Having watched a programme on TV about Pedigree Dogs and the horrendous diseases that can be passed onto puppies if the parents carry certain genes, I thought I should find out which diseases affect Cocker Spaniels and if my dog could pass anything nasty on to her puppies.
My first stop was the Cocker Spaniel Breed Council website. This was really helpful and gave me all the following information:
The Cocker Spaniel is generally a healthy breed with no major problems.
However there are some inherited conditions that do affect the breed. The most significant conditions are PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy), and FN (Familial Nethropathy or shrunken kidney) which are both recessive (meaning both parents must carry the faulty gene to produce affected progeny). Some Hip Dysplasia is also seen in the breed. Hip Dysplasia is more complex and it is likely that several different genes are involved. It is also likely that environmental factors (exercise, growth rate, nutrition) play a contributory role in the development of the disease.
Kennel Club health schemes, as listed below, have been set up to help breeders try to eradicate some of these problems.
Kennel Club /British Veterinary Association eye test for Glaucoma, Generalised PRA, and Centralised PRA. This is a requirement for all people breeding for both the dog and bitch on an annual basis. Only animals tested clear should be bred from. This test is performed by one of the recommended panel of eye specialists. More information on the eye scheme and a list of eye panellists can be found at www.bva.co.uk/canine_health_schemes/Eye_Scheme.aspx
There is also now a DNA test for GPRA (also known as prcd-PRA) which is available from the American company, Optigen. It is a one-off test done from a small sample of the dog’s blood, which is sent away to the US for analysis, resulting in the dog being declared clear, a carrier, or affected with the disease. This is now a recommended test for Cocker breeders who are members of the Kennel Club Accredited Breeder Scheme. For more information on the Optigen test, visit www.optigen.com
Kennel Club/British Veterinary Association Hip Scoring scheme, recommended by the Kennel Club for all dogs and bitches prior to being bred from. This is a one off X-ray done by any veterinary surgeon under anesthetic, usually performed before the age of 18 months, and then submitted to one of the Kennel Club’s panel of assessors. When a dog is hip scored, the degree of hip dysplasia present is indicated by a score assigned to each hip. The hip score is the sum of the points awarded for each of nine aspects of the X-rays of both hip joints. The minimum hip score is 0 and the maximum is 106 (53 for each hip). The lower the score the less the degree of hip dysplasia present. An average (or mean) score is calculated for all breeds scored under the scheme and advice for breeders is to only breed from dogs with scores well below the breed mean score. The current breed mean score for Cockers is 14 (as at November 2008).
More information on the Hip Dysplasia scheme can be found at www.bva.co.uk/canine_health_schemes/Hip_Scheme.aspx
FN is a recessively inherited disease which leads to kidney failure in affected Cockers typically between 6 and 24 months of age. In May 2006, it was announced that the research team at Texas A&M University had located the gene mutation which causes FN in Cockers and a gene test has now been developed. The French company, Antagene has the exclusive licence to offer the FN test to owners and breeders in Europe. Information on pricing and how to obtain sampling kits can be found at http://www.antagene.com More detailed information about FN and the American research can be found at http://www.ecsca.org/
Another useful link for information on the Cocker Spaniel breed can be found at www.thecockerspanielclub.co.uk/health.htm