King Charles Spaniels and Eye Disorders
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King Charles Spaniels and Eye Disorders

Dogs
Health & Safety

The King Charles Spaniel has become one of the more popular breeds both in the UK and in many other parts of the world. The breed boasts a colourful ancestry and is known to be a loyal and affectionate companion as well as great family pet. As with many other pedigree dogs, over the years too many unscrupulous breeders have appeared on the scene which has not helped when it comes to eliminating the many genetic health disorders associated with the King Charles Spaniel.

Sadly, it's estimated that around 28% of King Charles Spaniels are thought to suffer from some sort of eye disorder. Some conditions can be put down to being inherited from parent dogs and are considered by vets as being serious eye problems whereas a few others which are also hereditary are thought to be less serious in nature. If you are considering getting a puppy from a breeder, you have to make sure the people you contact are reputable and that they have been around for a long time. It would be a serious mistake to buy a puppy from a less than reputable person because the chances are they have not followed any sort of breeding programme that only uses healthy dogs that have been tested for eye and other health issues.

Eye disorders thought to be associated with short muzzles

Some eye disorders are thought to be associated not only with breeds that boast short muzzles, like the King Charles Spaniel, but also because of the shape of the dog's head too and this includes the following:

Corneal Ulcers

One such condition is corneal ulcers and if left untreated, it can cause blindness. However, even if the ulcer is not that severe and the lesions are superficial in nature, it can still be extremely painful simply because of the location of nerve endings which are found very close to the surface of the eye. They often occur as a secondary condition that affects the dog's eye when not enough tears are produced, a condition known as dry eye. However, an ulcer can also form as a result of some sort of trauma to the eye or if an eyelash does not grow properly. Other reasons why a King Charles Spaniel might suddenly suffer from the condition includes the following:

  • External irritants
  • An allergic reaction
  • A foreign body in the dog's eye
  • Dogs not being able to blink properly

Genetic eye disorders common to the breed

A lot of King Charles Spaniels inherit a genetic eye disorder known as Dry Eye Syndrome which is an extremely painful condition. According to studies carried out in the States, the breed is at higher risk of suffering from the condition than any other breed of dog.

Dry Eye Explained

Dry eye as mentioned is a very painful condition where the cornea and conjunctiva become inflamed because glands in the eye do not produce enough tears. It's an incurable condition often seen in the breed which all too often leads to the dog suffering from impaired vision. King Charles Spaniels with the condition need to be given medicated eye drops on a daily basis to prevent them from suffering all the discomfort and pain associated with dry eye.

The rarer form of dry eye in the breed called “curly coat” syndrome

There is a rarer form of the condition that's seen in King Charles Spaniels which is called “curly coat” syndrome or sometimes a vet would refer to the condition as “rough coat” syndrome (ichthyosis keratoconjunctivitis sicca). It is when dry eye and this second condition develop simultaneously and it’s extremely painful. Therefore, a dog suffering with this eye disorder needs to have veterinary treatment as a matter of urgency.

King Charles Spaniels and Cataracts

King Charles Spaniels are also predisposed to 2 sorts of hereditary cataracts with the most common being what is referred to as a juvenile cataract. Dogs as young as 6 months old can be affected and cataracts start forming in both eyes which carry on developing right up to the ages of between 2 and 4 when dogs often suffer complete blindness. Cataracts considered to be hereditary are often seen in the breed when they reach the age of seven.

When a cataract is congenital, meaning puppies are born with the condition or it develops before they reach the age of 8 weeks, it is bilateral as such it typically affects both eyes to varying degrees. With this said, dogs may develop cataracts as a result of suffering from diabetes. King Charles Spaniels should be tested on a yearly basis to check whether or not cataracts are developing on either or both of their eyes which allows vets to recommend any treatment should they think it necessary.

Retinal dysplasia, another hereditary eye disorder that affects the breed

By far one of the more serious eye disorders the breed suffers from is a condition called retinal dysplasia. This is where the retina does not develop properly and it can be seen as a mild disorder or something a lot more serious which is when the retina detaches completely and the layers do not form as they should. The result is dogs with the condition experience blind spots albeit small ones when the condition is not too severe. However, in more severe cases when the retina totally detaches King Charles Spaniels are typically blind. Most King Charles Spaniels with the condition have inherited it as it is a genetic disorder.

Contacting Reputable Breeders

If you are going to get a King Charles Spaniel puppy, you need to contact a well established and reputable breeder who takes their responsibilities very seriously. They would therefore, routinely have any parent dogs used in breeding programmes tested for hereditary health disorders which includes any eye issues associated with the breed. By doing this, it reduces the risks of any puppies being born with any congenital or hereditary eye disorders and this naturally offers you some degree of peace of mind that your dog has healthy eyes.

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