AKC's National Cavalier Breed club (ACKCSC) established the breed specific testing protocols.  Dogs complying with the breed specific testing requirements are issued a CHIC number by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).  The ACKCSC requires that to qualify for a Certification the Eye Examination the exam be done by a Board Certified American Veterinary (ACVO) Ophthalmologist. It is recommended  that the initial exam be done at 8-12 weeks, a follow up at 1 year of age, then  annually until age  5. After this every two years until age 9 unless breeding.  IF breeding, then annually.

It is not necessary for the dog to have a completely clean bill of health to get a CHIC number.  Therefore, it is up to the puppy buyer to actually look to make sure the breeder has NOT bred a DISQUALIFING inherited disorder. You would know if this is the case because a certificate will not have been issued.

According to some sources  about 30% of Cavaliers are afflicted with eye disorders ranging from mild to serious  problems. 

The following information is listed by ACVO as eye conditions that occur in the Cavalier  that are of  high enough percentages to be considered of concern to the breed.  Some of the conditions are listed as “breeder option”. This dog can be used because hereditary links are not established.  Where they are listed as NO it means the condition  is inherited and it should NOT be bred. 

CATARACTS - there are two types; early onset- juvenile cataract which appear by 6 months of age and will progress to total blindness by 2-4 years of age.  This can normally be caught at the 8-12 week exam.  The other is age related cataracts which form  from diabetes or progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).  Dogs with cataracts should NOT be bred.

CORNEAL DYSTROPHY- is a genetic disorder which is quite common in Cavaliers.  It is the development of a gray-white opaque deposits of calcium and fats under the surface of both the dog's corneas.  The will appear around the age of 2 and 4 and can come and go.  Corneal dystrophy does not affect vision, is not painful and no treatment is necessary.  Interestingly that bitches that have had Corneal Dystrophy prior to being bred often test normal after whelping and nursing a litter of puppies.  Some changes in food and diet can also reduce or increase the size of the deposits.  It is a Breeder Option

DISTICHIASIS - is the growth of extra eyelashes (cilia) it can cause serious irritation, tearing and corneal abrasions and ulcerations that are extremely painful.  Currently the ACKCSC classifies this as Breeder Option however the Canine Inherited Disorders Database recommends that CKCSC affected with Distichiasis  should NOT be bred.

ENTROPIAN - is the inward rolling of the eyelid edges and normally affects the lower eyelid.  The hair on the affected lid continuously rubs the cornea and causes significant pain and trauma to the cornea resulting in blindness if untreated.  Currently the ACKCSC classifies this as Breeder Option however the Canine Inherited Disorders Database recommends that CKCSC affected with Entropian NOT be bred.

MICROPHTHALMIA - an inherited defect which is particularly common in the CKCSC where one or both of the eyes is smaller than normal.  This has restriction of vision and often blindness.  NOT  to be bred.

RETINAL DYSPLASIA - is a malformation of the retina.  It occurs when the two layers of the retina do not lay properly. This is called retinal folds.  These folds can be seen on the 8 - 12 week exam and often flatten out only to re-appear later in life.  Single or intermittent Retinal folds represent  small  spots which normally do not affect the dog's vision.  Single or intermittent folds in CKCSC are a breeder Option. Geographical folds can cause larger defects in the visual field and retinal detachments and  cause complete blindness  to occur.  Dr. Sheila Crispin states that MULTI RETINAL FOLDS is commonly found in the CKCSC.  Allowing single folds to be bred potentially results in Geographical folds to be brought forward in  subsequent generations.  Only Geographical Retinal Dysplasia is NOT to be bred. 

Unfortunately, there are several (ACVO) Ophthalmologist that do not believe that Geographical folds will not have detrimental affects on Cavaliers and will pass Geographical folds.

DRY EYE SYNDROME - is a painful genetic disorder where it is estimated that over 12% of CKCSC are at risk.  This can also be called KERATITIS SICCA.  It is the inflammation of the cornea and conjunctiva due to the inability to produce tears.  It can not be cured.  Dry Eye requires frequent medication daily.  Early treatment of Dry Eye is crucial to prevent cornea destruction and infection which leads to blindness.  Not listed by the ACKCSC however should NOT be bred.

PROGRESSIVE RETINAL ATROPHY(PRA)-Also known as progressive retinal degeneration (PRD), is a genetic disease  which causes blindness. PRA is inherited. It is a slow but progressive degeneration or death of the retinal tissue.  No treatment is available. NOT to be bred. 


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