Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Research

Advancing Transformative Research and Academic Excellence 

When you love something – especially when it loves you back – you want to protect it. That’s why Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (CKCS) owners and enthusiasts founded the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (CKCS) Health Research Endowment: They want these dogs to live long, healthy, joyful lives.

Certain genetic issues attack Cavaliers often and early. Research will focus on the all-too-common mitral valve disease (MVD) and syringomyelia (SM), but it will extend to other issues that affect Cavaliers, from ocular difficulties to orthopedic problems. While this fund is exclusively focused on CKCS research, when breakthroughs come, they’ll benefit other breeds as well. Any dog might get MVD, but it’s 20 times more prevalent in Cavaliers and the leading cause of death. It occurs when the valve regulating the left ventricle of the heart fails, and some oxygen-rich blood headed to the rest of the body leaks back into the heart. If untreated, congestive heart failure kills the dog.

Though SM isn’t fatal, it’s a painful condition known as “neck-scratcher’s disease,” because dogs commonly scratch in the air near their necks. Researchers estimate more than 90 percent of all Cavaliers have a malformation that squeezes the brain’s cerebellum through the foramen magnum, the hole at the back of the skull. That partially blocks cerebrospinal fluid from flowing down the spinal cord, and variable pressure from that abnormal flow creates fluid-filled cavities near the brain.

Drugs help with both conditions, and they’re more effective now than they were even a few years ago, But no cure has been discovered for either disease.

The founders of the endowment established it at N.C. State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine (Vet Med) for two reasons:

First, money for animal research is limited. Putting this fund at a vet school, rather than a place that makes grants to various institutions, means scientists can share advancements with each other to make research move forward faster.

Second, Vet Med is already doing significant research into MVD and SM in Cavaliers. It’s ranked among the nation’s top four vet schools by U.S. News & World Report and considered the leader in transformative canine health research. World-renowned faculty and clinicians remain at the forefront of interdisciplinary biomedical innovation.

Research proposals focused on significant health threats to Cavaliers are submitted to a grants committee for review.

The Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies (or his/her designee) then awards them. The CKCS Health Research Endowment is designed to sustain itself, funding genetic trials that could lead to life-improving advances. If money becomes available, the fund will also give scholarships to researchers who tackle pertinent canine health problems. The founders and the veterinary school share a vision: Vets across the U.S. who understand the special needs of this breed, ensuring that Cavaliers – and, ultimately, all dogs – are no longer at high risk for MVD, SM and other genetic diseases.

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