Strictly Come Dancing Judge Backs Campaign for Healthier Cavaliers

Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood and other celebrities, including TV presenter Lisa Riley, celebrity chef Richard Corrigan and Made In Chelsea star Binky Felstead have joined 2,500 campaigners urging the Kennel Club to take control of a health crisis among Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

A lack of screening means more and more Cavaliers are falling victims to heart problems and another painful condition caused when the dog’s skull is too small to accommodate its brain causing fluid-filled cavities that destroy the spinal cord.

Cavalier lovers, including Craig Revel Horwood and his partner Damon Scott, were told recently their Cavalier Sophie, who has MVD, has months to live. Craig said: “She is the most beautiful little girl. We need to make sure all Cavaliers are MRI scanned and heart tested before breeding,”

The pair claim the Kennel Club is not doing enough to ensure that Cavaliers are screened for Mitral Valve Disease and Syringomyelia before they are bred from leading Cavalier lovers to launch this petition and ask the question ‘has the KC learnt nothing?’

Despite labelling itself “the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to protecting and promoting the health and welfare of all dogs”, campaigners say the Kennel Club has failed to take a strong stance, despite outrage after the TV documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed that showed Cavaliers screaming in pain. This resulted in the BBC ditching its coverage of Crufts in 2008.

“The Cavalier is in serious trouble and the Kennel Club needs to do much more. Mandatory testing for both these conditions is the bare minimum,” says Jemima Harrison, the documentary’s director.

“How many more scientists need to raise the alarm before something is done? How many more Cavaliers have to suffer before we see real action to save this breed?”

A “Cavalier” attitude to health and welfare

“Many people wrongly believed losing the BBC’s Crufts’ coverage was a watershed but most breeders continue to mate Cavaliers that are untested. Even puppy farmers are able to register their litters with the Kennel Club,” reveals Margaret Carter, petition organiser and Cavalier campaigner.

KC and breeders blame everyone but themselves including owners

“There is a voluntary MRI screening scheme for CM/SM but most of the small number of breeders who do scan don’t submit their results to it,” concedes Carter. The need for an official scheme for MVD was agreed in 2008 but nothing has materialised, showing there is no genuine will for reform.”

The Signatories

Catherine Farnsworth bought two-year-old Kookie the Cavalier from a Kennel Club assured breeder. “Kookie’s parents were not tested. He started showing severe symptoms of CM/SM at just four months old,” she recalls. “On bad days, he is very vocal. It’s distressing to watch and I worry about the long-term impact of the medication.”

Kookie diagnosed at 4 months

Kookie, pictred above

Mother-of-three Charlotte Mackaness says her family was distraught when their first Cavalier died of MVD. “Just months later our two-year-old, Beebee, was diagnosed with CM/SM. Like many with SM, much of Beebee’s pain is around the head and neck so my children can’t play with her like before.

“The Kennel Club is all talk,” she continues. “The breed club seems exactly the same. Pet owners understand testing isn’t a guarantee. All we ask is breeders do everything possible to reduce the risk.

“Beebee’s breeders have won several Crufts’ Best of Breed titles and came highly recommended from a Cavalier Club puppy coordinator but we’ve since learnt their health record is far from ideal. While they collect trophies, all our darling dog has to look forward to is a life of pain.”

Strictly Come Dancing Judge Backs Campaign for Healthier Cavaliers 1

Beebee, pictured above

What is Mitral Valve Disease?

MVD is a degenerative disease of the heart valves that leads to congestive heart failure. In 2009 a report by a leading veterinary cardiologist stated that 50 per cent of Cavaliers develop MVD heart murmurs by their fifth birthday. It is the biggest killer of Cavaliers under 10.

What is Chiari-like malformation/Syringomyelia?

Syringomyelia (SM) is a painful neurological condition most often seen in Cavaliers, although other breeds like their close relations the Brussels Griffon are also seriously affected. It is often attributed to Chiari-like malformation (CM) of the skull. Put in lay man’s terms, the skull is too small for the brain causing severe pain and forming fluid-filled that cavities that destroy the spinal cord.

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  1. Mary Sinclair
  2. Eliza Sinclair
  3. Becky Mosley
  4. Catherine Farnsworth