Modern cocker spaniels usually enjoy a peaceful domestic lifestyle, but they were actually bred to hunt. Their ear flaps droop down to protect a funnel-shaped swath of sensitive skin, a benefit when pursuing prey through vegetation. Unfortunately, this protective trait also makes them prone to a variety of ear problems.
External ear infections are a constant threat to cocker spaniels. Dirt, earwax and moisture build up underneath their ears, irritating the skin and allowing bacteria, fungi and other pathogens to flourish. Parasites, existing skin problems and frequent submersion in water increases the risk of infections. Ask your vet about cleaning and drying solutions for your dog. Wipe your dog's ears with durable cotton balls or a dampened washcloth several times a week. Ear infections make your dog's ears itchy, inflamed and swollen. If he paws at his face, shakes his head frequently or constantly scratches the area, then he may be suffering from an ear infection.
Thorns and other plant materials can become embedded in the sensitive skin beneath your dog's ear flaps. Foreign objects can also clog your pet's ear canal. Don't attempt to remove anything that is stuck in your dogs ear, let a vet take care of him. You can accidentally cause a lot of pain and harm by tugging on a lodged object. Anesthesia may also be required to safely conduct the procedure.
Cocker spaniels also have an increased risk of developing allergies, which can cause hair loss, itchiness and inflammation, according to My Cocker Spaniel. There are literally dozens of possible dietary allergens, so the only way to isolate the source is to feed your dog an allergen-free diet. Ask your vet about what type of food to use and if your dog should be tested for allergies. Skin around the ears and paws are easily irritated by allergies.
Cocker spaniels are at high risk of developing seborrhea, which is an overgrowth of skin cells. While it is usually the result of an underlying condition, like fault hormone production, seborrhea can occur in cockers independently, according to Illinois Cocker Rescue. It produces a combination of dry and oily patches of skin. Treating the underlying cause of seborrhea is the only way to cure it. If your cocker suffers from chronic seborrhea, ask your vet about shampoos and other supplies designed specifically to mitigate the symptoms of this condition.
Other Skin Problems
There's a good chance that your spaniel is suffering from a general skin condition or a combination of them. Ringworm and yeast infections are easy to contract and can spread to humans and various animals. These superficial problems cause general skin irritation, like itchiness and redness. Prescription medications may be necessary to completely cure a pathogenic infection. The cocker's ears are also a great place for parasites to hang out and procreate. Even if you inspect and groom your dog's coat regularly, fleas, mites and other pests can set up shop in your dog's ears if you don't clean them often.
- majestic cocker image by Martin Woodward from Fotolia.com