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Cavachon Guide: A Comprehensive Guide to Owning a Cavachon

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Introduction

The Cavachon is a relatively new but increasingly more popular mixed breed dog, and it is made up of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the Bichon Frise. Scruffier than its parent breeds, the Cavachon has a silky, wavy coat of hair that comes in shades of white, apricot, cream, white with tan, and black. The Cavachon’s coat can also be tri-color. Due to their mixed breeding, the physical characteristics of Cavachon Puppies can vary. Generally, the Cavachon has a slight, sturdy, compact build, can weigh between 15-35 pounds, and stand around 13 inches in height. With its small stature, the Cavachon is considered a toy breed.

While the Cavachon requires daily walks like all dogs, the Cavachon doesn’t require a lot of exercise. Thirty minutes of walking a day are usually enough for Cavachon puppies. The Cavachon is highly social and enjoys hanging out with their humans and cuddling in a welcoming lap. These happy dogs are often described as “Teddy Bears.” Known for their playful, friendly, and highly social nature, Cavachon puppies don’t enjoy being left alone. Cavachon puppies are incredibly loyal to their humans and tend to be clingy.

Cavachon puppies crave attention, and as long as they receive a good amount of it from their owner, the Cavachon will retain its happy demeanor. Laidback, gentle, and easy-going, Cavachon puppies do well with families with small children. However, children will need to learn how to play with and handle Cavachon puppies properly. Due to their small size, Cavachon puppies are fragile and can be easily injured during rough play.

Like most dogs, Cavachon puppies should be socialized early. Though generally friendly, if not properly trained and socialized, the Cavachon can develop “small dog syndrome” and be barky and “yippy” to strangers. The Cavachon is intelligent, and, because of their desire to please, are quick learners when it comes to training. Training sessions for the Cavachon should be short and involve lots of positive feedback to be effective.

The Cavachon is best suited for indoor life and doesn’t require lots of outdoor space (like a large yard), and, therefore, is excellent for apartment living.

Cavachon Puppies are great for allergy sufferers. Their coats are usually non-shedding, hypoallergenic, and are medium-length. Cavachons with long coats are less allergy-friendly. Your Cavachon will need to be brushed a few times a week to avoid matting and tangling of their fur.

Cavachon puppies make great dogs for novice dog owners and seniors with their easy-going nature and lower to mid-range energy levels. Easy to train and eager to learn, Cavachon puppies make excellent therapy dogs. They are naturals at giving affection and sitting quietly on laps. If appropriately trained, the Cavachon can make a good therapy dog for nursing homes, hospices, and hospitals. They also do well with adults or children with autism or anxiety disorders. The Cavachon gets along well with other dogs and, in some instances, even cats!

Due to their low to medium activity levels, Cavachon Puppies have a high potential for weight gain and must have their diet monitored closely. The average life expectancy of the Cavachon is 10-15 years. Though the Cavachon has genetic predispositions to certain illnesses, they are generally a healthy dog breed. Cavachon is the most common name for the breed, but you may see it as Cavashon, Cavalier-Bichon, or Bichon-King Charles.

The Cavachon can be a great dog for you if you enjoy having a constant companion, enjoy having lots of cuddle time, and want a dog who does just as well in a home as it can in an apartment. If you want a dog that is okay being alone for many hours a day and is low maintenance in its grooming needs, the Cavachon may not be suitable for you.

History of the Cavachon

Compared to its parents, the King Charles Cavalier Spaniel and the Bichon Frise, the Cavachon is a relatively new dog breed. The Bichon Frise originated in the Mediterranean and is descended from a breed called barbets or water spaniels crossed with small white lapdogs. Four types of “barbichons” were created with this mix: the Havanese, Bolognese, Maltese, and the Tenerife bichons. The Teneriffe Bichon got its name from the island they were developed on, the Canary Island of Tenerife. They later became known as the Bichon Frise. It is believed that the Bichon Frise was brought to the island by Spanish sailors. Later, it was Italian sailors who brought them back home to Italy. The Bichon Frise was prized by the Italian nobility and was included in the works of Italian artist Francisco Goya. The Bichon was brought to the United States in 1955 and officially recognized by the American Kennel Club Miscellaneous Class in 1971.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, The Cavachon’s other parent, is the original toy Spaniel. Loved for its gentle nature, the Spaniel was a favorite among royalty, specifically King Charles II, who ruled over Britain in the late 1600s. It is from this King that King Charles Spaniel received its name. The Spaniel is depicted in works of art from the 1600s and 1800s. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel made its way to North America in 1952 but was not recognized by the American Kennel Club until 1996.

As a cross-breed, or mixed-breed, the Cavachon has likely existed unintentionally since both breed parents have been in the United States for some time. However, a dog breeder from Glendene Kennels in Virginia claims to be the first to have intentionally crossed a Bichon Frise and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in 1996. The breeder’s goal was to create a low-allergy, small companion dog with a low propensity to health issues. The American Kennel Club doesn’t recognize the Cavachon as a separate breed. The Cavachon remains unclassified as a mixed breed dog. It is not recognized by the American Canine Association, American Canine Hybrid Association, the Designer Canine Registry, or the Designer Dogs Kennel Club.

Breed Intelligence

The Cavachon is bright and relatively easy to train. They are eager to please and learn but possess short attention spans which can make it seem that they are harder to train than they are. It is recommended that training sessions with Cavachon puppies are short, as the Cavachon can be overwhelmed by too much information at once. Give your Cavachon puppies lots of praise and encouragement during your training sessions. Cavachons respond well to environments that are positive and fun. The Cavachon enjoys joining in on the games and activities with their humans. Cavachon puppies may sometimes over-exert themselves as a result of their enthusiasm.

