Clumber spaniel genetic diversity and hereditary health

Clumber spaniel genetic diversity and hereditary health

Health & Safety

The Clumber spaniel is the largest of all of the spaniel breeds, with a heavy, long body with moderate height. They can weigh between 25-39kg, and stand up to 20” tall at the withers, classing them as a medium sized breed. While they are roughly similar in shape to the Sussex spaniel, the Clumber has a heavier bone structure, and significantly larger head. Their coats are thick and straight, with feathering around the belly, legs and ears, and they are mainly white in colour, with markings around the eyes and base of the tail in either brown, orange or lemon.

While the Clumber spaniel was originally developed and bred as a gun dog, today, they are much more widely owned as pets. Ownership figures for the Clumber spaniel have fallen considerably over the last fifty years, and today, they are much less common than the other popular spaniel breeds such as the Springer and the Cocker. They tend to be slightly quieter within the home than most other spaniel breeds, and are quiet, loyal and loving dogs that are very gentle. They also have a couple of traits that can be something of a disadvantage, including snoring, heavy shedding of the coat, and lots of dribbling!

If you have fallen for the charms of the Clumber spaniel and are considering buying one as a pet, it is of course vital to do plenty of research on the breed before committing to a purchase. This includes looking into the hereditary health and general wellness and longevity of the breed, which we will look at in more detail in this article. Read on to learn more.

Clumber spaniel longevity

The median lifespan of the Clumber spaniel across the breed as a whole is ten years, which places the Clumber spaniel towards the bottom of the rankings when compared to other breeds of a similar size. The breed is prone to a relatively high degree of inbreeding, which is partially responsible for the relatively short lifespan of the breed, and also means that they are prone to a range of hereditary health problems too.

Genetic diversity and breed-specific health tests for the Clumber spaniel

The coefficient of inbreeding statistic for the Clumber spaniel is 18.2%, which is a very high figure, even for a pedigree breed. A figure of 6.25% or under is considered to be optimum in terms of avoiding the likelihood of health problems associated with inbreeding, and at 18.2%, it is fair to say that the Clumber spaniel breed as a whole is relatively inbred. Clumber spaniel breeders should aim to reduce this figure when breeding future litters.

Health schemes and DNA testing is advised for the breed, in order to reduce the occurrence rate of some breed-specific health problems. These include:

  • Hip score testing, with the mean hip score for the breed being 24.1. This is a very high figure, and Clumber spaniel breeders should seek to breed only dogs with a much lower score than this.
  • Elbow dysplasia, with the ideal score being zero.
  • Cataracts of the eyes.
  • DNA testing is also possible for DPD-1, or pyruvate dehydrogenase phosphate 1 deficiency, which is a deficiency in the enzyme responsible for eradicating waste products from the body.

Clumber spaniel conformation challenges

The build and physical appearance of the Clumber spaniel itself can lead to potential problems for dogs of the breed, including:

  • Strain on the muscles and joints due to the heavy, long body.
  • Ear infections, due to the long, drooping ears of the breed.
  • Problems with the eyes, due to the looseness of the facial skin of the dog and the structure of the eyes.
  • Spinal and back problems, due to the long body compared to the height of the dog.

Other health issues

There are also various other potential health issues that can affect dogs of the breed, but for which no pre-breeding testing or health schemes are currently available. Potential problems that all Clumber spaniel owners should be aware of include:

  • Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland, which can lead to lethargy, weight gain and hormonal imbalances. While this condition cannot be cured, it can usually be managed by means of supplementary hormone therapy for life.
  • Dry eye or keratoconjunctivitis sicca, a condition that occurs when the tear ducts of the eyes do not produce enough natural lubrication to keeps the eyes moist and comfortable.
  • Ectropion, which causes the eyelids to turn outwards.
  • Entropion, which leads to the eyelids turning inwards. This can lead to the eyelid or eyelashes rubbing on the cornea of the eye, which is both painful and irritating. Both entropion and ectropion may be corrected with surgery.
  • A condition called “diamond eye,” which occurs when the corners of the eyes turn inwards and the middle of the eyelids turn outwards. This can cause discomfort and vision problems.
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