ALL ABOUT COCKER SPANIELS This page will help you understand more about the breed, its history, original purpose. This information is provided purely for your own education however if you plan to become involved in Breed Showing, you need to read and start gaining an understanding of the New Zealand Kennel Club Breed Standard, as this is what a judge assesses each dog in the show ring against.
CHARACTERISTICS Temperament: A big hearted little dog whose merry temperament is legendary. This temperament lends itself to a sensible training regime; Cockers respond relatively quickly, they DO NOT, however, respond to harsh training methods. Cockers love long walks, swimming, children, chasing balls, cuddles, rides in the car, good food (don't over do it) and toys, they dislike teasing, taunting, rough handling, being untidy and unkempt.
Upkeep: The Cocker Spaniels beautiful silky coat with long feathered ears, chest, belly, legs and pants does require regular attention, if you do not have time for this a regular 6-8 week visit to a groomer is recommended. Comb him at least once a week, special care is required around the ear canal keeping this area free from of hair to assist ventilation. Don't feel you have let the side down if by having your Cocker completely clipped off for summer its much cooler for him and makes swimming much more pleasurable. A Cocker Spaniel requires a moderate amount of exercise although he would probably run all day a “fetch the ball” work out or a walk in the park or on the beech will generally satisfy his requirements.
Size: medium Lifespan: 13-15 years Exercise: medium Grooming: high Train-ability: high Watchdog ability: high Protection ability: low Area of Origin: England Date of Origin: 1800’s Other Names: English Cocker Spaniel (United States of America) Original Function: flushing and retrieving game
Colour: English Cocker Spaniels may be many coat colours. They may be parti-coloured, with patches of black, liver, red, orange, or gold against a white or roan background. "Roan" is when the white background is lightly to heavily speckled or mixed with hairs of a colour listed above. Roan colours are common in English Cockers, while relatively rare in other spaniels. English Cocker Spaniels may be solid colours of black, red, liver, and golden; or any of the above colours accompanied by tan points on the eyebrows, muzzle, throat, rump, and feet. Cocker Spaniels have a medium coat length that required regular attention. HISTORY Prior to the 17th century there was no distinction amongst spaniels, whether they were large or small, long bodied or short, fast or slow on their feet.
Gradually the marked difference in size began to impress those who used them for hunting, with the result that the larger dogs were used for springing game and the smaller ones hunting woodcock. Hence the two names developed Springer Spaniel and Cocker, or woodcock spaniel, and in 1892 The Kennel Club (England) officially recognized them as separate breeds. This is the English Cocker Spaniel.
Originally Springer’s and Cockers were born in the same litter, with size alone dividing them. They enjoyed the same heritage, the same colourings, the same hunting skill and much of the same general type.
The English Cocker Spaniel Club of America was formed in 1935 to promote the interest of the English Cocker, which had already been recognized as a variety of Cocker Spaniel but not as a breed in its own right.
In 1940 the Canadian Kennel Club recognized the English Cocker Spaniel as a separate breed, as did the AKC in September 1946. Not until January of 1947 did breed registrations appear in the Stud Book under their own heading.
Many breeds have a male dog to which all modern-day members of the breed can be traced. In the annals of the English Cocker Spaniel that dog's name is Obo. The son of a Sussex spaniel sire and a field spaniel dam, Obo was whelped in 1879.
I've picked up 2 really interesting books about cockers one mostly about them in America and the other is about them in England, both quite informative with heaps of kennel history.
The Cocker Spaniel by Veronica Lucas-Lucas revised by Joyce Caddy - Focus on English Kennels
KNOWN HEALTH CONCERNS IN ENGLISH COCKER SPANIELS‘When a test is developed for any disease, there should be no reason to ever produce a puppy adversely affected by that disease.’ Gary F. Mason (1999)
I currently DNA test for PRA, AHRN (FN)
Unfortunately, almost every breed of dog is prone to a range of hereditary diseases and the cocker spaniel is no exception. A reputable breeder should be breeding from dogs that have been tested so that all genetic health conditions are known. Therefore it's a sensible precaution when looking for a puppy to choose a breeder who makes every effort to DNA test their breeding dogs. If you have any concerns check with your vets before making a final decision.
DNA testing (99.9% accurate) is now readily available and is part of any good reputable breeders program to test all breeding stock to ensure that a known disease is not passed on to the next generation. You owe it to your self to ensure that your new puppies parents have been tested for commonly inherited health conditions known in cocker spaniels.
