Cocker Spaniel health problems

Eye problems


Glaucoma is an eye condition which occurs when there is increased pressure on the eye. It is an extremely painful condition that affects Cocker Spaniels, which can rapidly lead to blindness if left untreated.

Symptoms include:

  • Redness of the eyes
  • Squinting
  • Watery eyes
  • Vision loss
  • Cloudiness

While one form of glaucoma is inherited and a part of a dog’s genetics, another can be prevented by trying to avoid any injury or trauma to their eyes.

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS or Dry Eye)

Common in Cocker Spaniels, dry eye - also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS - reduces the amount of fluid produced by the tear gland. This means that affected dogs are no longer able to keep their eyes moist, resulting in sore, itchy eyes and infections.

Dry eye is not preventable and might require treatment for the rest of your dog’s life depending on its cause.

Heart problems

The heart is the most important organ in your Cocker Spaniel’s body, but it can suffer from different types of diseases that can make things a little harder for your dog. While these diseases don’t lead to heart attacks in dogs, they can suffer from heart failure as a result of an underlying disease affecting the organ.

There are several different reasons as to why a dog might develop heart disease and because of this, there is little you can do as an owner to prevent it, but providing the right diet, good dental care, and enough exercise might help.

Signs to watch for:

  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Fainting or collapse
  • Laboured breathing
  • Coughing.

Dental problems

Our dogs explore the world using their mouths so it can be difficult to keep their teeth clean, which can lead to dental health issues if they’re not looked after properly. Cocker Spaniels are no different. It all starts once they eat, with bacteria, food and saliva forming a sticky film on your dog’s teeth. This substance is plaque and can lead to a build-up of tartar.

If this is not removed it can lead to gingivitis, infections, and even damage to the kidneys, liver, heart and joints.

Regular cleaning of your dog’s teeth and regular checks with your vet is the best ways to prevent this painful disease.


Obesity is a serious health problem in dogs, which can put greater stress on other parts of their bodies. The extra weight in obese dogs can worsen joint problems, cause heart and respiratory disease, and severely lower their quality of life.

If a Spaniels’s obesity is not linked to an existing medical condition, it can be prevented. Making sure they’re on the right diet, being fed the correct amount of food, and are given adequate exercise that meets their needs will help keep your dog happy and healthy.

Bone and joint problems

Cocker Spaniels are known to suffer from different musculoskeletal problems, each with their own diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)

IVDD is a disease which affects the spinal cord and causes the cushioning disks between vertebrae to slip or rupture into the spinal cord space. A Spaniel might not show any symptoms as its disk degenerates over time, so an owner might not even know a problem exists until the rupture is triggered by something like a jump or a fall.

Whether the disease is gradual or has a more sudden onset, recognising the symptoms can help your Cocker Spaniel receive the care it needs to prevent more permanent damage.

These signs include:

  • Stiffness of neck, back and limbs
  • Arched back with head down
  • Reluctance to stand or walk
  • Obvious weakness or pain
  • Paralysis
  • Difficulty jumping or going up and down stairs
  • Trembling and panting
  • Flinching when touched

Patellar luxation

Patellar luxation occurs when a dog’s kneecap moves out of place. Both knees are often affected by this condition and it is thought to be genetic, with signs sometimes showing as early as four months old.

While patella luxation might not be able to be prevented, weight control and early intervention can help to reduce the severity of the condition.

Hip Dysplasia

Cocker Spaniels can suffer from Hip Dysplasia, an inherited disease where the ball and socket of the dog’s hip do not fit properly, leading to the deterioration of the bone and loss of function of the joint. This damage causes swelling, pain and arthritis, so it’s vital to identify the disease as early as possible, to be able to manage or avoid discomfort for the dog.

Liver problems

Cocker Spaniels are prone to long-term, ongoing inflammation of the liver, known as hepatitis. This condition causes biological changes that can lead to decreased liver function or even complete organ failure.

Because of the liver’s multiple functions, symptoms can vary greatly, which can make diagnosis quite complex.

Once diagnosed, treatment will depend on the severity and type of disease. While not curable, with the right on-going treatment many dogs can go on to lead a symptom-free life.

Skin and ear problems

Malassezia Dermatitis

Cocker Spaniels can suffer from a number of different skin infections and diseases, including Malassezia Dermatitis. This is caused by a kind of yeast which is normally present but which - if it grows faster than usual - can cause infection and dermatitis.

When this infects a dog’s ears, it can prompt whining, head rubbing, redness, itching and brown, waxy discharge. On the skin, you might notice irritation, hair loss, greasy hair, a bad smell and thickening of the skin.

A vet will determine if there is an underlying condition causing the condition before providing the correct treatment.


Seborrhoea is a skin disease that causes the skin to dry, flake and develop lesions or become very oily or greasy. This condition can either be inherited or caused by an underlying medical condition and is uncomfortable for dogs.

The treatment depends on the dog’s specific condition and severity, but it can be managed.


As Cocker Spaniels have long and fluffy ears, they can be prone to ear infections known as otitis. These are painful and can cause some discomfort for your pet, so weekly ear cleanings are essential to keep infections at bay, but there may be several different factors that lead to dogs developing otitis.

A vet will help confirm a trigger and provide the appropriate treatment.

Thyroid problems

The thyroid gland has two lobes on either side of a dog’s windpipe which produce a hormone called thyroxine. This is key in the process of turning food into fuel and when the function falls below normal, it is known as hypothyroidism. It’s a manageable condition, with blood tests needed for diagnosis, and treatment is usually as simple as replacement hormones given in the form of a pill.

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