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Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)

Though some level of concern regarding Cavaliers being affected by Degenerative Myelopathy exists, the actual occurrence for the breed is quite low. In comparison to MVD (mirtral valve disease) which affects Cavaliers at a nearly 100% rate, the rate for DM truly is but a drop in the gene pool of disease risk. Owners should be aware of the existence of DM but should not become overly alarmed.


Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is an inherited neurological disease that affects the spinal cord. As it progresses it causes weakness of muscles, loss of coordination in the back legs, and can eventually lead to lameness. It is a painless affliction, (unlike arthritis which is quite painful). Though there is not currently a cure for DM, therapies may help delay its progression. And with the modern invention of canine wheels, even lameness can be overcome.

clipart drawing of cavalier using canine wheels for rear leg lameness due to denerative myelopathy

Figure 1

DM is far more common in larger breeds, although the Cavalier breed can also be affected. A breeder can do their part and ensure that no puppies in a litter are put at risk for DM by not breeding parents each carrying the gene.  Identifying carriers is accomplished through dna testing. However, even geneticists state that although dogs with two copies of the gene are at a higher risk for developing DM, it still is not guaranteed they will develop the disease. 

In a 2014 study, the prevalence of DM in the Cavalier was found to be less than 0.38%


As a responsible breeder I work hard to make the best decisions in regard to my breeding program.  The last thing I want to do is put my breed at risk. However, there are several very important factors to consider when breeding that at times, may carry more weight than a risk of DM. Therefore, considering the low risk, I do not guarantee I will always avoid two carriers when choosing parent pairs. 

Author: Angela Schuller

Disclaimer: As a breeder who cares deeply for my dogs and puppies I act as responsibly as I can.  The information provided is intended to inform and help to lessen the alarm when MVD becomes a topic with your veterinarian. Ultimately, once a puppy leaves my home relinquished to an owner's care, owners must then take on the responsibility for their decisions. As always, if your pet has an urgent medical concern, please consult your veterinarian. Finally, as your trusted breeder, I am always available to offer support and answer questions


"Figure 1" jpg, Cavalier Matters Website, Accessed 24 July 2023

Cornell University Website, https:// 

Cavalier Health Website, 

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