There are five main Springer spaniels eye problems – some are hereditary and some may occur because of the shape of the eye and lids. Most are treatable, and even laser surgery is used.
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.
This again is an eye condition which can vary from unnoticeable to total blindness. This is widely tested for and test results should be on the pedigree papers.
This is the eyelashes growing inwards and irritating the eyeball with varying degrees of severity. This can be cured by removal of some eyelashes at its simplest, or surgery (and more recently, laser) if it is more severe. It is usually apparent in a pup by the age of 6 weeks (congenital) and can also be caused later in life by a damaged eyelid healing improperly, for example. This condition can also occur on the lower eyelashes. If your dog is mature and you notice red eyes, then check his eyelids. If left untreated, 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.
These are apparent by a milky whiteness of the iris and 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 is possible and some veterinarians recommend implants.
Avoiding and Treating these Problems
As with most genetic defects, 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