When you look into your beloved cocker spaniel's beautiful brown eyes, you see his love for you reflected back. You also might see cloudy areas in your dog's eyes. That means he's developing cataracts, a common genetic eye disease in the breed. Fortunately, surgery usually offers a good outcome.
Cataracts cloud your dog's eye lens. They can appear in either or both of his eyes. Because cocker spaniels are genetically predisposed to developing cataracts, they can show up in relatively young dogs. According to the California-based Animal Eye Care Clinic, inherited cataracts show up in dogs between ages one and four. Your dog can't see through that spot in his eye. Some cataracts are mild and don't enlarge, or grow slowly, while others can render your dog blind in a short time. They also can lead to other eye issues, including glaucoma and uveitis. Always consult with a qualified vet about the health and welfare of your pet.
Your vet examines your dog's eyes to make sure the opacity results from a cataract rather than another eye condition. You might consult a veterinary ophthalmologist, especially one familiar with cocker spaniels, about performing surgery if that is prescribed. The surgery is complicated and requires a commitment on your part, but one that's worth it to restore your dog's vision.
Because hereditary cataracts can progress quickly, your veterinary ophthalmologist might recommend surgery earlier than she would on a dog with a non-genetically-based cataract. That can be a plus, because many old dogs with cataracts aren't good candidates for anesthesia and surgery. For younger dogs, a method of removal known as phacoemulsification is the treatment of choice, according to VeterinaryPartner.com. Your dog is given medication that causes complete paralysis. That sounds like a horror movie, but it's so he won't blink his eye during the procedure. The lens is then broken apart with sound waves, removed, and an artificial lens implanted. Your dog must wear an Elizabethan collar, commonly called a "cone of shame," and you must give him eye drops for inflammation reduction. It can take months before he's 100 percent, but his eye should be fine after recuperation.
Cataracts aren't the only eye issues commonly affecting the cocker spaniel. Cocker eyes are especially vulnerable. Glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, cherry eye, dry eye and other peeper problems could harm your dog's vision. If purchasing a puppy, ask to see the parents and for information about their eye health. The breeder should show you a clearance on the parents' eyes from a veterinary ophthalmologist or the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. However, some eye problems don't show up until a dog is middle-aged or older. Take your dog to a veterinary ophthalmologist every year for an examination, to nip potential problems in the bud or treat them as soon as possible.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.