Getting to Know Your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

This week in our series on Getting to Know Your Dog Breed we are featuring the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The Cavalier is within the top 20 dog breeds, ranking #19 overall. They are part of the AKC Toy group.

Life expectancy:  12 – 15 years

Color: Cavaliers come in a only four different color patterns: white with black or tan markings; black with tan or white markings; ruby red with no markings or tricolor. Their coat is very soft and silky and doesn’t require much care except for regular brushing of the feathery ends.

Origins:  The Cavalier has a very noble history. While spaniels originated in Spain (hence the name), the Cavalier is named after King Charles I of England. The dog went through various alterations in appearance over the years as their popularity ebbed and flowed and their looks changed. But in the 1920’s, an American named Roswell Eldridge offered a cash prize to the British breeders who could produce “Bleinheim Spaniels of the Old World type” and  eventually, the small headed, toy spaniel we see today emerged and was first shown in the Crufts Dog Show in 1928.

Personality: The Cavalier is a sporty, playful dog, a bit larger compared to other toy breeds. They are devoted to their family and want to always be close and involved, preferably on your lap.

Their looks make it very easy to spoil these dogs, but they need regular exercise and proper training like any dog to keep bad behaviors in check.

Due to their human attachment, they may suffer from separation anxiety.

Health Issues:  Cavaliers seem to be susceptible to several genetic disorders. First is a nervous system condition called Syringomyelia. This condition is severe and caused by the malformation of the skull and being too small for their brain. There is some thought this is due to breeding practices that focus on breeding small headed Cavaliers. It is quite painful and may cause seizures and paralysis. It’s possible to treat Syringomyelia with pain medication or surgery.

Another common disorder found in Cavaliers is Mitral Valve Disease. This may start as a simple heart murmur, but eventually progresses and may lead to heart failure.

Both of these conditions can be screened for, so be sure an question your breeder and ensure your dog has been screened, or if your dog develops any symptoms, get them to the vet asap.

Fitness/energy level:  Cavaliers like to chase things, especially things with feathers.  They can be barky if not trained or if they are bored or under-exercised. They don’t require a lot of exercise, a couple of short 30-40 minute walks each day should suffice.

Native foods for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel:  

  • Rabbit
  • Venison
  • Trout
  • Salmon

Good foods to feed your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel:

Zuke's™ Ascent Adventure Tender Blend Trout & Sweet Potato

Grandma Lucy's™ Artisan Venison

Nutram™ Total T25 Grain Free Salmon & Trout

Fun facts about the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel:

  • President Ronald Reagan owned a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were featured in the TV series, Sex & the City. The character Charlotte York owned two of them.
  • Cavalier King Charles spaniels were often brought into beds in an effort to attract fleas and be bitten instead of their owners, thus saving their humans from the plague or other diseases.


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