English Cocker Spaniels in UK and USA/Canada have an average lifespan of 11 to 12 years, which is a typical longevity for purebred dogs, but a little less than most other breeds of their size. The English Cocker Spaniel typically lives about a year longer than the smaller American Cocker Spaniel.
In a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey, the most common causes of death were cancer (30%), old age (17%), cardiac (9%), and „combinations” (7%).
In 1998 and 2002 USA/Canada Health Surveys, the leading causes of death were old age (40%) and cancer (22%).
Common health issues with English Cockers are bite problems, skin allergies, shyness, ataracts, deafness (affecting 6.3% of the dogs of this breed), aggression towards other dogs, and benign tumours.
Some uncommon health issues that can also have an effect on English Cocker Spaniels include canine hip dysplasia, patellar lunation, canine dilated cardiomyopathy, and heart murmurs. Hip dysplasia is
an abnormal formation of the hip joint which is the most common cause of canine arthritis in the hips. Patellar Lunation, also known as luxating patella, refers to the dislocation of the kneecap. Canine dilated cardiomyopathy is an adult onset condition which occurs when the heart muscle is weak and does not contract properly. It can lead to congestive heart failure, which is where fluid accumulates in the lungs, chest, abdominal cavities, or under the skin. Dilated cardiomyopathy is often accompanied by abnormal heart rhythms, or arrhythmias which can complicate treatment.
This breed, like many others with origins as working dogs, has some genetic lines that focus on working-dog skills and other lines that focus on ensuring that the dog's appearance conforms to a breed standard; these are referred to as the "working" (or "field-bred") and "conformation" strains, respectively. After World War II, Cocker Spaniels bred for pets and for the sport of conformation showing increased enormously in popular appeal, and, for a while, was the most numerous Kennel Club registered breed. This popularity increased the view that all Cockers were useless as working dogs. However, for most dogs this is untrue, as even some show-bred Cockers have retained their working instinct.
Today, this breed is experiencing a resurgence in usage as a working and hunting dog. Dogs from working lines are noticeably distinct in appearance. As is the case with the English Springer Spaniel, the working type has been bred exclusively to perform in the field as a hunting companion. Their coat is shorter and ears less pendulous than the show-bred type. Although registered as the same breed, the two strains have diverged significantly enough that they are rarely crossed. The dogs that have dominated the hunt test, field trial and hunting scene in the United States are field-bred dogs from recently imported English lines. Working-dog lines often have physical characteristics that would prevent them from winning in the show ring. This is a result of selecting for different traits than those selected by show breeders. The longer coat and ears, selected for the show ring, are an impediment in the field. Cuban authorities train and use English Cocker Spaniels as sniffer dogs to check for drugs or food products in passengers' baggage at Cuban airports.
A field-bred cocker spaniel is first and foremost an upland flushing dog. In performing this task there are some skills the dog must be trained to perform.
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge own an English Cocker Spaniel called Lupo, and Lupo was bred from Ella, a dog owned by her parents Michael and Carole Middleton. He is a working-type English Cocker Spaniel. Lupo was born in a litter just prior to Christmas 2011, and was given to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, who at first denied owning the dog to the media.
Following the birth of Prince George of Cambridge, Lupo was featured in one of the first official photographs. He was subsequently featured in a family portrait with the Duke and Duchess and Prince George in March 2014. He has travelled with his owners to their holiday residence in Norfolk, but did not travel with them on their tour of Australia and New Zealand in 2014.
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