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The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a charming breed that has captured the hearts of many people throughout the world. The Cavalier’s loving nature and wonderful intuitive attention to humans make them ideal companions for the young and old alike. Because of the Cavalier’s wonderful nature and undeniable beauty, the breed has become popular with pet owners and diverse groups of people are breeding many Cavaliers throughout the country. This often results in dogs that become available for rescue situations. Because of the unknown and often less than desirable lives of the rescued dogs, post rescue care, both in the foster home and in the permanent home, requires a little extra attention to ensure a happy healthy Cavalier. The following information is provided in a general context and each dog’s situation should be taken on an individual basis. However, the general principles provided here will help the Cavalier to live as long and as comfortable a life as possible.
Common sense is a primary concept in care of the Cavalier. Providing the dog with a comfortable environment that is safe, warm, dry, and interactive will help the dog feel comfortable and reduce his or her stress significantly. Just like in people, dogs are susceptible to illness in the presence of stress. Dogs require an environment that is consistent, relatively calm, and reliable. It is essential to set up a pattern of behavior that the dog can rely on. Exercise times, feeding times, and playtime should be regular and generally about the same time each day. In this way, the dog can rely on these things occurring regularly and this reduces stress. Be sure the dog’s environmental considerations are similar to those that make a person comfortable. Warm sleeping arrangements, relatively dry exercise area, areas to which the dog can retreat for sleep and rest that are comfortable and uniquely his or hers will make the dogs life far less complicated and stressful. Remember that dogs are denning animals and do not object to carriers or cages. They often view these as a retreat like a bedroom or other personal space. Provide an interactive environment for the dog. Like humans, dogs require mental and physical stimulation that are both challenging and enjoyable. Provide the dog with toys that are exclusively his or hers and be sure the dog does not feel challenged by other dogs or children. Talk to the dog in a normal and informative voice. Explain what you are doing and what the dog’s expectations are in the situation. Following these simple common sense principles will ensure a quick and successful transition into the new environment.
Whether a rescued Cavalier or one purchased as a puppy, several health issues can arise for any Cavalier owner. Mitral Valve Disease (MVD), syringomyelia (SM), and periodontal disease (PD), are some of the disease processes that are often found in Cavaliers. However, as with any dog, the Cavalier is susceptible to a host of physical challenges that are not unusual or unique. As with any living being, there are any numbers of health issues that can occur for reasons that may never be known. The following information can help to recognize issues and either prevent or reduce the incidence.
Most of the time the rescued Cavalier will have already received any required vaccinations. Please be sure that all health records are provided with the Cavalier. Establish a relationship with a veterinarian as soon as possible. However, remember that like physicians not all veterinarians practice the same. Ensure the veterinarian is a reasonable and experienced practitioner who has a working understanding of Cavaliers. Understand the feeding habits of the dog if possible and attempt to provide the same nutrition making any changes slowly. The Cavalier should ALWAYS have access to fresh clean water. Never limit the dog’s access to water either inside or outside. Provide regular access to exercise facilities and ensure the dog receives moderate exercise daily. Never allow the Cavalier to become obese or anorexic. The tendency for most Cavaliers is to become obese and this condition is extremely counter-productive for the good health of the dog especially with MVD. Keep the Cavalier clean and parasite free. Use of topical treatments for fleas and ticks is very helpful and ensures a comfortable lifestyle for the dog. If the Cavalier comes with health challenges be sure to understand the nature of the health issue and be comfortable in the care of the issue.
