What Do Cocker Spaniels Usually Die From? Top 5 Causes

What Do Cocker Spaniels Usually Die From

So what do cocker spaniels usually die from? There is no single smoking gun, but rather a host of common suspects.

Certain leading health conditions build over time to overwhelm cockers’ bodies and quality of life.

And knowing these conditions intimately positions owners to ward them off as long as possible.

With their unwavering popularity among dog owners, cocker spaniels maintain a steady standing on lists of top 20 popular dog breeds.

These faithful companions offer endless affection and loyalty to their families over typical life spans of 10-14 years.

But sadly, even such potentially long lives often get cut short for many beautiful cockers.

The breed faces an array of health issues stemming from their conformation, long floppy ears, and genetic predispositions.

Understanding why our beloved cockers pass away earlier than expected offers pet owners an opportunity.

Arming ourselves with knowledge allows us to advocate for better health within the breed.

We can also provide the best possible care to our own loyal spaniels to give them a fighting chance.

Learning what issues claim the lives of many cockers directs us on specific prevention methods to help alleviate suffering.

What Do Cocker Spaniels Usually Die From

cocker spaniels causes of death

The most common causes what do cocker spaniels usually die from are old age, cancer, infection, lumps, and collapse.

While cocker spaniels may face an array of health issues during their lifetimes, there are some leading causes of death for the breed. Being aware of these and providing preventative care can help extend a cocker spaniel’s lifespan.

Old Age

For cocker spaniels that are well cared for, the most common cause of death is simply old age. The organs and body systems gradually wear out over time. Senior dogs become more frail and prone to life-threatening diseases. But with regular vet checks and care, many cocker spaniels simply pass due to natural aging processes.


According to a prominent study on causes of death in over 2,000 dogs, cancer is a leading killer of cocker spaniels. Common cancers include lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumors, and mammary tumors. Depending on the type and severity, cancer can often be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation to extend the dog’s life.


Bacterial and viral infections are dangerous for cocker spaniels at any age. Young puppies and senior dogs tend to be most vulnerable. Without proper treatment, infections can advance to sepsis or organ failure. Urinary tract infections that become severe kidney infections are a common culprit.


As cocker spaniels reach senior age, the chances of developing fatty tumors called lipomas increases. These lumps under the skin are usually benign.

However, some lipomas can grow very large and impact mobility and quality of life. In rare cases, they may also turn cancerous. Prompt vet checks for new lumps allows early assessment and treatment if concerning.


Senior cocker spaniels can periodically experience random collapse episodes. Driving causes include abnormal heart rhythms, fainting due to inadequate blood-flow to the brain, mini-seizures, blood clots, or stroke.

Quick veterinary assessment after initial collapse allows specific diagnosis and treatment to try preventing repeat episodes.

If root causes cannot be controlled, repeated falling due to collapse can lead to decline in quality of life. With prompt supportive care, dogs often fully recover after individual collapse events occurs.

But over time, progressive diseases causing collapse become difficult to manage long-term in senior pets.

Breed History

Breed History
Average Lifespan10-14 years
Common Health IssuesEar infections, hip dysplasia, heart disease, eye diseases, patellar luxation
Leading Causes of DeathOld age, cancer, infections, organ failure
Life Expectancy FactorsGenetics, nutrition/weight, exercise/mental stimulation, veterinary care
Steps for LongevityGet from responsible breeder, feed quality diet, ensure exercise, follow preventatives, annual vet checks
Signs of DeclineLoss of appetite, vomiting, incontinence, seizures, vision/hearing loss, lameness, breathing issues
Senior Dog RisksArthritis, higher cancer odds, cognitive decline
Additional CausesFatty tumors (lipomas), collapse episodes

Cocker spaniels were originally bred to be gun dogs, assisting hunters by flushing out and retrieving game birds. They are an established working dog breed that originated in Spain before becoming refined in the United Kingdom. Their name comes from their excellence at hunting woodcock birds specifically.


