This article is a list of the most common springer spaniel problems, with links to the more detailed articles on this site. Click the underlined words for more information.
Most hereditary problems with springers can be screened for, and may be known about by the breeder from the history of the parents and grandparents. Fortunately, the more common problems such as hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy and retinal dysplasia are being bred out of the springer stock.
Some bloodlines may have a higher incidence of cataracts.
If a young springer (less than 1 year old) is exercised too hard (particularly with jumping), then hip joints may not grow into a healthy adult shape, causing joint pain and arthritis in later life.
Apart from the hereditary eye problems mentioned above, there are a couple of other conditions which are not uncommon.
Entropion is the inward growth of eyelashes. This can be corrected. Outward growth (ectropion) is less common.
Cataracts may occur with any dog (indeed, as with any older person).
Inflammation of the ears (otitis) is fairly common in dogs with long hairy ears if the ears are not groomed and cleaned regularly.
These are usually due to infectious diseases, damage or allergic reactions. In general, treatment is straightforward.
Springers are, in general, well behaved. Although ‘rage’ is talked about from time to time, it has been hard to pin down, and evidence tends to be anecdotal. Springer spaniels have an even, affectionate and loyal temperament, though they love fun and can get excited. Any behavioural problems are usually due to a lack of, or poor, training.
Springers occasionally react when in the company of other dogs of the same sex.
As with most domesticated animals, excessive feeding or poor diet, without exercise to compensate, can lead to other problems such as constipation, diabetes, weight problems and hypertension. Avoiding these is a matter of following suitable feeding and exercise guidelines for springer spaniels.
Springer Spaniels, like most dogs with long hairy ears, are prone to ear problems. This is no reason to avoid the breed – regular grooming and care of the ears mean that your dog may never suffer. A springer spaniel ear problem usually becomes obvious by ‘smelly ears’ or by your dog’s rubbing at his ear with a paw – quite often both go together.
Inflammation of the ear is known as otitis. There are several causes and a range of treatments, but with the right care, most problems can be prevented.
There are four main reasons for irritation (otitis) within the ear.
1. Floppy ears trap moisture (and we know that springers love water).
2. Inherited skin allergies; rubbing by the dog causes release of exudates (‘thick fluids’) which make it worse. Typical allergens are food and pollen.
3. Thick hair in the ear canal traps moisture, dirt, grass, small twigs and earwax.
4. Mite infestation.
The first three reasons create ideal conditions for the growth of fungal (yeast) infections in the ear.
Unless you are a very experienced pet owner, then it is essential that you take your pet to a veterinarian so that a proper diagnosis can be carried out. If left untreated, the problem could cause permanent deafness in your dog, besides the discomfort caused to your dog by a chronic infection.
Also of course, smelly ears is not pleasant in the home. Have you noticed how some homes just ‘smell of dog’?
Springers love to swim, but if you can stop him swimming in stagnant water, that’s a good start – rivers and lakes with inflow or outflow are best as this keeps the water refreshed and prevents stagnation.
Regular grooming and inspection of the ear is essential to prevent problems developing. The hair around the edges of the ear should be trimmed carefully so that minimal ‘pickup’ of debris takes place. When your springer has been out for a run in the undergrowth, then check his years for small twigs and grass.
The hair inside the ear may also be trimmed; some may be removed with tweezers – find out more from a specialised article or book on springer spaniels, or ask your veterinarian to show you how to do it.
The treatments your veterinarian suggests will be one or more of the following:
For allergies try different brands of food; antihistamines may be required if reaction is severe.
Flushing with a mildly acidic solution creates conditions where yeast does not grow. Your veterinarian should be able to recommend a suitable solution.
Antibiotics – usually in the form of drops. It is important that your veterinarian rotates the antibiotics, as long term treatment with one antibiotic can allow resistant strains of bacteria to develop.
In acute cases which resist those treatments, simple surgical procedures are available, with more radical surgery for deeper seated problems. Both of these procedures usually have good outcomes with greatly improved quality of life for the dog.
Mites are usually treated using a mite powder.
(c) 2010 Phil Marks
A great story from David Wilkes at the UK’s Daily Mail this week. Jack, the English springer spaniel sniffer dog, finding bombs in Afghanistan. And a terrific picture too!
Technically, they are called Arms and Explosives Search Dogs. To them, it’s all a bit of fun, with a reward – maybe a game or a bit of spoiling! For the soldiers though, it’s life and death. When Jack’s handler, Private Andrew Duff, sees Jack sit down, then it’s time for very great care. Patient sitting is a sign of a ‘find’, and time for the bomb disposal experts to be called in.
It takes 15 weeks to train a springer like Jack – and that’s just basic training, which develops focus and obedience. Then it’s out to the war theatre and several more weeks’ training.
There have been occasions when Andrew has been convinced that Jack’s training has saved his life.
I’ve written more about the jobs that springer spaniels carry out – it’s surprisingly varied, from security to preservation – both of wildlife and ancient buildings, and even helping hospital patients to get well. Check the links at the bottom.
The full story is at the Daily Mail.
Pet therapy brings comfort to hospital patients
Tracy Toth and volunteer Wilma Stubbs visit different patients throughout McDowell Hospital on Wednesdays.
