Common Health Issues in Cocker Spaniels

Here's what to look out for if you want a cocker spaniel Volunteer Staff

1/26/20243 min read

Ear Infections

  • Cocker spaniels are particularly susceptible to ear infections due to their distinctive long, pendulous ears. Regular cleaning, proper grooming, and prompt veterinary attention at the first sign of infection are crucial in managing this common issue. Learn More.

Skin Problems

  • Cocker spaniels are prone to various skin conditions, including allergies, dermatitis, and hot spots. Symptoms may include itching, redness, and hair loss. Identifying the underlying cause, such as allergies or parasites, is key to effective treatment. Learn more about allergies.

Eye Problems

Cocker spaniels are prone to multiple issues affecting their eyes. Owners should be sure to pay close attention to any changes to the eyes’ appearance. Here are some (but not all) problems that cocker spaniels may be prone to:

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a genetic eye disorder that can lead to vision impairment and blindness. Regular eye check-ups with a veterinarian can help detect PRA early, allowing for appropriate management and care.

  • Cataracts involve clouding of the eye's lens, affecting vision. Cocker spaniels can develop cataracts due to genetics, aging, or other factors.

  • Glaucoma is an increased pressure within the eye, which can lead to optic nerve damage and vision loss. This condition can become quite painful if left untreated. Usually, if one eye is affected, the second eye will soon follow, so be sure to continue monitoring both eyes.

  • Entropion is an eyelid condition where the eyelid rolls inward, causing irritation and potential damage to the cornea. This problem is effectively treated through surgical intervention.

  • Cherry eye: Cocker spaniels may experience a prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid, commonly known as "cherry eye." It appears as a red mass in the corner of the eye.

  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS, also known as dry eye, is common in cocker spaniels. Symptoms include squinting, thick discharge, and pawing at the face.

Autoimmune Disorders

  • Cocker spaniels may be prone to autoimmune disorders like immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) or immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (ITP). Prompt veterinary attention is essential for diagnosis and treatment.


  • Cocker spaniels may be prone to obesity. Maintaining a balanced diet, portion control, and regular exercise are vital in preventing weight-related health issues. Learn More.

Heart Disease

  • Cocker spaniels are predisposed to certain heart conditions, including mitral valve disease and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Regular veterinary check-ups, a heart-healthy diet, and appropriate medications can help manage heart issues.

Liver Disease

  • Liver problems, such as hepatic failure or portosystemic shunt, can affect cocker spaniels. Monitoring liver function through blood tests and dietary management is essential in supporting liver health.

Orthopedic Issues

  • Cocker spaniels may be prone to orthopedic conditions like luxating patellas or elbow dysplasia. Regular vet check-ups and appropriate exercise can contribute to joint health.

  • Hip dysplasia can also be a problem for cocker spaniels. This hereditary condition involves the malformation of the hip joint, leading to arthritis and discomfort. Maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, and providing joint supplements can help manage the symptoms associated with hip dysplasia.

Thyroid Disease

  • Hypothyroidism in cocker spaniels is a relatively common endocrine disorder characterized by insufficient production of thyroid hormones. This condition often manifests in weight gain, lethargy, skin issues, and a decrease in overall activity levels. Learn More.


While cocker spaniels are generally robust and adaptable, awareness of breed-specific health issues is crucial for responsible pet ownership. Regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet, and proactive care can significantly contribute to the overall well-being of these charming dogs. By staying informed and addressing health concerns promptly, owners can ensure that their cocker spaniels lead long, happy lives full of tail wags and companionship.


Cocker Spaniels, with their expressive eyes and affectionate nature, make wonderful companions. However, like all dog breeds, Cocker Spaniels are prone to certain health issues that owners should be aware of. Understanding these common health concerns can help pet parents provide the best care and ensure their furry friends lead happy, healthy lives.