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 Quality Cocker Spaniels Since 1961



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 breed.
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 vaccines.

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 debilitating diseases.

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 components.

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 Glickman, 2004).

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, 2004).

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, 2001.

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.



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