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 spaniel health issues and problems (as with most other pets) can be divided into several categories:
2. Physical Development
4. Accident-related and day-to-day problems
For convenience, I include ‘congenital’ under hereditary (congenital means ‘present at birth but not hereditary’). Any serious congenital problem would result in the early death of the pup, so you will not meet such conditions unless you are breeding springers, and even then it is unlikely.
The main hereditary problems that springers face are hip dysplasia and eye problems. Hip dysplasia (malformation of the hip joint) can be screened for in early life, and the parents are often a good indicator of this. Eye problems – retinal dysplasia can be scanned for when a pup, but progressive atrophy can skip generations and is harder to test for. Canine Fucosidosis (a metabolic disorder), which appeared in the 1990’s, has been largely bred out now.
Though not technically a hereditary problem, ear infections are fairly common in Springers, because of their floppy ears.
Because springer spaniels are such energetic and fun-loving animals, then owners have to be careful not to give them too much exercise when their bones, joints and ligaments are developing. Yes, they love to ‘spring’, but it should not be encouraged before about a year old; they will in any case jump of their own accord. Other forms of exercise should be controlled too, in line with their age and development.
The main problems here are due to overfeeding and/or lack of exercise, the solutions to which are obvious.
Some authorities suggest that springers have an increased risk of ‘diabetes mellitus’ in common with about 18 other breeds. This is sugar diabetes and is most common in dogs in middle to old age.
Accidents and Day-to-Day Issues
Apart from ticks, diarrhoea and the normal dog-type problems, springers often swallow stones – they sometimes retrieve a bit too much! Most will come through naturally, but might require the services of a veterinarian for a big stone.
Hunting dogs are attracted to ‘game’, and that can lead to disease when rats are involved. Weils’s disease (leptospirosis) is caught from rats, but like Adenovirus and Distemper, his vaccinations should provide protection.
Snake bites can be a problem in some areas and if you live a long way from a veterinarian then a pet ‘medicine chest’ might be an idea.
One final point. Dogs often regurgitate their food (‘bring it back up’) as part of their digestive process. It is normal, and although unpleasant to see them eating it again, that too is normal. It does not always mean that they are ill or have eaten something rotten. If regurgitation is a very common occurrence though, then discuss it with your veterinarian.
You know your dog best, and if you think that he is ‘out of sorts’ then that is the best indicator of a problem. Has he done anything unusual or has he been anywhere that he wouldn’t normally go? Have you changed his food or routine? All these may give you clues before you take him to the pet hospital.
Think about taking out Pet Health Insurance – good policies will even cover your dog for surgery. As always, read the small print!