Navigation: Home/Health


Breed Health Conservation Plan
The Kennel Club working with the three breed clubs has recently produced the Breed Health Conservation Plan. The plan identifies common traits and health issues within the breed that are being detected not just by breeders, but through insurance and veterinary data also both in the UK and overseas.
The BHCP should be considered in terms of breeding and understanding what issues breeders should be considering in terms of testing, but also in terms of avoiding introducing such issues into their breeding programme to the best of their ability. The priority conditions identified for our breed are as follows (2019 - 2021):
1. Hereditary Cataracts
2. Liver Problems
3. Thyroid associated disorders
4. Temperaments in some lines
The breed club also advise caution in terms of length of back, lack of length of rib and length in loin which if not balanced appropriately could contribute to structure related spinal problems in the future.

Inherited Cataract Study January 2019 Report
-- Cataracts appear in age groups of 2-5 and 5-9. Inheritance is more complex than originally thought - this was presented previously in reports and podcasts from Dr. Aguirre
-- Optigen is no longer involved in the study since their sale to MARS. There is a new form to use and new contacts are given for questions, etc. The study is not affected.
-- Although the University continues to seek new entrants into the study and urgently wants updates to those currently in the study - they finally have a candidate group of dogs that they can use for genetic testing. For the first time they can finally embark on the final leg of the research in hopes of finding links to cataract inheritance.
-- That final leg will include sequencing the whole genome of several cases and controls. By comparing the results, the goal will be to identify and confirm candidate regions on the genome where genetic variations occur. Once done, a deeper analysis of the variants will be possible.
The PDF report can be read here.

The breed health coordinator for American Cockers is Mrs Glenys Harrison (Committee Member for American Cocker Spaniel Club of Great Britain). Please email if you have any concerns.

As is the case in humans, almost every type of dog suffers from some form of medical condition or another. In the American Cocker Spaniel the primary weakness relates to the eyes. Responsible breeders do everything they can to minimise these ailments, but prospective owners should be aware of what they are, and of what must be done to reduce potential problems.

There are four conditions to which the American Cocker is susceptible. These are:
(a) Goniodysgenesis (G).This is the predisposing abnormality to primary angle-closure glaucoma. Glaucoma is not that common in the breed but when it does occur can be very painful and lead to blindness;
(b) Generalised Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA);
(c) Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia (RD);
(d) Hereditary Cataract (HC).

Without doubt the most difficult of these four in terms of eradication from the breed is HC. All four conditions must be tested for on a regular basis using specifically qualified veterinary examiners. However, whereas G & RD can normally be identified fairly early on in life, and a test exists to indicate a predisposition towards PRA, HC can appear without warning at any age. It is this which makes HC so difficult to deal with in terms of breeding programmes. It is hoped that current DNA research will soon be able to identify affected or ‘carrier’ dogs earlier than waiting for the present conventional eye examination. HC is no respecter of colour, and can appear in just as many ‘parti’ as solid coloured dogs.

The sound advice to breeders of American Cockers is not to breed from affected animals, their parents, siblings or progeny. It is a fact that any dog affected by HC has parents which are both carriers of the disease, or that one or both of the parents are themselves affected or may become affected. While many dogs with HC do not lose their sight completely and may live long and happy lives as pets, affected or potential ‘carrier’ dogs should be removed from any breeding programme. Testing for the conditions in the UK should be carried out at least annually by a qualified panellist of the KC/BVA/ISDS Eye Scheme. (Kennel Club/British Veterinary Association/International Sheepdog Society). Results are published quarterly in the Kennel Club Breed Records Supplement.

Buy your puppy from a reputable breeder of American Cocker Spaniels, preferably one who is listed with the Kennel Club under the KC Assured Breeder Scheme. Assured Breeders will have given an undertaking to the KC on standards in breeding and husbandry, including a commitment to eye testing. If they fail in their commitment they will be removed from Assured Breeder status. Before taking on the breed, talk to someone who knows about it, possibly via one of the breed clubs. Most importantly, never ever make a purchase without first seeing current eye certificates showing passes for both parents. It is also very desirable that you continue with regular tests yourself, especially if you ever intend to breed. Details of Assured Breeders and eye examiners can be obtained from the Kennel Club either on their website at or by phoning 0844-463-3980.

Always remember, you don’t own this delightful breed – you are only borrowing it during your lifetime. Please, please take great care of it for the benefit of those who will come after you.
(Written by Bill Bunce on behalf of the Home Counties American Cocker Club October 2011)

Navigation: Home/Health