Heart of a King: Awareness of heart disease in much loved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has dropped

A new survey* carried out by Vita Animal Health has shown that despite mitral valve disease (MVD) affecting almost all Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (CKCS) in their lifetime, only 41% of dog lovers identified the CKCS as being very prone to heart disease with just 39% feeling confident they would know the signs. With 95% of people agreeing that a dog breed’s popularity is influenced by celebrities and current affairs and with the coronation of King Charles III looming, now is the time for vets to help educate prospective dog owners of what to look out for when buying this breed.

Veterinary cardiology specialist, Dr Rachel James, explains “The CKCS has long been a very popular breed of dog in high demand, due to their loving and placid nature making them perfect family pet.  We know that sadly at least 50% of CKCS have evidence of MVD disease by the time they are five, with 98% of dogs affected in their lifetimes. However, we can help our clients when selecting this breed to choose a puppy that is less likely to develop MVD at an early age, by utilising the heart testing scheme (Doppler heart testing).  Prospective owners should be asking to see test results for the parents, grandparents, and even better great grandparents too, on both maternal and paternal sides.  In addition breeders need more support and education to encourage the use of the heart testing scheme and how this can enable them to choose the best dogs to breed from.  Furthermore we should be encouraging breeders to breed from dogs only when they are at least 3 years of age.”

The survey revealed that 78% of dog owners believed heart disease in dogs to be common, but 61% were either unsure of or don’t know the signs of heart disease. While over 90% correctly identified breathlessness and slowing down on walks as common signs for heart disease, the respondents were unsure of further indicators.

Dr James continues “This study has given us an insight that there is so much more we can do to help owners not only to understand heart disease in their dogs but also educate owners on how best to choose healthy puppies.   We need to engage more with our owners and offer more client education to help owners make informed choices.” 

The plight of the CKCS’s health was first brought to the public’s attention following a BBC documentary back in 2008. The survey showed that today, disappointingly only 41% of respondents correctly identified the CKCS as being prone to heart disease.

The survey was led by pet nutraceutical company, Vita Animal Health, to raise awareness of the condition and to remind owners to use their vet’s expertise. Vita’s vet nurse, Tara Evans, explains “The CKCS is a very popular breed of dog, perhaps set to be more so now King Charles III is reigning monarch. This survey has shown that awareness of mitral valve disease – which is very common in this breed – is not as good as it could be. We want to support vets in raising awareness and have useful resources such as our heart disease infographic (www.vitaanimalhealth.com/common-signs-of-heart-disease/) that we welcome all vets in using.”

Vita Animal Health urges dog owners to talk to their vet if they have any question or concerns regarding heart disease in dogs. More information can be found at www.vitaanimalhealth.com

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