Cocker spaniels are compact, medium-sized dogs weighing between 24-30 pounds on average. They have a sturdy build with a broad head featuring long, floppy ears. Their coat comes in various colors like black, tan, brown, red, silver, and buff. Cocker spaniels are known for their softly feathered coat and smiling expression.


Cocker spaniels have a happy, gentle temperament. They form strong bonds with their families and crave attention and togetherness. While energetic, they also enjoy napping close by their owners. With early socialization and training, cockers get along well with children, strangers and other pets when properly introduced.

Activity Level

While bred as gundogs, most cockers today excel at being friendly family companions. They enjoy brisk daily walks and active playtime. Their exercise needs are easily met with stimulating indoor games and adventures outside. Cocker spaniels thrive when included in activities with their beloved people.

Common Health Issues for Cocker Spaniels

Common Health Issues for Cocker Spaniels

Cocker Spaniels are prone to several health problems, including ear issues, canine hip dysplasia, luxating patella, and hereditary eye disorders. These conditions can significantly affect the health and longevity of these dogs.

Ear Infections

Cocker spaniels are notorious for chronic ear infections. With their heavy, floppy ears and hairy inner ear canals, moisture and debris can easily build up inside a cocker spaniel’s ears. This provides an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and yeast to cause painful infections. If left untreated, severe ear infections can spread into the bone and brain, becoming life-threatening.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition common in cocker spaniels where the hip joint does not develop properly. This causes painful wear-and-tear arthritis of the joints over time. Severe cases can lead to debilitating lameness and difficulty walking.

Heart Disease

Cocker spaniels are prone to developing heart disease, including dilated cardiomyopathy and chronic valvular disease. In heart disease, the heart has difficulty pumping blood properly. This can lead to fainting, breathing issues, and congestive heart failure.

Luxating Patella

Luxating patella is a common inherited condition in cocker spaniels where the kneecap occasionally pops out of place. This causes temporary lameness and pain.

Severity ranges from infrequent minor slips to frequent complete dislocations. In serious cases, arthritis and cartilage damage results.

Mild cases may not require treatment beyond joint supplements.

But surgery may be necessary in recurring or complete dislocations to deepen the patellar groove for the kneecap to slide within.

Keeping cocker spaniels slim also takes pressure off the joints.

Hereditary Eye Disorders

Cocker spaniels are prone to several inherited eye diseases. Conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy can appear at young ages. Dry eye causing corneal ulceration is also common.

These disorders can lead to tear staining, eye redness, vision loss and even blindness if untreated.

Routine eye exams by a vet catch issues early while they are still treatable.

Using eye drops can relieve symptoms. Staying vigilant about symptoms allows early intervention before major vision loss occurs.

Responsible cocker spaniel breeders should screen for genetic eye issues in their breeding stock to reduce risk of puppies developing problems.

A Case Study

A 2010 study published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice evaluated over 2,000 ill cocker spaniels to determine the prevalence of various diseases in the breed (O’Neill et al).

Researchers collected data on diagnosis, age of onset, and mortality for sick cocker spaniels visiting veterinary teaching hospitals over an 11 year period.

The results found ear infections, skin disease, overweight/obesity, and kidney disease were the most common health issues reported in ill cocker spaniels. The study also looked at age patterns in disease prevalence.

Young dogs under age 4 most often suffered from ear infections, skin disease, diarrhea, and bladder infections. Geriatric dogs over age 10 were commonly diagnosed with mammary tumors, overweight/obesity, heart murmurs, kidney disease, and cataracts.

The researchers conclude that breed-specific health screening and prevention programs are imperative for cocker spaniels.

Prioritizing treatment of ear/skin disease in adolescents and managing obesity/dental care in seniors can help reduce morbidity and mortality.

The study provides helpful benchmark data on common diseases throughout a cocker spaniel’s lifespan that veterinarians can utilize for comparison (O’Neill et al).

This research assists vets in catching conditions earlier and predicting prognosis in ill patients.

Life Expectancy Factors for Cocker Spaniels

Cocker Spaniels Life Expectancy

Several factors impact how long a cocker spaniel will live. Being aware of these factors allows owners to make lifestyle choices to try to maximize their dog’s lifespan.