Training

The Cavachon is good at understanding and memorizing new commands, usually in repetitions of 15-25. According to the book The Intelligence of Dogs, the Bichon Frise ranks at 78, and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel ranks at 73 out of 100. The Cavachon adapts well to new environments and doesn’t mind moving from one place to another. This is, of course, under the assumption that they will be doing so with their owner. Cavachon puppies can suffer from separation anxiety when not with their owner. When it comes to potty training Cavachon puppies, patience will be required. Be prepared for very frequent potty trips outside in the first few weeks with your Cavachon.

cavachon laying on tile floor

Psychological Health

Cognitive Health

Cognitive health or cognition, is comprised of your Cavachon’s ability to acquire information, understand it, store it, and retrieve it. It is directly connected to your Cavachon’s intelligence, socialization, and memory function. And as a result, plays a vital role in your Cavachon’s well-being.

Canine Cognitive Decline

The Cavachon is not pre-disposed to cognitive health issues any more than any other dog breed. Many dogs of all breeds are at risk for cognitive health issues. Canine Cognitive Decline (CCD) or Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS), also known as Dog Dementia, is a degenerative disease that affects dogs much like Alzheimer’s and Dementia affects humans. Dogs can age at different rates depending on breed and size. For example, a small dog like a Chihuahua may not be considered a senior dog until its 7-10 years old. In contrast, a Great Dane is regarded as a senior at six years old. The Cavachon, with a life expectancy of 10-15 years, is a small breed dog and therefore may not show signs of CCD until later in life. According to a National Center for Biotechnology Information study, CCD can affect 14-35% of all dogs. The physical symptoms of CCD in the Cavachon can exhibit as fear of familiar people, increased anxiety, house soiling, disorientation, and increased marking. Your Cavachon may also forget commands he once knew.

If your Cavachon is experiencing these symptoms, a vet visit is necessary for proper diagnosis. Your vet can determine any underlying causes and create a care plan for your Cavachon. This can include changes in diet and exercise. As well as changes you can make around your home and in your Cavachon’s daily routine.

Games to relieve stress

While your Cavachon is young, there are a few fun and easy games and activities you can play with them to increase their cognitive health overall.

Hold a treat to your forehead or by your eye and ask your dog to look at you. Gradually transition the food to just a hand signal and verbal command. This basic training exercise will not only teach your dog to focus and be less prone to being distracted, but it will also trigger a release of oxytocin in you and your dog. Oxytocin is called the “feel-good hormone” and is often exhibited in the parent-child bond. Oxytocin has been found to positively affect memory and cognitive health.

A sure-fire way to make sure you have your dog’s attention is to occasionally switch up the route you take when walking your Cavachon. Try taking a left instead of your usual right, or go in a different direction. New routines can be overwhelming for dogs, so make sure your Cavachon is following your lead and paying close attention to you. Like all dogs, Cavachon Puppies rely on their noses more than any other sense. Play a game of Treasure Hunt with your Cavachon. Take your Cavachon’s favorite smelly treat or toy and hide it. Tell your Cavachon to find it and allow them to search and sniff it out.

Similar to the Treasure Hunt game, Hot & Cold, involves hiding a treat from your Cavachon. Use a calm tone of voice as your Cavachon moves further away from the hidden treat. As your Cavachon gets closer, your voice increases in excitement. This game can help Cavachon puppies’ listening skills. It can also help create a special language between you and your Cavachon.

Diet

Diet can play a key role in maintaining your Cavachon’s cognitive health. Like humans, dogs can’t produce Omega-3 fatty acids on their own. Omega-3 has been found to not only aid in early brain development but also protect from cognitive decline later in life. Fish oil supplements can be an easy way to introduce Omega-3 FAs into your Cavachon’s diet. Fish oil has also been shown to support the immune system and aid in helping fight canine cancer. Along with fish oil, Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce cognitive aging. It scavenges free radicals and helps reduce inflammation. Other important vitamins that help with cognitive health are thiamin, B12, and B6. Consult your vet before giving your Cavachon any dietary supplements.

Stress

Fear-based Aggression

Cavachon puppies, like a lot of dogs, can go through a “biting or nipping” stage. This behavior can sometimes simply be due to teething. Another factor can be fear-based aggression or stress. Cavachon puppies and adult Cavachons can exhibit biting behavior when they are over-stimulated and stressed. Stress in Cavachons can lead to fear-based aggression. Cavachon puppies cannot tell you when they are feeling overwhelmed. Cavachon puppies’ only way of communicating their fear or stress can be through their physical behaviors, which may include nipping or biting. Recognizing the signs of stress in your Cavachon can help prevent biting due to fear-based aggression. Signs that your Cavachon is stressed can be whining and barking, shaking or pacing, panting, hiding, or attempting to escape.

cavachon wearing orange scarf

Prevention

It is important to differentiate between when your Cavachon is stressed versus what may be normal behavior for them (for example barking at a squirrel as opposed to barking in fear). This comes from knowing your Cavachon’s regular responses well. If you have observed that your Cavachon is showing signs of being stressed the first step is to remove them from the stressor. Take your Cavachon in a different direction if they become stressed on your daily walk, or remove your Cavachon from a room that has lots of people and noises that may be stressing them out. When dogs and other animals are afraid of something their first instinct is to flee the situation, this is called the flight response. Cavachon puppies may initially exhibit fearful postures, such as shaking or their ears going back to be pinned against their head. If they are not removed from the stressor or feel trapped, the Cavachon’s fight response will kick in. The Cavachon may run and initially hide but then bite when a threatening person reaches out to them. Cavachon puppies may run up and nip or bite when a person they view as a threat turns to leave. Fear-based aggression bites are usually rapid nips and bites. If your Cavachon avoids interactions with certain dogs or people – respect their boundaries. Don’t force your Cavachon to interact with them.

