Overall, the WCS is a rather healthy breed although, on average, its ALC (ancestor loss coefficient) is low and its COI (inbreeding coefficient) is very high. It is essential to have certain tests like the ECVO eye test and the cardiology checkups done on a regular basis, not only once in a lifetime.
As young dogs WCS tend to have sensitive eyes. Normally, they grow out of it within the first year but the owner should keep an eye on this (pun intended 🙂 ) since the dog could be suffering from distichiasis. If this is the case, the extra eyelashes which cause problems will have to be removed.
Hip dysplasia can occur and it is too bad that only a small number of dogs is actually X-rayed.
PL is probably the greatest problem in the breed at the moment, and I’m afraid that patellas will remain one of the bigger problems of the breed in the future. We know of several cases of WCS with patella problems. Some of our imported dogs are not 0/0. We even had such a dog in our very first litter.
Spaniels are also known to suffern from a special form of ED called IOCH (Incomplete Ossification of the Condylus humeri). The problem is that it’s not known how it is inherited. It’s also extremely hard to detect on a standard ED X-ray so excluding affected dogs from breeding is very difficult.
When our B-litter was about 9 months old the owner of the stud informed us that he was diagnosed with epilepsy, which was a shock to us. We all started to do research and found out that the “fly catching” form of epilespsy the dog showed wasn’t really epilepsy at all but a digestive disorder that can be easily treated with omeprazol. It’s not nice of course but compared with an epilepsy diagnosis it was a relief. We also heard of more WCS who have this condition so whenever a dog displays “fly catching” symptoms have him checked for a stomach disorder! Here and here are two articles about it.
Very rarely, heart problems are seen in the breed. (We are among the “lucky few” with our After Eight although in her case the cause was a bacterial infection, as it later turned out, not a congenital condition.)
There are no valid statistics available for any of the above-mentioned diseases.
The Cocker Spaniel Database offers more information on diseases as well as pedigrees. The woman who takes care of it, Pien Bogers, does it all in her spare time on a voluntary basis. We think she is doing a great job!
Sometines we are asked about the so-called “cocker rage”. Well, that’s easy: As far as we know it simply doesn’t occur in the WCS!
Because unfortunately, there are so few dogs tested in this breedfor far too few diseases we decided to have at least our own dogs tested on as many things as possible and to get them X-rayed from top to toe before breeding them. We do as much research on our dogs’ health and their pedigrees as possible but we are aware that even the most responsible breeding plan can only reduce health risks, not eliminate them completely.
For us, testing our dogs means:
– X-rays of all joints and the back
– patella checks
– regular checkups at the cardiologist
– regular ECVO eye tests
– genetic tests for AMS, AN, FN, pcrdPRA, EIC, and PFK. (Note: We didn’t have all our dogs tested for PFK because in fact it’s not a breed problem and we don’t know of even one dog who is a carrier, let alone affected.)