Health

Springer Spaniel health should be at the forefront of any owner's mind.  As with any pedigree dog, Spaniels are prone to some health issues, and owners should be aware of what they need to do to keep their Spaniel healthy.

VET
Ensure that you register your Spaniel with a good local vet.  Ask around among friends and family to find out which vet they use, as a good vet is essential to maintaining your Springer Spaniel's health.

Find a vet that you feel you can trust, and can visit on a regular basis, as you should ideally ensure that your Springer receives check ups at least twice a year; of course puppies and older dogs should be seen on a more frequent basis.  Also ensure that your Spaniel is up to date on all of their immunisations to protect them from harmful diseases that they can pick up.  Many vets offer monthly payment schemes that include all of the required check-ups, vaccinations and parasite treatments, at very good value.

INSURANCE
You may want to look into taking out Pet Insurance to cover your dog's veterinary treatment and care costs in an emergency.  Some injuries or ailments can require many thousands of pounds of treatment so insurance is vital if you think that you might not be able to afford such treatment in the unlikely event that your dog requires it.

VACCINATIONS
Vaccinations are essential to keep your Springer healthy.  Your puppy should be vaccinated against the key diseases, and boosters administered at the required intervals to maintain the protection.

There are five key diseases that you should vaccinate your Springer Spaniel against:

  • Distemper.  An extremely infectious, unpleasant disease that causes coughing, high temperature, nasal discharge, diarrhoea and vomiting.  Even with intensive care it is very difficult to treat and often fatal.

  • Infectious Canine Hepatitis.  This damages the liver, causing diarrhoea, vomiting and jaundice.  Often fatal.

  • Kennel Cough.  A severe cough that is highly infectious and can lead to permanent lung damage.

  • Parvo Virus.  More common in puppies.  Can cause heart failure and is usually fatal

  • Leptospriosis.  A bacterial disease that affects the liver & kidneys and is often fatal.

Vaccinations start at 6 - 8 weeks of age, and are usually administered in the form of two injections given 2-4 weeks apart, followed by an annual booster.

If you are picking up your puppy from a breeder, speak to them about getting your puppy vaccinated before you take the puppy home.

CONDITIONS
There are a number of conditions that you need to be aware of that Springers are susceptible to:

 

1. Hip Dysplasia
Hip Dysplasia is an abnormal development of the hip joint.  It can develop in various degrees of severity, from loose hips to total dislocation.  It is an inherited genetic disease, but it can be exacerbated by other factors such as poor nutrition, over exercise (especially in a younger dog), and rapid growth.

If one of the dog's suffers from the condition, the chances that their offspring will develop it are higher, so hip scores are usually carried out for breeding dogs.  This is done with an  x-ray of the dog's hips and taking measurements to assess the severity.  Only dogs with hip scores that are lower than the median score for the breed should be used for breeding.


When buying a puppy from a breeder, make sure that you discuss this with them, and ensure both parents of the puppy have good hip scores, to reduce the likelihood of this condition being passed on to your puppy.  However, it is worth remembering that genetic selection is about averages - even if both of the parents have good hip scores, a puppy could still be born with the condition.

Badly affected puppies can show symptoms as early as 5 months, but in most cases symptoms only begin to appear in their middle or later years.  Initial symptoms are pain and discomfort after vigorous exercise - daily activities become laborious for the dog.  Symptoms shown by the dog are similar to those of osteoarthritis, and can result in a strange gait when they are walking.  Dogs with hip dysplasia often resist stretching their legs out and, in some instances, when they run it will look like they are hopping.

You should take your dog to the vet if you have any concerns, as there are a number of options to treat your dog's condition.

2. Congenital Eye Problems
The following congenital eye problems are known to be inherited by Springer Spaniels, however they are not common.  Reputable breeders will have their dogs tested for these diseases, so be sure to ask them if these tests have been carried out before you buy a puppy.  In most cases, the diseases require a defective gene to be inherited from both the dam and the sire so you can be sure that your puppy will be unaffected by the disease if either the dam or sire have been tested and are not carriers of the defective gene.

 

Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a congenital disease that results in the degeneration of the retina in the eye, ultimately leading to total blindness.  There is no treatment for this disease so it is important to ensure that you only purchase a puppy with at least one parent who is not a carrier.

Retinal Dysplasia is a congenital disease that results in multiple folds in the retina, causing various levels of sight defect.  There is currently no genetic test for this so annual eye tests are recommended in breeding dogs - you should only purchase a puppy with parents who have been tested within the last 12 months, and are not showing any signs of this condition.

Glaucoma is caused by increase pressure of the fluid in the eye causing pain, inflammation and excessive tear production.  There is currently no genetic test for this so eye tests are recommended in breeding dogs - you should only purchase a puppy with parents who have been tested and are not showing any signs of this condition.

