Heart of a King: Vets call for awareness of heart condition in much loved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel


Affectionate, sweet and loyal are just a few of the reasons why the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (CKCS) is so well loved in the UK. Yet this breed of popular family dog is plagued with heart disease which will affect 98% of the breed. A new survey of over 1000 dog owners in the UK carried out by Vita Animal Health shows that shockingly, only 41% of dog lovers identified the CKCS as being very prone to heart disease with only 39% feeling confident they would know the signs. A whopping 95% of people agree that a dog breed’s popularity is influenced by celebrities and current affairs and with the coronation of King Charles III looming, vets urge the British public to educate themselves when buying this breed.

Cardiology specialist vet, Dr Rachel James, explains “Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are in high demand and sell very quickly. They are a wonderful breed but sadly up to 50% of CKCS have evidence of heart disease by the time they are five, and if they live as long as ten years, nearly all dogs are affected. Unfortunately, not all new buyers know what to ask breeders when they choose their puppy.”

 “The good news is, that there is a heart Doppler test that can be performed on the parents which helps breeders identify affected dogs early on so they can be taken out of the breeding programmes.  Only dogs who have GREEN Doppler results should be used for breeding, and prospective buyers should be asking breeders for proof of these tests – even better if the grandparents of the puppies have good results too.”

The survey revealed that 78% of dog owners believed heart disease in dogs to be common, but 61% were either unsure of or don’t know the signs of heart disease. While over 90% correctly identified breathlessness and slowing down on walks as common signs for heart disease, the respondents were unsure of further indicators.

Dr James continues “We still have lots of work to do in educating our pet owners around heart disease. Subtle changes such as weight loss can let us know something is wrong, as well as more obvious signs such as coughing, exercise intolerance and fainting. Annual health checks of dogs are so important as vets can pick up on early subtle signs, especially for those prone to heart disease such as the CKCS.”

The survey was led by pet nutraceutical company, Vita Animal Health, to raise awareness of the condition and to remind owners to use their vet’s expertise. Vita’s vet nurse, Tara Evans, explains “The CKCS is a very popular breed of dog, perhaps set to be more so now King Charles III is reigning monarch. This survey has shown that awareness of mitral valve disease – which is very common in this breed – is not as good as it could be. The mitral valve sits between the left upper chamber (atrium) and left lower chamber (ventricle) of the heart. It ensures blood flows one way round the heart but when it doesn’t close properly, less oxygenated blood travels around the body to meet its needs.”

The survey revealed that 65% of owners had owned a dog with a heart murmur, and 90% of these people had felt comfortable and supported in managing the murmur.  Interestingly 48% of owners would be reluctant to own a breed that was prone to heart disease yet only 21% of responders consult their vet when choosing which breed would be suitable for them.

Dr James continues “Veterinary professionals are always happy to speak to prospective owners – education empowers people. Helping people know what kind of issues they may encounter with certain breeds enables them to fully prepare, which ultimately improves dog welfare and reduces owner worry.”

Vita Animal Health urges dog owners to talk to their vet if they have any question or concerns regarding heart disease in dogs. A helpful guide on the common signs of heart disease can be found here: www.vitaanimalhealth.com/common-signs-of-heart-disease/ More information can be found at www.vitaanimalhealth.com

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