Cavalier Crufts best of breed winner makes mockery of KC’s “healthy, happy dogs” say canine health campaigners.

Canine health campaigners have expressed their disappointment and Cavalier online forums are buzzing with disbelieving and angry comments as it emerged that the Crufts Best of Breed title winner fathered a litter of puppies at nine months old. This flies in the face of breeding protocols for Cavaliers, a breed beset by inherited health issues.

“Because there is no simple DNA test for Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) and Syringomyelia (SM), the two most serious inherited conditions suffered by Cavaliers, it is absolutely crucial that dogs are not bred before 2.5 years and that they continue to be tested throughout their life,” says long-time campaigner Margaret Carter, whose online petition asking the Kennel Club to make testing for MVD and SM mandatory has amassed over 25,000 signatures.

You’re My Sunshine Vom Kaninchengarten, a Blenheim Cavalier, is less than two years old and has heart and eye tests recorded after he fathered a litter. “For years the majority of Cavalier breeders have ignored MVD and SM breeding protocols even though these were established nearly two decades ago. This Crufts win not only exemplifies why the Kennel Club needs to get tough but it also makes a mockery of its claim that Crufts is ‘Celebrating healthy, happy dogs’,” adds Carter.

All of the current top five Cavalier Club “best stud dogs” all produced litters before their second birthday. “The fact that the Best of Breed Cavalier was, according to official online records, used for breeding while still a puppy himself underlines why the breed remains under such tremendous and devastating genetic health pressure,” claims Karlin Lillington, owner of the forum and co-founder of Rupert’s Fund, which has raised over £30,000 for health research and breeder MRI scans.

“For a top show exhibitor to breed a Cavalier so young that it would still compete in puppy show classes, and only heart test months later – when it is still too young to be meaningful in a progressive disease – indicates that clubs remain unable or are unwilling to motivate breeders to breed for health. Therefore, testing should be made mandatory for litter registration.”

Donna Farrand’s Cavalier, Freddie, underwent decompression surgery last year to help improve his SM symptoms. Freddie’s father sired a litter at just over a year old and continues to be used for breeding. “I was furious to see the owner of his sire judging one of the Cavalier rings yesterday. What kind of message does this send out and what kind of example does this set to other breeders?” she asks.

On some online forums, breeding at a young age has been defended but Lena Gillstedt, a Cavalier breeder and biologist from Sweden where testing for Cavaliers is compulsory, says this is nonsense: “If males needed to be proven at nine months to know what to do, the breed would be extinct in Sweden because here no Cavalier can be bred until it is at least 24 months. But here the breed is actually thriving.”

Canine health campaigner Carol Fowler, founder of the Dog Breeding Reform Group, says: “A Cavalier Breed Clubs’ heart scheme was agreed almost 20 years ago. If only all breeders had followed its recommendations, including that no dog under 2.5 years should be bred, we would have seen a marked improvement in early onset MVD by now. However, success in the show ring, glory for the owner and the resulting stud fees are seemingly more important.”

See the petition at

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  1. Misleading photo and story: a Cavalier of poor quality, and the Crufts BOB winner was NOT British bred. In France no dog may be bred from until it has its definitive pedigree, and that cannot be obtained until 12 months of age at the earliest, 15 months for bigger breeds. Carol Fowler is SO sure the heart protocol proposed 20 years ago is the best, but has clearly not looked over the channel. The French Cavalier club has a heart scheme which is shown, after a decade or so, to be working, but it is by ultrasound only. A dog with a clear heart may be bred from fairly young, although the recommendation for bitches is that they’re over the age of two. A dog with a slight defect of the mitral valve, which may be viewed by ultrasound but is not necessarily audible (stade 1), may be bred from if over the age of two years at onset, and at Stade 2 may be bred from if over the age of three years at onset: the tests should be carried out every 18 months. Those at Stade 3 and 4 may not be bred from. Research, and we are talking of over 14,000 ultrasounds that have been carried out on Cavaliers in France, that an early murmur does not necessarily mean a problem in later life: dogs at Stade 1 at age three have been shown to be only at Stade 2 at age 8. I have one who was Stade 1 at age 3 and still Stade 1 two years later. The protocol; advised by a panel of French veterinary cardiologists, some of whom had carried out their own unofficial research into heart problems in various breeds of dogs and cats; was to be cautious but not to reject dogs totally: the “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” principal. Since the scheme began the age of onset has risen significantly, although males are on average affected earlier than females. Breeders are also asked to look at the longevity of ancestors of their breeding stock, which can be a better indication that ANY test! I have a bitch who will be 16 in September: most of her ancestors did live to advanced ages but her father died from MVD at just 7 – a “blip”. The rest of his progeny went on to their teens, one having to be euthanized due to kidney failure at 15 ¾, so he clearly did not pass on the genes for early degeneration of the valve. He himself was clear until age 6 and then the valve deteriorated very fast. I also have a dog aged over 12, who was at stade 1 at the age of just 2 ½, stade 2 at age 4, stade 3 at 5 ¾ but who has stayed at stade 3 for over six years and who runs, jumps and climbs fences with ease.

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