The prevalence of chronic valvular disease was studied in 494 cavalier King Charles spaniels with a mean (+/- sd) age of 3.0 +/- 2.7 years. Cardiac murmurs were detected in 65 (13.2 per cent) of the dogs. Among 61 cavalier King Charles spaniels with a mean age of 6.4 +/- 2.8 years, cardiac murmurs were detected in 32 (52 per cent). In both groups of dogs the prevalence of cardiac murmurs was low among dogs younger than three years (1.9 per cent) but increased with age (P < 0.001). The estimated ages at which 50 per cent of the dogs had developed murmurs were 7.5 and 6.2 years, respectively. When 39 of the 61 dogs were re-examined three years later, cardiac murmurs were detected in 28 (72 per cent), and the intensities of the murmurs had generally increased (P < 0.05). Nine (28 per cent) of the dogs which had previously had murmurs had been euthanased for signs of congestive heart failure whereas none of the dogs which had been free of murmurs had died from congestive heart failure. Animal insurance statistics from 1982 to 1990 (1983 excluded) for dogs less than 10 years old showed that claims for veterinary care or death or euthanasia were five times more common in the cavalier King Charles spaniel than in dachshunds (P < 0.001) and eight times more common than the mean for all other insured breeds (P < 0.001).
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