Information About Cockers:
Buying A Cocker Spaniel Puppy - by Gail Haubrich
Changing Vaccine Protocols - Dr. Dodds
Buying a Cocker Spaniel Puppy
Due to the enormous increase in popularity of the
Cocker Spaniel, the WSCSC offers the following
guideline to prospective purchasers and/or breeders.
1) HEALTH: The Cocker Spaniel is prone to several
hereditary eye problems, the most serious of which
are cataracts and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA).
both of which can and do cause blindness. These
conditions can be detected through the use of a
slit-temp examination which is performed with
specialized eye equipment, and can detect problems
long before they are apparent to the naked eye. An
unafflicted animal is issued a slit-temp
certificate, which certifies him/her to be clear of
these eye defects for a period of one year.
Prospective puppy buyers should demand to see
current - within one year - slit-lamp certificates
on both parents and should accept no excuses for not
having animate tested. Anyone wishing to breed a
cocker should have her slit-lamp examined before
breeding, and should demand the same of the stud
dog. Afflicted animate should not be used for
breeding. Alt breeding stock should also be x-rayed
clear for Hip Dysplasia, a hip joint malformation,
and slip stifles, which is a problem involving the
stifle joint (knee) in the hind legs. It is a good
idea to have the puppy thoroughly examined by a
qualified veterinarian before purchase.
2) GROOMING: As with any coated dog, the Cocker
Spaniel does require a certain amount of care. He
should be groomed by a professional every six to
eight weeks and should be brushed thoroughly at
least once a week between groomings. Ears, eyes,
teeth and toenails should be carefully checked
weekly and proper attention paid to any problems.
Baths are very helpful, but the dog should be
brushed thoroughly first, and never bathed if mats
are present. It the a good idea to keep the Cocker
inside as much as possible during wet weather.
Getting wet and muddy only helps to mat the Cocker's
coat making It very hard to keep up. A good flea
powder or spray the also recommended to help combat
the problem of fleas.
3) TEMPERAMENT: The Cocker Spaniel should be a
merry, confident, and easygoing fellow. Small
puppies should be active, friendly, and outgoing,
with no tendency to start at sudden noises or
movements. The puppies should, however, be given a
few minutes to acquaint themselves with new
situations. Beware of puppies that back away and
growl or try to hide. If a puppy the well adjusted
and friendly on the day he goes to the new home. The
breeder has done his part. Prom that point on it the
responsibility of the new owner to properly train
and socialize the pet.
4) QUALITY: In the "Are You A Responsible Dog
Owner?'1 booklet, the American Kennel Club states
that registration in itself is no guarantee of
quality The best way to obtain a quality Cocker
Spaniel is to buy from a well-established breeder
who seriously shows his dogs. and regularly tests
for ail defects. Look at several litters of puppies
and beware of the "quick sale’. Attend dog shows if
possible, watch the judging and talk to as many
people in the breed as possible. The AKC Cocker
Spaniel standard is the official blueprint of the
The Standard states in part: The Cocker Spaniel is
the smallest member of the sporting group. He has a
sturdy, compact body and a cleanly chiseled and
refined head. with the overall dog in complete
balance and of ideal size - under 15 1/2 inches for
mates and under 14 1/2 inches for females. He stands
well up at the shoulders on straight forelegs with a
slightly sloping topline and strong muscular
hindquarters. His teeth meet in a scissors bite -
like a person's teeth. His ears, chest, abdomen and
legs are well feathered with long coat of correct
texture, but excessive coat is to be penalized.
5) COLOR: Cocker Spaniel come in a rainbow of
colors. They are judged in three separate categories
according to color: 1 Black - solid black, to
include black with tan points; 2. ASCOB. - Any Solid
Color Other than Black and any such color with tan
points; 3. Parti-color - two or more definite,
well-broken colors, one of which must be white,
including those with tan points. (The most common of
which are black and white, red and white and
tri-color.) The color of a Cocker is never as
important as the quality, and no color the more
acceptable than another. Beware however, of mismarks,
which are solid color dogs who have small white
markings incorrectly placed over their bodies, or
black and tan dogs without the correct tan markings,
or parti-color dogs who do not have enough of the
secondary color. Mismarks can make fine family pets,
but as a rule should not be used for breeding.
6) BREEDING: This should involve much thought and
planning. Both parents should be tested for
hereditary defects and should complement each other
in type and pedigree. Puppies should be given the
best of care and not sold before a minimum of eight
weeks of age. The proper home should be selected
carefully for each puppy. Most people lose money on
their first few litters until they have proven the
quality of the dogs they breed.
7) PRICE: The breeding and raising of quality dogs
is a very expensive pastime. Therefore, a quality
Cocker Spaniel puppy will not be cheap, but most
sincere breeders will go out of their way to place
the puppy in the right home. The love and time
devoted to each litter of puppies cannot be measured
in money, and generally the price tag will reflect
only a portion of the actual expenses that have gone
into raising the puppy. The Washington State Cocker
Spaniel Club is a non-profit organization dedicated
to breeding and exhibiting quality Cocker Spaniels.