Reputable breeders are doing all they can to eliminate these diseases from future generations, But its important that you understand what to ask about and the implications of purchasing a puppy with these inherited diseases. There are 3 potential health conditions which you should check on when talking to a cocker spaniel breeder about their breeding program and potential puppies that the parents can be DNA tested for prior to being mated - PRA & FN. A 3rd condition seen in NZ, which is not diagnosed by DNA is Entropion, this can only be diagnosed by a Canine Ophthalmologist.
I regularly get enquiries asking for advise about purchasing a cocker spaniel puppy. Its great that people are using the internet to make informed decisions before taking the plunge, so at the bottom of this page I have included copies of DNA certificates for PRA-prcd & FN and an Ophthalmologist Certificate so you'll know what to expect when you ask to see them from any reputable breeder.
Due to the ability to DNA test for some diseases breeders are able to choose sires & dam that will only produce un affected progeny - me advice is to look for a litter where the parents are either Clear to Clear mating or a Clear to Carrier mating - neither of these combination can produce puppies affected by the disease PRA or AHRN (FN)
The results will indicate one of the following status's: Clear - This dog does not carry the gene at all, it will not develop the disease and can be breed from Carrier - This dog carries 1 half of the gene, and it will not develop the disease, it should be mated with a dog with a Clear status to prevent the spread to future generations. Affected - This dog will develop the disease and should not be breed from.
PRA - prcd : Progressive Retinal Atrophy - Progressive Rod Cone Degeneration - Category: Ophthalmic Mode of Inheritance: Autosomal Recessive PRA-PRCD is the progressive degeneration of photoreceptors (rods and cones) in the dog’s eye causing degenerative abrasions of the retina, resulting in blindness. PRCD is a late onset form of PRA, however there is variation of the age of onset between the many breeds it affects. Variation in the time of onset is due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The initial symptom of PRCD is usually night blindness, as the degeneration of the retina affects the rods, reducing visual abilities in dim lights. Night blindness usually progresses to day blindness quickly, as the cones in the eye sensitive to bright lights deteriorate. Sadly, PRCD regularly leads to total blindness, for which there is no treatment or cure.
Don't just assume your cocker has gone blind from old age at 5 or 6years old. PRA is a disease in which the retina slowly deteriorates, producing night blindness in young dogs. As PRA progresses, dogs become totally blind.
The best way to minimize the chance of buying a puppy that will later be affected by one of these inherited eye conditions is by asking for copies of the DNA results of the parents... Read more >
AHRN Autosomal Hereditary Recessive Nephropathy or commonly called FN - Familial Nephropathy Category: Metabolic Mode of Inheritance: Autosomal Recessive An inherited kidney disease that causes juvenile-onset renal failure has been recognized in Cocker Spaniels worldwide. The disease is caused by abnormalities of the collagen content of the walls of the glomerular capillaries through which blood filtration occurs in the kidneys. This renal disease is analogous to a condition called Alport syndrome that occurs in people. Dogs with the disease develop chronic renal failure, usually while they are between 6 months and 2 years of age. Clinical signs that are often observed include excessive water consumption (polydipsia), excessive urine volume (polyuria), reduced growth rate or weight loss, poor quality hair coat, reduced appetite, and vomiting. Such signs can develop insidiously and escape recognition until the degree of renal failure is so severe that overt uremia supervenes. At this late stage of the disease, physical examination findings may include thin body condition, dehydration, pallor of mucous membranes, uremic breath odor, and oral ulcerations. Alternatively, especially at earlier stages of the disease, physical exam findings may be normal.
Ashley G. Davidson, Rebecca J. Bell, George E. Lees, Clifford E. Kashtan, George S. Davidson, Keith E. Murphy "Genetic Cause of Autosomal Recessive Hereditary Nephropathy in the English Cocker Spaniel" Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine Volume 21, Issue 3,pages 394–401, May 2007
Robinson WF; Huxtable CR; Gooding, JP. (1985) Familial nephropathy in cocker spaniels. Australian Veterinary Journal. 62: 109-112. online abstract
Lees GE, Wilson PD, Helman RG, Homco LD, Frey MS. (1997) Glomerular ultrastructural findings similar to hereditary nephritis in 4 English cocker spaniels. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 11(2):80-5. online abstract
Lees GE, Helman RG, Kashtan CE, Michael AF, Homco LD, Millichamp NJ, Ninomiya Y, Sado Y, Naito I, Kim Y. (1998) A model of autosomal recessive Alport syndrome in English cocker spaniel dogs. Kidney Int. 54(3):706-19. online abstract
This is an inherited renal disease that causes juvenile-onset renal failure has been recognized in Cocker Spaniels worldwide for more than 50 years. FN is progressive and ultimately fatal. Dogs with FN develop chronic renal failure, usually while they are between 6 months and 2 years of age.
