English Springer Spaniels: What a Unique Breed!
Your dog is special! She’s your best friend, companion, and a source of unconditional love. Chances are that you chose her because you like Springers and you expected her to have certain traits that would fit your lifestyle:
- Excellent family dog, watchdog, and hunting dog
- Eager to please and responsive to training
- Bouncy, cheerful, loyal, and enthusiastic
- Even temper and gentle disposition
- Energetic, active, and athletic
- Good with children
However, no dog is perfect! You may have also noticed these characteristics:
- Needs a lot of activity and mental stimulation to avoid boredom vices
- Exhibits signs of separation anxiety if left alone too much
- Needs frequent attention from her family
- Can be rambunctious and rowdy, especially as a younger dog
- May have a tendency to bark excessively
- Can have an unstable temperament if not bred properly, including excessive barking, hyperactivity, or aggression
Is it all worth it? Of course! She’s full of personality, and you love her for it! This exuberant and fun-loving dog has high exercise needs, but also loves to spend time relaxing with the ones who love her best; an ideal companion for an active family.
The English Springer Spaniel originated in England during the early 1800’s and was bred as a flushing and retrieving gun dog. This athletic and highly active breed enjoys canine sports such as agility, flyball, and dock diving. A true diplomat, she’ll be friendly with children and pets and even give strangers a chance, too. Springer Spaniels are intelligent, obedient, and extroverted. The English Springer Spaniel is a generally healthy breed with an average lifespan of 12-15 years.
Your English Springer Spaniel’s Health
We know that because you care so much about your dog, you want to take good care of her. That is why we have summarized the health concerns we will be discussing with you over the life of your Springer Spaniel. By knowing about health concerns specific to English Springer Spaniels, we can tailor a preventive health plan to watch for and hopefully prevent some predictable risks.
Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. There is a general consensus among canine genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners that the conditions we’ve described herein have a significant rate of incidence and/or impact in this breed. That does not mean your dog will have these problems; it just means that she is more at risk than other dogs. We will describe the most common issues seen in English Springer Spaniels to give you an idea of what may come up in her future. Of course, we can’t cover every possibility here, so always check with us if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.
This guide contains general health information important to all canines as well as the most important genetic predispositions for English Springer Spaniels. This information helps you and us together plan for your pet’s unique medical needs. At the end of the booklet, we have also included a description of what you can do at home to keep your Springer looking and feeling her best. You will know what to watch for, and we will all feel better knowing that we’re taking the best possible care of your pal.
General Health Information for your English Springer Spaniel
Dental disease is the most common chronic problem in pets, affecting 80% of all dogs by age two. And unfortunately, your English Springer Spaniel is more likely than other dogs to have problems with her teeth. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and progresses to infection of the gums and roots of the teeth. If we don’t prevent or treat dental disease, your buddy will lose her teeth and be in danger of damaging her kidneys, liver, heart, and joints. In fact, your Spaniel’s life span may be cut short by one to three years! We’ll clean your dog’s teeth regularly and let you know what you can do at home to keep those pearly whites clean.
English Springer Spaniels are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections — the same ones that all dogs can get — such as parvo, rabies, and distemper. Many of these infections are preventable through vaccination, which we will recommend based on the diseases we see in our area, her age, and other factors.
Obesity can be a significant health problem in English Springer Spaniels. It is a serious disease that may cause or worsen joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease. Though it’s tempting to give your pal food when she looks at you with those soulful eyes, you can “love her to death” with leftover people food and doggie treats. Instead, give her a hug, brush her fur or teeth, play a game with her, or perhaps take her for a walk. She’ll feel better, and so will you!
All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Springer’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest her skin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into her system in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your canine friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis. We’ll also recommend preventive medication as necessary to keep her healthy.
Spay or Neuter
One of the best things you can do for your Springer Spaniel is to have her spayed (neutered for males). In females, this means we surgically remove the ovaries and usually the uterus, and in males, it means we surgically remove the testicles. Spaying or neutering decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted puppies. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your dog is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays or a puppy tooth extracted, this would be a good time. This is convenient for you and easy for your friend. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions for common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk. Don’t worry; we’ll discuss the specific problems we will be looking for when the time arrives.
