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How to care for a Cocker Spaniel

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The health of your Cocker spaniel is important and his healthcare routine should begin when your spaniel is young and should last throughout his lifetime.

Before you get your puppy I would suggest that you identify a local veterinarian who will be able to vaccinate your puppy and look after his health needs as he grows up. If you are getting your puppy from a breeder local to you then it would be best to use the same vet as the breeder.

Early days

When your puppy comes home you should make arrangements for him to visit the vet soon so that he can be checked over and arrangements can be made for his vaccinations to begin.

The vet will check your puppy thoroughly and will also recommend a worming regime which will involve you giving the puppy a tablet on a regular basis to prevent the formation of any worms in his gut.

This is important as worms can harm a puppy in his early development so you should speak to the vet about this.

One thing on worms – good luck giving your dog the tablets.

Hand dosing a dog or puppy is great fun.

Dogs seem to enjoy spitting the tablet out or grabbing it between their teeth and pretending that they’ve swallowed it.

My spaniels are both experts at avoiding the tablets.

I’ve mixed them into dog food, they eat the food and the only thing left in the bowl is the tablet.

I’ve wrapped the tablet in cheese – Cockers love cheese, they eat the cheese and then spit the tablet out.

I went through almost half a pound of cheese last time wormers were due.

Some dogs will happily take tablets and eat them, whereas others will do anything possible to avoid taking them.

If you have difficulty then it’s worth asking your vet if they have liquid based options, instead of tablets, that can be easily administered by a syringe.

how to care for a cocker spaniel
Medicines that can be given by syringe are often the best option for many dogs

Exercising your Cocker Spaniel

Plenty of exercise combined with a good diet are two of the key things that will affect the health of your Cocker spaniel.

Feeding a good, meat based protein diet to your spaniel will ensure that he has the required nutrients and protein that he needs to be strong and healthy.

Healthy Cocker puppies are a lively bunch and have lots of energy that needs to be expended through exercise.

This is true of any breed of dog that has working blood. 

I had two English Springer spaniels and once took them on a sponsored walk in aid of charity around the hills not far from where we live.

The ‘walk’ was 18 miles in distance and was uphill and down dale.

In all it took 6 hours to complete and, when I got home, I was dropping.

The dogs, who had probably done double the distance that I had ( due to them running around off the lead) went into their kennel while I made a warm drink.

After five minutes I went out to their kennel and asked them if ‘ they wanted to go for a walk’ – they flew out and started running around the garden at top speed as though they hadn’t been out at all.

Spaniels – particularly working dogs – have been bred for long, tough days in the field and they won’t be happy or at peak health if they aren’t exercised enough.

To prevent anxiety and problems such as barking or howling, exercise should be a top priority, a tired dog will sleep.

How to care for a Cocker Spaniel
All dogs require good amounts of regular, free running exercise

Give your spaniel regular checks

As a responsible spaniel owner you’ll want to check your dog over regularly to make sure that all is well.

Not only will you be looking after your dog but you’ll also be getting him used to being handled so stroking, grooming and regular once overs should be part of the daily routine.

Once a week, or more frequently if you have been out working with him, you should be checking his eyes, paws, ears, teeth and nails.

Check his eyes

Your spaniel’s eyes should be checked for redness, soreness or inflammation or any other signs of injury of objects.

A dog with a sore eye will rub it with his paws and will often lick his paw and then wipe his eye.

If you live in an area that has high levels of grass seeds in the summer months then, if your spaniel runs through the grass, there is a strong chance that he will get grass seeds in his eyes.

Cockers seem to be afflicted by this more than other spaniels probably due to their lower height and the way that they charge through cover.

Boris suffers badly from grass seeds in his eyes and I have to be careful where I exercise him in the summer.

When he was a puppy he suffered a scratched cornea which caused him a lot of pain and discomfort, from grass seed. 

So take care when grass is in seed with your Cocker and other dogs.

How to care for a Cocker Spaniel
Eyes should be checked for grass seeds and other debris

Check your spaniel’s ears regularly

All breeds of spaniel have long ears that, if not clean, can be breeding grounds for bacteria, which can cause a whole host of problems.

One of my Springers, Bess, suffered greatly from ear infections, and it was a constant challenge to keep her ears clean to prevent infections from developing.

Just as with the eyes, things such as grass and other bits of dirt and debris, can enter the ears and be held there by the long, floppy ear. 

You should check your spaniel’s ears regularly, and always after a walk in long grass.

You need to look for any discharge, wax or unpleasant smell.

If you find any of these signs then, you should be thinking about getting your dog to the vet’s, at the very least you need to very carefully clean the ear with a moistened ball of cotton wool.

Healthy ears will be a nice pale colour, clean looking with no smell.

If your dog is having ear problems then chances are you’ll see him shaking his head violently in his efforts to get rid of the discomfort.

Look at his paws

A spaniel with sore paws will constantly lick the affected area and probably limp when he walks.

You should inspect your spaniel’s paws for cuts, foreign objects, cracks and other damage if he shows symptoms.

Once again grass seeds are the main culprit, along with thorns and other sharp pieces of debris.

We live in an area where there is a lot of holly and blackthorn, often the thorns can be so sharp that they can puncture bike tyres.

On occasion the dogs have got thorns in their paws, which I am sure is painful.

So, inspect your spaniel’s paws and pads.

You should pay special attention to the areas between the pads and toes and the webbed area, all of which are hard to see.

Gently pull the pads and toes apart to check for infections and damage and remove carefully any grass seeds or thorns. 

Spaniel’s Teeth and Gums

Most spaniel puppies lose their first teeth at around four to six months of age which is also when their adult teeth begin to appear.

This article deals with a spaniel’s teeth in more detail.

Most puppies will experience discomfort around this time and you should provide him with something to chew on.

A good ‘aid’ that I have used and recommend is to get a small towel, wet it, and place it into the freezer.

When it has frozen, wrap it into a knot, and give it to the puppy to chew.

The coldness will be a comfort for him.

It has worked well for me with my puppies.

When adult teeth come through you should be checking for any broken or lose teeth and any signs of discolouration or other damage/infection.

Throughout your dog’s life you should help him to keep his teeth clean.

Oral hygiene is as important for your dog as it is for you.

Things such as bones or treats such as Dentastix, are ideal for keeping teeth clean.

You can also try brushing your dog’s teeth, but, as this can quickly become a wrestling match, I prefer the bones option.

How to care for a Cocker Spaniel
Regular inspections of teeth can help to prevent problems such as tooth decay

Final Words

From puppy through to older dog you will need to care properly for your spaniel.

Although there are lots of resources to help, your vet is always the most qualified and best source of advice and information.

If you take care of the basics with good food, plenty of fresh air and exercise and check your dog regularly then trips to the vet’s will be kept to a minimum and your dog will have a good and healthy life.

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