Cava Tzu

Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
 
Photo of adult Cava Tzu
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The Cava Tzu is a hybrid dog, a mix between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Shih Tzu. They are a toy to small sized dog that doesn’t require large amounts of exercise or a large space to live in and is not a great barker. This, along with their exceptionally loving nature, makes them a great match as a family dog or for seniors looking to get out and about for gentle walks.

In appearance, the Cavalier parentage is usually more prevalent, which has the advantage of slightly lengthening the flat Shih Tzu snout. However, that Cavalier parentage can mean more than their fair share of health problems, since conditions, such as heart disease and syringomyelia, are common in the breed.

About & History

Hybrid breeds, such as the Cava Tzu, are relative newcomers on the scene. As such, their history is really that of the parent breeds.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, as the name suggests, was a favourite with royalty. Famous royal owners included Mary Queen of Scots, Queen Elizabeth I, Charles I and II. Their heritage can be traced back to the 16th century, where they were an off-shoot of selective breeding other sporting spaniel breeds.

Originally, they were much more spaniel like with longer noses, but over time were bred with shorter snouts and more ‘baby-like’ faces, as this made them popular as pets. This coincided with the rise of flatter-faced dogs, such as the Pug and Pekingese. For a while these latter breeds were more fashionable and usurped the Cavalier, whose numbers dipped for a while with resurgence in popularity in the 20th century.

The Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu has a reputation for being one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. They originated from China, with their name meaning Little Lion Dog. However their alternative moniker of Chrysanthemum Dog is perhaps more apt given their gentle nature.

Highly prized by Chinese nobility, they were rarely seen outside of China and it was not until the late 19th century that a pair of dogs was exported to the Western world. This pair becomes the foundation of the western breed as it is known today.

Appearance

The Cava Tzu may lean more heavily to one side of the family tree than the other. This means in a litter of pups, some will resemble a Cavalier more strongly than a Shih Tzu, and vice versa.

Those pups that a true mix will be small or toy-sized with a small, round face set with bright eyes and a black leather nose, along with drop ears, and a curled tail. They have an abundance of soft fur of a thick, silky texture. Most commonly their coat is white with patches of brown, ruby, tan or black over their eyes, ears, and part of their trunk.

Character & Temperament

The Cava Tzu is defined by their loving and affectionate nature. Here is a little dog that simply loves being with their owner, but is accepting when the latter has to go out. Neither are they excessive barkers, so this and their love of naps makes them suited to apartment living.

A well-socialised Cava Tzu?s aim in life is to make friends with everyone and everything. It is a rare phenomenon when a dog breed gets along with cats and other household pets and this is luckily the case for most Cava Tzus. And, when it comes to people, they would rather give them a loving lick than ever think about biting. The Cava Tzu is also a playful fellow and always enjoys a game of ball or meeting new people.

Trainability

The Cava Tzu is a little too laid back to excel at training, and indeed the Shih Tzu parentage can gift them with a certain amount of stubbornness. However, many Cavaliers are highly food motivated, so this may counteract the Shih Tzu trait not to obey, and make reward-based training a powerful tool in the dog trainer?s armoury of tricks.

Health

As a hybrid breed, as yet, there are no statistics relating directly to the Cava Tzu?s expected health problems. However, the individual parent breeds are well-known for suffering from problems, such as heart disease or syringomyelia. It is therefore reasonable to assume that some of Cava Tzu pups will take after the parents in more than just appearance.

Mitral Valve Disease

It is a great sadness that a beautiful breed, such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, is so prone to heart disease. The latter is so common in the Cavalier that as many of 75% of dogs will develop a heart murmur during their lifetime. With such a strong genetic trait towards leaky heart valves, it is almost inevitable that some pups in the litter may follow in their parent?s paw-prints.

The mitral valve sits in the left side of the heart, separating the atrium from the ventricle. In affected dogs, the valve becomes thickened with extra fibrous tissue, which means it no long fits perfectly together. This allows blood to leak in the wrong direction through the heart, which is heard as a murmur.

A heart murmur is different from heart failure but is potentially the first step along that road. There are, however, new medications which when started at a specific place in the cycle of deterioration are able to markedly extend life expectancy.

Syringomyelia & Chiari-like Malformation

These two conditions often go hand-in-hand and are another devastating health problem that is common in the Cavalier. It affects the brain and spinal cord, with the brain being too large for the cranial cavity and cystic-type lesions present in the spinal cord.

This is a painful conditio,n which can cause great distress to the dog. Currently, there are no surgical options for management and treating the discomfort with strong pain killers is all that iss possible.

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome, or BOAS, is more prevalent on the Shih Tzu side of the family, but Cavaliers are often also affected. This condition relates to size mismatches between soft tissues structures, such as the tongue, soft palate, and tonsils, and the size of the bony case (i.e. the skull!) that contains them.

The upshot is breathing difficulties because these soft tissue structures are compressed into too small a space. Some cases are mild with the owner needing to take extra care the dog doesn?t overheat in hot weather. However, severe cases are perpetually struggling to draw breath, which raises welfare concerns. Surgery to correct some of the size mismatch can improve quality of life, but these animals should never be bred from, as it perpetuates the problem onto the next generation.

Dental Disease

Another complication for breeds with shortened faces and short snouts is that the teeth are often crowded together. This traps food between the teeth and promotes the formation of plaque and then tartar.

It is a good investment in time to train the Cava Tzu pup to enjoy having their teeth brushed. Then, moving forward, brush the dog?s teeth every day ? indeed twice a day where possible, just like people do.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The laidback nature and small stature of the Cava Tzu means they don?t need a lot of exercise. They are content with regular short walks around the block, but will enjoy outings to the woods or beach in order to play.

Indeed, lack of a need to walk great distances should not be confused with a lack of exercise. Like all dogs, the Cava Tzu does need twice daily walks to provide valuable mental stimulation and give them a chance to exhibit natural behaviours, such as sniffing and exploring.

Grooming

The Cava Tzu has a thick soft coat, which is moderately long. They are blessed with abundant feathering on their ears, legs, and tail, which can become tangled and unkempt as it traps burrs, leaves, and twigs. Therefore, a quick comb at the end of each day can pay off in terms of preventing knots from forming.

A Cava Tzu benefits from regular brushing, but the time-pressed owner can get away with twice a week as long as they take care to remove tangles and teasels at the early stage. Unless the owner desires that full-on shaggy dog look, then regular parlour trips are required to keep the Cava Tzu looking more like a teddy bear than a miniature sheep.

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