If your Cavachon is feeling stressed, they may signal to you that they are uneasy. They may nudge you along if you stop at a specific place on your walk. If their signals are ignored, your Cavachon may attempt to hide (such as behind a fire hydrant or a tree). Changes in bodily functions can also be a sign of stress in your Cavachon. Like humans, Cavachon puppies can feel the sudden urge to urinate when nervous or stressed. Cavachon puppies may urinate after meeting a new doggy friend both to mark their territory and as a reaction to stress. A stressed Cavachon may also lose its appetite or lose control of its bowels.

Management

Like with humans, physical activity can help relieve stress in Cavachon puppies and adult Cavachons. While the Cavachon isn’t an overly-active breed, they do enjoy some light- to medium-level activities. Being consistent with your daily walks with your Cavachon is key in helping to manage their stress levels. Cavachon Puppies thrive on physical connection with their owner. Spending quality time cuddling and simply being with your Cavachon puppies can do wonders to help with their stress.

Try giving your Cavachon a massage. Start at the neck and move downward in long strokes along your Cavachon’s body. Keep one hand on your Cavachon, while the other hand massages. In time, you may be able to identify in what areas of your Cavachon’s body he or she is holding tension and stress. Do not attempt massage when your Cavachon is in a state of high stress or a stressful environment.

Music Therapy is another great option for managing your Cavacon’s stress. While there has not been definitive scientific evidence of the benefits of music therapy, there is anecdotal evidence of a reduction of stress in dogs exposed to classical music. The type of music you choose to play for your Cavachon is important. Classical music, soft rock, and reggae has been shown to reduce stress in dogs. There are even doggy music therapy playlists on Spotify. You can also create your playlist and have it on in the background for your Cavachon puppies. Allow a few days for your Cavachon to adjust to the new background sound on the music. You can then play the same music in stressful situations like long car rides, trips to the vet, or when you have to leave your Cavachon alone.

Anxiety

Separation Anxiety

Like stress, separation anxiety is a common issue with dogs, particularly Cavachon puppies and adult Cavachons. The two often go hand in hand. Separation anxiety is when your Cavachon shows extreme anxiety and stress from the moment you leave the house until you return. The signs of separation anxiety can look very similar to the signs of stress in your Cavachon. Cavachon puppies may pace, whine and tremble. They may bark excessively. Your Cavachon may become destructive and chew, dig or rip up things in the home. The Cavachon is especially predisposed to separation anxiety, and Cavachon Puppies don’t do well when left alone. The Cavachon is not an independent dog. Cavachon puppies are social dogs who prefer to be in the company of others. They thrive on attention. It is one of the reasons why they are referred to as “lapdogs.” Both of the Cavachon’s parents, the Bichon Frise and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, are known to suffer from separation anxiety. Both personality and nature play a role in whether or not your Cavachon will suffer from separation anxiety. Life changes and trauma can also lead to separation anxiety in Cavachon puppies. For example, your family moves to a new house, a child leaves for college or there is a death in the family. All of these can be events can be interpreted as “trauma” to your Cavachon puppies and can play a role in how well your Cavachon puppies do when left alone.

Cavachon puppies can’t be left alone for 10-12 hours a day. The Cavachon’s personality doesn’t lend itself to being alone for such long periods. If you need to be gone for an extended period of time, doggy daycare is a better option. 4-6 hours is usually the limit for how long a Cavachon can be left alone. Leaving Cavachon puppies alone requires training and planning.

cavachon puppies laying next to each other

Training

Crate training is a viable option for helping your Cavachon puppies with separation anxiety, but not all dogs respond well to it. Crate training works best with Cavachon puppies as opposed to older adult Cavachons. Crate training in older dogs can sometimes lead to more anxiety. Crates can come in handy with Cavachon puppies when it comes to potty training them as well as training them to be okay when they’re alone. Crate training isn’t about “locking up” your Cavachon puppies. It is about creating an environment that is their own space and allows your Cavachon to feel safe and secure. Crate training requires patience and lots of positive reinforcement. Crate training Cavachon puppies can take up to six months. Make sure to choose a crate size that is right for your Cavachon puppies and isn’t too big. You can always buy a divider to expand the crate if needed. You want your Cavachon puppies to associate the crate with calm and relaxation. Placing a dog bed or cozy blanket in the crate may help, but not all dogs will enjoy this. Some dogs may use the dog bed or blanket to urinate on or destroy when they are just beginning training. It will be trial and error to see how your Cavachon responds.

Once you have gotten your Cavachon into the crate and they have sat calmly for some time, give them a treat. You want to give positive reinforcement every time they enter the crate and are calm. You can even try giving your Cavachon a toy filled with peanut butter while they sit in the crate. This can function as a good distraction along with creating a positive association. Gradually extend the amount of time your Cavachon puppies spend in the crate, but be sure you do not leave them in it all day during training. Let them out to play, eat, and use the bathroom. Again, it isn’t about “imprisoning” your Cavachon puppies, but conditioning them to be at ease in the crate.

Prevention

Additional ways to help your Cavachon’s stress are exercise, aromatherapy, and calming coats. A calming coat applies mild consistent pressure to your Cavachon’s torso. Calming coats work for Cavachon puppies much like how swaddling works for human babies. Aromatherapy is another option that may work for Cavachon puppies. There are diffusers on the market that emit pheromones that calm dogs. The scent is odorless to everyone else except your Cavachon. You can plug into the wall in the room your Cavachon sleeps in or where their crate is located. CBD oil or CBD treats can also benefit Cavachons with anxiety. Research on the benefit of CBD Oil for dogs is ongoing but promising.

