Skin Conditions in Cocker Spaniels

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A cocker spaniel puppy on a grass field.
A cocker spaniel puppy on a grass field. (Image: Roberto Zocchi/iStock/Getty Images)

Your cocker spaniel is vulnerable to various skin conditions. Like other canines, allergies -- whether food, flea or environmental -- often manifest themselves in hair loss and scratching. While allergies are common throughout the species, other skin conditions often affect this specific breed. If your cocker spaniel develops any skin problems, or you find any lumps or bumps on your dog, take him to the vet as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment.

Seborrhea in Cocker Spaniels

In cocker spaniels, seborrhea is an inherited skin malady, and usually appears by the age of 2. The dog's sebaceous glands go into overdrive, so that the skin secretes a greasy, fatty, smelly material causing clumps in various parts of the body. When dogs scratch at these clumps, hair loss and lesions result, with those damaged areas developing secondary skin infections. While seborrhea isn't curable, it can be controlled with regular bathing with medicated shampoos, a high-quality diet and fatty acid supplementation. Your vet can prescribe antibiotics for bacterial skin infections.

Malassezia Dermatitis

Cocker spaniels have a genetic predisposition to malassezia yeast infections. These infections may be related to dogs with seborrhea, but are separate conditions. The excess skin oil aids in malassezia proliferation. Symptoms include extreme itchiness, skin thickening -- giving rise to the yeast's formal name, Malassezia pachydermatis -- a foul odor and hair loss. In addition to treating the seborrhea or allergic trigger, your vet will prescribe oral medications and degreasing and anti-fungal shampoos to eliminate the yeast.

Hypothyroidism in Cocker Spaniels

Hypothyroidism, or inadequate thyroid hormone production, is quite common in aging cocker spaniels. Symptoms include hair loss, skin thickening and darkening and frequent skin and ear infections. Nonskin-related symptoms include weight gain, cold and exercise intolerance and constipation. If your vet diagnoses your cocker spaniel as hypothyroid, a daily thyroid pill can ease symptoms within a few weeks.

Skin Tumors

While a cocker spaniel might develop any sort of skin growth, certain tumors are common in the breed. These include epidermal hamartomas, dark bumps most often appearing in puppies. While benign, these tumors can become infected, and surgical removal usually is recommended. Canine extramedullary plasmacytomas are small tumors that usually show up on the mouth, ears and legs of older cockers. Surgical removal usually solves the problem, but mouth tumors may spread. Radiation and chemotherapy may be advised post-surgery for mouth tumors.

Epitheliotropic lymphosarcoma occurs in aging cockers, with symptoms ranging from reddened skin to ulcerated lesions and lumps. While treatments are available for epitheliotropic lymphosarcoma, there is no cure. Older cockers are also prone to perianal gland tumors, found around the anus but also on the tail, abdomen and back. If a male isn't neutered, castration often solves the problem. For neutered or female dogs, radiation is often recommended. Surgical removal is sometimes done, but can lead to fecal incontinence. Along with other sebaceous gland problems, sebaceous gland adenomas and adenocarcinomas plague the breed. Fortunately, the former, benign tumor occurs more often than the latter, malignant type. Sebaceous gland adenocarcinomas require surgical removal, radiation and chemotherapy.

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