The goal of every breeder should be to breed healthy, long-lived Cavaliers with wonderful temperaments. This site has been designed to help buyers in their search to find a quality puppy that has been bred with great care--care that shows the breeder's commitment to give each puppy the best possible chance to attain that goal.
be sure to read the page called
Day*. This is the story about
a lovely, healthy 17 year old Cavalier who won Best Veteran 2 days in a row at
CKCSC club specialties. She really enjoyed her day out, tail
wagging. Wouldn't we all like our pets to live such healthy, long lives?!
Under the health category, there is information about some of the most common health problems facing the Cavalier today. We have included REAL samples of acceptable test results for hips, eyes, heart and patellas as buyers seem to not know what these results look like. All you have to do is to click on the Example 1, 2, etc. to see these samples. Please note that the testing information and samples apply to breeders in the United States. Other countries may have different organizations that certify, but the testing and clearing procedures are somewhat similar throughout the world.
PLEASE NOTE: A letter from a vet stating the parent's hips, eyes and heart have been checked is COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY MEANINGLESS!! Please do NOT accept a vet letter for ANYTHING but patellas. Check out the health section for more on this.
Finally, there is a page which tells you what the principles of breeding are for those breeders listed on the InfoCenter list. Each of these individual breeders has been checked out to be certain they meet these principles.
The Miscellaneous Breeder page links to the Breeder Lists of various National Clubs. These lists are included to assist you in locating a breeder since there are so few on the InfoCenter List. Some of the breeders on the miscellaneous lists do meet the standards adhered by by the breeders on the InfoCenter List, but for whatever reason have not yet applied. It will be up to you to determine which ones do and which ones don't.
Note that these health guidelines may be loosely applied to ALL breeds of dogs. The various breeds all have their own unique qualities, and each also has health concerns that reputable breeders must address by testing breeding stock and removing seriously affected dogs. If you are also looking at another breed be sure to find out what it's health concerns are. Please see the Other Page under Health for a link to the AVAR website which lists known genetic defects of different breeds.
Don't let anyone tell you their dogs are healthy and do not have to be tested. Don't let anyone tell you breeders who test are 'poor' breeders, that it is meaningless, that it is no guarantee of health. Breeding with as much available information about the type, temperament AND health of each parent simply has to be better than breeding without. The following is an excellent article regarding the bashing of breeders who test by those who do not. This article has been reprinted, with permission, from the Canine Chronicle April 2004 issue.
OMERTA: The Breeders’ Code
What do most modern-day breeders and the Mafia have in common?
What a strange question, you may say.
It is, sadly though, a very real commonality.
The answer is simply what Padgett, a well-known geneticist refers
to as the “Code of Silence” for breeders and, perhaps, more commonly
discussed as “omerta” for the Costa Nostra.
Both are deadly silences.
It is easy to understand the reasons for the conspiracy of
silence when it refers to criminals, but what reasons can a breeder
possibly have for maintaining “omerta”?
The reason most often given for not sharing genetic information is the
fear of being made the object of a “witch hunt.”
It lies much deeper though.
It begins with ownership and the human need to see what one owns
as being the best. Remember
the “keeping up with the Jones” mentality?
Everyone wants the very best and the accolade of owning the best.
Admitting that what one owns or has bred may have faults is
difficult for most people.
Also at fault is the huge financial and emotional investment that
breeders have in their dogs.
Discovering that there may be defects in the sires and dams that
breeders have so much of themselves invested in becomes frightening and
causes many to refuse to even contemplate that their dogs may possess
defective genes. Egos and
fear of being labelled “poor breeders” are ultimately the reasons for
breeders maintaining this detrimental code of silence.
Even more dangerous than the Code of Silence though is the refusal to
contemplate defective genes may exist within a breeding program and be
present for generations, quietly meshing through many bloodlines before
Could it be possible that dogs which appear healthy can actually
be spreading dangerous, sometimes lethal genes throughout the breed
community until finally two healthy, but gene-defective, carriers
combine to produce that first tell-tale affected offspring?
Of course it is, and time and again the geneticists tell us how
this is possible.
Simplistically, breeders cannot see defective genes and what they don’t
see must not exist. Therefore,
using that logic, all the untested dogs must be as beautifully healthy
inside as they are structurally beautiful outside.
If only that logic were true!
Unfortunately, far more emphasis is placed upon structural and
superficial beauty simply because it is something that is easily seen,
acknowledged and obtained.
It’s also something without any “unnecessary” financial investments.
One doesn’t need to pay for x-rays or blood tests or specialists’
knowledge in order to evaluate how a dog conforms to a physical
real danger, though, comes not from those dogs who are tested, but from
those breeders who keep their heads in the sand and refuse to believe
that their dogs could be less than 'perfect'. We can begin to fix
that which we reveal, but that which remains hidden is a threat to the
future. But here omerta,
that “Code of Silence” is very evident.
Not only do these breeders hold fast to the belief that their
dogs are untainted by defective genes, structural defects or temperament
problems, but they also believe that no dog that they choose to bring
into their breeding program through mating with their dogs could
possibly be carriers either.