Physical Health

Allergies

Allergies in dogs are a complicated topic. There are multiple types of allergies a dog can have, and they can often have them simultaneously. While Cavachon puppies themselves are considered low-allergen or hypoallergenic due to their low shed factor, they can struggle with allergies. The most common forms of allergies in Cavachon puppies are flea allergies, food allergies, and environmental allergies. Symptoms of allergies in your Cavachon are itchiness, hives, sneezing, runny eyes, and red, inflamed skin. Your Cavachon puppies may also have swelling in the face, ears, lips, or earflaps.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is a leading cause of allergic reactions in dogs. It is a common cause of itching for dogs, though food allergies can cause itching as well. Cavachon puppies do not have to be infested with fleas to have been bitten by one and have a reaction. A single flea bite can cause itching for days. Fleas don’t stay on the body after feeding. Unless there is a severe flea infestation in the home, you likely won’t see any fleas on your Cavachon Puppies. Flea allergy dermatitis is caused by the flea’s saliva. When a flea bites your Cavachon it injects a small amount of its saliva into the skin. The antigens are what can cause itchiness in your Cavachon. Your vet can diagnose your Cavachon’s flea allergy by running a blood test (IgE blood test) or an Intradermal skin test (similar to the ones humans receive when being tested for allergies). There are various monthly treatments to guard against fleas. Speak with your veterinarian to find out which is best for your Cavachon.

Food Allergies

Food allergies are the most complicated allergen of the three. Most Cavachon puppies and other dogs do not have actual food allergies. Rather, they have food sensitivities. Actual food allergies are quite rare. Food allergies usually elicit an acute response (anaphylactic shock), whereas sensitivities create a gradual reaction over time. A more accurate term for what your Cavachon may be experiencing is “food intolerance.” This is due usually to a specific ingredient in your Cavachon’s food, like eggs or beef. Food additives such as sulfites or certain spices can also cause reactions in Cavachons as well. Cavachons with food sensitivities may have symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, itchy skin, or chronic ear infections.

cavachon walking on the beach

Diagnosis

The best way to diagnose if your Cavachon has a food intolerance is to take them to the vet. Your vet will do an exam and may place your Cavachon on an elimination diet. This involves removing certain foods from Cavachon puppies’ diet and monitoring them. Your vet may advise you to switch the types of proteins you feed your Cavachon. Hypoallergenic dog food may also be an option. These are dry dog foods formulated specifically for dogs with food sensitivities.

Acute Allergic Reaction

In the case of an actual acute allergic reaction to food, you must take your Cavachon to the vet immediately. Like in humans, if left untreated, anaphylactic shock can be fatal in Cavachons. Bee stings and vaccine reactions can cause anaphylactic shock in dogs. This is why it is encouraged to keep a close eye on your Cavachon puppies and adult Cavachon after they are vaccinated. Fortunately, acute allergic reactions in dogs are rare.

Environmental Allergies

Lastly, there are environmental allergens. These are exactly what they sound like. Like humans, your Cavachon puppies can be allergic to dust, pollen, fragrances, and mold. Environmental and seasonal allergies are common in dogs. Environmental allergies are also referred to as “inhalant allergies” or “atopy” and can affect your Cavachon’s skin and respiratory system.

Inhalant Allergy or Atopy

You may notice your Cavachon is sneezing, is itching, has watery eyes, and is biting and licking itself. This form of allergy is inhalant allergy or atopy, and falls under the umbrella description of “environmental allergies”. The main inhalant allergens like tree pollens (like oak, cedar, etc), grass, and weed pollens (like ragweed) are seasonal. Other allergens like mold, mildew, and dust are year-round.

Although some Cavachon puppies may exhibit the classic signs of allergic rhinitis (sneezing, runny nose), in most Cavachon puppies, the inhalant allergy will exhibit as itchy skin (pruritus). Your Cavachon may rub, lick, and scratch its underarms. Treatments for environmental allergies can vary. If your Cavachon has an allergy to dust, it may be as simple as keeping your home dust-free and using an air purifier. If your Cavachon Puppies have seasonal allergies, you may want to avoid opening the windows during the warmer months. Shampoo therapy can also help. Washing your Cavachon puppies with hypoallergenic shampoo frequently can soothe their skin. Bathing also can rinse away any allergens that may be sitting on their coat. Look for shampoos that have anti-inflammatory ingredients to help soothe your Cavachon’s itchy skin.

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Gut Health

“Gut” is an all-encompassing term for the digestive process. It involves your Cavachon’s mouth, esophagus, stomach, liver, intestines, pancreas, rectum, and anus. The gut microbiome is made up of hundreds of microorganisms that live inside your Cavachon’s digestive tract. 99% of the microorganisms belong to five groups: Actinobacteria, Bacteroides, Firmicutes, Fusobacteria, and Proteobacteria. The gut microbiome helps your Cavachon’s body digest nutrients. Without these microorganisms, your Cavachon would be unable to digest its food. Imbalances in the microbiome can affect Cavachon puppies’ immune systems. Your Cavachon’s microbiome plays a huge role in its overall health.

