There are actually two breeds of Cocker spaniel, English and American. The English breed was developed in that country hundreds of years ago as a bird dog, taking its name from the woodcock; the American breed was derived from the English in the early 1900s. These dogs are mid-sized, weighing around 30 pounds (14 kg), and they fit in well with families, being gentle, easy-going and playful. Their long fur does require a fair amount of maintenance, and Cocker spaniels can be prone to “leak” when excited.
Should You Get Health Insurance for Your Cocker Spaniel?
The Cocker spaniel is in general a moderately healthy dog, with an average life expectancy of just over 10 years. Selective breeding has left both the English and American varieties prone to a number of medical problems:
- Cancer: cancer of one form or another is the most common cause of death for mature Cocker spaniels. Outcomes vary widely based on the type of cancer involved, but effective treatments are often available, ranging from chemotherapy to surgery.
- Eye problems: Cocker spaniels are at a fairly high risk for cataracts and glaucoma, conditions that result from damage to the lens or pressure on it from fluid buildup, and that can often be treated with ocular surgery.
- Hip dysplasia: these dogs may inherit a condition in which the hipbone fails to fit correctly into the pelvis. Over time, wear and tear can cause these joints to become inflamed, resulting in pain and restricted movement. The condition can often be reversed with surgery. Owners are urged to ask breeders for confirmation that the hips of the parents are not affected, though this does not guarantee that puppies will not develop dysplasia.
- Otitis externa: the long, floppy ears of Cocker spaniels impede the circulation of air and give rise to conditions that support the growth of bacteria and other parasites. Owners need to give careful, daily attention to keeping the ears clean and treating any infections immediately. Dogs with ear problems scratch and shake their heads and may emit a foul odor. Treatment involves deep cleaning of the infected area and administration of antibiotics.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): as the name suggests, this disease occurs when the cells of a dog’s retinas degenerate. A single gene mutation is responsible for the problem, though as yet no genetic test has been developed. It is therefore imperative to know the breeding history before acquiring a puppy in order to ensure that none of its ancestors has gone blind. There is no treatment for PRA, though affected dogs can almost always live full lives if kept indoors.
The first step to a healthy and happy Cocker spaniel is finding a reputable breeder who can provide genetically fit puppies. The second step is to train your dog well and give it plenty of healthy food, exercise and love. For many owners, the third step is to purchase a pet health care plan that helps to keep vet bills predictable and to ensure that you can focus on helping a sick dog to recover rather than worrying about the cost of treatment.