After all, they only “breed to the best,” and, of course, that best just
has to be perfect.
Now the truly criminal act occurs.
These breeders are quite often very successful in the show ring;
their dogs are thought to be the best – after all, they have ribbons and
placings and titles to prove how worthy their dogs are!
Because of their show ring success, they are seen as breed
authorities, people that newcomers to the breed trust for knowledge and
information. And, the information
these newcomers get is that there are no genetic problems to be
concerned with, no need to do that “expensive testing when the dogs are
all healthy.” Even more
disastrous to the breed’s future is that these breeders’ attitudes begin
to prevail. The newcomers
see the success of these breeders’ dogs and buy them (even though few,
if any, have had even the most rudimentary testing for structural
faults, poor health or defective genes).
The newcomers then have a financial and emotional investment to
protect which begins to spread this attitude, with predictable results.
Soon, because these breeders are the “powers” within the breed
(quite often judges, people selected to discuss the breed at seminars,
breeders who command respective prices for puppies and stud fees,
breeders seen winning), they use this “power” to ensure that it becomes
unethical to discuss any defects, in either health or temperament, found
in any of the pedigrees of their sires, dams or progeny of their sires
or dams. All too often one hears
“I don’t dare say anything if I want to win” or “there are three lines
with epilepsy (or heart or eye or pick a health problem), but you
don’t need to know about them.”
Of course, we need to know about them, how else are we to make
intelligent decisions about which dogs would best benefit the future we
plan for our dogs unless we consider not only the structural beauty, but
also the hidden genetics that we are attempting to also improve?
What about the breeders who openly discuss the defects found in their
own dogs? Unfortunately,
they are all too often labelled as “poor breeders” and their dogs said
to be “defective”. They are
shunned and spoken of in whispers and sneers.
The very fact that these breeders are striving to share knowledge
openly and to scientifically test their dogs make these breeders the
subject of witch hunts by the very people who are either too cheap, too
unconcerned, too egotistical, too uncaring about the future to even test
their dogs, much less have the courage to honestly discuss their dogs.
Instead of applauding these breeders who choose to share
information, these breeders become shunned and hounded.
As a result, and because human nature makes us want to be part of
a group instead of outside the group, breeders begin to do what they do
best – they maintain silence and lie or refuse to admit what they do
As more and more newcomers join a breed and inexperienced breeders and
exhibitors all jump on the bandwagon of showing, owning and practicing
the art of breeding, they turn to the breeders who are winning, equating
winning with superior quality dogs.
The breeders are, therefore, more determined to have nothing bad
revealed about any of their dogs, further establishing in their minds
the perfection of the dogs they breed and further increasing the
financial and emotional investment that they have in perpetuating this
theory. Winning in the show
ring has nothing to do with genetic health.
Indeed, a number of the winning dogs are carriers of genetic
disorders at the least and, in some instances, are known to have genetic
health disorders. While a
genetic disorder itself, depending upon type and severity, should never
preclude the dog from the genetic pool, it is absolutely mandatory that
people be aware of any area of concern in order to breed intelligently.
At the very least, the dogs that the dog is bred to must be
tested and their backgrounds looked at carefully to limit the
possibility of affecting more dogs or making more dogs carriers of the
disorder. Yet, because the
winners don’t want to be labelled as “poor breeders” and lose the
accolade of being the best (as well as possible financial loss in not
being able to sell puppies or stud fees at as high a price), the “Code
of Silence” becomes even more firmly embraced.
The newcomers, because they want to be accepted, avoid talking about the
sires and dams that produce poorly, whether it is structure, health or
temperament problems. Also,
they too now have a financial and emotional investment in addition to
wanting to be accepted into the “winners club.”
They may even recognize trends in one or more lines in their own
pedigrees, but refuse to acknowledge these trends and keep them secret
for fear of being labelled.
Often, the breeders, while not openly acknowledging
that there are any problems, will attempt to dilute the possibility of
the disorder rearing its head by out-breeding to another totally
different line. Dr. Jerold
Bell, a well-known geneticist, has this to say about this method:
“Repeated out-breeding to
attempt to dilute detrimental recessive genes is not a desirable method
of genetic disease control.
Recessive genes cannot be diluted; they are either present or not.
Out-breeding carriers multiples and further spreads the defective
gene(s) in the gene pool. If
a dog is a known carrier or has high carrier risk through pedigree
analysis, it can be retired from breeding, and replaced with one or two
quality offspring. Those
offspring should be bred, and replaced with quality offspring of their
own, with the hope of losing the defective gene.”
Unfortunately, refusing to acknowledge or test for genetic disorders
doesn’t make them go away.
What we can’t see still has a huge impact on the breed and continuing to
breed these carriers of defective genes allows the defect to take a
firmer hold in the breed.
Those breeders who try very hard to breed healthy dogs and take every
scientific precaution to ensure genetic health are shunned for the very
passion that should be applauded; the efforts they take are trivialized
at best and more often ridiculed as “unnecessary” or “fear-mongering.”
As a result, these breeders work alone and, outside of their own
kennel, their efforts make little impact on the breed as a whole.
