The British springer spaniel breed is actually sub-divided up into two individual breeds in their own right, being the Welsh springer spaniel and the English springer spaniel respectively. The breeds share a very similar physical appearance, temperament and traits, and are usually classed together by most dog lovers, other than those that are particularly enthusiastic about one sub-section in particular, and who are able to tell the difference!
So too do the two breeds share a close common ancestry, and generally, share the same propensity to various hereditary health problems, although there are some conditions that affect Welsh springers more than English, and vice versa.
In this article, we will look at the average longevity and hereditary health issues that affect dogs from the Welsh and English springer spaniel gene pools, in order to give their owners and potential owners a better insight to their lifelong health. Read on to learn more.
Both the English and the Welsh springer spaniels tend to be relatively long lived, falling towards the medium to top of the rankings for dogs of an equivalent size and build. The average longevity of the English springer spaniel can be quite variable, ranging from 10.5-15 years, with the Welsh springer having a slightly older, and narrower mean longevity ranking, of 12-15 years of age.
Like all pedigree dogs, both the Welsh springer spaniel and the English springer spaniel have slightly elevated risk factors for certain hereditary or genetically inherited health problems, and most of these are common to both the English and the Welsh springer spaniel gene pools.
Most dog breeds that have long, pendulous ears like the English and Welsh springers can be prone to problems with their ears, including ear infections, ear mites, an excessive build-up of ear wax, and an infection called otitis externa.
Entropion, which can cause an additional layer of eyelashes to grow inside of the normal layer can occur within springer spaniels, causing them to rub or scratch on the cornea, and that may require surgical correction.
Both the Welsh and English springer breeds have slightly elevated risk factors for hip dysplasia, with the Welsh springer spaniel particularly being prone to the issue, and the Welsh springer is in fact ranked 14th in terms of dog breeds most likely to suffer from the condition.
The degree to which any given dog is affected by the condition can vary, and the condition does not usually become apparent until the dog is aged around two years old. Hip score testing of potential parent dogs prior to breeding can help to identify risk factors for the condition, so that breeders can avoid breeding from dogs with poor hip scores.
Some conditions and risk factors that are recognised within the English springer spaniel gene pool, but not to any significant degree in the Welsh springer spaniel, include elbow dysplasia, and a range of autoimmune conditions that can cause allergies and sensitivities to food and elements within the dog’s environment.
English springers also have risk factors for progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) which is a degeneration of the retina of the eye that progressively leads to irreversible blindness. Retinal dysplasia, another condition that causes blindness as a potential effect, can also affect the English springer spaniel.
Phosphofructokinase deficiency, or PFK, is also hereditary within some English springer spaniel breed lines, but rarely seen in the Welsh springer spaniel. This condition impairs the ability of the body’s cells to utilise carbohydrates required for energy effectively, but is more common in working, field breed lines of English springers than it is in show lines.
Finally, not a health condition as such, but the English springer spaniel does have a tendency to gain weight easily, which can lead to problems in itself, and so the dog’s food intake and activity levels should be carefully monitored.
As well as the issues common to both the Welsh and the English springer spaniels listed further up the page, the Welsh springer spaniel particularly can be prone to a different types of glaucoma that have a hereditary factor to them.
Normal canine glaucoma affects the Welsh springer spaniel to a reasonable degree, although this is most likely to be seen in mature and elderly dogs, and is rarely early on onset.
However, closed angle glaucoma, a specific type of glaucoma, is a hereditary trait that is fairly widely spread within the breed, and is caused by an autosomal dominant mutation. It is one of the main causes of blindness within the breed, which occurs when the fluid pressure in the eye rises significantly above normal levels. Without surgery to correct the fluid build-up and associated pressure, the optic nerve and retina may become permanently damaged, and the condition is acute in onset, sometimes leading to loss of sight within 24 hours, meaning that owners should make themselves aware of the condition and be able to act promptly.
Symptoms of closed angle glaucoma include a cloudy appearance within the eyes, redness of the eyes, or pain and irritation that causes the dog to scratch or rub at their eye. While the condition may affect just one eye rather than both simultaneously, once the condition has occurred in one eye, it will generally flare up in the other eye at some point in the future too.