The following information provides an overview of the most common issues in Cavaliers and some insight into caring for the health challenges. Mitral Valve Disease is the degeneration of the mitral valve in the heart changing the normal flow of blood through the heart. The mitral valve has two leaflets that open and closes according to the contraction of the heart thus directing blood through the heart in a proper sequence of events. When the mitral valve becomes compromised, the flow of blood is changed and this often causes an audible murmur when a stethoscope is used. The murmur is a result of the blood flowing against the stream and causes turbulence in the chambers of the heart. At this time, there is no real understanding of what causes this to occur in Cavaliers with such frequency. Common causes are thought to be genetic, environmental, and care related. Therefore, understanding how to care for the Cavalier to minimize the influence of this problem is an important part of properly caring for the dog. The employment of the following approaches can improve the lifespan and quality of life of all dogs and Cavaliers in particular.
Mitral valve disease has a number of symptoms to watch for in both dogs with diagnosed MVD and dogs that have not had MVD diagnosed. Usually the disease process starts with a reduction in activity as the dog finds normal activity more and more tiring. Often a dog will develop a slight cough that may only seem occasional. However, with increased difficulties the coughing may become more and more pronounced. In advanced cases of MVD the dog finds any exertion overwhelming and often has coughing fits from which they have trouble recovering. As the disease process progresses to the most comprising stages the dog may even find sleeping on the chest difficult and has problems with the most minor exertion. There are a number of interventions that can assist with improved quality of life and management of the disease process.
Do not allow the Cavalier to become overweight! Just as in people, obesity and overweight conditions in dogs are not compatible with good heart health. The dog’s ideal weight depends on each dog’s overall size; however, be sure that you can feel the ribs through a thin covering of fat. Anytime a dog is allowed to become obese and sedentary the chances of compromise in the heart increase dramatically. Certainly, if the dog has an existing heart issue, provide frequent mild exercise and quality food in small amounts. If the dog has advanced heart disease be sure to provide several very small meals throughout the day rather than one large meal and keep exercise to a minimum effort. The large meals put significant pressure on the heart and reduce the effectiveness of cardiac output. Some exercise should always be provided, however, use caution in the presence of advanced disease. Allow the dog to determine the comfort level for exercise.
There are several medications that assist with management of MVD. In mild MVD, supplements may be used such as vitamins C and E. There are also a number of supplements on the market that attempt to provide key supplements for heart health. Each of these may provide some assistance in managing MVD. However, as with all supplements use caution as the supplements cannot be given in unlimited amounts without causing significant difficulty. Enalapril, which is an ACE inhibitor, may be prescribed for treatment and prevention of heart failure. Another medication often prescribed for Cavaliers with MVD is Spironalactone (potassium sparing diuretic). Furosemide (diuretic) and Pimobendan (intrope and vasodilator) are most frequently used for the treatment of advanced MVD. Surgical options are also available for the treatment of MVD with limited success. The most important thing to remember with MVD in Cavaliers is to keep them physically and mentally healthy and happy.
Syringomyelia is a neurological disorder that occurs in the spinal cord. As with MVD, there are both genetic and environmental considerations for causing the disease. Essentially malformations in the spine and the opening at the base of the skull cause encroachment of the spinal fluid into spaces that produce pain and discomfort for the dog. Often this results in a scratching behavior and sensitivity to touch along the base of the skull and the top of the neck. Treatment consists of medication and reduction of stress and environmental pressures. Corticosteroids and analgesics reduce the pain and swelling. In advanced cases of SM, the dog has difficulty maintaining a normal life and appears to suffer considerably. Once again, common sense care is the order of the day. Keep the dog’s lifestyle calm and relatively stress free. Limit exercise to that which the dog can tolerate. Encourage rest and avoid obesity. Providing for Cavaliers with advanced SM can be challenging but not impossible. Work closely with an experienced veterinarian to provide the ideal balance of medication and activity.
Periodontal disease is a major issue for all Cavaliers especially since PD can be detrimental to the treatment of MVD. Fortunately, PD is preventable with simple tooth care. There are numerous products on the market that can be used on a regular basis to reduce the effects of PD. Like dental care for humans, the secret is consistency of use. Most veterinarians and pet supply stores will have products that help with the reduction of PD. Regular deep cleanings by a veterinarian are also part of a successful PD treatment plan. All Cavaliers should receive antibiotics prior to deep tooth cleaning by a veterinarian because of the association between PD and endocarditis (bacterial infection of the mitral valve). Dry food and natural bones will also help with the reduction of PD. Remember; even our lovely little Cavalier pets are dogs that are used to chewing on hard things to maintain good dental health.
