Congenital Disease of Springer Spaniels

by Betty Lewis
The average springer spaniel can expect to live 10 to 14 years.

The average springer spaniel can expect to live 10 to 14 years.

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Your English springer spaniel is likely a great companion. He's ready to go when it's time to get physical, but happy to wind down with you next to the fire. Generally, the springer spaniel is a healthy dog, however he does have a few congenital diseases to be on the lookout for.

Now Hear This

Your pup's floppy ears are part of his cute factor, however those oversized pinnae, or outer ears, may account for the springer spaniel's predisposition to otitis externa. Simply put, this is an inflammation of his external ear canal and if Pal's shaking his head or scratching or rubbing his ears more than usual, those long ears may be covering an ear infection.

The Eyes Have It

Pal's eyes are vulnerable to progressive retinal atrophy -- or PRA -- which causes the degeneration of the nerve cells at the back of his eyes. This condition tends to develop between 2 and 6 years of age in springer spaniels. Because there's no cure, it often leads to blindness. You can ask your breeder for proof your pup's parents have had their eyes examined and are normal, greatly reducing the chance Pal will develop this rare disease. Glaucoma and eyelid defects are also potential congenital diseases of the springer spaniel.

A Hitch in His Getalong

Canine hip dysplasia is another condition your springer spaniel is vulnerable to inheriting. In this developmental disease, the head of Pal's femur doesn't fit into the hip socket as it should, potentially causing him severe pain and arthritis. Though it usually presents at a young age, mature adult dogs eventually may develop the condition. Signs of hip dysplasia include an abnormal gait or a strange "rolling" of the hips when your dog walks. He also may be hesitant to run and jump and have a difficult time standing or lying down. If Pal's parents have normal hips, he's got a reduced chance of inheriting this condition. A breeder should be able to provide X-ray documentation that the parents have been evaluated for hip dysplasia.

Legs Akimbo

As his hips are prone to developmental abnormalities, so are his elbows. If Pal has elbow dysplasia, he'll show an abnormal gait, perhaps turning his elbows in towards or out from his body and flipping his feet when he walks. Like hip dysplasia, this tends to present celebrates his first birthday, however, older springer spaniels can show signs as they age.

On the Lookout

A reputable breeder should be able to provide you with documentation about your pup's vulnerability to potential congenital diseases. The Orthopedic Foundation of America, or OFA, is another resource for learning about Pal's parents and his predisposition for inherited issues. The English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association has a comprehensive list of conditions that can be associated with springer spaniels, and most are rare occurrences in the breed. However, it's smart to understand the illnesses your pup is vulnerable to so you can be on the lookout for tell-tale symptoms.

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