Learn how to keep your Cocker Spaniel healthy and be aware of common dog diseases and illnesses that your pet may have to deal with during his lifetime - forewarned is forearmed!
Your Cocker Spaniel may be as fit as a butchers dog, and that's great, but there's no guarantee he'll always be so fit and healthy.
He's likely to be with you for between 10 - 12 wonderful years and many do live longer, up to 15 years, especially where they've lived a healthy lifestyle!
And by that I mean they've been fed a healthy diet, with plenty of nutritional variety, had regular exercise and lots of mental stimulation, as well as regular trips to see his vet.
However, despite following all of the above, at some point in his life, your pet may have to deal with one or two illnesses.
The list is long, but I don't mean to scare-monger. Your pet will not have to deal with all
of those ailments listed below - they are simply conditions to which he may be susceptible.
The following are a list of conditions that may affect your pet sometime in his life:
Hip Dysplasia - a malformation of the hip joints;
Familial Nephropathy (FN) - where the kidney's filtering system fails to work effectively;
Skin problems, such as Atopic Dermatitis, is caused by inhaling pollens. If your pet is overly sensitive to pollens, he may develop an allergy to them;
Immune mediated thrombocytopenia
(IMT) is an auto-immune problem which can cause internal and external
bleeding, and can lead to anemia and severe lethargy. It can be treated,
but relapses are fairly common.
Mammary tumours are quite common in unspayed female dogs, but tumours can also be found in male dogs and are much more dangerous.
Pancreatitis is where the pancreas no longer functions as it should. Your dog's pancreas releases enzimes which help to digest food and regulate blood sugar levels. When the pancreas isn't working properly, it can lead to diabetes.
Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) which ranges from minor to severe back pain and paralysis;
Chronic kidney disease
Hepatitis (liver disease)
Cockers are susceptible to a few dog eye problems so it's important to keep them clean and protected - even better if you've a puppy from parents that have been tested and cleared.
You may see eye conditions such as:
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a condition where your pet gradually looses his sight;
Glaucoma causes a serious build-up of pressure in the eyeball;
Retinal pigment epithelial dystrophy causes a gradual degeneration of the retina and whilst it can cause partial loss of vision, it doesn't usually cause blindness. Unfortunately, there is no cure;
As your Spaniel ages, he may develop cataracts, but the good news is that these can now be surgically removed without too much trauma for your pet - we have the technology!
Cherry eye is where part of the third eyelid becomes visible, making your Cocker's eyes look red and bulging (just like a cherry), thankfully it's possible to correct this condition with surgery;
Distichiasis is where your Cocker has extra eyelashes (sometimes 2 layers!) which can cause irritation and damage to the eye
Dry eye (Keratoconjunctivitis sicca) affects the production of tears and if not treated quickly can lead to other eye problems.
Learn more about eye problems in dogs, symptoms to look for and how to keep them clean and healthy to make the best of your Cocker's sight.
Our Cockers have a tendency to get fat as they get older so it's best to keep treats to an absolute minimum to keep their weight in check.
Whilst being overweight won't cause your dog to die, he's more likely to develop heart problems, liver disease and even tumors.
He's also at risk of developing Diabetes if his diet is high in sugar or fats - so no feeding scraps from the dinner table! Foods high in fat and sugar can lead to pancreatic health problems which then may lead to diabetes.
Excess weight will also put extra pressure on his joints which will eventually take its toll.
Talking about joint problems, Cockers are also prone to Hip Dysplasia and arthritis so it's important that his diet is wholly nutritious and packed full of all the vitamins necessary to keep his bones strong and healthy.
Keep your Cocker's weight stable by making sure he has plenty of exercise with long healthy walks in the countryside (if you can) and let him chase a ball or a Frisbee to get that heart pumping.
Grooming is also an important part of Cocker Spaniel health, and it's about more than just looking good!
Checking your pet's eyes and ears during grooming sessions can often alert to you a potential health problem long before it has a chance to develop into anything serious.
Ear infections are fairly common in Cocker's and can be very difficult to clear, especially if the infection wasn't spotted early enough. I recommend you keep a watchful eye open for the signs of dog ear infection and be ready to act quickly.
Whilst ticks and fleas aren't normally life-threatening, these parasites aren't welcome, either in our homes or on our dogs. Regular grooming sessions with your Cocker Spaniel will also give you the opportunity to spot the signs of these pesky wee beasties and treat them accordingly.
You can almost guarantee that your puppy will be safe from certain hereditary Cocker Spaniel health problems simply by choosing a breeder who has tested the 'parents' for hereditary illnesses and diseases before breeding takes place.
However, not all breeders carry out testing so I recommend you ask the right questions before you decide to visit the breeder.
Unfortunately, it's not possible to screen or carry out generic testing for every Cocker Spaniel health problem, but if you'd like to see a glossary of tests that are available, simply follow this link to the Kennel Club.
If your Cocker Spaniel has a healthy diet, plenty of regular exercise, frequent grooming sessions with thorough checks on his eyes and his ears, and scheduled checks with his vet throughout the year, there's no reason why your pet shouldn't live a long and happy life.
I'll drink to that...in moderation, of course!
Learn more about your dog's health here.