The signs associated with chronic renal failure caused by FN often include excessive water consumption, excessive urine volume, reduced growth rate or weight loss, poor quality hair coat, reduced appetite, and vomiting. Such signs can develop gradually and can be overlooked until the degree of renal failure is severe, by which time symptoms may include thin body condition, dehydration, pallor of mucous membranes, uremic breath odor, and oral ulcerations. However, especially at earlier stages of the disease, physical exam findings may be normal, this is one reason why DNA testing is important in breeding stock.
FN is progressive and ultimately fatal; however, the rate of disease progression in some dogs is more rapid than in others. Certain treatments such as feeding a diet formulated for dogs with renal failure and medication may slow the rate of renal disease progression somewhat. The rate of renal disease progression usually is fairly rapid during the late stages of the disorder.
DNA Testing is available for this disease, and dogs being breed from should be tested to ensure the disease is not passed onto future generations.
From an article by George E. Lees, DVM, MS, DACVIM who has been carrying out genetic studies on FN in Cocker Spaniels since 1997
Phosphofructokinase Deficiency Category: Metabolic Mode of Inheritance: Autosomal Recessive Breeds Affected: American Cocker Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel Description: This is an autosomal recessive genetic disease which prevents the metabolism of glucose into available energy resulting in exercise intolerance and muscle disease. PFK deficiency also destroys red blood cells in affected dogs, leading to anemia. Affected dogs will exhibit signs when stressed, during times of exercise, heat, or prolonged barking. These signs include pale gums, weakness, cramps and high fever. The most identifiable symptom is often dark coloured urine due to the premature breakdown of blood products. PFK can be detected early, and with careful monitoring and management stress and excitement levels, an affected dog may be able to have a relatively normal lifespan.
Reference: 1. Giger U, Reilly MP, Asakura T, Baldwin CJ, Harvey JW. (1986) Autosomal recessive inherited phosphofructokinase deficiency in English springer spaniel dogs. Animal Genetics. 17(1):15-23. ; online abstract 2. Giger U, Smith BF, Woods CB, Patterson DF, Stedman H (1992) Inherited phosphofructo-kinase deficiency in an American cocker spaniel. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 201: 1569-71. ; online abstract
Exercise Induced Collapse Category: Metabolic Mode of Inheritance: Autosomal Recessive Breeds Affected: Labrador Retriever, Labradoodle Description: This inherited disease is common in Labrador Retrievers, but is also found in other breeds. Signs first become apparent in young dogs, usually between 5 months and 3 years of age (averaging 14 months). In dogs used for field trials, this usually coincides with the age at which they enter heavy training. Littermates and other related dogs are commonly affected, but depending on their temperament and lifestyle, they may or may notmanifest signs. Affected dogs exhibiting signs of collapse are usually described as being extremely fit, muscular, prime athletic specimens of their breed with an excitable temperament and lots of drive.
Note: A few affected dogs have died during exerciseor while resting immediately after an episode of EIC, so an affected dog's exercise should alwaysbe stopped at the first hint of incoordination or wobbliness.
1. Patterson EE, Minor KM, Tchernatynskaia AV, Taylor SM, Shelton GD, Ekenstedt KJ, Mickelson JR.A canine DNM1 mutation is highly associated with the syndrome of exercise-induced collapse. NatGenet. 2008 Oct;40(10):1235-9.; online abstract
2. Taylor SM, Shmon CL, Shelton GD, Patterson EN, Minor K, Mickelson JR. (2008). Exercise-induced collapse of Labrador retrievers: survey results and preliminary investigation of heritability. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc. 44(6):295-301. PMID: ; online abstract
3. Taylor, S.M. in Blackwell's Five Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline 4th edn. Exercise induced weakness/collapse in Labrador Retrievers, 458–459 (Blackwell Publishing Professional, Ames, Iowa, 2007). (No abstract available).
