your dog. If severity increases, the symptoms could become debilitating.

Typically these malformations are treated with medications, however, a definitive diagnosis can be expensive due to the need for an MRI. Surgery is also an option for treatment but has a relatively low success rate.

Clinical signs:

Scratching face, neck, and shoulders, weakness, general neck pain, loss of balance/coordination, withdrawn behavior, pain/sensitivity during exercise or defecation


Medication for symptom management or surgery

Other risks:

Surgery has a low success rate

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As a toy breed frequently employed in lap dog or therapy dog duties, the cavalier spaniel must be gentle, sweet, and calm – traits which most individuals have in great measure. These little dogs have all of the characteristics you’d want in a companion dog.


This breed is renowned for its friendly temperament, making it easy to introduce your cavalier spaniel to new people or pets (although socialization should always be part of training).


These spaniels may enjoy relaxing and snuggling, but they also have plenty of potential for playfulness and good energy to match when playtime arrives.


Cavaliers make wonderful lap dogs due to their affectionate personalities, gentleness, and size. These dogs want nothing more than to show affection to their humans.


Cavaliers are a very undemanding breed. As long as they receive sufficient time with their family, they won’t need much stimulation or intense exercise to keep them happy.

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The cavalier’s coat is medium, wavy, and silky. Colors include black & tan, black & white, blenheim, and ruby, while tan markings may also be present.


The cavalier King Charles spaniel is not hypoallergenic.


This breed requires regular brushing to keep a healthy coat – at least two or three times per week. On the other hand, haircuts are very infrequent. Dental cleaning, nail trimming, ear cleaning, and bathing needs are standard.


Cavaliers are intelligent and eager to please, making them a fairly easy breed to train. Consistency, positive reinforcement, and proper socialization go a long way with these dogs!

Living Space

One of the factors that makes this breed so popular is their adaptability to different living spaces. Tiny apartments and large homes alike can suit this breed, although they should always live indoors and fare better in moderate climates (disliking extreme heat or cold).

Learn more about the cost of caring for a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Cavalier King Charles spaniel: Breed Information Guide

Toy breeds certainly have their charm, bred to be small, cute, gentle, and affectionate. Of all toy breeds, there may be none more ideal than the cavalier King Charles spaniel.

These popular pooches pack a lot of charm in their adorable, silky coat, big brown eyes, and loving little personalities.

While cavaliers may have a perfect temperament, there are plenty of grooming needs, exercise considerations, and health concerns to be aware of.

At Spot Pet Insurance, we’re here to help you make an informed decision when picking the right breed for your family.

Today, we’re helping you decide if the cavalier King Charles spaniel is a good fit for you.

Meet the cavalier spaniel

The first thing anyone is likely to notice when they encounter a cavalier spaniel is their adorable appearance and friendly smile, ready to greet this new stranger.

These small dogs are bred to be lap dogs, and all their qualities show it. They carry a bit of energy, hunting instincts, prey drive, and wanderlust from their Spaniel heritage but are nothing like the sporting dogs they come from.

Cavaliers want nothing more than to spend some lovey-dovey time with their humans. In general, these dogs are low maintenance. They are a similar size to the pug, English toy spaniel, and other toy dogs.

They do require frequent brushing, medium exercise, and diligent health monitoring. However, cavaliers aren’t likely to demand constant stimulation and active attention.

If you’ve got time and love to give, and want plenty in return, read on to see if this breed is perfect for you!

Where does the cavalier spaniel breed come from?

You might have guessed that the cavalier King Charles spaniel has some relation to a King Charles II in the breed’s history. You’d be right!

Spaniels have a long history dating back to Spain and other areas around the Mediterranean. This breed, in particular, came to fame through King Charles I and II, who were exceptionally fond of their own cavalier spaniels in 17th-century and 18th-century England.

The dogs roamed the halls at Blenheim Palace and were later bred by the Dukes of Marlborough in the United Kingdom. Breed clubs like the cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club still exist in the UK for breeders and fans of these royal family dogs.

Over the centuries, through crossbreeding, this particular breed was almost lost. The efforts of an American, Roswell Eldridge, saved the cavalier King Charles spaniel of old in the early 20th century.

From that point on, the breed has been on the rise in popularity across the world. Today, they are one of the most popular breeds around.

What are the potential health conditions for cavalier spaniels?

Unfortunately, the cavalier spaniel’s breeding brings with it a number of problems.

Various conditions are extremely common in this breed, some more serious than others. The first two to note are Chiari Malformations and Mitral Valve Disease. The former occurs in approximately 95% of all cavalier spaniels, while the latter affects almost half of the breed or more in dogs aged 10 or older.

Knowing the signs can help identify and manage these conditions. Despite the frequency of these conditions, cavaliers still have a very respectable life expectancy, and most live a high quality of life, even when diagnosed.