Genetic Predispositions for English Springer Spaniels
Not many things have as dramatic an impact on your dog’s quality of life as the proper functioning of his eyes. Unfortunately, English Springer Spaniels can inherit or develop a number of different eye conditions, some of which may cause blindness if not treated right away, and most of which can be extremely painful! We will evaluate his eyes at every examination to look for any signs of concern.
Glaucoma, an eye condition that affects English Springer Spaniels and people too, is an extremely painful disease that rapidly leads to blindness if left untreated. Symptoms include squinting, watery eyes, bluing of the cornea (the clear front part of the eye), and redness in the whites of the eyes. Pain is rarely noticed by pet owners though it is frequently there and can be severe. People who have certain types of glaucoma often report it feels like being stabbed in the eye with an ice pick! Yikes! In advanced cases, the eye may look enlarged or swollen like it’s bulging. We’ll perform his annual glaucoma screening to diagnose and start treatment as early as possible. Glaucoma is a medical emergency. If you see symptoms, don’t wait to call us, go to an emergency clinic!
Cataracts are a common cause of blindness in older Springer Spaniels. We’ll watch for the lenses of his eyes to become more opaque—meaning they look cloudy instead of clear—when we examine him. Many dogs adjust well to losing their vision and get along just fine. Surgery to remove cataracts and restore sight may also be an option.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an inherited disease in which the eyes are genetically programmed to go blind. Unfortunately, English Springer Spaniels are a bit more likely than other dogs to have this condition. PRA is not painful, but also not curable. In dogs with the bad gene, early symptoms such as night blindness or dilated pupils generally begin around three to five years of age. A genetic test is available for this condition.
Some breeds like your Springer Spaniel can be born with a variety of heart defects. Most of these affect the structure of the heart’s dividing wall or the vessels. They can also cause problems with the electrical signals that control the heartbeat or with heart valve function. Because of the significant risk of heart disease, we’ll pay special attention to his heart during each examination. Special testing will be recommended if we hear a heart murmur or you notice any unusual symptoms such as tiring easily, coughing, a swollen belly, or fainting.
Springer Spaniels are susceptible to a condition called Patent Ductus Arteriosis, in which a small vessel that carries blood between two parts of the heart does not close shortly after birth as it should. This results in too much blood being carried to the lungs, fluid build-up, and strain on the heart. Outward signs may be mild or you may see coughing, fatigue during exercise, weight loss, shortness of breath, or weakness in the hind limbs. We listen for a specific type of heart murmur to diagnose this problem during his examinations. If your pal has this condition, we may recommend surgery to close the problematic vessel.
Diabetes mellitus is a fairly common disease in dogs. Any breed can be affected, but Springers have an above average incidence. Dogs with diabetes are unable to regulate the metabolism of sugars and require daily insulin injections. It is a serious condition and one that is important to diagnose and treat as early as possible. Symptoms include increased eating, drinking, and urination, along with weight loss. If he shows signs, we will conduct lab tests to determine if he has this condition and discuss treatment options with you. Treatment requires a serious commitment of time and resources. Well regulated diabetic dogs today have the same life expectancy as other canines.
There are several types of inherited bleeding disorders which occur in dogs. They range in severity from very mild to very severe. Many times a pet seems normal until a serious injury occurs or surgery is performed, and then severe bleeding can result. English Springer Spaniels are particularly prone to some relatively rare diseases of the blood.
Hemolytic Anemia and Thrombocytopenia occurs when the immune system goes haywire and starts attacking the pet’s own red blood cells or platelets. If the immune system destroys red blood cells, your dog quickly becomes anemic, weak, and lethargic. His gums will look whitish or yellow instead of the normal bright pink color. If the immune system destroys platelets, his blood won’t clot properly and he’ll have bruises or abnormal bleeding. We’ll perform diagnostic testing for blood clotting to check for these problems before we perform any surgeries. To slow or stop the immune system’s destruction of cells, we’ll prescribe steroids and other immune-suppressive drugs. Sometimes an emergency transfusion of red blood cells or platelets is needed.
Von Willebrand’s disease is a blood clotting disorder frequently found in English Springer Spaniels. We’ll conduct diagnostic testing for blood clotting time or a specific DNA blood test for Von Willebrand’s disease or other similar disorders to check for this problem before we perform surgery.
