Cavaliers are genetically predisposed to a multitude of health issues. The parent breed club, the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, recommends health testing of dams and sires to include heart, eyes, patellas, and hips. Visit CavalierHealth.org to read about specific health concerns. Buying a Cavalier is always a risk. Health testing reduces that risk.
I wrote the document below (Cavaliers and DM) a few years ago after I first learned about Degenerative Myelopathy (DM). I wanted to describe DM and the need to include DM status as a factor in making breeding decisions. I still believe it should be a factor, but not with the weight I previously placed on it. Here are some of my reasons:
1. With nearly half of all Cavaliers possessing two copies of the mutant gene and another 38 percent carriers, it is extremely hard to find health tested, DM clear dogs for breeding.
2. Many breeders don't test their dogs for DM, severely limiting access to good stud dogs.
3. The incidence of DM in Cavaliers is exceptionally low, less than one half of one percent.
4. In Cavaliers, there is no established correlation between having two copies of the mutant gene and developing the disease.
5. DM is an old age disease. IF a cavalier develops DM, they've lived a full life (usually around 14 years). Is it any worse than succumbing to mitral valve disease like 80 percent of Cavaliers?
Nevertheless, when possible, I will continue to consider DM as one factor in making breeding decisions. I may or may not test a litter of puppies depending on their destination (pet home or breeder). Any prospective buyer may request and pay for a DM test on a desired puppy if it does not present an unacceptable delay in placing puppies in their homes.