Diet

Maintaining your Cavachon’s gut health can be done through a diet that is rich in probiotics. Fiber has also been shown to play a key role in gut health in dogs. Fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir are all safe for dogs and can help maintain their microbiome. High-fiber dog foods or fiber supplements can also be a good addition to Cavachon puppies’ diets.

cavachon laying on couch

Microbiome Health

Many things can affect the microbiome of your Cavachon. If they’ve recently been on antibiotics, their microbiome levels drop and will need to be repopulated. Additionally, stress, sleep, and exercise can alter your Cavachon’s microbiome. Even being exposed to second-hand smoke can affect your Cavachon’s microbiome. Decreasing your Cavachon puppies’ exposure to smoke and making sure they get adequate amounts of rest and exercise will greatly improve their microbiome.

Additionally, it is important to not give your Cavachon puppies “people” food or scraps. Like most dogs, Cavachon puppies will eat almost anything. Eating spoiled food or scavenging garbage can not only negatively affect your Cavachon’s microbiome but could also lead to allergic reactions. The same goes for certain plants such as rhubarb. Make sure that you are using dietary discretion with your Cavachon and monitoring not only what you feed them but what they may pick up to eat on their own.

Digestive Disorders

Cavachon puppies with digestive disorders can exhibit regurgitation, vomiting, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain or bloating. Diarrhea is also a sign of digestive disorder, but it can have many causes. Diarrhea can be a symptom of an imbalance of the microbiome. It can also be a sign of bacterial infection. Vomiting is usually due to inflammation of the intestines or the stomach lining caused by infection or irritation. It may also be caused by a nondigestive issue, like kidney disease. Changes in the color of Cavachon’ puppies’ feces can also be an indication of digestive problems. Black, tar-like feces may be a sign of bleeding in the small intestine or stomach. Malabsorption is also a cause of diarrhea and can be found in Cavachon puppies who are fed milk due to their inability to digest lactose.

To get a proper diagnosis for your Cavachon a complete description of your Cavachon’s history (age, previous illnesses, diet, exposure to other dogs, etc.) will need to be done. Your vet will do a physical exam and run laboratory tests on your Cavachon’s blood and feces. X-rays may also be done to get a view of your Cavachon’s intestines, stomach, esophagus, and rectum.

Parasites

Parasites are a common cause of digestive tract issues in dogs, including Cavachon puppies. Many species of parasites can infect the digestive tract. The life cycle can be direct, meaning there is only one host. Other parasites are more complex and can involve an intermediate host, like an insect. For example, the intermediate host acquires the infection (or a parasite is shed by that host) and is consumed by your Cavachon. Parasites can cause severe disease in Cavachon Puppies and can even sometimes infect humans. The signs of parasites are similar to other diseases, so your vet will need to do a thorough exam and may need to run blood tests for a correct diagnosis. If a parasite is found, your vet will create a care plan for your Cavachon.

Parvovirus

Parvo, or Canine Parvovirus, is a common disease among puppies, including Cavachon puppies. Parvo is a disease of the small intestines and stomach. Parvo is highly contagious and is spread by contact with an infected dog or contact with a contaminated object. Cavachon puppies aged 6 weeks to 6 months are the most vulnerable to Parvo. This is because Cavachon puppies are vaccinated against Parvo between 6-12 weeks old. Cavachon puppies are at risk for the disease until they have received all three vaccination shots against it. Cavachon puppies should receive an additional Parvo vaccine dose at 16-18 weeks, regardless of how many shots they already had as an additional level of protection. There is no cure for Parvo, and it can be fatal in a lot of cases. It is estimated that Parvo has a 68-92% mortality rate in puppies with most deaths occurring 48-72 hours after the first symptoms. The most vital thing you can do if you suspect your Cavachon has Parvo is to get them to vet immediately. While there is no cure for Parvo, the chances of surviving it declines the longer it is left untreated. Your vet will provide supportive care for your Cavachon puppies. The best way to prevent Parvo is to not allow your Cavachon puppies to socialize with unvaccinated dogs or puppies.

cavachon standing in flower field

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Eye Health

Eye problems are not uncommon in dogs. Many dogs will experience some form of eye injury or disease in their lifetime. Here are some common eye issues to look out for in your Cavachon:

Pink Eye

Pink eye – Yes, your Cavachon can get pink eye. Pink eye or conjunctivitis is an eye infection common in both humans and dogs. Symptoms of pink eye in Cavachon Puppies include gooey discharge, eye pain, redness, and inflammation. Pink eye is an infection, and your Cavachon must be seen by a vet to have the condition treated.

Dry Eye

Dry eye – Cavachon puppies can develop this disease when their tear glands produce fewer tears than normal. This makes it hard for your Cavachon’s eyes to naturally eliminate dust and dirt, leading to irritation. Symptoms of dry eye include excessive blinking, eye redness, squinting, and pawing at the eyes. If your suspect your Cavachon has dry eye, see your vet.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma – In your Cavachon’s eyes, a perfect balance of the production and drainage of fluid must be maintained. When that balance is off, pressure in the eye increases: this is glaucoma. Symptoms include pain, increased tear production, visible third eyelid, dilated pupils, corneal cloudiness, and in some extreme cases an enlarged eye. If your Cavachon is showing any of these signs take them to the vet immediately. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause blindness.

Cataracts

Cataracts – As your Cavachon gets older, cataracts can be an issue. Cataracts block light from reaching the back of your Cavachon’s eye, resulting in poor vision or even blindness depending on the severity of the condition. Cataracts can give the eye a white, grey, or milky appearance. Cataract surgery may be needed if your Cavachon’s condition is severe.

Cherry Eye

Cherry eye – Cherry eye is the commonly used term for prolapse of the third eyelid. Dogs have a third eyelid that functions as an additional layer of protection. The third eyelid contains a special gland that produces a significant portion of the eye’s tear film. When this gland prolapses or “pops” out, it is known as cherry eye. The treatment for cherry eye involves surgical replacement of the third eyelid. Cherry eye in Cavachon puppies must be treated immediately to avoid permanent damage to your Cavachon’s vision and third eyelid. Without proper tear production, your Cavachon can develop dry eye which can impair vision.