Adult Onset Neuropathy (An) Description: A progressive weakness due to a neuropathy has been recognized as an autosomal recessive, hereditary disorder in English Cocker Spaniels by the research team at the University of Missouri Animal Molecular Genetic Lab. Clinical signs typically begin between 7.5 and 9 years of age and consist first of an uncoordinated gait or wobbling in the hind limbs. The stance in the hind limbs is wide-base and the hocks will drop lower to the ground. The weakness eventually progresses to also involve the front limbs. When dogs become non-ambulatory in all limbs, difficulty in swallowing also becomes apparent. The neurologic signs seem to progress gradually over 3 to 4 years and more slowly than those of degenerative myelopathy. All English Cocker Spaniels clinically affected with this form of neuropathy have tested clear for the mutation that underlies DM. So far the disease has only been clinically diagnosed in English Cocker Spaniels. However, the mutation has also been detected in Field Spaniels where it is very rare.
Others Conditions to be aware of While the following are not necessarily inherited they can reduce the quality of life with your cocker spaniel and increase the costs of owing your faithful companion. So it's a good idea to check and see whether others in your puppies family tree suffer from any of these conditions.
Entropion The inward rolling of the eyelid, most commonly the lower lid. This irritates the surface of the eye (the cornea) and may ultimately cause visual impairment. Generally both eyes are affected. It is a common hereditary disorder and in some instances the selection of exaggerated facial features with prominent eyes and/or heavy facial folds, has created or worsened this problem.
The problem is usually evident before the dog is a year of age and can occasionally be seen in puppies as young as 6 weeks of age. The dog may be sensitive to light and rub at its eyes. Chronic irritation caused by the turned in eyelid may cause corneal ulceration and scarring which is painful and, if not corrected, can impair vision.
Entropion may be corrected surgically, but this procedure should be delayed until the dog is an adult, since the involved facial structures are still growing and changing.
Breeders should avoid using cockers affected with this condition in their breeding programmes. And those that have had they dogs surgical corrected and contiue to breed from them are causing pet owners no end of heart break and unwarranted exspense and their pets needless discomfort.
*** NB this is a condition that I have seen in a number of cocker spaniels in NZ. In fact the very frst cocker we brought as a show dog suffered with this condidtion amongst others. Even though I thought I asked the right questions when enquirying about him. He has since been nuetered and lives in a pet home. I now know that you need to see the parents and the puppies health certficates, and these are not available from a standard vet. If you have any doubts about your cocker, please take it to your vet for advice on relieving the discomfort your cocker is suffering from.
Ectropion Basically its the opposite of the above condition. A herediary defect of conformation in which there is a sagging or rolling out of the eyelids, resulting in abnormal exposure of the eye which also lead to irritation and infection. Breeders are advised to avoid using cockers affected with this condition in their breeding programmes
Cataracts Cataracts are defined as any opacity (imperviousness to rays of light) in the lens of the eye. Some cataracts remain small and do not result in any clinical impairment of vision. In other cases dogs affected by cataracts experience cloudiness of vision and, ultimately, blindness. Cataracts, which can affect one or both eyes, can sometimes be corrected by surgery.
Ear Infections Cockers can be prone to ear infections and seborrhea (greasy, flaky skin). Their long, silky coats and ears require more than average attention if they are to remain beautiful throughout the cocker's life, which can reasonably be expected to last 12 to 15 years. This common condition can be help immenseley by keeping the inner hair on the ears trimmed back to allow for as much air flow as possible. A quick test to see if your dog needs his ears cleaned - is by smell! If they smell a bit yukky - clean them using the appropriate ear powder available from vets and pet stores.
Hip dysplasia Hip dysplasia is a genetic degenerative joint disease which leads to abnormal formation of the hip socket and is one of the most common hereditary problems affecting dogs. It causes terrible pain and suffering on the part of the dog, leading to gradual debilitation until the everyday activities become too painful and the dog is not even able to walk. It is not a disease of old dogs either - dogs as young as 6 months have been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, although in most cases, symptoms will not start developing until the puppy has matured.
The best way to prevent hip dysplasia is to buy a puppy from parents whose hips have been hip scored. Hip Scoring is a screening test which assesses a dog's hips through radiographs and then scores them, from 0 (best) to 106 (worst). You can not tell just by looking - a dog may be active and mobile for several years before developing hip dysplasia.
Heart Conditions Inherited heart defects are common in many breeds, therefore, it is vital that breeders with a dog known to have a heart condition has the dog tested to ensure its is not a hereditary condition. However heart conditions often don't show up until later in life, therefore a dog that has been tested as normal and healthy (and is therefore used for breeding) can develop heart disease when it gets older, by which time it is too late as it has already passed its genes onto its puppies. Therefore, even the most responsible breeders can sometimes find it hard to screen for these conditions.
Konan English Cocker Spaniels Zoe Hogg Rotorua, New Zealand Ph.+64 277 859 649