Concerns found in purebred dogs
the main problems occuring in the English Cocker Spaniel)
Source : English Cocker Spaniel Club of America - Article written by Addi Pittman, President
of Health Section
Every breeder will produce
defects if he breeds long enough. Those that profess that they don't produce
defects have either stopped breeding, rarely breed, or aren't telling the
truth. Defects will occur in any breed of dog(or species of animal including
man). Sometimes defects can appear with no warning or previous clues that
would indicate the defect was within a given line. Breeders and stud owners
should collaborate with each other regarding defects each has encountered
prior to a planned breeding. If defects occur in a given mating, the breeder
should contact the stud owner and explain what the breeding produced. When
information is exchanged in this manner, both parties can hope to reduce
their chances of producing multiple defects in a litter.
The following health concerns are found in purebred dogs including
English Cocker Spaniels. The inheritance of some of these conditions may not
be completely understood.
Breeders and owners should incorporate health checks in all
English Cockers considered for breeding PRIOR to being bred. Brucella canis "Brucellosis"
is a contagious bacterial infection that causes both abortions and sterility. It
was first recognized as a serious disease of dogs in 1966. It is especially
prevalent in the southern states, but occurs nationwide. Infected dogs can also
suffer from other conditions such as uveitis, prostatitis, and testicular
atrophy. B. canis can be spread through oral, nasal, conjunctival, and genital
secretions (including urination). There is NO known cure.
Each species has its own brucella. All are zoonotic(contagious to humans),
but in varying degrees. The Baker Institute suggests that you don't introduce
new dogs into a breeding colony until they have been tested clear of Brucella
canis. Bitches should be checked several weeks prior to a planned breeding. Stud
dogs should be tested at least annually.
Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is the most common, heritable
orthopedic problem in dogs. It is usually characterized by hip joint instability
(laxity) and secondary degenerative joint disease (DJD). Normally, the
ball-shaped head of the femur fits snugly into the socket (acetabulum). When the
hip doesn't fit tightly, degenerative joint disease begins. The genetic basis
for CHD is thought to be polygenic and multifactorial.
Preliminary hip x rays should be done on any animal under age 2 if a
breeding is anticipated. All dogs over age 2 can be radiographed for
certification by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).
In the last 15 years the incidence of CHD has been greatly reduced in our
breed. No doubt, examination and OFA certification have played a significant
role in reducing the incidence. Currently, solid color English Cockers have a
higher incidence of CHD and "Fair" ratings than parti-colors; however, the
disease exists in all colorations.
PRA is a descriptive term applied to retinal diseases that
affect all breeds of dogs. The same clinical signs are present in all PRA
affected animals. Affected animals will show night blindness and a progressive
loss of day vision.
Many PRA affected English Cockers can be diagnosed between three and five
years of age. It is during this age period subtle retinal changes can be noted
by the experienced ophthalmologist. Even though the same clinical signs will be
present in all PRA affected animals, the age of onset of disease differs from
breed to breed. The onset period is divided into three approximate age groups:
early, middle, and late. The English Cocker falls into the late-onset group (4-7
years old). This late-onset form of the disease is now called Progressive
Rod-Cone Degeneration (PRCD). PRCD is inherited RECESSIVELY.
RECESSIVE INHERITANCE An affected animal can only be produced if both
parents are affected, both carry the defective gene, or one parent is affected
and the other carries. All the offspring of a PRA affected dog will carry ONE
PRA gene. The status of the second parent will determine whether the offspring
will be affected or carriers. Statistically, when two carriers are mated a 1:2:1
ratio (25% will be affected-i.e., 1 in 4, 50% will carry, 25% will be
genetically clear-1 in 4) will occur.
All breeding stock should have annual eye exams for life. There are other
ocular conditions that affect our breed. some of these conditions are: cataracts,
entropian, ectropion, distichiasis, dry eye(geriatric), persistent pupillary
membranes, and retinal dysplasia.
Congenital sensorineural deafness (present at birth) is
currently found in parti-colored English Cockers. Most studies of this defect
have been done in Dalmatians dating as early as 1896. Dalmatian studies have
shown that they do not go deaf until 3-4 weeks of age. However, degeneration
begins as early as one day after birth and is clearly evident histologically by
4 wks. old (Strain). The cause of this degeneration isn't known; however, there
is an observed absence of "melanocytes" (pigment) in the tissue of many deaf
The inheritance of deafness in parti-colored English Cockers isn't know. It
is believed there is a correlation between white coat color and the piebald (spotting)
genes. Whatever the inheritance is, it isn't simple.
Currently, we haven't had congenital deafness reported in solid colored
English Cockers. We are trying to build a data base through the use of BAER
TESTING. Solid breeders and owners can contribute to this data base by BAER
testing their animals. This procedure can help reduce the frequency of this
defect by identifying affected individuals. Statistics for this defect appear in
the Health Education Committee's Annual Report.
This trait is formally known as, "Brachydactylia of the 5th
metacarpo-pharyngeal radiant. This defect in soundness has been found in this
breed for many years. It occurs when the outside toe (less frequently, the
inside toe) of the forefoot ceases normal growth at about three months of age,
leaving the affected toe shorter than the other three and its toe pad atrophied.
The problem may range from mild (and difficult to find) to extreme.
This trait occurs in humans and is an autosomal dominant trait with incomplete
penetrance. No formal studies have been done in dogs.
Epilepsy is found in all breeds
including those mixed in origin. Our breed generally experiences seizure
episodes that are infrequent and many affected animals are not maintained on
anticonvulsants. There are exceptions! There are many reasons for seizures;
therefore, not all seizure activity is inherited. The average age of onset
is between the ages of 4-7 years old. Researchers have suggested that each
animal inherits a "genetically determined predisposition to seizures."
Seizures occur when this threshold is exceeded.
Liver disease is any destructive or metabolic disorder
involving the liver. It isn't limited to a particular age or breed. There are
also many causes for liver disease.
In recent years our breed has been implicated in several journal articles
that have been published in this country and abroad. Unfortunately, it is
currently impossible to tell you what is going on in this area. When an animal
dies from a liver disorder pathology isn't done or the results aren't shared. Be
aware that liver disease is surfacing.
This is a disease of dogs in which " the heart muscle
becomes overly distended." There are numerous journal articles that are
reporting this defect in our breed. We have received several reports over the
years regarding this defect primarily in solid colors.
The "classic" signs are: weight loss; general debility; weakness; abdominal
distention; coughing; syncope(fainting spells); and a rapid heart beat (OFA
diagnostic information). Not all patients will show all of these symptoms.
Cardiomyopathy can have a very subtle onset and the dog will often show little
or no clinical signs in the early stages.
Diagnosis can be made thorough x rays and echo cardiography (ultra sound).
The prognosis for dogs with this defect is generally poor.
Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA)
Cushings Disease Glomerulonephritis (over age 3)
Hypothyroidism Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia (IMT)
Undershot Overshot Wry Extra
teeth-deciduous/permanent Deciduous lingual mandibular canines
Young age renal failure has occurred
in this breed since at least 1957. The age of death is approximately between
9 months and 24 months old (some have lived until age 3+). The disease in
this instance is inherited recessively.
multifactorial/polygenic/environmental blue eye-type fault-multifactorial/polygenic
Intersexuality-hermaphroditism, all forms. Multifactorial...
This listing of diseases and
defects is not meant to overwhelm you. Many of these things you will not
experience in a lifetime of breeding.
© Domaine d'Haïsha English Cocker Spaniel