Omerta can only be broken by people who have the courage, conviction and
passion to ensure that the breed as a whole becomes stronger and
healthier. Instead of witch
hunts for those who have the heartache of dealing with the problems, the
goal of applauding those with the courage and determination to speak out
openly should be taken up by every breed club in every country.
Awards in addition to those given to breeders who have the most
winning dogs should be given to those breeders who work tirelessly to
improve the breed.
Prettiness and beauty doesn’t improve a breed; genetic health and the
ability to live a pain-free, healthy life far surpass beauty, but are
more difficult to obtain.
The cost of genetic testing is not high when one looks at the effects
that refusing to test may have on the breed.
Ask any knowledgeable breeder whose breed has rampant heart,
blood disorder, eye or hip problems whether they blame the lack of
foresight and the refusal of past breeders in making a further financial
investment in the breed for the almost insurmountable problems now and
the answer is predictable.
In the UK, it is possible to do testing by certified specialists for
hip, elbow, eye, heart, blood, immune disorders for around a total
investment of £295.00 (far less in the United States), less than a cost
of a puppy or a stud fee.
It’s possible to do far less testing, but at what cost?
Will the breed suffer from heart problems in the future because a
simple £7.50 stethoscope test (done through one of the breed-sponsored
heart clinics, in this case the Boxer) was not important at the time?
Will the breed be faced with trying to eradicate blindness years
from now because a £16.00 eye exam (done through one of the many eye
clinics held each month or free if done at Crufts dog show at the
clinic they hold each year) was thought unwarranted?
Will the descendants be filled with pain from bad hips and/or
elbows because the breed moved well in the show ring and didn’t look
dysplastic to the naked eye?
(X-rays necessary for hip and elbow evaluations are the most expensive
testing at a cost of approximately £110 for hips and an additional £80
for elbows when done with the hips; unfortunately it takes six different
films to evaluate elbows and the cost reflects the number of films
necessary.) Testing for
things such as von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD) and thyroid testing
(immune system) can be done inexpensively as blood tests at perhaps £30
and £50 each. Granted,
testing for these genetic disorders won’t guarantee that a problem won’t
occur in future breedings, but testing will greatly reduce the
chances of problems and that is a good place to start.
If a breeder cannot provide proof in the form of veterinarian-issued
certificates or reports that genetic testing has been done, the buyer
should be aware that they purchase at their own risk!
Breeders may claim that their dogs have never limped or that there is no
need to do any testing because the breed is healthy.
Some may even claim that their veterinarians have said that
genetic testing was unnecessary.
Those stances are irresponsible.
Once again, genes are not visible and carriers of defective genes
may themselves appear healthy to the naked eye.
It is only with testing that we really know whether our
dogs are effected or not and only then with honest evaluation of
pedigrees having tested or effected dogs that the potentiality for
carriers are realized.
What can we do to break the deadly Code of Silence?
The majority, if not all, breed clubs have a code of ethics that
require members to breed healthy dogs.
One of the places to start is with the clubs.
Instead of being social institutions or “good ole boy” clubs,
these breed organizations could begin upholding the very real goal of
protecting the future of the breed by demanding and requiring that
genetic testing be undertaken prior to breeding.
Far more serious than breeding a sixteen-month old bitch is the
practice of breeding without taking every possible safeguard that
genetic health is a priority.
Yet, in many clubs “poor breeders” are identified by the age at
which they breed or the frequency in which they breed rather than the
very real criteria that proof of health be mandatory.
Take the emphasis off winning – how many clubs determine “breeder
of the year” based on the number of progeny that wins?
Are there clubs that actually require that the breeder also must
show proof that they are doing all they can do to ensure the future of
We can break the silence by commending those with the courage and
determination to talk about problems, share successes and knowledge
instead of ostracizing them.
Omerta fails if every puppy buyer and stud dog user demands that proof
of genetic testing is shown.
The Code of Silence fails when we realize that it is not enough to breed
winning dogs or to command the highest price for puppies or to have a
stud dog that is used fifty, sixty, a hundred times; we must take back
the passion with which we all first embraced our breeds ad passionately
work with determination toward a future where the numbers of genetic
disorders are reduced each year.
If those you know breed without testing, ask yourself why – is it lack
of courage in perhaps finding a carrier within their breeding stock?
Is it because they fear a financial loss if they test?
Is it because they truly believe that their dogs couldn’t
possibly be less than perfect?
Is it because they fear they will lose their “top breeder”
standing if they admit that there are problems that need working on?
Is it because they fear that it will be harder to breed beautiful
and healthy dogs? Or have
they lost the passion with which they first loved the breed while they
were climbing the road to winning success?
Or, more sadly, is it because they really just don’t care about
that which they cannot actually see?
It is hard work and takes great courage to develop a breeding program
using scientific methods and tests, but the hope of a better future
should drive us all to that very commitment.
The key is being able to work together without fear of whispers
or silence. Omerta, the code
of silence, can be broken if more of us decide that we are not
going to tolerate the quiet any longer.
© 2004 Sierra Milton, Stormsong. Please contact the author at email@example.com with comments and for permission to reprint.
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