The King Charles spaniel is a descendant of a small toy spaniel that appears in many 16th, 17th, and 18th century paintings of Northern Europe. Originally, this dog was bred to keep laps warm on chilly carriages and drafty castles. In an Olde English prescription written for the Queen of England, she is directed to keep the “comforte dog” on her lap to treat a cold. The breed was popular in Northern Europe during these periods plagued by the infamous Black Death or the bubonic plague.
The other job of the Cavalier was to attract fleas which would then spare their masters the bubonic plague, which was flea-transmitted. They made it possible for the masters to survive the plague that was ravaging sections of Europe and Asia at that time. It was rare to see King Charles II without two or three of them at his heels. A decree he wrote which is still in effect, declared that the spaniel would be accepted in any public place.
In these early days, breed standards were not that popular. However, toy spaniels generally featured flat heads, high-set ears, and pointed muzzles. By the mid-19th century, the English had already fashioned a new look of this dog breed with a standardized appearance. Modern descendants possessed flatter faces, domed skulls, and undershot jaws.
Early 1900 breeders tried to recreate earlier versions of the breed with much success. So, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was born. The breeding of the King Charles spaniel in the United States went on at a limited rate in the 1950s. However, it was not until 1996 that the breed became fully recognized by the American Kennel Club.
The dog breed is prone to several major issues, including heart disease. About half of them will have developed Mitral Valve disease by age five, and almost all of them will have this disease by the age of 10. In the disease, the mitral valve between the left atrium and left ventricle of the heart does not function as it should. It will not close properly, and this will cause blood to leak backward into the left atrium. In other cases, the valve may be narrow, and the blood supply becomes problematic.
The heart condition eventually develops into congestive heart failure, which happens a few months after the MVD has occurred. King Charles’s spaniels with a heart murmur are at an increased risk of death, calling for medical intervention.
The breed is also known to suffer from allergies, hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, syringomyelia, and cataracts. Syringomelia is a common health condition that affects the brain and the spine. Symptoms of this illness include slight discomfort, severe pain, and even partial paralysis in other cases. These symptoms occur between 6 months and four years of age and are responsible for the dog breed’s eventual death if they are not treated early enough.
These the most common health issues that face the Cavalier King Charles spaniels:
- Otitis- a middle ear infection
- Conjunctivitis- a pink eye
- UTI- urinary tract infection
- Periodontal disease
- Foreign body ingestion
- Heart murmur
- Soft tissue trauma
You should know all about these health issues before getting the breed as a pet. It will ensure that you know what symptoms you should watch out for. As such, you will be in a better position to take the dog for treatment the very moment it begins to show symptoms of any of the medical conditions that have been described above.
The Cavalier King Charles spaniel has a gentle and affectionate personality. Owing to its friendliness, the dog loves staying with a family and is the ideal companion for children.
They are also soft-tempered, and training them is quite easy. It is important that the training begins while the dog is still a young puppy. Starting early lets you control any negative behavior such as destructive chewing and barking.
The Cavaliers have long, silky coats which have to be brushed several times each week using a soft brush and a comb. Regular brushing works to control excessive shedding. At the same time, it ensures that your Cavalier’s coat is mat free. Their nails also need regular grinding or trimming to prevent splitting, cracking, and overgrowth. The dogs have long ears that are prone to getting infections. As such, you should always check their ears regularly to get rid of any debris and wax accumulation.
Their teeth need to be brushed with dog-specific toothpaste. Taking them on at least one walk per day is important for their exercise. Twenty minutes of exercise per day ensures that their behavior is kept under control and any bad habits are suppressed.
The dog breed requires good nutrition, which includes proper food. There are a lot of dog food companies that provide breed-specific formulas. By working together with your veterinarian, you will be able to develop the best diet that will keep your pet healthy.
The health of the Cavalier means they have a lifespan that extends well into their teens. They are, however, susceptible to some health issues such as juvenile cataracts and dry eye. Any signs and symptoms of these health conditions will warrant treatment and medication. Your vet should also listen for signs of heart murmurs whenever you have appointments with them.
- Did you know that Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s prime minister, loved King Charles spaniels? Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth II’s sister, kept a Cavalier companion known as Rowley for many years. The dog breed was famous among the royal families and the rich owing to their good and friendly nature.
- During the bubonic plague, people used to take the dog to bed with them. The dogs were a popular flea magnet and used to get bitten instead of their masters. They kept their masters from getting the infection, and as such, their lives were saved by the spaniels.
- Former President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, had a King Charles spaniel named Rex. The job of Rex as a first dog was turning the Christmas lights on with his paw. The dog had an amazing lifestyle, complete with a fancy doghouse designed by Theo Hayes.
- King Charles’ love for these dogs was so powerful he was accused of neglecting the kingdom in favor of caring for them. He was popularly known as the Cavalier King, where the other part of the breed’s name originates.
- Their different colors give them unique names. Tri-color dogs are known as Prince Charles, black and tan breeds are known as King Charles, mahogany-colored breeds go by the name Ruby and chestnut and white dogs are known as Blenheim.
- Blenheim is the name of a battle the Duke of Marlborough went to in the early 1800s. He won the battle, and soon after, puppies had red spots on their heads. Many people believe it was due to the Duchess pressing her thumb against their forehead to soothe herself and the dogs.