There are always some health issues and peculiarities within each breed. NO breed or line is completely free of inherited health problems. Beware of breeders who have only glowing recommendations of their dogs. Also beware also of breeders who become angered or curt with you for asking questions about their dogs’ health. They should be thrilled that a prospective buyer has that much interest in their future puppy. The breeder should also question YOU, which may sound very personal at first but, because the best breeders provide a lifetime commitment to their dogs, they only wish to insure their puppy will have a happy, committed, forever home.
Responsible breeders try to avoid inherited defects by researching pedigrees and screening parents for health and temperament issues BEFORE breeding each litter. Inherited defects that we see in Cavaliers include, but are not limited to, temperament problems ranging from aggression to shyness to hyperactivity; heart defects that can severely shorten the life span; eye problems causing early blindness; hip dysplasia; patella luxation (slipping knee caps); and syringomyelia.
You may not find a breeder who fits 100% of this criteria, but do not settle for more than two or three negative responses. It is equally important that you have a good relationship with your breeder and that you actually enjoy speaking to him/her. You will be communicating with this person for years to come with questions, requesting advice and asking for help and this will be made all the more difficult if you truly do not trust or even like the breeder
Do both parents (sire and dam) have current (dated within 12 months) Board Certified Cardiologist’s clearance for heart disease?
Knowing that Cavaliers have a high incidence of mitral valve disease in the breed and with all the many low cost heart clinics offered by various dog clubs, coast to coast, there is no excuse for a breeder not to have seen a cardiologist and cleared both mother and father of any heart problems. Sometimes breeders also clear their dogs by ultrasound, Doppler, or sonogram but this is not the norm. Any certificate must have the words “cardiology” or “cardiologist” checked off or written on the form.
Do both parents (sire and dam) have current (dated within 12 months) Board Certified Ophthalmologist’s clearance for eye anomalies?
Some breeders will submit this certificate to the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) and they in turn will provide a CERF certificate. Any eye certificate provided should have CERF written on it. Like the cardiology clinics, there are many low cost ophthalmology clinics coast to coast, usually offered at the same time as the cardiology clinics. While Cavaliers do not usually have severe eye diseases, it can happen on occasion. Therefore, it is important that breeders make sure they are breeding eye clear parents to keep the eye diseases at a minimum.
Do both parents (sire and dam) have current (dated within 12 months) veterinarian’s clearances for patella luxation (slipping knee caps)?
If provided, a copy of a general veterinarian’s written statement or an OFA patella certification is sufficient. Cost of surgery for this disease can be $1,000 to $1,800 per leg. Slipping patellas can be found in many Toy breeds.
Do both parents (sire and dam) have hip clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA)?
Final hip clearances last for the lifetime of the dog and cannot be obtained until dogs are two years of age or over. Preliminary OFA hip clearances can be obtained younger than two years and should be done if either parent is under two years but they need to be re-evaluated at 2 years or older for the hips to be certified. “My vet okayed the x-ray” is not a valid clearance.
Have both parents (sire and dam) been MRI’d for Syringomyelia?
Several breeders have started performing MRIs on their Cavaliers but not many do. The problem is the high cost of MRI machines which do not allow Neurologists, generally, to offer low cost MRIs for screening purposes. In certain parts of the country there are a few lower cost MRIs being offered but in most cases, these are not available. MRIs are fairly new to the field of veterinary medicine and thus they are not always readily available and they tend to be costly.
Will the puppy have a restricted/limited (non-breeding) registration with strong recommendation to spay/neuter?
This is a good indication of a responsible breeder.
Will the breeder gladly take the dog back at any time, for any reason, if you cannot keep the dog?
This is the hallmark of responsible breeding (and the quickest way to make rescue obsolete).
Is the breeder involved in competition with their dogs (conformation, obedience, agility, rally)?
The breeder should be a member of a bona fide Cavalier Club. This gives him/her access to others in the breed, makes him/her privy to discussions regarding health and temperament concerns, and allows him/her to become familiar with different bloodlines from which he/she might choose prospective breeding stock. It also indicates more than just a passing interest in Cavaliers.
Is the breeder involved in Rescue?
A truly good breeder is the one who does things for the good of the breed and is most likely to support the rescue groups. Some good breeders also do rescue. Rescuing from a shelter does not support bad breeders, just the pups or dogs produced by them. The so-called breeder already made the money.
Are the puppy’s sire and dam available for you to meet?
Breeders often use sires belonging to other people so it is not unusual for the sire to be unavailable for you to meet. However, at least ONE of the parents should be in the home for you to touch and see. Be sure that the parent(s) is happy and friendly.
Have the puppies been raised in the home, kennel, barn or backyard?
Puppies that are raised without high exposure to human contact and a wide variety of noises and experiences may exhibit a wide variety of behavioral problems. The same thing is true if puppies are removed from their dam or littermates before at least eight weeks. A caring breeder will know the puppies’ temperaments and will be able to guide you to the puppy best suited for your family.
Does the breeder have only one, or at most, two breeds of dogs?
If there are several breeds of dogs, chances are the breeder cannot devote the time it takes to become really knowledgeable about each breed.
Do the puppies seem healthy, with no discharge from the eyes or nose, no loose stools, no foul smelling ears? Are their coats soft, full and clean? Do they have plenty of energy when awake yet calm down easily when gently stroked?
All this will be self-evident if you manage to see the litter.
Do the puppies have their first shots and have they been wormed or checked clear of worms?
The puppy should have at least one vaccination before leaving for his/her new home.
Will the breeder be available to answer any questions you might have for the life of the dog? Do you feel comfortable with this person? Are you feeling intimidated or pressured?
If so, keep looking. You are entering into a decade-long relationship and you need to have a good rapport with the breeder for future questions.