The Royal Veterinary College has published research which reveals the most common medical conditions in English Cocker Spaniels.

The VetCompass programme studied 10,313 English Cocker Spaniels from an overall sample of 336,865 UK dogs of all breeds under first opinion veterinary care during 2016.

English Cocker Spaniels made up 3.1% of all dogs, showing ongoing high popularity of this breed as a UK companion animal.

The most common disease was periodontal disease, diagnosed in 20.97% of English Cocker Spaniels each year.

In second place was otitis externa (10.09%), followed by obesity/overweight (9.88%), anal sac impaction (8.07%), diarrhoea (4.87%), and aggression (4.01%).

The order of these top disorders in English Cocker Spaniels was similar to those previously reported in dogs overall; however, the frequency of each disorder was generally higher in English Cocker Spaniels than the general dog population, possibly because several of these conditions are related to the longer ears and looser skin on English Cocker Spaniels.

Researchers say these results suggests that English Cocker Spaniels can be considered a typical dog in many respects, but with higher risk of some disorders related to their specific body shape.

Aggression was found to be relatively common in English Cocker Spaniels, although the frequency differed depending on the sex and coat colour of the dogs: aggression was more common in males than females, and in single-coloured than multi-coloured dogs.

The risk of aggression also varied widely between the four most common single-coloured coat colours: golden-coloured dogs showed the highest frequency of aggression (12.08%), followed by red (6.52%), black (6.29%), and liver (4.33%).

Additional findings include:

  • Among the 31 most common specific disorders, females had a higher probability of periodontal disease, obesity and mammary mass lesions, while males had a higher probability of aggression.
  • Once the specific disorders were grouped by parts of the body affected, the most common disorder groups were dental disorders (22.35%); aural disorders (13.76%); ophthalmic disorders (10.27%); obesity (9.88%); and cutaneous disorders (9.84%).
  • Among the 20 most common disorder groups, females had a higher probability of dental disorders, obesity, masses and urinary tract disorders, while males had a higher probability of behavioural disorders.
  • The average lifespan of English Cocker Spaniels overall was 11.44 years. However, females lived a year longer than males (12.01 years vs 11.00 years). The average lifespan of English Cocker Spaniels is similar to the average lifespan of 11.2 years for dogs overall in the UK, suggesting that the overall health of English Cocker Spaniels is similar to that of dogs overall in the UK.
  • The most common causes of death were cancer, lumps, and collapse.

Karolina Engdahl, Epidemiologist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and lead author of the paper, said: “English Cocker Spaniels are popular family dogs and can make fantastic pets.

"However, we found that aggression was relatively common in the breed, especially in golden-coloured dogs.

"This highlights the importance of focusing good breeding on behavioural as well as physical health, and that behavioural-related problems should be a key area for veterinary-owner discussions.”

Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor in Companion Animal Epidemiology at the RVC, co-author of the paper, said: “Everyone who loves dogs just wants their animals to live long and happy lives.

"This study provides the data to help owners to understand that preventing dental, ear, weight and anal sac problems can go a long way to helping English Cocker Spaniels to enjoy a better life.

"It really can be that simple.”

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