Caring for a Cocker Spaniel
Coat, ears and teeth need to be cleaned regularly with Cocker Spaniels to keep them healthy. The long, pendulous ears on Cocker Spaniels are prone to ear infections if they are not cleaned on at least a weekly basis. Some Cocker Spaniels may need their ears cleaned 2-3 times per week. While playing with or brushing your Cocker Spaniel, lift the ear flap and sniff the ear. If it smells clean, it is healthy. If it has an odd smell, an infection may be present and needs to be treated with a liquid cleaner available at the vet's office. If the infection is moderate to severe, it may need antibiotics. If left untreated, it is possible for the infection to lead to deafness, so you will need to stay on top of this for the life of the dog.
Some Cocker Spaniels have genetically bad teeth that they will lose at a young age if the teeth are not brushed daily and professionally cleaned at least annually. There are cleaners that can be squirted in their mouth or added to the water to prevent the plaque and tartar from forming on the teeth; however, their teeth still need to be brushed at least several times each week. Good nutrition is really, really important! Cocker Spaniels often suffer from food allergy. A diet that agrees with the dog and doesn't cause allergy is our first line of defense to prevent ear infections and problems with the skin/coat. These foods may cost a little more than other brands, but you will save money in vet bills and your Cocker Spaniel be healthier and happier in the long run. Some of the foods we recommend are the following:
- Diamond Naturals-available at Tomlinson's
- 4Health-available at Tractor Supply Co.
- Kirkland's and Nature's Domain-both available at Costco
- Natural Balance Ultra Original- available at Petco
- Blue Buffalo- available at PetsMart
Sticking with a diet that is wheat free will help a great deal in reducing the number of yeast infections in the ears. High quality kibble rarely has wheat. Try searching the Internet using the keywords "grading dog food" to find numerous websites that offer a formula to grade kibble. Some sites have a listing of various popular brands of dog food to make it easy to compare quality. We have found another site called The Dog Food Project that debunks the formula used to grade kibble and offers practical advice and articles on dog food and nutrition that you may find helpful.
Another option is to feed raw meat and vegetables, which are part of the canine's diet in nature. Again, search the internet using the keywords "raw diets for dogs" and read up on the numerous websites that offer advice, articles, recipes and other information on how to feed a natural diet to your dogs. Here is one website that lists an FAQ that you may find helpful in learning about a raw, natural diet for your dog.
Not only is what you feed important but the quantity is just as important. Even if a Cocker Spaniel is fed highly nutritional feed, he/she can still become over weight quickly when the quantity being fed is too high. On average, a Cocker Spaniel may need approximately ½ cup of food in the morning and in the evening. This will depend on his activity level, his age, his size and his own metabolism. If he has a high metabolism he may eat more and still maintain a good weight. It is better to error on the side of caution when feeding from the start. It will be easier to put a bit of weight on your Cocker Spaniel later on if he's too thin. If you over feed him, it is difficult to get the weight off, just like it is with humans!
Cocker Spaniels are quite athletic and still retain their original instincts for hunting small game and retrieving, so they are very interested in birds, squirrels, rabbits and other small wildlife that may cross their path and will chase them when possible. A fenced yard is an excellent idea if you plan to have your Cocker Spaniel off-leash outside. As hunting dogs, a rousing game of fetch will keep their interest and help them stay in shape if their home life is rather sedentary. Having a fenced yard, however, is not the same as providing exercise. A fenced yard is truly nothing more than an oversized kennel. Cocker Spaniels need daily exercise in order to avoid gaining weight. They love to go for long walks or a run with their people and should receive at least 45-60 minutes of heart-pumping exercise daily in order to calm them, avoid destructive behaviors and keep them in good shape. They do well in apartments or condos as long as they have the opportunity morning and night to burn off some energy with their people. If exercised properly, they are less likely to have issues when left alone while their people are away from home.