Everything You Need to Know About Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dogs, also known as English Toy Spaniels, Cavaliers, or simply Charlies, have a British royal history, yet they make excellent family pets.

These small-sized dogs were originally bred as companion animals, and this explains their inherent love for humans to this date.

With both playful and gentle attributes, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels can be a perfect choice for many people looking for household pets.

Before committing to this dog, keep reading to discover everything you need to know about cavaliers for an in-depth understanding.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Dog Breed Overview

1NameCavalier King Charles Spaniel
2Breed GroupToy
3Height12 – 13 inches at the shoulder
4Weight13 – 18 pounds
6Average Lifespan12 – 15 years
7TemperamentGentle, affectionate, playful, adaptable
8Coat TypeMedium-length, silky, slightly wavy
9Coat ColorsBlenheim (chestnut and white), Tricolor (black, white, and tan), Black and Tan, Ruby (solid red)
10Barking levelLow
11Energy LevelsModerate
13Potential Health IssuesMitral Valve Disease (MVD), Syringomyelia (SM), Eye issues, Joint problems, Episodic Falling Syndrome (EFS)

The History of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

Toy Spaniels, the ancestors of today’s Cavaliers, were incredibly popular throughout the 16th – 18th century across northern Europe as seen in ancient paintings.

These small canine companions were originally bred to warm the laps of British royalties during chilly carriage rides.

Cavaliers were also placed in the royal courts to attract fleas, preventing their immediate masters from contracting the bubonic plague.

Toy Spaniel dogs were common as ladies’ companions when the house of Tudor reigned over the UK. These dogs earned the royal title ‘King Charles’ during the reign of the Stuarts.

The breed got their name from King Charles II of Great Britain, who adopted the term ‘Cavalier’ used for his father’s supporters during the English Civil Wars as a political designation after his coronation.

King Charles II adored his Cavaliers, rarely appearing without two or three of these loyal companions trailing his heels.

His fondness led him to issue a decree, still upheld today, granting his beloved Spaniels access to any public space, including the Houses of Parliament.

There were no official breed standards in the early days of toy spaniels. As a result, these little dogs could vary in appearance, but many shared traits like tapering muzzles, flat foreheads, and high ears.

English breeders played a key role in reshaping the toy spaniel in the mid-19th century, implementing standardized breeding practices to define its appearance.

These redesigned King Charles spaniels, often called Charlies, featured flatter faces, protruding lower jaws, and rounded skulls.

In the early 1900s, breeders successfully revived the earlier appearance of the toy spaniel, giving birth to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Though the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s breeding started on a small scale in the United States during the 1950s, the breed waited decades for full American Kennel Club recognition in 1995.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Appearance

Tri-colored cavalier king charles spaniel dog walking away
Image Credit: Fido Foto from Instagram

An adult Cavalier usually reaches a shoulder height of between 12 – 13 inches and can tip the scale to about 13 – 18 pounds.

Charlie’s boasts a magnificent coat worthy of royalty. Its silky texture, medium length, and gentle waves create a luxurious look, especially with the soft feathering around the ears, chest, legs, and feet.

Cavaliers come in various colors, but the most common is Blenheim, which is a white coat with a rich chestnut marking, a white blaze between the ears, and a diamond-shaped ‘Blenheim Spot’ on the head.

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Another common Cavalier exterior appearance is the tricolor which consists of a white background with black markings, and tan markings over the cheeks, ears, and tail underside.

Other colors include ruby, which is a rich red coat all over the dog’s body, and solid black & tan markings like the tricolor pattern.

Another distinguishing exterior feature of the Cavaliers is their sweet faces, which is impossible to overlook. They also have soft round eyes, which completes the innocent cute looks.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Temperament & Personality

The temperament of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel can be described as sweet, affectionate, and gentle, which is why the breed is popular as a household companion.

Cavaliers are friendly with both children and toddlers and they extend the same cheerful spirit to strangers and other house pets as well.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dogs are always eager to meet new faces, especially those who sit them down for some petting or offer a treat.

These dogs can put up with a large family or a single person, so long as they receive the love and attention to stay happy.

A cavalier dog poses for a photo in front of pink flowers
Image Credit: Cavalier Hani from Instagram

With a moderate energy level, Cavaliers are playful and easy to train, although sometimes they can be laid back.

Cavaliers are not very vocal dogs, making them unsuitable to serve as watchdogs or guard dogs. Like any other breed, the barking tendency of an individual Cavalier can vary from the breed’s norm.

6 Common Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Health Issues

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are generally healthy dogs, but they can be prone to certain medical conditions just like any other purebred dog.

Below are some of the major health concerns for Cavaliers. Not all Cavaliers will get any or all of these diseases, but you’re better off knowing this information early enough.

1. Mitral Valve Disease:

Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) is the most common heart problem in dogs. It accounts for roughly 75% of all canine heart disease cases and is especially frequent in older dogs and small breeds.

Recent studies have shown that Cavaliers have the most prevalent early onset of MVD compared to other purebred dogs.

