Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
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The Cavalon is a hybrid dog, which is the result of breeding a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel with a Papillon. Both originating breeds are small to medium-sized, and so the resulting pup is of the same scale. Some hybrid pups lean more heavily to one side of the family tree. For the Cavalon in particular, where the Papillon is known for those amazing ‘butterfly’ ears, and the Cavalier has heavy drop ears, this can make for quite different appearances within the same litter.

The Cavalon is generally a cheerful fellow with a long silky coat. They love people and are tolerant of children, (if the Papillon character dominates, they may be less patient). Intelligent, easy to train, and requiring only moderate amounts of exercise in a household with older children, the Cavalon can make a great family pet.

About & History

The deliberate crossing of purebred breeds to produce a ‘hybrid’ is a relatively new phenomenon. Since the Cavalon has only been around a couple of decades, their history is mostly that of the parent breeds.

The Papillon

The name Papillon both describes the dog and hints at their French origins. Originally the Papillon descended from small spaniels with drop ears. These were popular with French aristocracy, and in the 17th century, one courtier’s dog produced pups with pricks ears, festooned with long fur. Selective breeding from these prick-eared dogs led to the development of the distinctive Papillon. They were named for those ears with swags of fur that resembled butterfly wings.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel also has a long history that is linked with royalty (as suggested by their name). Again, these small spaniels charmed the aristocracy, and it was said that King Charles II went everywhere accompanied by at least two or three spaniels.

After his reign, Cavalier’s went out of fashion to be replaced by Pugs, amongst other breeds. Numbers dwindled and it took concerted efforts in the early 20th century to revive the breed as it appeared back in the 17th century. Today, they are quite rightly a popular breed, albeit plagued with health problems.


Cavalons step up as small to medium-sized dogs. Both parent breeds are especially sweet-looking, but have very different characteristics. Take ears as an example. The Papillon is named for their erect ears draped with extravagant silky hair, giving them the ‘butterfly wing’ appearance for which they are named. On the other paw, the Cavalier has long drop ears, covered with long curly fur. Most commonly, a Cavalon will be somewhere in-between with what can be best described as ‘dramatic’ ears, draped with fur.

The Papillon lends the Cavalon a slightly longer, less blunt snout than the Cavalier, but those big clear eyes remain a hypnotic feature. Their coat tends to be soft and of medium length on the body, with feathering on the ears, legs, and tail. The Cavalon colour can be any combination of those found in the parent breeds, such as Ruby, Ruby & White, Blenheim, Black & Tan, or Tan & White.

Character & Temperament

This small to medium dog is best thought of as a canine companion than a working dog. Their good nature makes them a good match for families with older children. The slight hesitation in a whole-hearted recommendation is down to the Papillon parent. The latter can be opinionated and feisty at times, and if this trait shows through in the Cavalon, they may be a touch intolerant and snappy.

Of course, as with any dog, good socialisation as a young pup is essential. Whilst the Cavalier has a faultless reputation, any pup that is not exposed to a wide range of experiences at a young age, may grow up to be anxious and fearful.

A happy Cavalon is playful and keen to be at the centre of family life. They are lovers rather than fighters, so don’t expect a Cavalon to be a guard dog, as they are more likely to ask for a belly rub than see off an intruder.


The Cavalon is intelligent and eager to please. This means they react well to reward-based training methods. Indeed, it is a wise owner that spends time on daily training sessions. This helps dodge the potential problem of ‘small dog syndrome’, where the dog gets ideas about their station. A Cavalon will also lap up the one-to-one attention that is part of a training session, and come to love this special time with their owner.


As a new and relatively uncommon breed, there is little statistical data relating directly to the Cavalon’s health problems. However, some health conditions are either shared by the parents breeds or are so common on one side that it increases the probability of them occurring in the hybrid.

Mitral Valve Disease

The mitral valve in the left side of the heart ensures that blood flows in one direction only as it is pumped around the body. However, Cavaliers in particular are prone to a degeneration of the mitral valve, which causes it to thicken and not close properly. This then allows blood to leak in the wrong direction, against the general flow. This turbulent blood flow is heard as a murmur.

Whilst there is a difference between having a murmur and clinical heart disease, sadly for Cavaliers, a progression to heart failure is all too common. Signs include lack of energy, coughing, and collapse. Early diagnosis does help since the drug, Pimobendan, can extend life expectancy if the medication is started before serious illness sets in.

Reverse Sneezing

Reverse sneezing can sound alarming to those who aren’t aware of the cause. The dog seems to have difficulty breathing, as if choking and coughing at the same time. In fact, this the dramatic choking usually stops when the dog swallows.

The problem is caused by an overlong soft palate, which gets sucked into the windpipe. Both parent breeds are prone to long soft palates, hence the likelihood of reverse sneezing showing up in a Cavalon.

Patellar Luxation

Also going by the term of wobbly kneecaps, this refers to a lack of stability which allows the kneecap to slip out of line. This causes the leg to temporarily lock in the wrong position, so the dog skips a step.

Mild cases may skip a few steps but aren’t in pain. However, more severe cases can result in pain and premature arthritis. A full assessment by a vet can appraise whether corrective surgery is indicated or not.


Epilepsy is a seizure condition where no underlying cause is found for the fits. Sadly, again, Cavaliers are over-represented when it comes to epilepsy. The condition cannot be cured, but most cases can be controlled with the regular administration of anticonvulsant medication.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Cavalon prefers to potter rather than hike. They do need a moderate amount of exercise, but don’t enjoy taking things to extremes. It’s not so much about the distance covered on a walk, but a chance to stretch their legs a little and give them a chance to sniff what’s going on around them and the mental stimulation this provides.


The soft hair of a Cavalon does need a moderate amount of attention. Those ears in particular are prone to knotting, especially behind where the ear flap rubs against the neck. The ideal is to check a Cavalon over after every walk, to remove burrs and twigs that might form the heart of a knot.

A quick daily brush or comb is recommended, but if time doesn’t allow then a thorough weekly groom does the trick. The hair can grow quite long between their toes. This may need to be kept trimmed back in order to avoid grass awns getting stuck and piercing the skin.

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