The Cocker Spaniel Club

 

HEALTH & WELFARE

As with any popular breed of dog, a number of hereditary conditions are occasionally seen in the Cocker Spaniel. The Cocker Spaniel Club has been monitoring the health of the breed for many years to ensure the incidence of these conditions is kept as low as possible.

A Report A Health Condition form is available on the Cocker Spaniel Breed Council's Website HERE for owners to report health conditions in their dogs (in the strictest confidence). By identifying any ongoing or prevalent problems in our breed, it is hoped that action can be taken to prevent these becoming common-place by instigating interest and research into those conditions.

EYE CONDITIONS

PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) is an inherited eye disease found in many breeds of dogs with varying ages of onset. There are various types of PRA but the one most commonly seen in Cockers is GPRA (General Progressive Retinal Atrophy) also known as prcd-PRA. This results in night blindness gradually leading to total blindness. In Cockers, PRA has a variable age of onset, from as early as 18 months to as late as 7 years. It is inherited as a simple Autosomal Recessive gene, meaning that a copy of the PRA gene must be inherited from both parents for the disease to occur. With recessive conditions like PRA, there are 3 genetic categories, affected, normal and carriers. Affected animals have two copies of the faulty PRA gene, one inherited from each parent. Carrier animals have one faulty copy of the PRA gene but appear perfectly healthy and cannot be distinguished from normal dogs by eye screening. Normal animals are entirely free of the faulty gene. The difficulty was that until recent years breeders had no way of identifying which category their breeding stock fell into as the only screening test available in the UK (eye testing by a BVA Panellist) could only determine if a dog was clinically clear of the disease at the time of testing. It could not determine whether the dog was a carrier or whether the dog would go on to develop the disease at some time in the future. For some time, a marker gene test for prcd-PRA had been available from the American company, Optigen which gave a good indication of the status of dogs tested. Optigen then identified the mutation gene which causes prcd-PRA in English Cockers and this test then became available to breeders in the UK & Europe as well as in the US, enabling breeders to identify whether their dogs are genetically clear, carriers or affected with the disease.

DNA testing for prcd_PRA in the UK is now available as part of the Kennel Club Combi Breed Health Package or from companies such as Laboklin

Dogs which have been prcd_PRA DNA tested as either Carriers or Affecteds should only be mated to dogs which have been DNA tested as Clear/Normal to avoid producing affected progeny. More information on breeding strategies for autosomal recessive conditions such as prcd_PRA can be found HERE.

A list of Cocker Spaniels which have tested as Clear, Carrier or Affected of prcd_PRA can be found on the Kennel Club website HERE (pdf)

Retinal Pigment Epithelial Dystrophy (RPED): This is the condition previously known as CPRA (Central Progressive Retinal Atrophy). Recent research has shown that this disease in Cockers is associated with an inherited metabolic inability to circulate Vitamin E around the dog's system. This results in a central loss of vision but not usually total blindness (affected dogs still maintain peripheral vision). Supplementation with Vitamin E can apparently help in stopping further development of the condition. It is not yet known exactly how this genetic defect is inherited and no DNA test is currently available.

Primary Glaucoma: This is a very painful condition caused by a build up of internal fluid pressure in the eye due to an inherited abnormality of the drainage angle. An affected dog will go blind (and surgery to remove the affected eye or eyes is often necessary). Predisposition to Glaucoma can be determined by the Gonioscopy test as part of the BVA/KC eye testing scheme. Current advice is that gonioscopy is performed at approximately 1, 4 and 7-8 years of age, The BVA/KC/ISDS Eye Scheme is currently trialling a pilot scheme of gonioscopy grading which allows for more informed breeding decisions. Under this pilot scheme, dogs are either classified as Grade 0 (unaffected), Grade 1 (mildly affected), Grade 2 (moderately affected) or Grade 3 (severely affected). For more information, click HERE for an explanatory article from the Kennel Club.

It is advised that all breeders should annually eye test their breeding stock under the KC/BVA scheme and make use of the available DNA test for prcd_PRA to identify carriers and affected dogs prior to breeding. Information on the clinical eye testing scheme as well as a list of BVA Eye Panellists can be found at https://www.bva.co.uk/Canine-Health-Schemes/Eye-scheme/

Other eye conditions are also occasionally seen in Cockers such as cataracts, persistent pupillary membrane, distichiasis (extra eye lashes), entropion (ingrowing eyelids) and ectropion (sagging, loose eyelids)

FAMILIAL NEPHROPATHY

Familial Nephropathy (FN), a fatal kidney disease in young Cockers, was unfortunately quite prevalent in the breed in the 1980's until research instigated by The Cocker Spaniel Club established that this was a hereditary condition with a simple recessive mode of inheritance (as with PRA). A Control Scheme was set up by The Cocker Club in the mid 1980's under which, all dogs & bitches known to have produced confirmed cases of FN were withdrawn from breeding and details of these carrier animals were published & made available to members & other breeders so that sensible decisions could be made in the selection of breeding stock. The success of this Control Scheme could be demonstrated by the fact that in the years prior to the development of the DNA test for FN, only a small number of confirmed cases were reported. Today's breeders happily have access to the DNA test for FN which identifies carriers of the gene allowing breeders to have certainty when planning their litters

The Kennel Club publishes a list of Cockers DNA tested as Clear or Carriers for FN HERE (pdf)

Dogs which have been DNA tested as Carriers of this disease should only be mated to dogs which have been tested as Clear/Normal to avoid producing affected puppies. More information on breeding strategies for autosomal recessive conditions such as FN can be found HERE.