The club holds two Cocker Specialty shows a year, in
March and August, plus several field events yearly
and holds a yearly eye clinic for slit-temp testing.
The proceeding article was written in 1980 by Gail
Haubrich and approved by the Club for publication in
the "Dog News" column in the Seattle Times.
(Paragraph #5 was edited to include standard changes
since the original article was written.)
Dr. Dodds' Changing Vaccine Protocols
W. Jean Dodds, DVM
The challenge to produce effective and safe vaccines
for the prevalent infectious diseases of humans and
animals has become increasingly difficult. In
veterinary medicine, evidence implicating vaccines
in triggering immune-mediated and other chronic
disorders (vaccinosis) is compelling.
While some of these problems have been traced to
contaminated or poorly attenuated batches of vaccine
that revert to virulence, others apparently reflect
the host’s genetic predisposition to react adversely
upon receiving the single (monovalent) or multiple
antigen “combo” (polyvalent) products given
routinely to animals. Animals of certain susceptible
breeds or families appear to be at increased risk
for severe and lingering adverse reactions to
The onset of adverse reactions to conventional
vaccinations (or other inciting drugs,
chemicals, or infectious agents) can be an immediate
hypersensitivity or anaphylactic reaction, or can
occur acutely (24-48 hours afterwards), or later on
(10-45 days) in a delayed type immune response often
caused by immune-complex formation. Typical signs of
adverse immune reactions include fever, stiffness,
sore joints and abdominal tenderness, susceptibility
to infections, central and peripheral nervous system
disorders or inflammation, collapse with
autoagglutinated red blood cells and jaundice, or
generalized pinpoint hemorrhages or bruises. Liver
enzymes may be markedly elevated, and liver or
kidney failure may accompany bone marrow
suppression. Furthermore, recent vaccination of
genetically susceptible breeds has been associated
with transient seizures in puppies and adult dogs,
as well as a variety of autoimmune diseases
including those affecting the blood, endocrine
organs, joints, skin and mucosa, central nervous
system, eyes, muscles, liver, kidneys, and bowel. It
is postulated that an underlying genetic
predisposition to these conditions places other
littermates and close relatives at increased risk.
Vaccination of pet and research dogs with polyvalent
vaccines containing rabies virus or rabies vaccine
alone was recently shown to induce production of
antithyroglobulin autoantibodies, a provocative and
important finding with implications for the
subsequent development of hypothyroidism (Scott-Moncrieff
et al, 2002).
Vaccination also can overwhelm the immunocompromised
or even healthy host that is repeatedly challenged
with other environmental stimuli and is genetically
predisposed to react adversely upon viral exposure.
The recently weaned young puppy or kitten entering a
new environment is at greater risk here, as its
relatively immature immune system can be temporarily
or more permanently harmed. Consequences in later
life may be the increased susceptibility to chronic
As combination vaccines contain antigens other than
those of the clinically importantinfectious disease
agents, some may be unnecessary; and their use may
increase the risk of adverse reactions. With the
exception of a recently introduced mutivalent
Leptospira spp. vaccine, the other leptospirosis
vaccines afford little protection against the
clinically important fields strains of leptospirosis,
and the antibodies they elicit typically last only a
few months. Other vaccines, such as for Lyme
disease, may not be needed, because the disease is
limited to certain geographical areas.
Annual revaccination for rabies is required by some
states even though there are USDA licensed rabies
vaccine with a 3-year duration. Thus, the overall
risk-benefit ratio of using certain vaccines or
multiple antigen vaccines given simultaneously and
repeatedly should be reexamined. It must be
recognized, however, that we have the luxury of
asking such questions today only because the risk of
disease has been effectively reduced by the
widespread use of vaccination programs.
Given this troublesome situation, what are the
experts saying about these issues? In 1995, a
landmark review commentary focused the attention of
the veterinary profession on the advisability of
current vaccine practices. Are we overvaccinating
companion animals, and if so, what is the
appropriate periodicity of booster vaccines?
Discussion of this provocative topic has generally
lead to other questions about the duration of
immunity conferred by the currently licensed vaccine
In response to questions posed in the first part of
this article, veterinary vaccinologists have
recommended new protocols for dogs and cats. These
include: 1) giving the puppy or kitten vaccine
series followed by a booster at one year of age; 2)
administering further boosters in a combination
vaccine every three years or as split components
alternating every other year until; 3) the pet
reaches geriatric age, at which time booster
vaccination is likely to be unnecessary and may be
unadvisable for those with aging or immunologic
disorders. In the intervening years between booster
vaccinations, and in the case of geriatric pets,
circulating humoral immunity can be evaluated by
measuring serum vaccine antibody titers as an
indication of the presence of immune memory. Titers
do not distinguish between immunity generated by
vaccination and/or exposure to the disease, although
the magnitude of immunity produced just by
vaccination is usually lower (see Tables).
Except where vaccination is required by law, all
animals, but especially those dogs or close
relatives that previously experienced an adverse
reaction to vaccination can have serum antibody
titers measured annually instead of revaccination.