Damaged Cornea

Damaged Cornea – Like humans, Cavachon puppies can occasionally get things in their eyes. Dirt, dust, and grass are common culprits for Cavachon puppies who play outside. Damage to the cornea can occur when your Cavachon paws at its eyes in an attempt to relieve irritation, causing damage to the cornea with its nails. Symptoms of a damaged cornea include tearing of the eye, irritation, and pawing at the eye.

Tear-Staining

Tear staining is a common issue for Cavachon puppies and adult Cavachons. There is not a major health risk or issue that comes with tear-staining. Your Cavachon may simply produce an excess of tears that accumulate in the fur under the eyes. If you are concerned that your Cavachon’s excessive tearing may be due to any of the conditions above, be sure to consult your vet. All of the above conditions can result in tear stains as a bi-product of the excessive tearing they cause. Mostly it is a nuisance to dog owners as it can stain the Cavachon’s coat around the eyes and face, giving the coat a dirty, muddy appearance. Tear-staining can occur with many dog breeds but is most noticeable in dogs with lighter-colored coats. Just as making sure your Cavachon’s coat is brushed and groomed on a regular basis is important, eye care and cleaning are just as important. It can often help prevent some of the above-mentioned conditions. Clean your Cavachon’s eyes during every bathing session. Gently wipe away any discharge with a piece of soft cotton or a washcloth moistened with warm water. Avoid rubbing the eye directly. This is a good time to check the eyes for any signs of redness or irritation. Your Cavachon puppies’ eyes should be clear and bright, with the whites of the eyes being pure white. Also, examine the quality of the water your Cavachon puppies drink. Give your Cavachon puppies purified or distilled water to drink. Tear-staining can develop if your Cavachon puppies are drinking water that is high in mineral content (like bottled water). If your Cavachon already has tear-staining, you can try applying a solution of mild hydrogen peroxide to the stained area (avoiding the eyes themselves). This can lighten the color a bit while your Cavachon’s fur grows out. Unfortunately, there are no foolproof ways to prevent tear-staining.

close up of cavachon laying in grass

Eye Supplements We Love

Ear Health

Like the cleaning of your Cavachon’s eyes is important, so is the cleaning of their ears. Your Cavachon’s ears should be cleaned once a month but more often if your Cavachon is prone to ear infections or ear issues. Check the inside of your Cavachon’s ears for dirt, discharge, parasites, or scratches. Give your Cavachon’s ears a sniff. They should be odorless. Any foul smell can be a sign of infection. Tools you will need to clean your Cavachon’s ears are mineral oil of an ear wash made specifically for dogs. A washcloth and gauze – never use cotton buds or swabs to clean your Cavachon’s ears. They can cause serious damage to the ear canal and can make the removal of dirt or wax harder by pushing them deeper in the ear canal. Avoid using paper towels, cotton balls, or cotton rounds to clean your Cavachon’s ears. They can leave behind fibers in your Cavachon’s ear canal, causing irritation. Make sure your Cavachon Puppies are in a comfortable position and you have a firm hold on them. To clean the ears, moisten a piece of gauze with mineral oil and gently wipe out the ears, going no deeper than the first knuckle of your finger. If using an ear wash, lift your Cavachon’s ear, using it as a funnel, and fill the inner ear with the cleaning solution. Make sure to not insert the tip of the ear solution bottle into the ear. Use enough of the solution so that the liquid begins to flow out of the ear. Massage the base of the ear for 20-30 seconds to loosen up any debris and wax. Wipe away debris from the inside of the ear flap and upper canal using gauze or a washcloth. Let your Cavachon shake its ears. This loosens up any debris further down the inner canal. Wipe your Cavachon’s ears a final time. Do this routine for both ears.

Ear Infection

If, while examining your Cavachon’s ears, you notice an odor or dark discharge, they may have an ear infection. Ear infections are common in dogs, with as many as 20% having some form of ear disease. In fact, dogs are more prone to ear infections than humans because of the shape of their ear canals. There are three types of ear infections: otitis externa (which affects the cells lining the external part of the ear canal) and otitis media and interna which affect the middle (media) and inner (interna) ears. Otitis media and interna usually are a result of the infection spreading from the external part of the ear canal. Besides odor or an excess of discharge in the ear, other symptoms to look out for are head shaking, scratching at the ear, redness, and swelling of the ear canal, crusting or scabs in the ear. Because of the shape of their ear canal, Cavachons, like other dogs, are predisposed to ear infections.

Causes

Ear infections are usually caused by bacteria, yeast, or a combination of the two. In Cavachon puppies, ear mites can be a source of infection. Allergies are a prime culprit for ear infections in Cavachons. 50% of dogs with allergic skin disease and 80% of dogs with food sensitivities also suffer from chronic ear infections. Other factors include moisture (bacteria thrive in moist areas), wax buildup, foreign bodies, endocrine disorders (such as thyroid disease), and injury to the ear canal. If your Cavachon is showing any signs of an ear infection, a visit to the vet is necessary.

Treatment

Ear infections can be painful, and, if left untreated, become worse over time. If this is your Cavachon’s first ear infection, be prepared to answer lots of questions in regards to your Cavachon’s diet, grooming regimen (including how often its ears are cleaned), and allergies. Most ear infections resolve within 1-2 weeks with proper treatment. Severe infections due to underlying health conditions can take months to resolve and may require surgical intervention. Your vet may need to perform a Total Ear Canal Ablation (TECA). A TECA involves removing the ear canal. This removes the affected tissue preventing recurrence of infection.