Phosphofructokinase (PFK) Deficiency, also known as Tauri disease and glycogen storage disease, is a genetic defect in the metabolism of glucose. Symptoms appear anywhere from 2-3 months of age to several years of age, and include exercise intolerance, anemia, fever and muscle disease. Fortunately, there is a DNA test available to help diagnose this life-limiting disease. Because your English Springer Spaniel is at risk for PFK Deficiency we need to keep a watchful eye on him during his early years.
Cancer is a leading cause of death among dogs in their golden years. Your English Springer Spaniel is a bit more prone to certain kinds of cancer starting at a younger age. Many cancers are cured by surgically removing them, and some types are treatable with chemotherapy. Early detection is critical! We’ll do periodic blood tests and look for lumps and bumps at each exam.
Several neurologic diseases can afflict English Springer Spaniels. Symptoms of neurological problems can include seizures, imbalance, tremors, weakness, or excess sleeping. If you notice any of these symptoms, please seek immediate veterinary care.
There are three types of seizures in dogs: reactive, secondary, and primary. Reactive seizures are caused by the brain’s reaction to a metabolic problem like low blood sugar, organ failure, or a toxin. Secondary seizures are the result of a brain tumor, stroke, or trauma. If no other cause can be found, the disease is called primary, or idiopathic epilepsy. This problem is often an inherited condition, with English Springer Spaniels commonly afflicted. If your friend is prone to seizures, they will usually begin between six months and three years of age. An initial diagnostic workup may help find the cause. Lifelong medication is usually necessary to help keep seizures under control, with periodic blood testing required to monitor side effects and effectiveness. If your dog has a seizure: Carefully prevent him from injuring himself, but don’t try to control his mouth or tongue. It won’t help him, and he may bite you accidentally! Note the length of the seizure, and call us or an emergency hospital.
Rage Syndrome, also called Springer Rage, is a dangerous form of dominance aggression that is thought to be a form of epilepsy. English Springer Spaniels with this condition have episodes of extreme aggression, often attacking their owners. Affected dogs may respond to anti-seizure medications. They should not be used for breeding!
Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis, shortened to NCL, is a progressive neurologic disease found in several breeds, including your English Springer Spaniel. Clinical signs usually appear in younger dogs, between around one to three years of age. In the early stages, rear leg weakness and imbalance can occur. It can progress to weakness involving all four legs, and some dogs also lose vision. There is currently no effective treatment for this disease, but a genetic test is available. Dogs carrying the mutation should not be used for breeding, since it is readily passed to future generations.
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Both hips and elbows are at risk for dysplasia, an inherited disease that causes the joints to develop improperly and results in arthritis. Stiffness in your Springer Spaniel’s elbows or hips may become a problem for him, especially as he matures. You may notice that he begins to show lameness in his legs or has difficulty getting up from lying down. We can treat the arthritis—the sooner the better—to minimize discomfort and pain. We’ll take X-rays of your dog’s bones to identify issues as early as possible. Surgery is sometimes a good option in severe and life-limiting cases. Keep in mind that overweight dogs may develop arthritis years earlier than those of normal weight, causing undue pain and suffering!
Growing Springer Spaniels can suffer from a painful inflammation of the long bones in the legs, a condition called eosinophilic panosteitis, pano or eo-pan. It usually starts at around six to ten months of age and shifts from leg to leg. We’ll look for this condition upon examination; if your pal exhibits pain when the area is squeezed or palpated, we’ll take X-rays to diagnose the problem. Panosteitis usually causes no permanent damage, but requires pain medication. If your dog has the condition and has developed an abnormal gait to compensate for the sore leg(s), rehabilitation exercises may be required.
Seborrhea is a common skin disease that can cause dry, flaky skin or greasy, oily skin. The dry form is known as seborrhea sicca and the oily form as seborrhea oleosa. Both forms can lead to an itchy, uncomfortable pet, and they make skin infection more likely to occur. They are among the most annoying of diseases to Springer Spaniel owners because they often make him smelly and unattractive. Hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels) can lead to seborrhea, as can allergies, Cushing’s disease, and other problems.
