First bred as working dogs, the Welsh Springer Spaniel has become a popular choice as a family pet. Not only are these dogs extremely attractive, but they boast very kind natures too. When it comes to health, Springers are considered to be pretty robust dogs although like many pure breeds, they are prone to certain health disorders some of which are acquired whereas others are genetically inherited from parent dogs.
If you are thinking about rehoming an older Springer from a rescue centre, you would be made aware of any health issues the dog may be suffering from. If, however, you have set your heart on sharing your home with a Springer puppy, then it's really important to contact a reputable breeder who routinely screens any dogs used in a breeding programme for any hereditary or congenital health disorders. This greatly reduces the chance of any puppies being born with a health condition and this includes one that affects their eyes called Glaucoma.
When a dog develops glaucoma their eye swells up due to excess fluid building up in it and if not treated, a dog will eventually lose their sight. The condition is extremely painful in its acute form and although there are two types of glaucoma, the end result in both is the same which is a loss of sight in the affected eye. The bad news is that both forms of glaucoma are conditions that can be passed on to puppies from parent dogs. The first is called "open-angle glaucoma" which is quite uncommon, but the second is "angle-closure glaucoma" and it's this form that often afflicts the Welsh Springer Spaniel. If dogs do start to develop the condition, a vet would need to examine them as soon as possible because they consider this to be a medical emergency.
Research has led vets to believe that glaucoma is a condition that Welsh Springer Spaniels can inherit from their parents because of an abnormality found in the drainage angle of their eyes which predisposes them to developing glaucoma. Although the prognosis is never that good, a vet would be able to relieve the pressure on a dog's eye and be able to stop the condition from getting any worse for quite a while. Typical treatment for glaucoma would be to put eye drops in an affected eye although some vets may recommend surgical intervention. The end goal is to make sure fluid in the eye flows out as much as possible preventing any damaging build up. The good news is that more research is being carried out into the condition so that newer and more effective ways of successfully treating the condition would be made available to vets.
Reputable, well-established breeders would always have all dogs used in their breeding programmes DNA tested to make sure they are clear of any congenital health disorders which greatly reduces the chances of any puppies inheriting them. A veterinary eye specialist would carry out the test by applying a few drops of local anaesthetic in a dog's eyes before placing a specially designed contact lens on it which allows them to see if fluid is draining correctly which they do using either a camera or an ophthalmoscope.
However, although the test gives vets and eye specialists a clear view of how a dog's eye drains, it does not mean a dog would not develop glaucoma during the course of their lives. In short, even if a dog is given a "pass", they may still suffer from glaucoma at some point in their lives. The good news is that over recent years breeders have been very careful when selecting dogs used in their breeding programmes, as such glaucoma in Welsh Springer Spaniels is now relatively rare. However, a dog as young as 6 months old may be developing the condition in one of their eyes and they should be tested. If necessary, the vet can start a treatment before the condition gets any worse and therefore very painful.
For decades, the Welsh Springer Spaniel has delighted owners whether as working dogs, companions or family pets. They are loving, loyal and boast very kind natures which means they are a pleasure to have around. However, like so many other pure breed dogs the Springer as a breed, does suffer its fair share of health disorders one of which is a serious condition that affects their vision called glaucoma. All dogs used in breeding programmes can be DNA tested for this hereditary health issue and responsible breeders would always have their dogs screened which is why if you are hoping to get a Welsh Springer Spaniel puppy, you should contact a reputable, well-established breeder.