It's obvious just from glancing at Willie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, that something isn't quite right. Willie has spent the majority of his life with a giant tumour developing on his forehead, but his owner says he doesn't let it get in his way of leading a happy life.
Jen Hutchins bought Willie from a private breeder in the UK who provided pedigree documentation but didn't health test their dogs. Jen says, "I found Willie from a website called Preloved. He was registered with the Kennel Club. I did receive certificates for him and his name was Ramshaw Masterclass. I didn't see his parents."
As her mother already had two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Jen wanted the same breed but although she was aware of the breed's health issues, Willie's condition was a huge shock.
There's debate over whether or not health testing would have revealed the rare condition Willie developed when he was just six months old. It began as a tiny solid lump but grew and grew to the size it is now and whilst cavaliers are known to be prone to hereditary health problems, veterinary health experts who've seen Willie say it's the most severe case they've come across. The case caught the eye of Lewis at Spanielking.com who first published the story. Lewis regularly covers stories on health conditions associated with the breed, but this was the most shocking.
Vets have been unable to identify the cause so far and have said a £3,000 operation could remove the bump, but estimate it has a 1% chance of success. As Willie is not in any discomfort, his owners decided not to take the risk. At age one, he was given a life expectancy of just a few months, but Willie has defied the odds and has just turned five. To accommodate the excess weight, his neck muscles have become very strong and he's able to keep his head upright.
Jen adds, "Willie has a happy and healthy life. His head doesn't bother him at all. He's adapted really well with it and I'm very proud of him. I'm happy he came to us as he gets so much love from myself, family and friends.
"He is obsessed with cuddly toys and is very greedy when it comes to dinner time. I have his food at a higher level so he doesn't need to bend down to eat. He loves other dogs but he thinks he's the boss so he gets introduced in a calm environment. He also loves walks and is very attached to my mum and her two dogs."
Now Willie's owner hopes his story will raise awareness for this rare condition and reach others affected. A similar case featured on The Super Vet but was successfully treated after a 3D printed bone implant was inserted upon removal of the lump. Molly was suffering from syringomyelia but the neurologist noticed similarities between Molly's and Willie's cases and suggested they may be related.
Molly's owner Tania, who runs breed health campaigning charity Cavalier Matters, is in contact with Jen to find out if this may be true. An online petition is asking the Kennel Club to stop registering Cavalier King Charles Spaniels unless their parents have been MRI scanned and heart tested. To sign go here.
You can follow Willie on Instagram @ cav_life