A cocker spaniel’s genetics play a significant role in determining lifespan. Some bloodlines are predisposed to medical conditions while others are hardy. Ensuring genetic health testing is performed on both parent dogs can stack the odds for a long-living puppy.

Nutrition & Weight

Keeping a cocker spaniel lean and fit goes a long way towards supporting health. Obesity stresses all the organs, exacerbates arthritis, and increases cancer risk. Feeding a high-quality diet for the dog’s age and activity level helps keep body condition optimal.

Exercise & Mental Stimulation

An active lifestyle with plenty of exercise keeps brains and bodies happy. Bored, inactive cocker spaniels are more likely to develop behavior issues and obesity. Daily exercise and play mixed with training and puzzles prevents these risks.

Regular Veterinary Care

Routine wellness exams, bloodwork, and preventatives are key to catching issues early. Annual exams, heartworm prevention, prompt treatment when sick, dental cleanings, etc. help avoid preventable diseases. Health issues caught early on have much better prognoses.

Providing the Best Care for Your Cocker Spaniel

The average cocker spaniel lives between 10-14 years. Ensuring your dog reaches the high end of this range relies on dedicating proper care throughout their lifetime. Here are key tips for giving a cocker spaniel the best shot at a long, healthy life:

  • Purchase from a responsible breeder who genetically health tests breeding dogs to reduce risk of inherited diseases.
  • Feed a high-quality commercial or homemade diet appropriate for your dog’s age and activity level. Keep your dog lean.
  • Ensure regular exercise with daily walks, play sessions, or dog sports to keep your cocker spaniel physically and mentally fit.
  • Practice preventatives like flea/tick/heartworm medication, dental cleanings, and prompt vaccine boosters.
  • Schedule annual vet exams to catch any emerging conditions early, plus biannual senior wellness checks for dogs over age seven.
  • Learn to monitor your dog for signs of illness and seek prompt veterinary attention when issues arise. Early intervention can greatly improve prognoses.
  • Consider pet insurance to ease financial barriers to care, especially for younger dogs.

Paying diligence to your cocker spaniel’s health and happiness from puppyhood through the senior years allows them their best shot at reaching the high end of the breed’s lifespan. With dedicated care and preventative medicine, many cocker spaniels live happy, high-quality lives of 14 years or longer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do cocker spaniels normally live?

The average lifespan for a cocker spaniel is 10-14 years. Well cared for dogs with good genetics can sometimes live to 15 years or older.

What health issues are common for cocker spaniels?

Ear infections, hip dysplasia, heart disease, cataracts and a variety of cancers unfortunately occur commonly in cocker spaniels. Their floppy ears also make them prone to issues.

What steps can I take to help my cocker spaniel live longer?

Feeding a healthy diet, maintaining an ideal weight, ensuring regular exercise, practicing good preventatives, scheduling annual vet checks, and promptly treating any illnesses are all key to maximizing your cocker spaniel’s lifespan.

How can I tell if my senior cocker spaniel is approaching the end of life?

Signs a senior cocker spaniel may be declining or nearing end of life include: lack of interest in food/activities, chronic vomiting/diarrhea, incontinence, seizures, vision/hearing loss, lameness, labored breathing, and non-responsive infections. Consulting your vet can help assess quality of life.

Are there any risks to growing cocker spaniels living long term?

While a long life should be the goal for every dog, some risks do occur in aging cocker spaniels. Arthritis pain, cancer risk, and cognitive decline are unfortunately common though manageable age-related issues. Working closely with your vet alleviates suffering when problems arise in aging pets.

About Hailey Pruett

Hailey “Lex” Pruett is a nonbinary writer at YIHY primarily covering reptiles and amphibians. They have over five years of professional content writing experience. Additionally, they grew up on a hobby farm and have volunteered at animal shelters to gain further experience in animal care.

A longtime resident of Knoxville, Tennessee, Hailey has owned and cared extensively for a wide variety of animals in their lifetime, including cats, dogs, lizards, turtles, frogs and toads, fish, chickens, ducks, horses, llamas, rabbits, goats, and more!

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