DNA testing for FN is now available in the UK as part of the Kennel Club Combi Breed Health Package or from companies such as Laboklin

ACRAL MUTILATION SYNDROME (AMS)

This condition is seen in puppies (only Working lines to date) and results in lesions on distal extremities caused by self-mutilation, featuring loss of sensivity to pain on distal limbs, tendency to lick or bite their own pads, resulting in auto-amputation of claws, digits and footpads in severe cases; however there is no limping.

The condition is inherited as a simple Autosomal Recessive gene, meaning that a copy of the AMS gene must be inherited from both parents for the disease to occur. With recessive conditions like AMS, there are 3 genetic categories, affected, normal and carriers. There is now a DNA test for this condition which enables breeders to identify whether their dogs are carriers prior to breeding. As with any other recessive gene, Carriers must only be mated to dogs tested Normal (ie clear) to avoid producing affected progeny.

A list of Cocker Spaniels tested as Clears, Carriers or Affected can be found on the Kennel Club website HERE (pdf)

DNA Testing for AMS (Acral Mutilation Syndrome):

DNA testing for AMS can be purchased as part of the Kennel Club Combi Breed Health package for Cocker Spaniels (also includes testing for prcd_PRA and FN). More information HERE

Other sources:

https://www.laboklin.co.uk/laboklin/showGeneticTest.jsp?testID=8038

Further information from the Field Trial Section Committee in the links below:

AMS

AMS Update April 2016

ADULT ONSET NEUROPATHY (AN)

AN is another Autosomal Recessive condition seen in some older Cockers (typically aged 7-9). It is a progressive weakness due to a neuropathy which results initially in a wobbly or uncoordinated gait affecting the hind limbs (the stance is wide and hocks will drop lower to the ground). As the condition advances, the front legs are also affected so that the dog is unable to walk and difficulties in swallowing are also seen (progression takes 3 to 4 years). A DNA test has been developed in the USA by the University of Missouri and is now available from the Orthopaedic Foundation of America:

https://www.ofa.org/diseases/dna-tested-diseases/adult-onset-neuropathy

This condition was initially thought to affect only solid Cockers but carriers have now been detected in all colours in the USA and other countries. As with any other Autosomal Recessive condition, a copy of the AN gene must be inherited from both parents for the disease to occur. With recessive conditions like AN, there are 3 genetic categories, affected, normal and carriers. Breeders can use the available DNA test to ensure that Carriers/Affected dogs are only mated to Normal (Clear) dogs to avoid producing affected progeny.

A list of Cocker Spaniels tested as Clear or Carriers can be found on the Kennel Club website HERE (pdf)

More information can be found on the Kennel Club website HERE

UK DNA TESTING SERVICES

The Kennel Club offers a combined DNA test for prcd-PRA, FN and AMS via their website for £135 (10% discount for Assured Breeders). More information on the Combi Breed Health Testing packages can be found HERE

A similar combined bundle is available from Laboklin (discount also available for KC Assured Breeders)

NB: DNA testing for AON (Adult Onset Neuropathy) is NOT available in the UK and samples must be sent to OFA in the USA (see link in the AON section above)

HIP DYSPLASIA

Hip Dysplasia (abnormal development of the hip joint) is generally associated with bigger breeds of dog but it can be found in any breed, including Cockers. It can cause lameness & pain in severe cases or produce no noticeable symptoms in minor cases. HD does not have a simple pattern of inheritance (it is a polygenic condition meaning it is controlled by several different genes) and whether an animal will develop HD is also influenced by external factors such as diet and exercise. At present, the incidence of HD in the breed is being monitored to determine if there is a problem. A relatively small number (in comparison to the total number of annual registrations) of Cockers in the UK have been hip-scored to date producing a current breed median score of 10. More information on the Kennel Club/BVA Hip Scoring scheme can be found at https://www.bva.co.uk/canine-health-schemes/hip-scheme/

AUTO-IMMUNE DISEASE

Auto-Immune Disease is an umbrella name and covers different immune-mediated diseases of the dog, such as Addisons Disease, Hypothyroidism, Haemolytic Anaemia and others.

Auto-immune problems appear in all the dog population pure bred and otherwise, although some breeds appear to be predisposed to certain conditions. Cockers & Springers have been linked to Haemolytic Anaemia (IMHA) and current research may indicate that the problem is inherited. Information on this condition and the current research study can be found HERE. It seems that environment, age and sex play an important role in an animal developing an auto-immune condition. Research is continuing & The Cocker Club will carry on monitoring the situation.

CHRONIC PANCREATITIS

As a result of studies at the Queen's Veterinary School, University of Cambridge, it has been found that some Cocker spaniels suffer from an unusual form of chronic pancreatitis. This results in bouts of sickness, diarrhoea and abdominal pain and, in some dogs, the development of diabetes mellitus. Clinical details and blood samples from affected dogs are being collected by Penny Watson at Cambridge to help with further genetic studies and find a better diagnostic test. It is hoped that the results of these studies will help in the diagnosis and treatment of this condition in Cocker spaniels in the future.

Information Sheet on Pancreatitis (PDF file)

If you have a Cocker Spaniel who has been diagnosed with the condition and currently being medicated and would like to help in the research, we would be grateful if you would complete the questionnaire part of the form by copying and pasting the questions and replies into an email and sending them to either Penny Watson at Cambridge or Carol West, KC Breed Health Coordinator.

 

 

 

 

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