By: Landdis Hollifield
Published: November 19, 2011 » Comments | Post a Comment
Every Wednesday afternoon, visitors at McDowell Hospital will notice a four-legged guest being lead to various rooms throughout the hospital.
Abbey is a therapy dog whose duty is to bring comfort and companionship to those at the medical facility.
The 3-year-old springer spaniel was rescued at an early age from a puppy mill and since then has been working with her owner Tracy Toth to help others.
Toth hopes she and her dog can make difference in the lives of others.
Abbey and I have been doing this for over a year now, said Toth. Patients really enjoy Abbey’s visits. Many of them just love rubbing her head and talking to her.
To become a therapy dog, Abbey, along with Toth, had to go through training.
The training for this program is a two part test, Toth said. I had to be tested to see how I got along with patients and Abbey had to be tested to make sure she could handle being in a hospital.
Helping Toth is volunteer Wilma Stubbs, who makes sure that patients and their rooms are prepared for a visit.
My job is to go in ahead of Tracy and Abbey and make sure patients still want them to come, then I put a sheet over their bedding and make sure that the room is ready for Abbey to come in, said Stubbs.
The therapy dog, whose part of the Paws on a Mission program, has become famous for her demeanor and many guests are pleasantly surprised at how calm she is.
Many patients enjoy the company of an animal, especially when they don’t have pets at home.
My husband would love this. I really wish he could be here right now, said Sheila Romaniello. We both really love pets and having her visit has been really nice.
At the end of every visit, Abbey makes sure to see her favorite staff members of the hospital.
Abbey and I always stop by and see different people before we leave, said Toth. I’m just glad that we can come and volunteer our time to help others.
Currently there are three therapy dogs that take turns visiting patients every Wednesday. For more information on the therapy dog program, visit mcdowellhospital.org.
Here’s an excerpt from a reader’s letter about springer spaniel training and introducing rescue dogs to others:
I just need a bit of advice on introducing Cassie to another dog. My mum has just got a rescue dog herself and although Cassie has been going to my mum’s for quite a while and has settled nicely when we are there, we are not sure on what’s the best way of introducing the dogs to each other and how soon. Rusty the newcomer has basic commands but when we went round the other day he wanted to say hello to her, I kept Cassie down the other end of the room with me. Rusty started to come up to her but she drove him off, snapping. Mind you it didn’t stop him wanting to go back – he’s only 7 months old and has been kept with other dogs in a ‘foster’ environment. He was barking a lot because he was then contained at the other end of the room.
Cassie has been ok with 2 of my friends’ dogs in their homes off her lead, she seems to ignore them and play with their toys. She came from a dogs home where she stayed for 4 months.
My reply was broadly as follows:
You don’t say whether Cassie was on heat when they first met – that could be important. Also, of course, you mentioned that the other dog is a rescue dog too, but from your note there is no unusual behaviour there.
Where do the problems lie then?
Well, if you read up on springer spaniel temperament, you’ll find that they can sometimes be aggressive with others of the same sex, though it’s not an issue here.
Also of course, there may be issues of territory – on whose ground they meet, so to speak.
Jealousy can be another factor – if she has been spoilt with affection, then she could be very defensive about letting another dog into her relationship with you.
What can you do?
Well, firstly, make sure they meet on neutral territory, and introduce them gradually. I suggest walking them together, on leashes, but kept apart. Make it a regular occurrence, and build the length of the walk from a few minutes to maybe the full regular morning or evening walk. That way they can get used to one another without territorial issues, or physical bothering. Do this when neither is in season.
Whilst you are doing it, you, as Cassie’s owner, need to avoid showing any interest in the other dog at all. Keep them apart, but if you have retractable dog leashes then you can slowly lengthen and let them interact.
Then, when they are used to one another, start giving Cassie some freedom during the walks. Gradually let her off the leash, so that she can choose whether to say hello to the other dog. That’s another week gone, maybe more – you’ll have to watch her behaviour. If she’s avoiding the issue completely and showing no interest in the other dog, then test the water gently by you showing some interest in the other dog; you’ll need to watch her reaction carefully, to see if she is sensitive about this aspect.
When things are looking good and settled between them in this way, then start to let the other dog off the leash during walks, so that they are both off. Take it gently and slowly, building up the time again. Obviously, you need to be confident that the other dog will recall to leash without problems.
You may need to go back a step at times, and take a couple of months over the process, so that nothing is rushed, and keep them apart when she is in season (and vice versa).
Then, you’ll have to deal with territory. Take Cassie to the other home, and take it slowly, with short visits. Give her time on her own in the other’s garden or yard (if there is one), and then let them have time together in this outside space, with lengthening times together. Then, when things are ok, move them indoors – again, short time periods, getting longer.
It will take patience, but if Cassie is relatively young, then she should learn well and adjust. Keep your own interest in the other dog to a minimum. Springer spaniels are smart dogs, and she may adjust quickly, as soon as she understands that there is no threat to her home or her relationship with you. There is, obviously, a very small chance that things may never work out between them, but I think that this is unlikely.
It’s mainly a matter of common sense and patience, and a focus on springer spaniel training.