The following information has been collated in response to a
petition asking the Kennel Club to make certain health screening
for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels mandatory. The Kennel Club
ask that all those who signed the petition, or those who are
passionate about the subject, read all of the information below in
1) What is being asked of the Kennel Club?
Over 20,000 people have recently signed a petition asking the
Kennel Club to "Stop registering Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Puppies unless their parents are MRI scanned and heart
tested". The MRI scan in this instance is to check for
Chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia. It is assumed
that the heart testing mentioned is for MVD (Mitral Valve Disease).
Mitral Valve Disease is a health problem that can occur in older
dogs of all breeds, but has a higher incidence of an earlier onset
in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The disease causes a
deterioration of the heart's mitral valve - a valve that separates
the upper left heart chamber from the lower left heart
chamber. This fault in the mitral valve is often picked up as
a heart murmur in younger dogs. Many dogs diagnosed with Mitral
Valve Disease continue to live to a good age and enjoy a happy
life, while others can go on to develop congestive heart
2) What is the Kennel Club's current stance on heart
The Kennel Club promotes and strongly recommends that breeders
of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels screen their breeding dogs
through the breed club heart screening scheme for Mitral Valve
Disease. This screening requires a veterinarian or a
veterinary cardiologist to use a stethoscope to listen to the
heart. A check-up for Mitral Valve Disease on an annual basis
is usually recommended; this can be done by your own vet, or
alternatively, most Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed clubs run
health clinics with free or low cost checks by a veterinary
3) What factors have affected the Kennel Club decision on
whether to make a MVD screening scheme mandatory for anyone who
registers with it?
No standardised scheme is available
Currently, there is no standardised heart screening scheme
available for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The Kennel Club,
the British Veterinary Association, and the Veterinary Cardiology
Society are working together to establish a standardised,
breed-specific heart screening scheme for a number of breeds,
including the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. As these screening
schemes are developed, they will be released. The Kennel Club is
also undertaking research into heart schemes that are available
outside of the UK, which may be suitable for development into an
official scheme. Standardisation is important to ensure that the
screening assessments on each dog have quality assurance, follow
the same protocol, and lead to the collection of robust data that
can be used to develop breeding resources for dog owners.
Until such a scheme is available, the Kennel Club strongly
recommends that breeders of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels screen
their breeding dogs through breed club heart testing scheme for
Mitral Valve Disease.
The Kennel Club can only make health tests mandatory for Assured
Breeders when it officially records the results, and the breed club
scheme for MVD does not fall into this category. The Kennel
Club is only able to record data from a test if there is a
standardised protocol and assessment, the results are definitive
(i.e. such as a DNA test that can determine predictive genes, not
just risk) and the disease and its mode of inheritance is
understood, so that advice on how to reduce the risk can be
given. Any tests for which data cannot be recorded, but that
may be related to improving health and welfare, are instead made
recommendations, such as the breed club scheme for MVD.
We can, however, work with breeders who are passionate about
improving the health of the breed to encourage and support those
breeders in using schemes, so that we may be able to build a better
picture about the disease, the mode of inheritance of the disease
and how risk can be reduced.
4) So, does appropriately using results from the breed
club MVD testing scheme prior to breeding guarantee that puppies
will be free from MVD?
No. MVD is a condition which is inherited in a complicated
way which is not yet fully understood by scientists. This
means that it is very difficult to predict the risk from parents
passing on the disease, and how the disease may present in an
individual dog. Some dogs do not seem to be as affected by the
condition in their day-to-day lives as others, despite having a
similar sounding murmur. It is hoped that breeding appropriately
from lower-risk dogs will reduce the risk of producing affected
offspring, but it must be stressed that this is not a
By making MVD testing screening mandatory, the Kennel Club is
concerned that puppy buyers who do their research and ensure that
they buy from screened parents would have false confidence that the
puppy they buy will not become affected in future. This
could then lead to people breeding from these dogs outside of the
Kennel Club umbrella mistakenly thinking they are healthy, which
could be of further detriment to the breed.
5) So, if the screening results will not tell you if
puppies are affected, what is the point of screening? How will it
improve breed health?
The results of health screening are critical to enable
researchers to build a picture about the breed's health over time,
and to offer solutions to this complex condition, whose mode of
inheritance is currently not well understood.
The Kennel Club believes that in order to reduce the incidence
of MVD, breeders, breed clubs, puppy buyers, veterinarians,
researchers and the Kennel Club must all work collaboratively.
Little is known about the inheritance of MVD and there is
currently no official screening scheme. While the Kennel Club
has recently started recording data from breed club testing
schemes, such as BAER testing in Dalmatians, we are unable to make
a test mandatory if we do not receive results directly from the
testing/grading body, or if there is no standardised
protocol. Also, without directly receiving results we are
unable to determine the uptake of test amongst the breed, or how
breeders are using the results.
The Kennel Club, the Veterinary Cardiovascular Society and the
British Veterinary Association is investigating developing a heart
scheme for a number of breeds, which we hope will generate data
that will help us to develop breeding tools and resources.
Developing a new testing scheme is not straightforward, but
is even more difficult when dealing with a wide range of complex
cardiac conditions, and so is taking a considerable amount of time
6) What statistics are known about heart issues in
A recent study carried out by the Royal Veterinary College found
that 31.7% of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels had been diagnosed
with cardiac conditions, while 5% had been diagnosed with
In another study by the same group, it was found that a level of
general cardiac disease was found in 5.6% of dogs across all
breeds, indicating that Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are more
likely to suffer from cardiac disease than the general dog
7) Does the Kennel Club make health testing mandatory for
Yes. The Kennel Club is completely committed to mandatory
health testing where this will improve the health of a breed and
not have a negative impact, which is why where are 19 health tests
and schemes for 91 different breeds which are compulsory under the
Assured Breeder Scheme.
There are also breed-specific compulsory tests in certain
breeds, which are put in place to eradicate breed-specific disease
if it is strongly affecting the health of the breed. These
are known as Control Schemes and are mandatory for anyone
registering a litter from breeds to which they apply.
These schemes require owners to DNA test their breeding dogs
before they are able to register any puppies from this
mating. The criteria for these mandatory testing schemes are
- We must know how the condition is inherited so that the test
can give definitive answers as to whether the offspring will be
- The test must be accepted by a majority of breeders so as not
to discourage breeders.
- A DNA test must be available, and must have been running as a
voluntary official scheme for a minimum of 12 months on
Unfortunately the assessment for MVD does not currently meet any
of these criteria, which is why we are working on possible
solutions as a matter of urgency.