Cocker Spaniel Breed Council


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 (every 3 years for predisposition to Glaucoma). 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

There is 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 required test for Cocker breeders who are members of the Kennel Club Accredited Breeder Scheme. For more information on the Optigen test, visit It is also possible to carry out this test using Antagene in France:


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 10 (as at December 2016).

More information on the Hip Dysplasia scheme can be found at


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 . More detailed information about FN and the American research can be found at


Research is currently being conducted into the incidence of this condition in Cocker Spaniels and other related breeds. If you would like more information or would like to assist in this research, please click HERE


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.


Adult Onset Neuropathy (AN)
A progressive weakness due to a neuropathy has been recognized as an autosomal recessive, hereditary disorder in English Cocker Spaniels by the research team at the University of Missouri Animal Molecular Genetic Lab. Clinical signs typically begin between 7.5 and 9 years of age and consist first of an uncoordinated gait or wobbling in the hind limbs. The stance in the hind limbs is wide-base and the hocks will drop lower to the ground. The weakness eventually progresses to also involve the front limbs. When dogs become non-ambulatory in all limbs, difficulty in swallowing also becomes apparent. The neurologic signs seem to progress slowly and gradually over 3 to 4 years. A DNA test is now available from Laboklin in the UK


Acral Mutilation Syndrome (AMS)
This distressing condition is seen in puppies of working line Cockers (to date) resulting in lesions 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. A DNA test for this recessive condition is now available in the UK from the Animal Health Trust, enabling breeders to avoid mating carriers of this disease to other carriers.