 

You should seek veterinary advice should your Springer show any of the following symptoms:

  • Red eyes

  • Painful eye (squinting, pawing, rubbing, tearing, decreased appetite)

  • Tearing

  • Cloudy eye

  • Blood in or around eye

  • Dilated pupil

  • Swollen eye

3. Fucosidiosis
Fuco is characterised by deterioration of the nervous system that progresses over a period of several months, sometimes from an early age.  The enzyme alpha-L-fucosidase is one of many required to break down complex compounds into simple molecules that the body can use.  In affected dogs, those carrying two copies of the mutant gene, this enzyme is absent, the pathway is blocked, and toxic compounds build up in the cells of the affected animal.  The cells of the nervous system are particularly sensitive to these toxic compounds.  The disease is severe, progressive and ultimately fatal.  It affects young adults, usually between 18 months and 4 years of age.

There is no treatment for this disease so it is important to ensure that you only purchase a puppy with at least one parent who is not a carrier.

 

4. Phosphofructokinase Deficiency (PFK)
PFK leads to a lack of the phosphofructokinase enzyme, without which muscle cells and red blood cells are unable to produce adequate energy for their needs.  It leads to weakness, lethargy, exercise intolerance, poor performance, muscle cramps, anaemia and jaundice.  Dark-coloured urine, a hallmark of this disorder, usually appears after strenuous exercise or after excessive barking, panting or heat exposure.

There is no treatment for this disease so it is important to ensure that you only purchase a puppy with at least one parent who is not a carrier.

5. Springer Rage Syndrome
Springer Rage Syndrome, Springer Rage, or Rage Syndrome are just some of the names associated with this behavioral condition that is known to affect English, Welsh, and Brittany Springer Spaniels.  It is a very rare behavioral problem that has been reported in a variety of breeds, but especially in Springers, where the dog shows uncharacteristic bouts of aggression, that are totally out of character.  It is thought to be caused by some form of epilepsy but this theory is not yet proven.

When I say it is rare, I mean it.  Many people think that any show of aggression from their dog is down to Rage Syndrome but, more often than not, instances of aggression in the Springer are merely down to dominant behavior, and poor levels of training and discipline being enforced.

Springer Rage often manifests itself when the Springer attacks for no apparent reason; the dog can even be asleep and then attack without warning.  The dog's eyes become dilated and glazed over, or can even sometimes change color during or after an attack.  The Springer is disorientated when attacking and may not respond to any attempts to stop it.  Attacks are very unpredictable and the dog will often appear confused afterwards, unaware of it's actions, then return to normal behaviour.

Despite several studies, and plenty of research, there is still no definitive answer as to the causes of Springer Rage.  It is thought that it is an inherited condition but there is no definitive test that can be done, which is why it can often be misdiagnosed.  

The best way to avoid this condition is to only purchase a puppy with parents that are known to have good temperament.

TICKS
Ticks are small blood sucking mites, related to spiders.  They are often found in long grass, where they wait to attach to a host, in this case your Springer Spaniel.

You may find ticks when stroking or grooming your Spaniel.  During the warmer months in tick-prone areas, it is sensible to search for ticks after a walk, to eliminate the problem straight away.  If your Springer Spaniel has picked up a tick, it will normally be located on their face, their forehead or their chest area - the direction that Spaniels travel through vegetation.

Ticks can be carriers of Lyme Disease and will tend to pass this disease on to their hosts.  Lyme disease is a disease that can appear a few months after your dog has been infected.  Symptoms include pronounced fever, appetite loss, anaemia, lethargy and stiffness in the legs.  The disease can easily be treated with a course of antibiotics but, if left untreated, can cause canine arthritis, kidney failure, or heart failure.  If in doubt, contact your vet.


Preventative treatments are available, that can be administered periodically to make your dog unpalatable to ticks, which will simply drop off and wait for a different victim.   Talk to your vet about these.

If you do find a tick on your dog, do not just pull, or burn, it off the skin as the head will remain embedded.  Invest in a tick removal tool that will grip the head of the tick, and follow the instructions supplied with it.  If you are too squeamish to remove ticks yourself, seek assistance from your vet.

 

WORMS
Ensure that you regularly worm your Springer Spaniel to protect them and your family members from these parasites, particularly if you have small children.

Symptoms that your dog has intestinal worms:

  • Loss of appetite.

  • Coat in poor condition.

  • Pot bellied appearance, especially in puppies.

  • Weight loss.

  • Diarrhoea (sometimes bloody).

  • Vomiting.

  • Lethargy.

  • Anaemia.

  • Worm segments around the anal area - like small grains of rice.

  • Continual licking of the anal area.

  • Scooting around on it's rear end.

  • Coughing (if juvenile roundworm migrates to the lungs).

Even in the absence of symptoms, your dog should be treated regularly.  Puppies from 4 to 12 weeks of age should be wormed every two weeks.  From 12 weeks to 6 months of age, puppies should be wormed monthly.  From 6 months onward, every 1-3 months according to your vet's advice.

Most worming treatments are now quite palatable but, if you are struggling to get your Springer to swallow a tablet, even disguised in food, then place the tablet at the back of the dog's throat, hold their mouth closed, and rub their throat to make them swallow.

 

© 2016 Ian Thomas.