Prevention

While ear infections are a common occurrence, you can do things to minimize the risk of your Cavachon puppies developing one. Make sure to dry your Cavachon’s ear thoroughly after baths and after swimming. As mentioned above, regular ear cleaning is vital in keeping your Cavachon’s ears healthy. If your Cavachon Puppies suffer from allergies that cause chronic ear infections, a change in diet may help lessen the recurrence of the infections.

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Immune Health

Immune System

Your Cavachon’s immune system is a network of white blood cells, antibodies, and other substances that fight off infections and foreign proteins. The immune system includes several organs, including the bone marrow and thymus gland. These areas are where white blood cells are produced. Other areas, such as the lymph nodes and the spleen, trap microorganisms and foreign substances. They provide a place for immune system cells to collect and interact with each other. Cavachon puppies rely on the immune systems of their mother while in utero. Once born, Cavachon puppies are at a greater risk for developing infectious diseases because their immune systems are still in development and they lack immune memory. The passive transfer of immunity through the mother’s colostrum during nursing is vital for Cavachon puppies’ survival in the first weeks of life. This is referred to as “non-specific immunity.” Specific immunity is acquired over time. As the immune system encounters various antigens, it learns how to attack and defend against them. It can take time to develop specific immunity and the immune system usually has to encounter it more than once before it learns how to guard against it.

cavachon sitting in autumn basket

Autoimmune Disorders

Sometimes the immune system can misfire. Immune system disorders can happen when the immune system is overactive or underactive. Disorders from an underactive immune system, are called immunodeficiencies and can put your Cavachon at an increased risk for infections. An overactive immune system can attack parts of its own body that it misidentifies as foreign. It will overproduce antibodies. There are many common illnesses that your Cavachon may present with that are due to compromised immune health including allergies, polyarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, hyperthyroidism, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, and anemia. There are 4 classifications for these disorders.

Type I Reactions (Anaphylaxis) are excessive immune responses triggered by antibodies. These responses can cause allergic reactions, the most serious being anaphylaxis. The severity of the reaction depends on the amount of the antigen and how many antibodies are produced. Anaphylactic and allergic reactions in Cavachon puppies can be caused by insect bites, food, drugs, vaccines, and blood products. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include swelling of the face, vomiting, abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, shock, collapse, and convulsions. If untreated, it can lead to death.

Type II Reactions (Antibody-mediated Cytotoxic Reactions) occur when an antibody binds to an antigen present on the surface of its own cells. The antibody-antigen combination activates a cell-killing group of proteins called “complement” which results in cell death and damage of the tissue. The skin and muscles of your Cavachon are potential targets for this, along with red blood cells. Some Cavachon puppies are born with a higher risk for this type of immune disorder.

Type III (Immune Complex Disease) occurs when a large group of antibody-antigens lodge in certain organs, causing damage. The most commonly affected areas are the brain, lungs, kidneys, skin, and joints. Symptoms of Type III disorders are lameness in the legs, swollen joints, abdominal pain, behavioral changes, and diarrhea.

Type IV (Cell-mediated Reactions) can occur more than 24 hours after your Cavachon has been exposed to an antigen. The antigens responsible for Type IV reactions can come from chemicals, bacteria, viruses, and parasites. This reaction can occur in any organ. For this reason, symptoms can vary and your vet will need to run tests to exclude other organ-specific diseases.

Immune Support

There are natural ways that you can help support your Cavachon’s immune health. Your vet can prescribe supplements such as Milk Thistle (Silymarin, the active ingredient in Milk Thistle protects the liver), Astragulus (a member of the pea family, promotes white blood cell growth and boosts weakened immune systems), Cat’s Claw (an anti-inflammatory supplement. This should only be administered after consulting your vet), and antioxidants (boosts the immune system by removing free radicals). Foods such as carrots, yogurt, and whole grains (high fiber foods can improve the digestive system which can be adversely affected) are also great for maintaining immune health in Cavachon puppies. Exercise, diet, and maintaining a healthy weight are vital to your Cavachon’s health. Regular exercise can also help reduce inflammation. Overweight Cavachon puppies are more susceptible to chronic and acute diseases. Feed your Cavachon puppies a high-quality diet of food rich in protein, fiber, and essential fatty acids to support the digestive tract. Eliminating stress factors is also vital to supporting your Cavachon’s immune health. As mentioned previously, consider incorporating doggy massage into your Cavachon’s care routine.

Immune Health Options We Love

Joint Health

Patellar Luxation

Both of the Cavachon’s parents, the Bichon Frise and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel have a genetic predisposition to patellar luxation. Patellar luxation is a condition found mostly in small breed dogs, though some larger dogs can be affected as well. Patellar luxation occurs when the kneecap moves out of its normal position resulting in dislocation. This condition typically isn’t painful but can cause discomfort and affect your Cavachon’s ability to walk or run. Patellar luxation can begin in puppyhood but not have visible signs until your Cavachon reached maturity.

Causes

Patellar luxation is when the patella (kneecap), “luxates” or dislocates. When the patella luxates, the Cavachon can have trouble bearing weight on the affected leg. Cavachon puppies rarely show signs of pain from this condition. There are several degrees of patellar luxation ranging from mild to severe. Mild can usually be managed with modified physical activity, while severe almost always need surgical correction. Patellar luxation is graded from I-IV. In affected Cavachon puppies, one or both kneecaps may luxate, sometimes at varying degrees. Approximately 50% of dogs have luxation in just one kneecap, while the other 50% have it in both kneecaps. Most Cavachons can live relatively normal lives with patellar luxation. However, patellar luxation predisposes them to other injuries, like Cruciate Ligament Rupture.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is another common joint issue in dogs. It’s primarily found in large breed dogs. However, small breed dogs like the Cavachon can also be affected. Both the Bichon Frise and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel have a predisposition to hip dysplasia.

