They Were Prescribed as a Cold Treatment, and Other Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Facts

Cute and pocket-sized with a fancy history. That’s the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. To celebrate this popular pooch, International Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Day is held on the last Saturday of each May. Read on to learn some of the things that make this breed so special.

They Were Popular with Royalty

As if their name doesn’t give it away, earlier versions of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel were the sidekicks of King Charles II, who was known to be trailed by a few of them wherever he went. Their coat colors – black and tan, tricolor, ruby, and Blenheim – also have an aristocratic link. The Blenheim coat, or chestnut and white, was named for the 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill. He had many dogs with that coloring at his Blenheim estate, which was named for his victory at the Battle of Blenheim. The pups can also be seen in many portraits of aristocrats.

They’re Not Haughty, Just Snuggly

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy held by man
PHOTO: PIXABAY / Hana Vlčková

They haven’t let their fancy heritage go to their heads, though. Kind of the opposite, in fact. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are known to be among the most affectionate dog breeds. It makes sense, since they were bred as companion dogs that felt at home on laps. In fact, they’re nicknamed “The Comfort Spaniel”. If you’re looking for a dog breed with whom to laze around the house, they may be right up your alley.

They’re a Little Needy, Too

As a companion dog, they do need companionship, though. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel really loves being around his or her people and isn’t too fond of being left without them. This can sometimes lead to separation anxiety. Anyone who adds one of these pups to their family needs to remember to lavish them with the attention they crave and to let them be their outgoing, social selves.

They Can Be Sporty

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel running

Despite their willingness to just hang out with their humans, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels do need an average amount of exercise. An hour or so each day should do the trick. Their humans may consider using this time to get them into some dog sports. With their easily trainable nature, they’re known to be quite good at agility and obedience.

They’re Four-Legged Therapists

This may not be all that surprising from a dog known as The Comfort Spaniel, but this breed serves well as therapy dogs. Their affectionate, gentle natures and willingness to get along with most people make them ideal for visits to hospitals, schools, and nursing homes. There are quite a few laps there for them to explore, too.

They’re Just as Good as Cold Medicine

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel smiles while out for walk
PHOTO: PIXABAY / Sylwia Aptacy

Speaking of laps, one of the reasons royalty kept the ancestors of these pooches around was that they provided some warmth when sitting on laps in drafty castles. In fact, there’s reportedly a note from a physician prescribing Queen Elizabeth I one of these spaniels in her lap to help cure her cold.

They Took Some Flea Bites for the Team

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniels’ forebears were also prescribed to help people avoid the plague. Nobles often shared their beds with them in the hope that fleas would be more attracted to the dogs than the humans. This could ultimately save them from flea-borne illnesses like the plague.

They Were Nearly a World War II Casualty

The current Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed as we know it is relatively new and their numbers weren’t as substantial when World War II hit. During the war, the breed was nearly wiped out because of food shortages and issues getting access to stud dogs. This left only a few spaniels left by the war’s end, which is the group from which today’s dogs descended.

They’ve Lived in The White House

Rex, Ronald Reagan's Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

There have been quite a few pet residents of The White House, including lots of cats, but among The White House dogs was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Rex. President Ronald Reagan gifted the pup to his wife Nancy for Christmas in 1985. The dog was named for a White House usher who retired earlier that year. Rex went on to live with the family until he passed away in 1998. Throughout his life, though, he was very spoiled and was known for having a luxurious doghouse.

They Often Face Serious Health Problems

Like many purebreds, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel often suffers from a variety of health problems. Among the conditions most common to this breed are mitral valve disease, a brain and spine condition called syringomyelia, hip dysplasia, cataracts, and episodic failing, which involves a stiffening of the muscles that then can’t be relaxed. These genetic issues likely stem from being bred from such a small number of dogs after World War II. There is ample concern about the welfare of these dogs due to their often poor health, with Norway even banning their breeding in 2022.

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