Cocker Spaniels and Ear Problems

Cocker Spaniels and Ear Problems

Health & Safety

Known for being happy characters, the Cocker Spaniel has been a firm favourite as a family pet throughout the world for decades. Medium in size and originally bred in the UK to hunt game birds, these charming dogs make wonderful companions that are always ready to show their love and affection because they are so people-oriented.

With this in mind, it's important that Cockers be given enough mental stimulation and daily exercise because if they are left on their own for long periods, they can develop some unwanted behavioural issues which includes being a little destructive around the house. If you are thinking about either getting a Cocker puppy or offering an older dog a second chance at finding a loving home, you have to be certain you have the time needed to give your pet to avoid this from happening.

Like many other pedigrees, the Cocker Spaniel is known to suffer from certain health conditions both genetic and acquired. Ear problems tend to plague the breed with dogs being more predisposed to suffering from some sort of ear problem than many other pure breeds during the course of their lives. Parti-coloured Cocker Spaniels are more predisposed to suffering from Congenital Sensorineural Deafness, a condition that puppies are born with and where they gradually become totally deaf by the time they are just 4 weeks old. Reputable breeders would always test dogs before allowing them to be used in any breeding programme to eliminate the risk of the condition being passed on to any puppies they produce.

The BAER Test Explained in Brief

The test that's most commonly used is called Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response or BAER and results are achieved by measuring the electrical activity in the brain when dogs are subjected to click stimulus. Dogs can be tested before being used in any breeding programmes, but it can be used to determine whether an adult dog is deaf later in their lives if an owner has any concerns their pet might be losing their hearing.

The Different Forms of Deafness Explained in Brief

There are various forms of deafness that affect breeds like the Cocker Spaniel which are explained briefly below:

Conductive deafness

This is when sound waves that should reach the dog's inner ear are interrupted. It could be caused by various things which may include having a foreign object lodged in the dog's ear. However, a build-up of wax found in the ear canal can also cause conductive deafness in dogs or it could be their ear drum has been ruptured. Infections in the middle ear can also trigger the condition.

Sensorineural deafness

Deafness of this nature occurs as a result of damage to any area of a dog's hearing pathway that leads to their inner ear. It could also be as a result of a defect in the pathway.

Congenital deafness

Puppies are born with congenital deafness although it can happen later in a Cocker Spaniel's life too and often occurs due to old age.

Inherited deafness

This can be passed down to puppies from either one or both of their parents and is different to acquired deafness in that no external factors are responsible for a Cocker to go deaf which includes disease or injury being the cause.

What to do if you're worried your Cocker Spaniel is going deaf

If you are at all concerned your Cocker Spaniel may be deaf or is losing their hearing, you should get them along to be examined by a vet as soon as you can. The vet would carry out a thorough examination of your dog's ears to make sure there's no excessive build-up of ear wax in their ear canals which could be causing the problem. The vet would also eliminate any sort of ear infection as being responsible before deciding the best course of action and treatment to give your dog.

If, however, the vet finds no wax in your dog's ears and there is no infection present, the vet may well recommend they undergo a BAER hearing test which will determine the degree of deafness your dog is experiencing. Dogs are not typically sedated when they undergo the test, but should a dog become too stressed out, the vet may decide to give them a mild sedative to keep them quiet and still during the procedure. If your pet is going to be tested, you should not give them any food or water the night before the test just in case they stress out and the vet needs to sedate them.

Each ear would be tested separately and a print out of the findings would be made available that clearly shows the extent of a dog's hearing. If your pet's hearing is normal, a series of troughs and peaks would be clearly visible. The test would also establish if your dog is deaf in both or one ear which is known as bilateral deafness or unilateral deafness respectively.


Cocker Spaniels have a tendency to suffer from quite a few ear problems which can be put down to the shape/length of their ears and the fact they typically like to be in and around water. However, they are one of the breeds more predisposed to suffering from congenital deafness which is a health disorder that is passed on to puppies by their parents if they suffer from the condition. This is just one of the reasons why it’s so important to contact reputable, responsible breeders if you are thinking about getting a Cocker Spaniel puppy.



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