Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Your questions answered on Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

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Everything you need to know about Cavalier King Charles Spaniels - characteristics, costs, health, and the best pet cover for this breed.

Read on to find out how comprehensive pet insurance can save you from significant vet bills.

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Table last updated June 2021


The Cavalier King Charles spaniel has a rich and regal history of being a lap dog. Going back as far as the 18th century, the small pooch would park its royal rump on the laps of such dignitaries as King Charles II, after whom it is named, and John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough.

While Charles gave this spaniel breed his name, the Duke wasn’t about to let a chance to bestow a title slip away. He dubbed any Cavalier with a coat of red and white (like his own pet) as the Blenheim Cavalier King Charles spaniel. This celebrated the Duke’s victory at the Battle of Blenheim and continued his tradition of amassing a ridiculous number of titles.

The Cavaliers were almost wiped out during the Second World War. Today’s cavaliers all descend from the six Cavaliers that survived. This close gene pool has resulted in a higher chance of Cavaliers developing health issues compared to other dogs.


Like Napoleon, Cavalier King Charles spaniels are high on pride but short in stature, with most growing only to 30-33cm and weighing about 5.9-8.2kg. Clothed in the finest silk coat, each colour carries its own title: “King Charles” for black and tan, “Ruby” for chestnut, “Prince Charles” for black and white with tan on the cheeks, and “Blenheim” for the red and white.Blenheims also have a spot in the middle of their heads, called “The Mark of the Duchess Thumb Print”. The legend is that it was placed there by Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, as she waited for news of her husband during the Battle of Blenheim. Cavaliers strike the posture of a monarch holding a dignified pose as though someone is always painting their portrait – head back and held high, with chest thrust out.


While the Cavalier King Charles spaniel may appear upper class, they have no reservations about mixing with the commoners. They heap affection and love on people, children and other dogs as if they were throwing handfuls of half-pennies and Scooby snacks from their carriage door.With no fear of socialising with large dogs and an extremely patient nature, Cavaliers are quick to adjust to any family environment and location, equally happy in either a city palace or country estate, and are quick to bond with most other pets.Cavaliers are obedient and active, making them suitable therapy dogs and prime candidates for a conformation/breed show. However they are adaptable in their exercise needs, and are more than happy to watch Netflix and relax, provided they have a comfy lap or pillow.Perhaps because of their noble bloodline, they have never developed street smarts, and as such they will be chasing cars up and down the the street, and will require supervision if you live near a busy road. Their strong hunting instincts will also see them chasing birds and small animals. However, training and socialising can see them bonding with the house gerbil or hamster.

King Charles spaniel vs Cavalier King Charles spaniel

The difference between dog breeds can be as subtle as the difference between a duke and a baron. The King Charles spaniel and the Cavalier King Charles spaniel may seem like the same dog to an untrained eye, being of similar size and behaviour, however the following table should help you work out which you need to bow to, and which deserves a curtsy.

King Charles SpanielCavalier King Charles Spaniel
Head & SkullDomed skull with bulging eyes. Flat nosed with Churchill-esque jowls and a slight underbite.Flat between the ears, shallow snout.
FeetOccasionally the paw pad can fuse with the nailsCushioned paw with feathered foot fur.
Size23-28cm and 3.6-6.4kg30-33cm and 5.9-8.2 kg
ColourBlack and Tan, Tricolour, Blenheim, and RubyBlack and Tan, Tricolour, Blenheim, and Ruby
TemperamentReserved, gentle and affectionateFriendly, joyful, non-aggressive and brave

cavalier king spaniel

Are Cavaliers good with kids?

Like all good aristocrats, the Cavalier loves to play. Its kind-heartedness and patient attitude makes it a dog that bonds strongly with children, sharing their curious and playful natures. Be warned, a Cavalier playing with a child can result in lethal levels of adorability.

How to groom a Cavalier King Charles spaniel

A Cavalier coat is not unlike a fine silk coat. Soft, flowing, and unless maintained it can quickly look like a battered hand-me-down. Here are a few style tips to keep your pooch in its prime:

  • Brushing. Daily brushing is required to stimulate and spread their skin’s natural oils throughout the coat, and also to keep it free of tangles. Focus where the coat is longest (ears, tail, legs and feet). Cavaliers have both outer and undercoats, and you should be sure to brush both before you give them a bath, or else a knot will only get worse. As Cavaliers are born lap dogs, they will have no qualms about snuggling up on your lap as you give them a brush down. Praise and treats will also train them to be calm under the brush and excited about a bit of TLC.
  • Bathing. Because of its thick and somewhat waterproof coat, your pup will possibly need two shampoo washes before you can break through the oils building on the skin and coat. However, avoid washing your dog more than once a month because this can lead to its skin drying out. To avoid getting soap or conditioner in your dog's eyes, use a damp cloth to wipe its face and any other sensitive areas. Be sure to use a towel straight after the bath to keep it from soaking your house. Use a hair-dryer over a towel to completely dry it, to keep its coat free of knots.
  • Ear Care. Though adorable, floppy ears also offer a warm and moist environment for bacteria to breed. Using cotton wipes and dog ear-cleaning solution weekly will keep your Cavalier sharp to the call. Be sure to check ears regularly and remove any waxy buildup, and check in with your vet at the first sign of inflammation or infection.
  • Trimming.Their luscious coats can cause issues for Cavaliers, in particular on the feet, causing discomfort when walking. Be sure to have the hair on their feet trimmed regularly and give them a brush after a walk to get any sticks and tangles out. Have a professional do their nails to avoid risk of injury. The fur around its ears can be trimmed down to allow airflow beneath the flaps and make maintenance easier.

Health Issues

The Cavalier’s bloodline carries with it a rich history, but can also bring the weaknesses of inbreeding. This can leave the Cavaliers susceptible to a range of health issues, in particular eye and ear disorders.This breed can develop a range of diseases such as Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) where the heart valve develops heart murmurs, Chiari-like malformation (CM) in which a dog’s brain grows too big for its skull, hip dysplasia, or Syringomyelia which affects the spinal cord.All modern Cavaliers are descended from only six dogs, and their chances of developing an illness increases twofold at the age of 6 and fourfold from 10 years on.

How much does treatment cost?

Aside from the various illness and diseases, there are also any number of injuries that can strike even the most cautious of cats, let alone these daring dogs. The table below is a rough picture of the treatment costs for a range of common conditions:

Accident or illnessAverage Claim Amount FY 2019
Multiple fractures$2,066.31
Irish Wolfhound$567
Tick paralysis$1,156.87
Snake bite$2,133.31
Ear infection$883.38
Urinary tract infection$814.49

PetSure claims data (June 2018-July 2019), from RSPCA

Why you need pet insurance for your Cavalier

With a high chance of developing health issues, as well as the different bumps and bruises that even the most regal dog are subject to, costs can accumulate quickly.Should they develop a long-term illness or an injury that requires regular treatment, the bills that pile up make pet insurance seem like a no-brainer. However, getting an insurance plan early is key since pet insurance providers typically don’t cover pre-existing conditions. Since the chances of a Cavalier getting a disease increases significantly with age, getting pet insurance early is a must.


Picture: GettyImages

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