There are five main Springer Spaniel eye problems – some are hereditary and some occur because of the shape of the eye and lids. Accidents to the eye (perhaps grit getting in – we know how springers love muck and water) can also trigger a problem. Most conditions are treatable (depending on severity), and laser surgery and impants may be recommended.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (“PRA”)
This also affects some other breeds, and is a degenerative condition affecting the eyesight and can lead to partial or total blindness in its various forms. The gene can skip a generation and therefore it is almost impossible to know whether your dog will suffer from it.
Again, this is an eye condition which can vary from unnoticeable to total blindness. This is usually tested for and test results may be on the pedigree papers.
This is the eyelashes growing inwards and irritating the eyeball. This can be cured by removal of some eyelashes at its simplest, or surgery if it is more severe. It usually presents in a pup by the age of 6 weeks (congenital occurrence). Also, it be caused by eyelid damage healing improperly, for example, and can also occur on the lower eyelashes. Red eyes in an adult dog can be a sign, so check his eyelids. Without treatment, ulceration and serious eye damage may result. This condition is sometimes known as ‘redeye’.
Ectropion is less common than entropion, and is the outward rolling of the lower eyelids. Corrective surgery is possible in many cases.
Noticeable by a milky whiteness of the iris, these can lead to total blindness. Besides a hereditary cause, cataracts can occur for other reasons, including as a consequence of other diseases (e.g.
diabetes) or treatment for other conditions such as radiation for cancer. Surgery may be possible and some veterinarians might recommend implants depending on the age, general condition of the dog and the severity of the condition. In humans, doctors do not operate on cataracts until they are sufficiently developed.
Avoiding and Treating these Conditions
As with most genetic matters, a good place to start is with the parents. So, when you consider buying a springer spaniel, then seeing the parents first is always a good step, if possible. Check the pup’s pedigree papers for the obvious.
If you are unfortunate to have a dog with one of these problems, then treatment is possible, but could be expensive particularly if you are referred to a specialist veterinary eye surgeon who may be in another city. So, pet insurance could be a worthwhile investment, but check the policy terms and conditions carefully to ensure that specific problems or treatments (such as laser surgery or implants) are not excluded.
Of course, whatever dog you buy will be susceptible to health issues – they age seven times as fast as we do and age inevitably brings problems.
Springer spaniel eye problems are part of the range of health issues which your spaniel may face, but on the whole springers are reasonably fortunate. After all, breeders are keen to breed out these issues from their stock.
(c) 2010 Phil Marks
The author has owned springer spaniels – English and Welsh for many years, including a rescue dog. Find out more about springer spaniels and consider the Springer Spaniel Companion for a detailed guide on owning, training and having a fun time with a Springer Spaniel.
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