Whether you’re about to bring a Cocker Spaniel into your life or you have one now, at some point you’ll want to know how long do Cocker Spaniels live. An average lifespan of a Cocker Spaniel depends on genetics, lifestyle, diet, health conditions, and sometimes pure luck. The life expectancy also depends if the dog is an English Cocker Spaniel or an American Cocker Spaniel.
Cocker Spaniels live anywhere between 12 and 14 years on average, with many Cockers living much longer lives. The English Cocker Spaniel has an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years while the American Cocker Spaniel’s life expectancy is 10 to 14 years.
Every rule has exceptions and the same holds true for the lifespan of a Cocker Spaniel. Averages are just that: A span of numbers based on a certain number of dogs. Personally, I know Cockers who have lived to 19 years old and I’ve asked their owners to reveal secrets to help a dog live a long life. Although we all want our dogs to live as long as we do, there are things you can do to help your Cocker Spaniel live a longer, healthier life. Here’s the scoop.
How Long Do Cocker Spaniels Live On Average?
The average life span of a Cocker Spaniel ranges between 10 and 15 years overall. My first Cocker Spaniel lived to be one week shy of 15 years old. My friend Al Nelson had his Cocker Spaniel, Maxie, for almost 17 years.
As someone who has been involved with Cocker Spaniels for close to three decades, I can honestly say that with proper health care, dental hygiene, physical and mental stimulation, and a good diet, Cockers can live to at least 15 years or more. There are exceptions including unexpected disease, accidents, genetics, and poor breeding.
Growing up I recall my neighbor’s red and white Cocker Spaniel, Penny. That dog was allowed off leash, roamed the streets, ate scraps from all the neighbors, and she was still going strong when I moved out in my late teens.
Some say the oldest Cocker Spaniel on record was Uno. According to People.com, Uno lived a healthy lifestyle, exercised, and took a joint supplement. Uno hailed from Sherman Oaks, California, and passed away at the ripe old age of 22.
English Cocker Spaniels are touted as having a slightly longer life span than the American Cocker Spaniel of 12-14 years on average, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC).
COCKER FACT: In 1946, the AKC officially recognized the American Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel as separate breeds.
What Health Problems Do Cocker Spaniels Have?
There are several problems that plague the Cocker Spaniel and may contribute to a shorter lifespan if they are not kept in check or managed. Some of the conditions are inherent to the breed while others may result from improper breeding, poor diet, lack of exercise, and not seeing the veterinarian enough or when needed.
Here is a list of common health problems that affect Cocker Spaniels.
|Eyes||Cataracts, glaucoma, eyelid issues, cherry eye|
|Ears||Ear infections, narrow canals|
|Mouth||Lip fold dermatitis, halitosis|
|Cardiovascular||Mitral valve disease, dilated cardiomyopathy, murmurs|
|Skin and Fur||Allergies, lumps and bumps on skin, seborrhea, frequent grooming|
|Gastrointestinal||Irritable bowel disease, liver issues, food sensitivities|
|Musculoskeletal||Arthritis, hip dysplasia, ACL (ligament) tears, patellar luxation, IVDD (disc disease)|
|Urogential||Bladder and kidney stones|
|Endocrine||Thyroid issues, especially hypothyroidism|
When it comes to health problems, Cocker Spaniels have their fair share. The Cocker Spaniel isn’t a breed for a rookie pet parent or someone who wants a low maintenance breed.
In close to 30 years of owning Cocker Spaniels, there isn’t much we haven’t dealt with health-wise. We’ve been faced with Cockers with cancer, immune disease, allergies, lip fold dermatitis, mitral valve disease, skin growths, urinary tract infections, and more. We love the breed, its merry disposition, love and loyalty, and so we stay educated, dedicated, and teach others about the breed and its propensity for certain health conditions.
Some of the things you can do to help a Cocker Spaniel live a longer life is staying current on veterinary visits, stay away from chemicals as much as you can, consider titer blood testing instead of regular vaccines at a certain age, feed a good quality diet, and give them plenty of mental and physical exercise without overdoing it. More about that shortly.
Cocker Spaniels seem to represent a higher than average amount of dogs diagnosed with immune system disorders including IMHA (immune-mediated hemolytic anemia) and IMT (immune-mediated thrombocytopenia), the latter which my current Cocker, Dexter, survived. There are many theories as to why Cockers have more immune disorders and some say they are simply prone. In my case, a tick caused my Cocker’s IMT.
Knowing Cockers have challenging immune systems, it makes sense to use caution when injecting, medicating, or using anything chemical-related on or in your Cocker Spaniel. I am of the ilk that if I can’t use it, neither can my dog. A chemically-based flea topical medication prescribed by the vet nearly killed my first Cocker Spaniel. It’s a fine line between prevention and creating new problems, so proceed with caution.
Does A Cocker’s Color Affect Their Life Span?
From a breed standard perspective, the American Spaniel Club says Cockers have three color varieties:
- Black: Black with tan points is acceptable
- Any solid color other than black (ASCOB) – light cream to dark red, brown to brown with tan points.
- Parti-color: Two or more solid, well-broken colors of which one must be white. This includes black and white, red and white, brown and white, and roans.
A lot of controversy surrounds the merle Cocker Spaniel. There are distinct differences between merles and roans and it is critical to understand the difference before bringing a Cocker Spaniel into your life. Having a merle Cocker Spaniel can also affect the dog’s overall health and well-being.