Cavaliers are a precious gift to be treasured and caring for a Cavalier is not complicated or overly demanding. Simple common sense care and an understanding of the needs of the dog will ensure that both the Cavalier and his new family are happy and thriving. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of resources available and be sure and contact the local District Director or the National Director for any questions or problems that may arise.
Who is a rescuer? Each of us is a rescuer. We take responsibility for those puppies we breed and take them back without question. If we hear of a dog in crisis and know who the breeder is, we contact the breeder knowing that they will handle the situation well. If a dog from a back yard breeder or puppy mill comes into rescue, we hurt for the dog; we offer assistance as best we can, we are all rescuers. Whether you are one of the unsung heroes who fosters a needy dog, makes a home visit, raises money, donates money, transports a dog to a new home, says a prayer, you are all rescuers. Not everyone can do the day to day work of a rescuer because they know, in their heart, that they couldn't deal with the pain seen in the eyes of a Cavalier in need without suffering deeply themselves. But they are also rescuers, because they are the ones who give the moral support to those who, in their hearts, know they couldn't do less than to deal with that pain. This doesn't mean that one is a lesser person or one a better person, it just means that we know our own limitations and what we are personally capable of dealing with in this particular situation.
I salute each of you as my heroes. You are all rescuers and for that I thank you. Just keep one thing in mind, when you see an email, a post on a list, or an article with "rescue" in the subject line or in the title, don't delete it or skip that article, take a moment to read it to see if, by chance, there is something you can do to help one of our less fortunate Cavaliers. That to me is the definition of a rescuer.
What To Do If You Need To Surrender Your Cavalier
Sometimes, due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, a Cavalier owner must surrender their dog. We understand this can be a difficult decision for you and our concern is for the welfare of the dog. We are here for the dogs, not to pass judgment on anyone.
First, call the breeder. If you purchased your dog from a reputable breeder, they will take the dog back without question. Good breeders feel responsible for any dog they have produced for the life of the dog and would want to help.
Expect to be asked many questions about the dog and your reasons for surrendering the dog to rescue. We do this in an effort to learn as much about the situation as possible. There have been times when frustrated owners have contacted us thinking the only thing they could do is surrender the dog. If it’s a training issue, we have animal behaviorists on our team to help alleviate the problems.
You will be asked who the breeder of your Cavalier is. You will also be asked for health records, the name of your veterinarian, if the dog is on medication or has any health issues we should know about. Expect this information to be verified with your veterinarian. You will be asked if the dog has been spayed or neutered and the age of your dog. Your honest input will help us do the very best for your Cavalier. Getting an accurate health history is crucial to the dog’s well being.
Once you surrender your dog, there is a form you will sign and we ask that you also give us registration paperwork and rabies certification if you have it. You can be assured we will take care to find the very best home for the dog.
How The Trust Helps Cavaliers
On July 28th, ACKCS Rescue Trust was notified of 2 Cavaliers in kill shelters. One had been in an outdoor run, in extreme temperatures for 10 days. He was missing an eye, had inflammation of the one remaining eye and a severe case of flea bite dermatitis. His picture haunted us all.
Being notified of a Cavalier in a kill shelter is, unfortunately, not uncommon in recent months. The ACKCS Rescue Trust has taken fourteen Cavaliers from shelters within the past year. That’s three times as many as in past years. That number does not include the others we pass onto other nonprofit rescue groups because we don’t have volunteers in the geographical area the Cavalier needs help. Our few volunteers are stretched to the limit and will seemingly move mountains to rescue a Cavalier in need.