Other conditions that occur across many breeds also affect cavaliers, including:

  • Heart murmur

  • Heart disease and heart failure

  • Dry eyes

  • Fleas

  • Cataracts

  • Hip dysplasia

  • Mitral Valve Disease (MVD)

  • Luxating patella, a kneecap issue

Are cavalier spaniels affectionate with family?

Yes, cavalier spaniels are exceptionally affectionate dogs. Since they were bred specifically to be loving lap dogs, cavaliers are sweet, loving pets.

Not all cavaliers need to act like lap dogs, but they certainly enjoy it. If you enjoy snuggling with your pup while they are in your lap or laying right beside you, you have a friend in a cavalier. As such, this breed is frequently recommended for senior owners.

Whatever you do, make sure you have plenty of time to be with your cavalier. They need to be around their family and don’t enjoy long periods alone.

Are cavalier spaniels intelligent?

This may be a toy breed, but the cavalier descends from sporting dogs and still inherits much of their intelligence. A bright mind helps to make this breed easy to train.

They won’t require significant mental stimulation. Cavaliers are happy to lie around for most or all of the day.

Do cavalier spaniels do well with children?

Cavalier spaniels fare excellently with children due to their small size, gentle demeanor, sweet playfulness, and friendliness.

As with all dogs, interactions with young children should always be supervised. This is especially true due to the size of the cavalier King Charles spaniel, as they could be accidentally injured.

How are cavalier spaniels with strangers?

Introducing strangers is rarely a difficult task for a cavalier spaniel. They were bred to be exceedingly friendly.

They do have a watchdog instinct and can sometimes be mildly suspicious of strangers, especially anyone they deem threatening. Barking may occur in some situations as well.

Do cavalier spaniels get along with other pets?

Cavalier King Charles spaniels tend to get along well with other pets with ease. They are considered highly dog-friendly and can enjoy having another sibling to keep them company. However, they will mesh easier with another small breed, as a large breed could accidentally injure them during play.

Proper socialization is the key to making sure encounters go smoothly. Even though your cavalier is likely to be very friendly, they must learn how to safely approach other animals in cases where the other may not be as eager to meet someone new.

How to be the best pet parent for a cavalier spaniel

Pet parentage is a joyous privilege but also a heavy responsibility. Since your dog relies on you for their whole life, it’s vital to ensure you have a full understanding of their needs.

Here at Spot Pet Insurance, we’ve created our Blog for just that purpose. Our huge archive of helpful resources is here to aid you in every step of the journey – and it’s updated frequently!

Let’s talk about a few more aspects you should be familiar with in regards to the cavalier King Charles spaniel before we go.

Basic training and behavior etiquette for your cavalier spaniel

Cavaliers are easy to train for a number of reasons. The first is a general pliability and eagerness to please. These aren’t the most independent or strong-willed dogs, which makes everything easier when it comes to training.

This breed is also fairly intelligent. They aren’t the kind of clever where they are opening doors to access snacks or finding ways to escape the fence while you aren’t looking, but they can pick up on new training routines with relative ease and remember them well.

The most important thing to remember when training a cavalier spaniel is to use positive reinforcement. This breed is very sensitive, and harsh rebuke or punishment could be counterproductive or even scarring for your dog.

With patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement, your cavalier can become a well-behaved companion!

What types of foods should cavalier spaniels never eat?

Cavaliers should never be fed certain foods according to the foods that are generally toxic to dogs. Here are some of the most common examples:

Exercising tips to keep your cavalier spaniel staying fit and healthy

Cavalier spaniels may be bred as lap dogs, but they carry some of their Spaniel ancestry in terms of energy levels. They won’t demand exercise all day and are happy to lay around instead – however, for their health, they should be exercised regularly.

Most recommend half an hour to an hour of exercise for your cavalier King Charles spaniel.

It’s crucial to keep your cavalier securely leashed or fenced while they exercise, as they do have a tendency towards wanderlust and chasing (thanks to their prey drive).

Cavaliers enjoy a good walk but may not be able to keep up as a jogging partner or running beside you as you ride a bike. Exercise of moderate or low intensity is ideal for smaller breeds like the cavalier.

Cavalier spaniel life stages

Cavalier King Charles spaniel Puppy: 0 - 1 year

Adult: 1 year - 9 years

Senior: 9 years - end of life


  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Dog Breed Information | The American Kennel Club (AKC)

  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Dog Breed Hypoallergenic, Health and Life Span | PetMD

  • Syringomyelia And Chiari Like Malformation | VCA Animal Hospitals

  • Syringomyelia in the Cavalier King Charles spaniel (CKCS) dog | National Library of Medicine

  • Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds Is There Such A Thing | VCA Animal Hospitals

  • Most Popular Dog Breeds of 2021 | American Kennel Club

  • What Does it Mean When a Dog Has Strong Prey Drive? | Daily Paws

  • Mitral Valve Disease | Cavalier Health

  • Patellar Luxations | American College of Veterinary Surgeons

  • Socializing a New Puppy

  • Foods that can be poisonous to pets | The Humane Society of the United States