Cocker Spaniels are medium to high-maintenance with grooming, medical, and emotional needs, so they make a perfect pet for someone who is a natural caregiver. But they are all about their people. All they want to do is hang out with you and will make you feel very loved.
Cocker Spaniels have high-maintenance grooming needs.
Though cockers are average shedders, they do require brushing several times each week to minimize shedding and matting, especially on the ears. The long coat also requires frequent shampooing and trimming.
Their beauty is also their curse. Their thick long coats must be regularly groomed to avoid matting, and their ears require frequent attention.
Because they have floppy ears, air cannot flow into their canals, and they can become infected. They should be checked every few days to make sure this is not happening. Anyone wanting a cocker spaniel must be willing to attend to his or her special grooming needs to keep this breed healthy.
When brushing your cocker spaniel, care should be taken not to pull out the long silky hair. Care must also be taken to keep the ears clean on these breeds as the long, floppy ears can trap dirt and debris inside, which frequently leads to ear infections.
Cocker Spaniels make fantastic companions — if you have plenty of time to spend with them.
Cocker Spaniels are very people-oriented dogs, so they love to be with their humans. This makes them fantastic companions for people who are home most of the time.
But a Cocker Spaniel is not a good choice for someone who works full-time out of the house, because a Cocker left alone all day is likely to be miserable and respond by developing behavioral problems like excessive barking and chewing.
Cocker Spaniels are sweet and wonderful companions, and usually good with children, but they require more than the usual care and maintenance.
There are actually two distinct breeds of Cocker Spaniels.
The back of the English Cocker Spaniel is shorter than that of the American Cocker Spaniel and the head is considerably more round than that of the American Cocker Spaniel.
Those who share their homes with both Cocker Spaniels and Cocker Spaniel mixes often describe them as cheerful, loving, sweet and gentle, charming and trustworthy. It is helpful to socialize these breeds at a young age to avoid their natural tendency toward timidity and shyness.
Cocker Spaniels are best suited for people willing to provide daily walks, a bit of playtime and lots of companionship for their pet! These breeds will do fine living in an apartment if adequate walks and exercise are provided. Keep in mind, they don’t like being left home alone.
Cocker Spaniel Health Problems
Cocker Spaniels tend to have skin problems, especially if they are not fed a high-quality, grain-free diet. American Cockers are notorious for itchy skin conditions such as allergies, pyoderma, and seborrhea.
Growths on the skin are common – both non-tumorous growths (especially sebaceous cysts) and tumorous growths (especially sebaceous tumors, basal cell tumors, and breast tumors).
A few black Cockers have been reported with the skin disease follicular dysplasia.
And unfortunately, the breed is prone to several serious eye diseases that can cause blindness and are expensive to treat, like cataracts and glaucoma.
Severe cataracts can appear at 1-5 years old and often progress to complete blindness.
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) can appear at 3-6 years old and glaucoma at 5-8 years old – both leading to blindness.
Other eye diseases in Cockers include corneal dystrophy, cherry eye, dry eye, eyelid abnormalities (entropion and ectropion), eyelash abnormalities, tear duct disorders, persistent pupillary membranes, and retinal dysplasia.
As mentioned above, frequent cleaning of the ears is important to prevent ear infections. Ear infections occur in American Cockers more frequently than in any other breed.
This is because the abnormally long, narrow ear canal of this breed traps wax, providing a sticky medium in which fungi can grow and parasites can feed. The folded-over ear flap blocks air from circulating and provides a dark, moist, dirty cave for fungi and parasites to hide. And all the hair inside the ears acts as a magnet for moisture, dirt, and wax.
Ear hematoma is also common in Cockers.
The most common orthopedic disease in Cocker Spaniels is luxating patella (loose knees). The Orthopedic Foundation of America found that 25% of American Cockers are affected with loose knees. That’s 1 in every four Cockers – the 3rd highest rate of all breeds.
Hip dysplasia occurs in Cockers, as well, with the OFA evaluating the hip X-rays of 9800 American Cockers and finding 6% dysplastic. Another orthopedic disease occurring regularly in the breed is interverterbral disk disease.
According to the Michigan State University Thyroid Database, American Cocker Spaniels have the 13th highest rate of hypothyroidism of 140 breeds (up to 23% affected).
Epilepsy occurs regularly and heart disease (patent ductus arteriosus and pulmonic stenosis) is becoming a concern.
American Cockers are susceptible to blood-clotting diseases (von Willebrand’s disease, Factor X deficiency, and thrombocytopenia).
Other health issues in the breed include liver disease (hepatitis) and autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Lysosomal storage disease, cerebellar ataxia, PFK deficiency, and chondrodysplasia have occasionally been reported.