Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood and other celebrities, including TV presenter Lisa Riley, celebrity chef Richard Corrigan and Made In Chelsea star Binky Felstead have joined 2,500 campaigners urging the Kennel Club to take control of a health crisis among Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

A lack of screening means more and more Cavaliers are falling victims to heart problems and another painful condition caused when the dog’s skull is too small to accommodate its brain causing fluid-filled cavities that destroy the spinal cord.

Cavalier lovers, including Craig Revel Horwood and his partner Damon Scott, were told recently their Cavalier Sophie, who has MVD, has months to live. Craig said: “She is the most beautiful little girl. We need to make sure all Cavaliers are MRI scanned and heart tested before breeding,”

The pair claim the Kennel Club is not doing enough to ensure that Cavaliers are screened for Mitral Valve Disease and Syringomyelia before they are bred from leading Cavalier lovers to launch this petition and ask the question ‘has the KC learnt nothing?’

Despite labelling itself “the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to protecting and promoting the health and welfare of all dogs”, campaigners say the Kennel Club has failed to take a strong stance, despite outrage after the TV documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed that showed Cavaliers screaming in pain. This resulted in the BBC ditching its coverage of Crufts in 2008.

“The Cavalier is in serious trouble and the Kennel Club needs to do much more. Mandatory testing for both these conditions is the bare minimum,” says Jemima Harrison, the documentary’s director.

“How many more scientists need to raise the alarm before something is done? How many more Cavaliers have to suffer before we see real action to save this breed?”

A “Cavalier” attitude to health and welfare

“Many people wrongly believed losing the BBC’s Crufts’ coverage was a watershed but most breeders continue to mate Cavaliers that are untested. Even puppy farmers are able to register their litters with the Kennel Club,” reveals Margaret Carter, petition organiser and Cavalier campaigner.

KC and breeders blame everyone but themselves including owners

“There is a voluntary MRI screening scheme for CM/SM but most of the small number of breeders who do scan don’t submit their results to it,” concedes Carter. The need for an official scheme for MVD was agreed in 2008 but nothing has materialised, showing there is no genuine will for reform.”

The Signatories

Catherine Farnsworth bought two-year-old Kookie the Cavalier from a Kennel Club assured breeder. “Kookie’s parents were not tested. He started showing severe symptoms of CM/SM at just four months old,” she recalls. “On bad days, he is very vocal. It’s distressing to watch and I worry about the long-term impact of the medication.”

Kookie diagnosed at 4 months

Kookie, pictred above

Mother-of-three Charlotte Mackaness says her family was distraught when their first Cavalier died of MVD. “Just months later our two-year-old, Beebee, was diagnosed with CM/SM. Like many with SM, much of Beebee’s pain is around the head and neck so my children can’t play with her like before.

“The Kennel Club is all talk,” she continues. “The breed club seems exactly the same. Pet owners understand testing isn’t a guarantee. All we ask is breeders do everything possible to reduce the risk.

“Beebee’s breeders have won several Crufts’ Best of Breed titles and came highly recommended from a Cavalier Club puppy coordinator but we’ve since learnt their health record is far from ideal. While they collect trophies, all our darling dog has to look forward to is a life of pain.”

Beebee, pictured above

What is Mitral Valve Disease?

MVD is a degenerative disease of the heart valves that leads to congestive heart failure. In 2009 a report by a leading veterinary cardiologist stated that 50 per cent of Cavaliers develop MVD heart murmurs by their fifth birthday. It is the biggest killer of Cavaliers under 10.

What is Chiari-like malformation/Syringomyelia?

Syringomyelia (SM) is a painful neurological condition most often seen in Cavaliers, although other breeds like their close relations the Brussels Griffon are also seriously affected. It is often attributed to Chiari-like malformation (CM) of the skull. Put in lay man’s terms, the skull is too small for the brain causing severe pain and forming fluid-filled that cavities that destroy the spinal cord.

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  1. I have watched three Cavaliers with CM/
    SM and it is pitiful to watch. Controlling their pain is not easy. The symptoms can be affected even by the weather or air pressure. The KC can do something to prevent more dogs being born with this condition by only registering puppies from health-tested parents.

  2. The KC needs to wake up and stop burying their head in the sand about these conditions. As an owner it’s heart breaking to watch your dog/dogs suffer with either condition, especially as there are health tests available that can reduce the risk. Unless something is put in place, breeders that are not already doing the proper health tests and puppy farmers will just keep breeding and more and more puppies with every generation will be worse. You need to do something ‘now’ before it’s too late for the breed!

  3. I currently have 3 Cavaliers with this awful condition and lost another earlier this year. Dogs with Syringomyelia are in pain which can be difficult to manage.
    The KC need to take health testing in the breed more seriously and quickly or the Cavalier has no future.
    How can it be right that even a puppy farmer keeping dogs in dire contains should be allowed to register with the KC?

  4. Puppy mills are operated by unscrupulous people who are not interested in strengthening and improving the breed(s) in which they are involved; only the money generated by selling poorly bred, badly treated puppies to unassuming buyers. These puppy mills continue the cycle of misuse by breeding their dogs starting too young until far beyond their healthy breeding years: too often with minimal or no veterinarian care. All of which takes both a financial and emotional toll on buyers of a dog from their litters. The American Kennel Club can make a positive difference in the lives of countless AKC pedigrees including Cavaliers that are sold to commercial breeders at auctions each month by limiting (non-breeding) registration. Limiting registration will help stop the cycle of dogs being bred to death in another inhumane puppy mill.
    Please join over 4,100 people who have signed the Petition to the AKC to Limit Registration of Dogs Sold at Auction

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