Cavalier Health

Health Initiatives » Current Health Initiatives

There are a number of international projects underway researching the causes and genetic makeup of health issues in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. These include:

OVC MVD Study, Guelph, ON – Dr. O'Grady and Dr. Minors
Over the past several years, and currently, the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph and the Canadian Cavalier Club of Canada have been in partnership for the research, and screening of Mitral Valve Disease in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Many Cavaliers all over Canada have participated in this ongoing heart study with Dr. O'Grady and Dr. Minors in Guelph. The screening and research of MVD has been a priority of Cavalier breeders since the disease was recognized as a serious problem in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. MVD will continue to be a priority for Cavalier breeders in the future, and the Mitral Valve Disease study will play a continuing major role in helping Canadian Cavalier breeders annually perform crucial Mitral Valve Disease screening, and learning more about the disease in Cavaliers.

Full Genome Scan & Genetic Mapping, Montreal, QC – Dr. Guy Rouleau
Dr. Guy Rouleau is currently collaborating with Dr. Rusbridge to search for the gene(s) responsible for Syringomyelia. A recently released presentation, Chiari Genetics: Dogs and Humans, by Dr. Guy Rouleau, is a very interesting video to watch.

Rusbridge's & Knowler's "Summary of Genetic Studies of Chiari-like Malformation with Syringomyelia (CM/SM) in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (CKCS)" – Dr. Rusbridge and Penny Knowler
Dr. Clare Rusbridge and Penny Knowler have published an updated summary of the genetic studies of CM and SM in the Cavalier. They also are seeking MRI scans of dogs 5 years old or older and which do not have SM, along with MRIs of those dogs' family members. Here is there introduction to their Summary.

"If we find the gene/s it is possible to prevent CM/SM rather than treat it and the fact that Clare was able to obtain collaboration with such an eminent geneticist as Dr Guy Rouleau has made this a possibility. We still have a way to go with this complex disorder. Unlike Chiari-like malformation, Syringomyelia is an acquired condition and a syrinx may develop at different rates over a period of time. Some dogs may never develop symptoms so you wouldn't know it was there. However these dogs when bred together can produce puppies with large painful syrinxes. This is our focus. Dogs that have pain and suffer. To help find all the factors that contribute to the formation of a syrinx we need to find 'normal' cavaliers. We are looking for dogs that been MRI'd over 5/6 years or older who DO NOT have Syringomyelia and their relative if possible. Please help. I have written to Lesley Jupp and asked for our request to be passed to Regional Clubs but it is the ordinary members that make up a club and you can make a difference by having your older dogs scanned or encouraging information to be shared if you know of any."

The MRI report and pedigree should be sent to:

Clare - [at]
or Penny - penny.knowler [at]

Dr. Blott's Preliminary Report on SM Gene Research, UK – Dr. Sarah Blott

Dr. Sarah Blott, of UK's Animal Health Trust and who is leading the research to identify the genes controlling SM, reported to the UK neurologists at their October 24 meeting that.

"Early estimates of the heritability of SM suggest it is around 0.7-0.8 or that 70-80% of the variation between individuals is genetic in origin and about 20-30% is environmental. The heritability is sufficiently high that genetic selection against the disease should be very successful. Heritabilities for CM, cerebellar herniation and ‘medullary kinking' are also very high. Genetic correlations between these traits and SM are positive and less than one. This suggests that different genes may be controlling the expression of SM and CM and that it will be possible to select against SM even if dogs have CM.

"The computer model can also take account of other inherited disease, such as mitral valve dysplasia, and generates an Estimated Breeding Values (EBV) for each dog. An EBV is the best measure available for complex traits of the genetic potential of individuals. EBVs can be calculated for most CKCS even if they have not been MRI scanned, as long as they are related to dogs that have been scanned. The predicted EBV of an individual is half the EBV of its sire plus half the EBV of its dam. All dogs will have an EBV at birth but the EBV may be modified by the dog's subsequent clinical record or MRI scan and by information coming from other relatives. The EBV becomes more accurate as information on offspring becomes available, because we start to gain insight into which half of the sire and dam genes were actually inherited when we see transmission of the genes to offspring. The accuracy of the EBV increases with numbers of offspring and this may take some time to achieve."

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