Devon & Cormwall Cocker Spaniel Club

The Cocker Spaniel Health and Welfare

Generally a healthy breed, the Cocker has no major problems. However, as with any breed of dog, some hereditary conditions occur. The Kennel Club, The Cocker Spaniel Club and, indeed, breeders themselves conduct an on-going programme of Health Schemes to ensure these conditions are controlled. You should expect all breeders to be conscious of and pro-active in maintaining the health and wellbeing of their breeding stock.

Detailed information may be obtained from The Cocker Spaniel Club website HERE and The Breed Council site HERE.


EYE CONDITIONS, for which annual testing is carried out by specialist eye panellists under the Kennel Club/British Veterinary Association schemes, include Glaucoma, Generalised PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) and Centralised PRA.

There is DNA testing for PRA available from the American company, Optigen, which enables breeders to identify whether their dog is clear, a carrier or affected with the disease. The Kennel Club maintains records of Optigen test results. This enables breeders to make advised decisions about their breeding programme.

KIDNEYS Familial Nephropathy (FN) or shrunken kidney is an inherited condition that leads to kidney failure, typically, between the ages of 6 and 24 months.
A DNA test for FN has been developed by the French company, Antagene. Breeders are therefore able to ensure that their breeding stock is clear from the gene carrying FN.

HIPS Hip Dysplasia (abnormal development of the hip joint) is generally associated with larger breeds, although it can be found in any breed, cockers are not considered to be greatly affected. Hip Dysplasia can cause lameness or indeed, in minor cases, produce no noticeable symptoms.
The Hip Score is carried out by x-ray of both hip joints, each of which are given a score between 0 and 106 (53 for each hip). Relatively small numbers of cockers in the UK are currently hip-scored. The breed average score is 14.

Ongoing research is being carried out in the field of Auto-immune Disease and Oncology at the Animal Health Trust. To assist in monitoring the general health of the Breed, owners are encouraged to report health conditions. This may be done in the strictest confidence by completing a Questionnaire which is available on

Adult Onset Neuropathy (AN) A progressive weakness due to a neuropathy has been recognized as an autosomal recessive, hereditary disorder in English Cocker Spaniels by the research team at the University of Missouri Animal Molecular Genetic Lab. Clinical signs typically begin between 7.5 and 9 years of age and consist first of an uncoordinated gait or wobbling in the hind limbs. The stance in the hind limbs is wide-base and the hocks will drop lower to the ground. The weakness eventually progresses to also involve the front limbs. When dogs become non-ambulatory in all limbs, difficulty in swallowing also becomes apparent. The neurologic signs seem to progress slowly and gradually over 3 to 4 years. A DNA test is now available from Laboklin in the UK

Acral Mutilation Syndrome (AMS) This distressing condition is seen in puppies of working line Cockers (to date) resulting in lesions lesions on distal extremities caused by self-mutilation, featuring loss of sensivity to pain on distal limbs, tendency to lick or bite their own pads, resulting in auto-amputation of claws, digits and footpads in severe cases. A DNA test for this recessive condition is now available in the UK from Laboklin, enabling breeders to avoid mating carriers of this disease to other carriers.

More information may be obtained from The Cocker Spaniel Breed Council website – and also The Cocker Spaniel Club site – Other useful info can be found at Cocker Spaniel DNA Test Results, BVA Canine Health Schemes,
Optigen and Antagene