TV vet, author and animal welfare campaigner Emma Milne has made a stinging attack on The Kennel Club (KC) for its unwillingness to tackle a health crisis affecting one of Britain’s best-loved dog breeds, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel saying “Their lack of action is unconscionable when faced with the young deaths and agony so many dogs are enduring. There is no excuse.”

Emma is one of nearly 27,000 dog lovers who have signed an online petition calling for The Kennel Club to make health testing compulsory for the two most serious conditions affecting this popular breed: a heart disease called Mitral valve disease (MVD) and Syringomyelia (SM), a distressing neurological disorder caused by dogs being bred with skulls too small to accommodate the brain.

Writing with typical frankness on her website, Emma says “leaving it up to the breeders is certainly not working” and she calls for testing to become compulsory for registrations with the KC or for showing continuing “If show winners had to prove they were health tested (and passed!) or face elimination, I can tell you that things would change pretty damn quickly.”

Contrasting evidence from countries that do have compulsory health testing for Cavaliers, such as Denmark which has seen a 73 per cent reduction in heart disease in the breed, with the behaviour of top breeders and many in the show world, Emma is in no doubt breeders and breed clubs can no longer be trusted with these adorable spaniels’ welfare.

Pictured above, Clemmie who has Syringomyelia after decompression surgery

She continued in her article, “For decades every vet in the world has known that the prevalence of heart disease in these dogs is through the roof. Shockingly, there is no official heart scheme in the UK to sign up to even for the tiny minority of breeders who care what they breed from,” adding that The Kennel Club has gone quiet on a heart scheme promised back in 2008.

“Heart specialists recommend that Cavaliers should be at least 2.5 years old and free from heart disease before they are bred and that both their parents should be five and free from disease. But wait, the Crufts’ Best of Breed winner THIS year for Cavaliers was under 2 when he won and sired his first litter when he was nine MONTHS old. He had not been tested.”

Emma also cites how in the four years since an official screening scheme for SM was launched only 331 Cavaliers scans have been put forward.

In the same time period, The Kennel Club has registered 20, 429 Cavalier puppies. ‘Enough is enough… it is blatantly clear that this is a problem that goes right to the roots of the KC, the show judges and the breed clubs.’

In the article, Emma also calls on the British Veterinary Association (BVA), which administers The Kennel Club’s health schemes, to do its bit by “distancing itself from the KC until positive change is made. Maybe the BVA can get this heart health scheme started without the KC. It’s time the veterinary profession put real pressure on those responsible to do the right thing,” she insists.

Clarifying about why she felt the need speak, Emma said: “In my 20 years as a vet I have never come across a nasty Cavalier. It breaks my heart to know that these animals are still being bred to die of painful and frightening diseases simply because their breeders do not care enough to health test them. I am so tired of being told the majority of breeders care. This just can’t be true when you look at how many of these animals are still suffering. The show world, the breeding community and the Kennel Club have an absolute duty of care to sort this out. They are all to blame and it’s time they started being properly held accountable for their appalling track record when it comes these much-loved dogs.”

You can read Emma Milne’s article on her website and if you haven’t already, you can add your voice to the petition (here) calling on The Kennel Club to do more.

Not consider, not place in the hands of others and wash their own hands but where they can and have the power, to actually do so because this breed, much beloved by many over the years is suffering and to do nothing and continue as things are should be considered animal cruelty.

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  1. Having the same problem with Welsh Pembroke Corgis. There are no DNA testing sanctioned by the Welsh Corgi League. The corgi’s problem is canine degenerative myelopathy (DM). Corgis are one of over 40 breeds who are at high risk of this disease. It is a paralysis of the spinal cord, causing their hind legs to knuckle, drag and become completely paralysed. This disease makes its way up the spinal cord into their fore legs and causing incontinence, respiratory problems and eventual death over 1-3 years. You can prolong this with booties, slings, harnesses and carts. A simple swab test of the parents before mating can determine whether they are clear/carrier/at risk – the test costs £66! The WCL/KC need to add this disease on their website and the health officer needs to address this disease in Corgis as other breeders are recognising it is their respective breeds.

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