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Cocker Spaniel Care Tips Part 2: Breed-Specific Dog Skin Problems | VetDERM Clinic

Cocker Spaniel Care Tips Part 2: Breed-Specific Dog Skin Problems


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Cocker Spaniel dogs are excellent companions that possess a very expressive, loving, and sporty personality. They love to play outdoors as well as indoors, are easily trained, and are great with kids! They love to please those around them, making them a very desirable dog breed. It’s no wonder they have been a popular dog breed for a long time.

As part of the breed, some skin and ear-related problems are very common in Cocker Spaniels, along with their great all around personality and companionship. If you live with a Cocker Spaniel or are looking to adopt one, it is helpful to know more about the breed.

Cocker Spaniels are prone to allergies, thyroid conditions, development of oily seborrhoea of skin (excessive oil production by skin oil glands), and ear problems.


Following are some of the skin conditions they can be prone to developing in particular.

Dermatological Problems Commonly Affecting Cocker Spaniel Dogs

Environmental allergies (Atopic dermatitis)

Cocker Spaniel dogs are one of the dog breeds that are most commonly affected by environmental allergies. Though food allergies get most of the attention during most discussion and diagnosis of allergies, food allergies in dogs are actually less common than environmental allergies. Allergies can cause symptoms related to itchiness and inflammation of skin and ears. This includes itchy paws, skin infection, and possible hair loss.


Cocker Spaniels are one of those dog breeds that possesses a hereditary predisposition to hypothyroidism. That means that in affected dogs, their metabolism may not regulate itself as it should the way normal individuals do. This can predispose the affected dog to develop skin infections, ear infections, inflamed skin, and hair loss. If left undiagnosed, signs can progress and lead to chronic skin changes such as skin thickening, dark pigmentation of skin, increased dandruff, continuous shedding of hair, weight gain, tiredness, and itchiness if skin infection occurs.

Sebaceous adenomas

These lesions are small lumps that develop on the skin of dogs; usually small but multiple masses on the skin may be present. Sebaceous adenomas are masses formed from enlargement of the sebaceous glands (oil producing glands) in dog skin. These masses are benign and do not usually cause problems for the patient unless they are located at itchy sites or if infection occurs on them. If this happens, treatment of infection and removing these masses surgically helps resolve the problem.

Immune mediated skin diseases

A collection of skin conditions that develop due to the dysfunction of the body’s immune system where it causes negative effects on its own skin. Cocker Spaniels may be affected by some of these autoimmune skin conditions.

Vitamin A responsive dermatitis

This is an inflammatory condition of the skin that is quite uncommon. This condition is noted in Cocker Spaniels and should only be diagnosed after other possibilities causing skin problems are ruled out. Such other possibilities include allergies to food and environment, as well as thyroid related conditions.

Malassezia dermatitis

Malassezia is the yeast organism (a fungus) that lives on the healthy skin of dogs. It does not cause a skin infection in healthy dogs, but it can overgrow and cause skin inflammation in dogs affected by other skin diseases, and this is a secondary problem.


Also a secondary skin condition in dogs, seborrhoea is the presence of dry and/or oily skin, usually affecting the trunk of the body. Seborrhoea can look like dandruff laden skin, greasy and oily skin, and skin that has a malodor associated with it. A mix of these signs may be present in the same dog if seborrhoea is severe.

Ear Infections

Due to their floppy ears and being prone to the above skin conditions, Cocker Spaniels are also prone to ear problems. In some dogs ear problems may progress and worsen quite quickly and thus should be addressed promptly. To learn more about Cocker Spaniel ear care tips and the importance of treating them early and appropriately, read our blog on Cocker ear care.

As ears are an extension of the skin, this implies Cocker ear canal glands (called ceruminous glands) are prone to excessive production of oils, similar to oily seborrhoea. Thus, Cocker ears can become inflamed quite rapidly and lead to significant discomfort.

Caring for Cocker Spaniel Skin Conditions

Cocker Spaniels are vulnerable to many different skin problems, so it can be common for multiple diseases and disorders to overlap with each other. When their immune system is involved and their skin is inflamed and damaged, skin pathogens can also become involved in the condition. These pathogens may include bacteria of various types, Malassezia yeast, and some skin parasites. Due to these pathogens, further problems can arise and make things worse.

Be sure to check your Cocker Spaniel’s fur and skin regularly for parasites, fleas, and any abnormal skin lesions such as crusts, hair loss, and rashes. Any skin issue you may notice should be checked by a veterinarian or our veterinary dermatologist just in case, even if it looks minor at the outset.

We love this breed of dog for its great personality, expressive eyes, and nice temperament, and would love to contribute to happiness and good health in as many Cocker Spaniels as we possibly can.

To ensure any dog skin condition doesn’t progress or continuously bother your Cocker Spaniel, it is important to have your pet dermatologist or vet diagnose and treat the underlying cause early and completely.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to VetDERM Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.




Dr. Jangi Bajwa is a Board certified veterinary dermatologist at VetDERM Clinic in Surrey BC. He is also the dermatology feature editor for Canadian Veterinary Journal. Dr. Bajwa’s special interests include otitis and allergic disease in pets; as well as helping improve quality of life of pets and their families.


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