Cocker Spaniels may seem full of energy with a zest for life, but the reality is they can be prone to some health conditions if the come from a poor breeding line. Always choose a puppy from a responsible, health conscious breeder to avoid this. In addition, remember your Cocker is only going to be as healthy as you raise him to be – whilst you can’t avoid some hereditary conditions, the responsibility for his general health lies with you. With that said, here are some of the most common health conditions affecting Cocker Spaniels.
Many Cocker Spaniels are prone to eye diseases like cataracts, where the clear part of the eye (the lens) becomes cloudy and obscured the vision. Cataracts can lead to blindness if left untreated for a long time, however, often the cataracts themselves can be removed with surgery. Progressive retinal atrophy is also a problem, where the retina degenerates and leads to blindness. Glaucoma, where there is pressure in the eyeball, can occur too. It’s a good idea to have a really good look at your Cocker’s eyes on a daily basis so you can spot any issues that arise early on.
When the thyroid gland is underactive it stops producing enough thyroid hormone. This leads to a range of symptoms such as weight gain and obesity, hair loss, a dull, brittle coat, lethargy, seizures and dark patches of skin. Medication can help to manage this lifelong condition.
An autoimmune condition where the dog’s body attacks the blood cells can result in this form of anaemia. Look out for lethargy, jaundice and pale coloured gums. This condition also affects the liver and causes it to become swollen.
When the thigh bone fits too loosely into its socket in the hip joint, a condition called hip dysplasia results. This is painful for the dog and can later develop into arthritis. Dogs with hip problems will be less mobile and may have an odd gait. Lots of breeders screen for this condition – check if yours does before you choose your puppy. Surgery is sometimes an option.
When the kneecap doesn’t fit properly into the knee socket, it slips in and out of place causing the dog pain. You might see a dog stopping to pop its knee back into place once in a while, and affected dogs can develop a hop or a limp.
Cockers can get epilepsy which is characterised by persistent seizures. However, there could be something more serious causing your dog to have seizures, so if your Cocker does start having them you should get him checked by a vet as soon as you can.