With more Cavaliers in shelters, we are often presented with dogs requiring more veterinary care. The health challenges we face with these shelter dogs are often fixable, but it means our veterinary costs have increased substantially.
In addition to the increased numbers of shelter dogs, we still are receiving many dogs surrendered by their owners. Cavaliers coming into rescue through owner surrender are victims of the economic situation, age and ability of owner, illness, relocation due to job, etc.
Sometimes you hear about the rescues we take in. Many more times you don’t. It’s always been our policy to work quietly to take care of the dogs, and we have done so for several years. We do have a new website which shows some of the dogs we’ve taken in: www.cavalierrescuetrust.org
One of the things rarely, if ever, discussed, are the owner surrender situations we work with to help the dog stay at home. Sometimes, an owner is surrendering their dog because of behavioral issues that, with some coaching from someone more experienced, can be remedied. These situations are as heartwarming as seeing a dog rescued from a shelter. There have been at least four Cavaliers within the past year, kept by their owners through the assistance of an ACKCS Rescue volunteer training the owner to modify the unwanted behavior.
Many more volunteers are needed throughout the country. We do need more foster homes, but we also need volunteers who will help transport dogs, who will confirm a dog is a Cavalier, who will coordinate rescue efforts within a region, who will do in home visits for potential adopters. We need a fund raising director and someone who will devote time to researching and writing grants as there are funds available to rescue groups.
While rescue work can sometimes be heartbreaking, volunteering with the ACKCS Rescue Trust is one of the most personally rewarding ways of giving back to the breed. It is obvious you are making a difference and the reward is almost immediate. Rescue work circumvents the politics in the fancy; it has no club barriers or personal agendas. It truly is about the dogs. Please look into your heart and see what you can do for the dogs. Rescue is everyone’s responsibility. If you cannot find the time to volunteer, then donate. Do it today for the dogs needing our help. What can be more rewarding than a happy Cavalier?
The New Face of Rescue -- How Rescue Has Changed
Doogan, a three month old Cavalier, was surrendered by his previous owners to Veterinary Emergency Service (VES) because they could not afford diagnostics to figure out why he was not able to urinate. His commercial breeder told them to put him down and she would replace him with another. They surrendered him to the clinic and the clinic contacted the ACKCS Rescue Trust. He had a urinary stricture (blockage) caused by a band of scar tissue—probably as a result of his early neuter and hernia repair performed by his breeder’s “ veterinarian.” The resident surgeon generously offered to perform the surgery at cost to allow this little guy to urinate freely for the first time in his life. It was a veterinary assistant at VES with a true love for all animals, particularly Cavaliers, who contacted the ACKCS Rescue Trust to cover the cost of the surgery and give Doogan a fighting chance.
Doogan’s surgery was a success and he healed very quickly. Within a few weeks he was a happy energetic puppy who could urinate trouble-free for the first time. Doogan, now known as Arlo, has found a forever home with a wonderful family in Madison Wi where he is cherished. Thanks to the veterinarians at VES and the ACKCS Rescue Trust, Arlo was given a second chance at life!
December 23, 2008. Rescue is contacted by a shelter in
Earlier in the year, also in
Those are just a few examples of the kind of rescues we are now taking in. We’ve all been saying it for quite some time: Plain and simple, rescue has changed! In the past, “rescue” was more often a re-homing due to the inability of the owner to continue caring for the dog. That’s not the case so much anymore. We have experienced a significant increase in the number of Cavaliers needing rescue assistance. We don’t buy them and we don’t go looking for them. They come to us. Of course, the economy has played a role in the increased numbers of dogs surrendered or abandoned. Some of the calls we receive are heart breaking—and we are now receiving at least three calls per week. The Trust is contacted by people who have lost their jobs and are losing their homes. They are forced to give up their much loved Cavalier. Many of those dogs are our older dogs who have health issues. Their people could no longer afford to give them proper care. The Trust takes in dogs from “Breeders” who are dumping them in shelters because they can no longer afford to keep the dogs fed, let alone cared for. The good news is it’s rare we receive a call from someone who got their dog from a reputable breeder. It is the policy of the ACKCS Rescue Trust to always contact the breeder, if possible. We know and appreciate that ACKCSC breeders want to be notified and will take back any Cavalier they produce.