Causes

Hip dysplasia is a deformity of the hip joint that occurs during growth. Both the thigh bone and the socket in the pelvis must grow at the same rate during growth. In Cavachon puppies with hip dysplasia, uniform growth does not occur. The result is a looseness of the joint. This joint laxity is followed by degenerative joint disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis (OA), which is the body’s attempt to stabilize the loose joint. The degree of joint lameness is dependent on the extent of the arthritic changes.

cavachon laying in front of wood wall

Symptoms

Symptoms of hip dysplasia in Cavachon Puppies can exhibit as weakness in the hind legs. Your Cavachon may appear wobbly or be reluctant to stand up from a sitting or laying down position. Some Cavachons will have trouble walking up or downstairs or be reluctant to do so. Clinical signs of hip dysplasia can show themselves in Cavachon puppies when they are only a few months old but are most common in Cavachons between 1-2 years old. Though hip dysplasia is developed in puppyhood, most Cavachons will not show clinical signs of the condition until they are older. It can take years of gradual bone degeneration before clinical symptoms show. Hip dysplasia is diagnosed by giving your Cavachon a hip radiograph (a form of moving X-ray) while under general anesthetic. Treatment for the disease can depend on the severity of the condition.

Prevention

While hip dysplasia is genetic, there are ways to help prevent Cavachon puppies from developing hip dysplasia. Don’t over-exercise your Cavachon. They do well with 30-minute walks and no strenuous activities on hard surfaces. Because they are both small and aren’t built for long periods of physical activity, Cavachons can be prone to weight gain. Excess weight puts stress on the joints (kneecaps and hips). Keep your Cavachon puppies at a healthy weight.

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Skin and Coat

Cavachon puppies are not low-maintenance when it comes to grooming. Cavachons need to be bathed once every two weeks. You will want to avoid bathing more than this if your Cavachon has sensitive skin. Use a mild shampoo formulated for dogs with your Cavachon’s kind of coat. Cavachon puppies need to be brushed a few times a week- more if it is shedding season. Use a metal comb to detangle. You may need to cut or trim your Cavachon puppies’ fur to remove any tangles or matted hair that can’t be detangled. Trim your Cavachon puppies’ nails with canine nail trimmers. Make sure to cut above the quick of your Cavachon’s nails. You may want to give your Cavachon a cute hairstyle. Teddy bear cuts are a popular haircut for Cavachon puppies. They require your Cavachon’s hair to be cut to one to two inches evenly around the entire body.

Grooming

Professional grooming is an option if this is beyond your skill set or desire to attempt yourself. A professional groomer can give your Cavachon puppies a full-service groom, including ear and eye cleaning, nail trimming, a bath, and a nice fresh cut and blowout. If you opt to use a professional groomer, your Cavachon Puppies should see them every 6-8 weeks. Between that time, you will still need to brush and bathe your Cavachon regularly yourself.

Like with everything else, diet plays a crucial part in the health and look of your Cavachon’s skin and coat. Feeding your Cavachon Puppies a diet high in Omega-3 fatty acids can keep their coat shiny and full.

Atopic Dermatitis

Skin sensitivities are a common problem for Cavachon puppies. They often fall under the categories of allergies or autoimmune issues. Atopic dermatitis is a common skin reaction that Cavachons experience. Atopic dermatitis is an inherited predisposition to developing an allergic reaction to substances after repeated exposure. Cavachon puppies with atopic dermatitis often lick, rub and bite at their flanks, paws, ears, groin, and armpits. Constant licking of these areas can lead to hair loss and thickening of the skin. Cavachon puppies’ affected skin may look dry or crusty or, in some cases, oily, depending on the dog. Your Cavachon’s ear flaps may be red and hot to the touch.

If your Cavachon is suffering from atopic dermatitis, you can do a few things to give them some relief. Medicated baths are an excellent option when bathing your Cavachon. Bathing your Cavachon puppies with an anti-microbial wash can allow you to wash their coat more frequently without causing irritation. More frequent bathing can help remove any allergens sitting on their skin causing irritation. You can also bathe them with over-the-counter hypoallergenic dog shampoo. Never bathe your Cavachon puppies with a shampoo formulated for humans, such as baby shampoo.

Skin and Coat Health Options We Love

Diet

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids have reportedly been helpful in 20% of dogs with atopic dermatitis. Feeding your Cavachon puppies a hypoallergenic diet with novel proteins like bison, venison, duck, and types of fish not commonly found in dog food can also help with atopic dermatitis. A novel protein is a protein source that is completely new to your Cavachon puppies. In addition to a novel protein, your Cavachon puppies’ food should contain a single source of carbohydrates from plants that also contain protein. Like peas or potatoes. Common irritants to be avoided in dog food are beef, lamb, eggs, soy, wheat (gluten), and chicken. Lamb used to be considered a novel protein but is so prevalent in dog food brands currently on the market that it no longer qualifies as a novel protein. Most Cavachon puppies respond well to hypoallergenic dog foods. Your Cavachon puppies should be fed a hypoallergenic diet for at least 8-10 weeks to adequately assess their response. Some Cavachon puppies see an improvement in just 4-6 weeks. In extreme cases, it may be necessary for you to prepare your Cavachon puppies’ meals at home. If this is the only option, sit down with your vet to create a personalized meal plan for your Cavachon. Raising a healthy Cavachon will lead to a long healthy and happy life with their family.