Autoimmune Skin Disease
Pemphigus foliaceus is a superficial skin disease that is more common in English Springer Spaniels. It often starts at around four years of age and causes crusts and hair loss, usually on top of his nose and inside the ear flap. Some dogs can get it on their footpads and toenails. Bacteria usually invade the damaged area, so secondary skin infections are common. Skin crusts typically wax and wane; there is no cure, but there are a variety of effective treatments. Sunlight makes it worse, so apply zinc-free sunscreen to sensitive parts before heading outdoors.
Taking Care of Your English Springer Spaniel at Home
Much of what you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is common sense, just like it is for people. Watch her diet, make sure she gets plenty of exercise, regularly brush her teeth and coat, and call us or a pet emergency hospital when something seems unusual (see “What to Watch For” below). Be sure to adhere to the schedule of examinations and vaccinations that we recommend for her. This is when we’ll give her the necessary “check-ups” and test for diseases and conditions that are common in Springer Spaniels. Another very important step in caring for your pet is signing up for pet health insurance. There will certainly be medical tests and procedures she will need throughout her life and pet health insurance will help you cover those costs.
Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise
Build her routine care into your schedule to help your Springer live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine.
- Supervise your pet as you would a toddler. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will keep her out of trouble and away from objects she shouldn’t put in her mouth.
- Daily brushing and regular trimming is recommended to prevent mats and keep her long coat beautiful.
- English Springer Spaniels generally have good teeth, and you can keep them perfect by brushing them at least twice a week!
- Clean her ears weekly, even as a puppy. Make sure to keep her floppy ears dry. Don’t worry—we’ll show you how!
- She is a highly active dog that excels at dog sports like flyball, agility, dock diving and field trials.
- She is a high energy hunting dog so a fenced yard and a leashed walks are a must.
- She loves the water, and swimming is a great form of exercise for your English Springer Spaniel.
- Keep your dog’s diet consistent and don’t give her people food.
- Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for her age.
- Exercise your dog regularly, but don’t overdo it at first.
What to Watch For
Any abnormal symptom could be a sign of serious disease, or it could just be a minor or temporary problem. The important thing is to be able to tell when to seek veterinary help, and how urgently. Many diseases cause dogs to have a characteristic combination of symptoms, which together can be a clear signal that your English Springer Spaniel needs help.
Give us a call for an appointment if you notice any of these types of signs:
- Change in appetite or water consumption
- Tartar build-up, bad breath, red gums, or broken teeth
- Itchy skin (scratching, chewing or licking), hair loss
- Lethargy, mental dullness, or excessive sleeping
- Fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes
Seek medical care immediately if you notice any of these types of signs:
- Scratching or shaking the head, tender ears, or ear discharge
- Inability or straining to urinate; discolored urine
- Cloudiness, redness, itching, or any other abnormality involving the eyes
- Fatigue during exercise, coughing, or shortness of breath
- Increased hunger and thirst, weight loss
- Gums that are a color other than bright pink
- Tiring easily, coughing, a swollen belly or fainting/collapse
- General reluctance to run or play
- Any abnormal shaking, trembling, or excessive involuntary tremors
- Sudden aggressive episodes with no apparent cause
Partners in Health Care
DNA testing is a rapidly advancing field with new tests constantly emerging to help in the diagnosis of inherited diseases before they can become a problem for your friend. For the most up-to-date information on DNA and other screening tests available for your pal, visit www.Genesis4Pets.com.
Your Springer Spaniel counts on you to take good care of her, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that she lives a long and healthy life. Our goal is to provide the best health care possible: health care that’s based on her breed, lifestyle, and age. Please contact us when you have questions or concerns.
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- Gough A, Thomas A. Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats. 2nd Edition. Wiley-Blackwell; 2010.
- Crook A, Dawson S, Cote E, MacDonald S, Berry J. Canine Inherited Disorders Database [Internet]. University of Prince Edward Island. 2011. [cited 2013 Apr 11]. Available from: http:/ic.upei.ca/cidd/breed/english-springer-spaniel
- Breed Specific Health Concerns [Internet]. American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, Inc. [cited 2013 Apr 11]. Available from: http:/www.akcchf.org/canine-health/breed-specific-concerns/?breed=english-springer-spaniel