This chronic cardiac condition can start as a simple heart murmur and progress to heart failure leading to fatalities.

Treatment for MVD typically involves medication to manage the condition. While a cure isn’t currently available, many Cavaliers with MVD can experience a good quality of life with proper veterinary care

2. Syringomyelia

Syringomyelia (SM) is a complex neurological condition that affects Cavalier King Charles Spaniels more than any other dog breed.

Many experts believe SM is a genetically inherited condition that affects specific breeds. Scientists believe Syringomyelia occurs when the dog’s brain is larger than the skull, blocking the spinal fluid flow.

This causes a backup of spinal fluid at the spinal cord, near the brain root forming cavities of fluid known as syrinxes.

The rate at which the condition progresses can vary from one dog to another, but the symptoms are painful and cause extreme discomfort.

There’s no cure for Syringomyelia, but your vet can prescribe pain-relieving medicine to manage the symptoms.

3. Eye Problems

Cavaliers are unfortunately susceptible to several eye problems, including cataracts, Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (caused by tear duct issues), cherry eye, retinal disorders, and corneal ulcers.

A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dog smiles while closing both eyes
Image Credit: cavalierking_murphy from Instagram

4. Hip Dysplasia

Canine hip dysplasia can occur during the growth stage of Cavaliers and leads to loosening of the dog’s hip joints causing pain and soreness.

Cavaliers with this condition can live normal lives, but sometimes surgeries are recommended to lessen the burden of hip joint deformity.

5. Patellar Luxation

This is another joint problem that can affect the Cavaliers. It refers to dislocating the kneecap causing pain and discomfort.

Affected dogs can live normal lives with this condition with proper management protocol as the veterinarian advises.

6. Episodic Falling Syndrome

While Episodic Falling Syndrome (EFS) may resemble Canine Idiopathic Epilepsy, the affected dog doesn’t lose consciousness during the falling or seizure.

This condition is caused by muscle rigidity. Symptoms can range from mild such as irregular falling episodes to severe such as seizure-like moments.

Early symptoms can kick in during puppyhood, but the condition may be properly noticed during advanced stages in adulthood.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Grooming Needs

Cavaliers have high grooming requirements, which is necessary for keeping their luxurious coats in pristine condition.

The dog’s feathered exterior (ears and feet) and smooth coat need regular brushing to prevent tangling or matting.

Brushing can also aid in the distribution of natural oils on the dog’s skin to keep the exteriors soft and shiny.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels should be bathed at least once a month to complete their cyclic grooming regime. Plan to wash your dog with canine-specific shampoo and warm water for the best results.

Everything You Need to Know About Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
Image Credit: cavalierking_murphy from Instagram

Trim your dog’s nails at least twice a month to keep their paws clean and tidy. Besides tearing down your furniture, overgrown nails can also affect the dog’s ability to walk properly.

Maintain a regular dental routine by brushing your dog’s teeth at least two or three times a week using a soft toothbrush and canine toothpaste. This will give your dog a fresh breath and scale the teeth.

Pay close attention to your Cavalier’s overall health during your grooming regime. Look for any signs of skin problems like sores, rashes, or redness.

Check their ears, nose, mouth, and eyes for irritation, discharge, or inflammation. Their paws should also be free of wounds or discomfort.

Your dog’s eyes should ideally be bright and clear, with no redness or unusual discharge. This careful exam during grooming can help diagnose health conditions early.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Diet & Nutrition

As with all breeds, Cavaliers need a balanced diet that supplies all the essential nutrients and minerals throughout their life stages.

Your food choice will largely depend on your dog’s energy needs and activity level. For the most part, a combination of lean protein, healthy fats, minerals, vitamins, and fiber will keep your dog healthy.

A dog’s stomach is not naturally designed to digest carbohydrates, so stay away from grain kibbles, wheat, rice, potatoes, and legumes.

Including too many carbs in your dog’s diet can tax their pancreas by spiking insulin, cortisol, and glucagon levels.

A mix of commercial dog foods and vet-approved homemade foods can provide the nutritional regimen to keep your dog healthy. Feel free to ask your vet what and what not to feed your dog.

Cavaliers are prone to canine obesity, so avoid feeding them in excess no matter how much they show you that sweet puppy face.

If your dog eats too fast and is always ready for more, you can consider investing in a slow feeder to control their food intake.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Exercise needs

Adult Cavaliers can handle regular exercise for about 30 – 60 minutes every day. You can incorporate various activities such as short walks, interactive play, and training sessions.

A cavalier King Charles Spaniel dog standing on a roof
Image Credit: nastkacavalier from Instagram

Mental stimulation should also form part of your dog’s exercise requirements. Consider having puzzle toys, or interactive feeders to keep your dog’s brain sharp and alleviate boredom.


This guide has covered everything you need to know about Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, from their aristocratic history to their everyday care needs.

If you think a Cavalier can be a great match for your family, make sure to research reputable breeders who prioritize the dog’s health.

Written By

Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a also a pet writer and expert with more than 20 years of experience of working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.

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