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English Cocker Spaniel Health Care & Feeding

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

English Cocker Spaniel

Start your English Cocker Spaniel off on the right foot by feeding the right food, giving the right vaccinations, finding the right vet, and if you're going to spay or neuter, don't do it too early.

Jump down to this list of
English Cocker Spaniel Health Problems

Or check out my advice for raising a healthy English Cocker Spaniel puppy or adult dog:

Obedience instructor and author Michele Welton Dog Health Care – The Sensible Way
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You can dramatically increase your dog's chances of living a long, healthy life by feeding the right food. Cutting right to the chase, the best foods for your English Cocker Spaniel are... [read more]

Real homemade dog food A Quick Way To Make Homemade Dog Food
Your Cocker will love real chicken, turkey, beef, fish, eggs, yogurt, broccoli.... this is not just "people food" and I'll tell you why... [read more]

Dry kibble and canned dog food 5 Best Kibble and Canned Dog Foods
Some are better than others, but I must be honest – I'm not a huge fan of dry or canned dog food. Here are my concerns... [read more]

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Would you like to feed your dog homemade, but don't have the time to make it? I have a solution for you... [read more]

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Information on booster shots for your German Shepherd. Vaccinations and Booster Shots: Needed or Not?
How many vaccinations does your English Cocker Spaniel puppy really need? Does your adult dog need yearly booster shots? The vaccination guidelines have changed! Find out what some vets aren't telling you... [read more]

Information on spaying Spaying Your Female Dog: Pros and Cons
Should your female English Cocker be spayed? Current research says, "The AGE at which you spay can be vitally important to your dog's future health." So what's the best age? [read more]

Information on neutering your male dog. Neutering Your Male Dog: Pros and Cons
Have you been told that you must neuter your male Cocker Spaniel? Current research shows that the issue is not so simple. Pet owners are not being told about some risks associated with neutering male dogs, especially neutering too early... [read more]

Information on choosing the best vet Make Sure Your Vet is the Best!
Is your current veterinarian really the best choice for your dog? Here's how to tell... [read more]

Assisi Loop Assisi Loop Review
Does your Cocker suffer from arthritis, hip dysplasia, disk disease, colitis? My honest review of a veterinary device you can use at home to reduce inflammation and pain. [read more]

English Cocker Spaniel

Complete list of English Cocker Spaniel health problems

The English Cocker Spaniel Club conducted a health survey that included almost 2500 dogs. The average lifespan was reported as 12 years old – not very long for a smallish dog.

Eye diseases in Cocker Spaniels

Eye diseases are the major concern in English Cockers, especially progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), which can appear at 3-7 years old and always leads to blindness.

Fortunately, a simple DNA test is available for PRA in English Cocker Spaniels, so you can find out at any time whether your dog has the disease, carries the disease, or is completely clear of it.

The other big eye problem in English Cockers is cataracts, which can appear between 1.5 and 8 years old and often progress to blindness.

Other eye diseases in English Cockers include cherry eye, persistent pupillary membranes, eyelash abnormalities, eyelid abnormalities (entropion and ectropion), glaucoma, dry eye, and retinal dysplasia.

Allergies and ear infections

Skin diseases such as allergies (which cause itchy skin and often lead to pyoderma) and seborrhea are common in the breed, along with ear infections due to the narrow ear canals and profuse hair inside the ear canals.

Heart disease in Cocker Spaniels

Heart disease is becoming a concern in English Cockers, especially cardiomyopathy and patent ductus arteriosus.

Endocrine system diseases

Hormonal/endocrine system diseases are fairly common, especially hypothyroidism, Addison's disease, and Cushing's disease.

According to the Michigan State University Thyroid Database, up to 17% of English Cockers have low thyroid levels.

Kidney disease in Cocker Spaniels

A severe kidney disease claims the lives of many young English Cocker Spaniels.

Blood-clotting diseases

Three different blood-clotting diseases (von Willebrand's, factor II deficiency, and thrombocytopenia) occur in English Cockers.

Orthopedic diseases

Orthopedic diseases in English Cocker Spaniels include luxating patella (common), intervertebral disk disease (fairly common), and hip dysplasia (less common).

The Orthopedic Foundation of America evaluated the hip X-rays of 7500 English Cockers and found about 6% dysplastic.

Short toe anomaly is an odd defect where the outside toe of an English Cocker Spaniel's front foot stops growing at about 3 months old, so that the other three toes end up longer.

Neurological diseases

Epilepsy is unfortunately a concern in English Cocker Spaniels.

Another neurological disease, even more frightening than epilsepy, is called sudden-onset aggression or Rage Syndrome.

Most English Cockers affected with Rage Syndrome are good-natured and well-behaved right up until the moment they flare out of control. It's not been conclusively proven that this behavior is neurological, but that is the leading theory, especially since some affected Cockers have been shown to have abnormally low amounts of serotonin (a calming brain chemical).

Whatever the cause, sedating drugs and behavioral modification seldom work and euthanasia is often the only thing you can do.

Be aware that English Cockers who are poorly bred, poorly socialized, or poorly trained can display dominance or aggression without it being Rage Syndrome. In these cases, behavior modification )I recommend Respect Training) CAN bring the dog under control. Also note that epilepsy can cause behavioral abnormalities, and since epilepsy can be controlled with medication, it's important to consider epilepsy as a possible cause whenever an English Cocker Spaniel displays sudden aggression.

Another severe neurological disease in English Cockers is Adult-Onset Neuropathy, which causes progressive weakness all over the body until the dog can no longer move around.


Other health issues in English Cockers include autoimmune hemolytic anemia, lupus, lysosomal storage disease, inherited deafness, and liver disease.

Preventing health problems

Some health problems are inherited. For example, if your dog inherits from his parents the genes for an eye disease called PRA, he will go blind and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Dog feeding and health book by Michele Welton But most health problems can be prevented by the ways you raise your dog.

My best-selling book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy shows you how to raise your English Cocker Spaniel in all the right ways that help prevent health problems. Become your dog's health care champion!

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.