Merle is not a color, but rather a pattern or type of marking in the Cocker’s coat. The merle coat is seen heavily in other breeds. “When two merles are bred, they have a 50 percent chance of getting [these] unusual colors and a 25 percent chance of producing a dog that carries the double merle gene,” Merle rescuer B. Maeder said. “The double merle gene brings with it hearing impairment and/or eye issues.” As a result, Merle Cockers may be born both blind and deaf.
Read our article, The Truth About Merle Cocker Spaniels
Whether one particular color of Cocker Spaniel lives longer than another is not well-documented. Dedicated Cocker breeders pour their heart and soul into producing a litter that is structurally sound, has the qualities of a true Cocker, and will provide many years of joy and love for their human owners.
FUN FACT: The Cocker Spaniel has won best in show at Westminster Kennel Club’s annual dog show four times and took best in show at Crufts in England in 2017.
What Do Cocker Spaniels Die From?
Cancer is a leading cause of death in dogs, and Cocker Spaniels are no exception. As Cockers get older and perhaps more sedentary, it’s easy for them to put on extra weight. Being overweight or obese can lead to tumors, heart disease, liver disease, and joint issues causing immobility.
My first Cocker Spaniel died from complications of irritable bowel disease. Some Cockers pass away from immune-related diseases, tumors, heart issues, and other age-related illnesses.
Keeping your Cocker Spaniel at a healthy weight is better for the dog’s joints overall since Cockers are more prone to hip dysplasia and arthritis. Genetic diseases that plague the breed are something to be aware of, as indiscriminately bred Cockers may have a shorter lifespan.
My Cocker Spaniel’s mother passed from uncontrolled seizures that happened at the end of her life. She never suffered from epilepsy and suddenly she had several uncontrollable grand mal seizures. Her owner chose euthanasia to stop the suffering.
Some Cockers die from complications from vaccines. We could write an entire book on the topic. We aren’t anti-vaccine, but we are anti over-vaccination.
Many Cocker Spaniels live long, full, lives with some health issues but overall go above and beyond the average lifespan if raised by an owner who gives them the time, attention, good food, and healthcare they need to thrive.
Read our article, Why Your Dog May Not Need Yearly Vaccines
How Can I Help My Cocker Spaniel Live Longer?
There are many things you can do to help your Cocker Spaniel live a healthier life so that he or she is with you for many, many years. Other than the obvious things like mental and physical exercise and veterinary visits, here are some things to start doing right away for a healthy Cocker Spaniel:
- Brush your Cocker Spaniel’s teeth regularly. More than 80 percent of dogs over the age of three have active dental disease. Here’s how to brush your dog’s teeth at home.
- Have each lump and bump examined on your Cocker Spaniel. There is no way a medical professional can tell you with 100 percent certainty what a growth is by looking at it. Don’t wait, have a vet aspirate. Here’s what to do about lumps and bumps on a dog.
- Don’t let your Cocker Spaniel get fat. Cockers are foodies and will look at you with adoring eyes as if they never ate before. Keep weight in check and if your dog is overweight, take slow and steady steps to get them to a healthy number. Here’s how to help an overweight dog lose pounds.
- Keep stress to a minimum. Cocker Spaniels are a more sensitive breed than most. Yelling and screaming around your dog is a no-no. Family arguments hurt humans but also affect dogs who have no control over a situation.
- Never spank or hit your Cocker Spaniel. No matter how upset you are or what the dog did to frustrate you, hitting/spanking/slapping a dog is never appropriate. Never. In her book, It’s Me or the Dog famed positive reinforcement trainer and star of her own dog behavior show on Animal Planet, Victoria Stilwell, writes, “When you hit a dog, you teach him to fear you, break his trust, and you weaken his confidence. Insecure dogs are the one who are more likely to lash out in an aggressive display.” Here’s how to stop people from spanking dogs.
- Feed your Cocker Spaniel an appropriate, healthy diet. Cockers tend to have more skin and food sensitivity problems than most. Even irritable bowel disease is a response to the dog’s immune system. Food manufacturers aren’t always on the up and up and we’ve uncovered 10 lies told by dog food makers. Here’s how to find the best food for your Cocker Spaniel.
- Keep the chemicals away from your Cocker Spaniel. This includes everything from toxic flea preventatives to overly vaccinating and even the chemicals in treats and dog food. Cockers have sensitive immune systems, so don’t instigate a problem with unnecessary chemicals.
- Check your Cocker’s Spaniel’s urine at home at least once a month. I’ve been using a 10-parameter at-home urine test strip for over two decades now on my Cockers. In healthy pets, the urine pH is typically in the 6.5 to 7.0 range. Medicines, age, co-existing health conditions, and even stress can change the level of pH. You can report findings to your veterinarian and catch problems with urine, bladder, and kidneys before they get out of hand. Read more about at-home urinalysis for dogs here.
FUN FACT: Cocker Spaniels are the smallest of the sporting breed.
Where Should I Get A Cocker Spaniel?
Cocker Spaniels are available through reputable breeders as well as dog rescues and shelters. There are good breeders and good rescues, and we’ve done the research to ensure you find the best option for you and your family.
How do I handle the grief of losing my Cocker Spaniel? Sadly, at some point a Cocker Spaniel will pass away. Bringing a dog into your life means someday they will likely pass before you. Grief becomes a part of who you are but your Cocker Spaniel would not want you to mourn forever. Here’s an article we wrote to help with the loss of a dog.
Is a Cocker Spaniel the right dog for me? If you understand the history of a particular breed and what the dog’s purpose is, this is very helpful in helping to decide whether a dog is right for you in general. Here’s how to tell if the Cocker Spaniel is the right dog for you.