ENGLISH SPRINGER SPANIEL HEALTH ISSUES AND SCHEMES
The English Springer is a generally healthy and long lived breed (12-14 years on average), but like all dog breeds, there are some inherited diseases to be aware of and some general health issues. We use all the health testing schemes available to reduce the risk of inherited disease as well as choosing outwardly healthy dogs to breed from.
BVA/KC/ISDS Eye Scheme – including gonioscopy
The BVA/KC/International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS) Eye Scheme offers breeders the possibility of eye testing to screen for inherited eye disease, including glaucoma in certain breeds. By screening breeding stock for these diseases, breeders can use the information to eliminate or reduce the frequency of eye disease being passed on to puppies. Puppies can also be litter screened for certain conditions before sale (Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia, Generalised Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Centralised Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Glaucoma are all thought to be inherited in English Springer Spaniels.
Gonioscopy is used to detect goniodysgenesis (defective development of the drainage angle); an abnormality of the eye which predisposes to primary angle closure/closed angle glaucoma. Goniodysgenesis is now graded from 0-3; where 0 is a normal angle, 1, is mildly affected, 2 is moderately affected and 3 is severely affected. Current advice is that gonioscopy is performed at approximately 1, 4 and 7-8 years of age.
AMS – Acral Mutilation Syndrome
AMS is the self-mutilation of limb extremities linked with located insensitivity to pain. Clinical signs include severe licking of footpads and paws to the point of bleeding and ulceration, sometimes down to the bone. Age of onset ranges from 3 to 12 months. The condition is incurable and usually results in euthanasia.
Canine Fucosidosis (Fuco) is a disease which is severe, progressive and ultimately fatal. It is characterised by deteriorating signs of the nervous system that progress over a period of several months, sometimes from an early age. Signs include uncoordination and ataxia (loss of control of movement), change in temperament, loss of learned behaviour, loss of balance, apparent deafness, visual impairment and varying degrees of depression. The disease, which affects young adults, usually between 18 months and 4 years of age, is caused by a recessive mutation in the gene for the enzyme alpha-L-fucosidase. This enzyme is one of many required to break down complex compounds into simple molecules that the body can use. In affected dogs, those carrying two copies of the mutant gene, this enzyme is absent, the pathway is blocked and toxic compounds build up in the cells of the affected animal. The cells of the nervous system are particularly sensitive to these toxic intermediates.
Generalised progressive retinal atrophy – cord-1
Generalised progressive retinal atrophy (gPRA) is a disease of the retina. This tissue, located inside the back of the eye, contains specialized cells called photoreceptors that absorb the light focused on them by the eye’s lens, and converts this light into electrical nerve signals which are then interpreted by the brain as vision. These photoreceptors are divided into two groups; the cones which aid bright light and colour vision, and the rods which facilitate low light or night vision. The cord-1 mutation is recessive mutation which causes both cone and rod degeneration resulting in initial night blindness, but usually progressing to total blindness in affected dogs. The effects of this mutation were initially believed to result in an early onset form of PRA, typically with an age of onset around two years of age, but more recent results show that some dogs with two copies of this mutation are not diagnosed until much later in life, sometimes as late as 10 years of age.
BVA/KC Hip Dysplasia Scheme
Dysplasia means abnormal development, and 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 use only breeding stock with scores below the breed mean score. The minimum age for hip scoring is one year, and each dog is only ever scored once under the scheme. It is generally accepted that hip dysplasia is more common in larger breeds, but any dog of any breed can be scored under the scheme.
Phosphofructokinase deficiency is an inherited disease which leads to a lack of the enzyme, phosphofructokinase. Without the phosphofructokinase enzyme, muscle cells and erythrocytes are not able to produce enough adequate energy for their needs. Therefore, affected dogs display the following intermittent, clinical signs: weakness, lethargy, exercise intolerance, poor performance, muscle cramps, anaemia, jaundice and dark-coloured urine. Dark-coloured urine, a hallmark of this disorder, usually appears after strenuous exercise or after excessive barking, panting or heat exposure and is caused by the destruction of the erythrocytes. The mutation in the phosphofructokinase gene is a recessive mutation.
Other Health Issues
Incomplete Ossification of the Humeral Condyle is believed to be inherited in English Springers. This weakness in the elbow joint can lead to fractures. There is no screening test for this disorder but we are not aware that any of our dogs’ relatives have suffered from the condition. Medial coronoid disease is also seen in English Springers so our younger dogs have been elbow graded. Due to their pendulous ear flaps, spaniels can be prone to ear infections unless the ears are checked and cleaned regularly. Due to their hairy feet, spaniels are at risk of grass seeds penetrating the feet unless the feet are regularly checked and trimmed.
Tail Docking and Dew Claw Removal
Our dogs work very hard in thick Sussex bramble and therefore we strongly believe that it is less cruel to remove a portion of a puppies tail at a few days old, than to risk damage and amputation as an adult. All our dogs are legally docked; removing about a third of the tail to reduce the risk of injury while leaving plenty of tail for communication. We prefer to leave the front dew claws on our dogs to help them grip food and climb. There are also some concerns that removing the dew claws reduces the stability of the carpus (wrist) joint leading to earlier arthritis. We keep the claws trimmed to reduce the risk of injury.