Breed breakdown: An in-depth look at the Cocker Spaniel
By Dr. Beth Engelbert, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Gentle, happy, and smart describe the Cocker Spaniel. They are often called American Cocker Spaniels to separate them from their English cousins.
The Cocker Spaniel transitioned from field to footstool since their small stature and eager-to-please nature made them wonderful family pets. These active dogs excel at obedience, agility, hunting, and being with their people.
Spaniels were first found in Spain the 12th century. Originally, spaniels were divided based on whether they were used for land or water hunting. The smaller land hunters used for small birds, namely woodcocks, were called “cockers.”
The first Spaniel to come to America arrived with the pilgrims in 1620. However, it was not until the late 1880s that the American Spaniel Club was formed. This club is credited for developing the American Cocker Spaniel into its own breed. Initially, the English and American Cockers were shown together, but in 1946 the two were shown as distinct breeds.
The Cocker Spaniel is the smallest of the sporting breeds, standing less than 15 inches tall. Slightly longer than tall with the straight forelegs and well-angled rear legs, these dogs are fast and agile.
Like many spaniels, Cocker Spaniel ears are long and thick. The muzzle is short in comparison with the head, and the top of the skull is slightly rounded. With pronounced eyebrows and dark eyes, the Cocker has a distinctive, sweet expression. The fur on the head and back is short with feathering on the ears, chest, belly and legs.
The Cocker Spaniel comes in a variety of colors: black, any solid color other than black (ASCOB), and parti-colored, which is predominately white with colored spots. ASCOBs range from cream to dark red. Any variety can have tan points. In conformation, they are divided by the three colors.
Cocker Spaniel skin and ears require extra care. Many spaniels have waxy ears and require regular cleaning to help prevent infection. Cocker Spaniels are prone to seborrhea, causing greasy skin and infections. Shampoos, medications, and regular grooming help control the condition.
Cocker Spaniel eyes can develop entropion, ectropion, or distichiasis affecting the eyelids. Progressive retinal atrophy, glaucoma, and cataracts can also occur.
Autoimmune hemolytic anemia, where the immune system attacks red blood cells, can occur. Transfusions, immune suppression medications, and intensive care are needed to combat this potentially deadly disease. Care must be taken to prevent recurrence.
Other potential conditions include luxating patellas, hip dysplasia, and heart disease. Phosphofructokinase deficiency, which affects the processing of glucose, can occur. Epilepsy triggering seizures or “rage syndrome” is also a concern.
Cocker Spaniels have been portrayed as characters in movies, making them popular. This leads to increased breeding to supply the demand for puppies, and health tests are not done by many breeders.
Screening the breeders and parents of your new puppy is important in any breed. It is a necessity for Cocker Spaniels so you can get a healthy dog with the merry, pleasing temperament for which they are known.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.