If adequate titers are found, the animal should not
need revaccination until some future date.
Rechecking antibody titers can be performed
annually, thereafter, or can be offered as an
alternative to pet owners who prefer not to follow
the conventional practice of annual boosters.
Reliable serologic vaccine titering is available
from several university and commercial laboratories
and the cost is reasonable (Twark and Dodds, 2000;
Lappin et al, 2002; Paul et al, 2003; Moore and
Relatively little has been published about the
duration of immunity following vaccination, although
new data are beginning to appear for both dogs and
cats. Our recent study (Twark and Dodds, 2000),
evaluated 1441 dogs for CPV antibody titer and 1379
dogs for CDV antibody titer. Of these, 95.1 % were
judged to have adequate CPV titers, and nearly all
(97.6 %) had adequate CDV titers. Vaccine histories
were available for 444 dogs (CPV) and 433 dogs (CDV).
Only 43 dogs had been vaccinated within the previous
year, with the majority of dogs (268 or 60%) having
received a booster vaccination 1-2 years beforehand.
On the basis of our data, we concluded that annual
revaccination is unnecessary. Similar findings and
conclusions have been published recently for dogs in
New Zealand (Kyle et al, 2002), and cats (Scott and
Geissinger, 1999; Lappin et al, 2002). Comprehensive
studies of the duration of serologic response to
five viral vaccine antigens in dogs and three viral
vaccine antigens in cats were recently published by
researchers at Pfizer Animal Health ( Mouzin et al,
When an adequate immune memory has already been
established, there is little reason to
introduce unnecessary antigen, adjuvant, and
preservatives by administering booster vaccines. By
titering annually, one can assess whether a given
animal’s humoral immune response has fallen below
levels of adequate immune memory. In that event, an
appropriate vaccine booster can be administered.
Dodds WJ. More bumps on the vaccine road. Adv Vet
Med 41:715-732, 1999.
Dodds WJ. Vaccination protocols for dogs predisposed
to vaccine reactions. J Am An Hosp Assoc 38: 1-4,
Hogenesch H, Azcona-Olivera J, Scott-Moncreiff C, et
al. Vaccine-induced autoimmunity in the dog. Adv Vet
Med 41: 733-744, 1999.
Hustead DR, Carpenter T, Sawyer DC, et al.
Vaccination issues of concern to practitioners. J Am
Vet Med Assoc 214: 1000-1002, 1999.
Kyle AHM, Squires RA, Davies PR. Serologic status
and response to vaccination against canine distemper
(CDV) and canine parvovirus (CPV) of dogs vaccinated
at different intervals. J Sm An Pract, June 2002.
Lappin MR, Andrews J, Simpson D, et al. Use of
serologic tests to predict resistance to feline
herpesvirus 1, feline calicivirus, and feline
parvovirus infection in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc
220: 38-42, 2002.
McGaw DL, Thompson M, Tate, D, et al. Serum
distemper virus and parvovirus antibody titers among
dogs brought to a veterinary hospital for
revaccination. J Am Vet Med Assoc 213: 72-75, 1998.
Moore GE, Glickman LT. A perspective on vaccine
guidelines and titer tests for dogs. J Am Vet Med
Assoc 224: 200-203. 2004.
Mouzin DE, Lorenzen M J, Haworth, et al. Duration of
serologic response to five viral antigens in dogs. J
Am Vet Med Assoc 224: 55-60, 2004.
Mouzin DE, Lorenzen M J, Haworth, et al. Duration of
serologic response to three viral antigens in cats.
J Am Vet Med Assoc 224: 61-66, 2004.
Paul MA. Credibility in the face of controversy. Am
An Hosp Assoc Trends Magazine XIV(2):19-21, 1998.
Paul MA (chair) et al. Report of the AAHA Canine
Vaccine Task Force: 2003 canine vaccine guidelines,
recommendations, and supporting literature. AAHA,
April 2003, 28 pp.
Schultz RD. Current and future canine and feline
vaccination programs. Vet Med 93:233-254, 1998.
Schultz RD, Ford RB, Olsen J, Scott F. Titer testing
and vaccination: a new look at traditional
practices. Vet Med, 97: 1-13, 2002 (insert).
Scott FW, Geissinger CM. Long-term immunity in cats
vaccinated with an inactivated trivalent vaccine. Am
J Vet Res 60: 652-658, 1999.
Scott-Moncrieff JC, Azcona-Olivera J, Glickman NW,
et al. Evaluation of antithyroglobulin antibodies
after routine vaccination in pet and research dogs.
J Am Vet Med Assoc 221: 515-521, 2002.
Smith CA. Are we vaccinating too much? J Am Vet Med
Assoc 207:421-425, 1995.
Tizard I, Ni Y. Use of serologic testing to assess
immune status of companion animals. J Am Vet Med
Assoc 213: 54-60, 1998.
Twark L, Dodds WJ. Clinical application of serum
parvovirus and distemper virus antibody titers for
determining revaccination strategies in healthy
dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 217:1021-1024, 2000.