At the time of writing, the following lists just some of the dogs currently in our care:
A 7 year old diabetic dog surrendered by his unemployed owner because she could not afford his medical care.
A dog that just had 26 teeth extracted. He came to us through a shelter in
An elderly dog with only 3 teeth left after his dental, an enlarged heart and who has just started coughing. He also needs drops for his eyes. This dog also came to us through a shelter in
A 7 year old dog recovering from a liver infection and diagnosed with moderate MVD, who, until last week was intact and only had one descended testicle. He is large and overweight at around 30 pounds.
Two young dogs from a shelter surrendered by their commercial breeder because he “don’t need no more males.” They have now been neutered and brought up to date on their vaccinations. These should be the easiest to place.
Those dogs now all have a chance at a better life because of the kindness of The Trust volunteers. Rescue doesn’t take holidays if there are dogs needing our help. We are extremely grateful to our past and current volunteers.
Sadly, there are other dogs in our care who need forever homes. There are other dogs needing our assistance. Foster homes are desperately needed. Usually by the time the dog goes to a foster home, they have been examined and evaluated by a veterinarian. If there is any chance the dog has something contagious, the dog remains in veterinary care until such time as we are reasonably assured they cannot bring something to the foster home. Volunteers of all kinds are needed. Volunteers with experience caring for older dogs compromised by health issues would really benefit many of the dogs coming into rescue now. Foster homes help us place the dogs by assessing their behavior and overall condition, doing necessary behavior modification, thereby getting the dog ready for a permanent home. Foster homes are a crucial part of rescue.
Donations are needed to help cover ever rising veterinary costs due to the increased numbers of dogs taken in, and the severity of the health issues we face. In many cases, the voluntary adoption fee does not cover the veterinary costs incurred by The Trust. Elective procedures are not done. Expenses are not taken lightly, prior approval is necessary and it is done with thought and input by the ACKCS Rescue Team--Trustees, National Director, District Director, Foster Home and Veterinarian involved. We confer with other veterinarians willing to consult and help us make the right decisions on behalf of the dogs. All dogs receive the best possible care; however elective procedures must be done by the adoptive families. This makes the ACKCS Rescue Trust’s work more difficult to find willing and suitable permanent homes for our more challenging and aging dogs coming into rescue.
In order for any Regional Club to participate in rescue under the auspices of The Trust, all volunteers must provide the same forms as are required of all volunteers of the Trust. This is a requirement to insure insurance liability coverage. Regional clubs can be of great help to the ACKCS Rescue Trust by holding fund raising raffles, on line auctions, and notifying members of the need for adoptive families and volunteers.
We are in need of District Directors in the following regions:
District 2: DE, NJ, PA
District 10: MT, ND, SD
We currently have no one managing and developing these areas and we get calls for those areas weekly.
Often times transportation is an issue for rescue. We don’t always have just the right adoptive family in the area where the dog is located. Those who could help with transportation could make the difference between a dog staying in foster care for an extended time or going to a permanent home. Volunteers are also needed to make home visits in order to approve a permanent home.
Whether you are a breeder/exhibitor or “just a pet owner” you can help. You can make the difference in the life of a Cavalier coming into rescue through no fault of their own. It’s time to give back to the breed. It’s time to assist the dogs coming into rescue. You won’t regret it and what you gain from the experience will touch your heart forever.
To find out more about volunteer opportunities with the ACKCS Rescue Trust, please go to our new website: www.cavalierrescuetrust.org
About the Cavalier
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