Cavaliers do not generally suffer from any serious eye problems.

They can inherit juvenile cataracts, retinal dysplasia, and other eye diseases.  Breeders must screen their Cavaliers with board certified veterinarian ophthalmologists and only breed Cavaliers that fall within normal limits or with CERF breeder options.

The following information is listed by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists as eye conditions that occur in the Cavalier in high enough percentages to be considered of concern to the breed and breeding stock should be checked for the following by a certified ophthalmologist. Breeding advice is given for the various conditions. For some of the conditions they are listed as “breeder’s option” to use a dog diagnosed with the condition as the hereditary links are not established. Where they are listed as “NO”, this means a Cavalier with this diagnosis should not be bred.


Inheritance – not defined     Breeding advice – NO

A partial or complete opacity of the lens and/or its capsule. In cases where cataracts are complete and affect both eyes, blindness results. The prudent approach is to assume cataracts are hereditary except in cases known to be associated with trauma, other causes of ocular inflammation, specific metabolic diseases, persistent pupillary membrane, and persistent hyaloid or nutritional deficiencies. Cataracts may involve the lens completely (diffuse) or in a localized region. In the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, onset is at an early age (less than 6 months), affecting the cortex and nucleus with rapid progression to complete cataract, resulting in blindness.

Corneal Dystrophy – epithelia/stromal

Inheritance – not defined     Breeding advice – breeder’s option

This is a non-inflammatory corneal opacity (white to gray) present in one or more of the corneal layers; usually inherited and bilateral. In these dogs, lesions are circular or semicircular central crystalline deposits in the anterior corneal stroma that appear between 2 and 5 years of age. It may be associated with exophthalmos and lagophthalmos common in these dogs.


Inheritance – not defined     Breeding advice – breeder’s option

Eyelashes abnormally located on the eyelid margin which may cause ocular irritation.  Distichiasis may occur at any time in the life of a dog. It is difficult to make a strong recommendation with regard to breeding dogs with this entity. The hereditary basis has not been established although it seems probable due to the high incidence in some breeds. Reducing the incidence is a logical goal. When diagnosed, distichiasis should be recorded; breeding discretion is advised.

Exposure Keratopathy Syndrome / Macroblepharon

Inheritance – not defined     Breeding advice – breeder’s option

A corneal disease involving all or part of the cornea, it is the result from inadequate blinking. This is caused from a combination of anatomic features including shallow orbits, exophthalmos, a large eyelid opening (macroblepharon) and lagophthalmos

Microphthalmia with multiple ocular defects

Inheritance – not defined     Breeding advice – NO

Microphthalmia is a congenital defect characterized by a small eye often associated with other ocular malformations, including defects of the cornea, anterior chamber, lens and/or retina.

Retinal Dysplasia – Folds

Inheritance – not defined     Breeding advice – breeder’s option

Linear, triangular, curved or curvillinear foci of retinal folding that may be single or multiple. Its significance to vision is unknown. There are two other forms of retinal dysplasia (geographic, detached) which are known to be inherited in other breeds and, in their most severe form, cause blindness. The genetic relationship between folds and more severe forms of retinal dysplasia is undetermined.

Retinal Dysplasia – Geographic, Detached

Inheritance – not defined     Breeding advice – NO

Abnormal development of the retina present at birth.

Retinal Dysplasia – Geographic: Any irregularly shaped area of abnormal retinal development containing both areas of thinning and areas of elevation representing folds and retinal disorganization.

Retinal Dysplasia – Detached: Severe retinal disorganization associated with separation (detachment) of the retina.

These two forms are associated with vision impairment or blindness. Retinal dysplasia is known to be inherited in many breeds. The genetic relationship between the three forms of retinal dysplasia is not known for all breeds.