Sometimes I think my 16-year-old dog will become a record for the longest living American Cocker Spaniel. Other days I notice how much he’s slowing down. He’s really old. So I know that each day we have him is a gift.
In the last year, he’s slowed down noticeably. His eyesight now seems to be waning. Sometimes he seems confused.
So we just have to enjoy him while we have him.
As it is, he’s outlived the average life expectancy for his breed. The average American Cocker Spaniel lives between 10 and 14 years, according to the American Kennel Club.
So our Buddy has already exceeded the upper end by two years. But he still has a way to go to beat Uno, a Cocker Spaniel who lived to celebrate his 22nd birthday.
I doubt Buddy will make it this far. But we do plan to keep him around as long as possible.
What Are Cocker Spaniels Prone To?
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Please remember that breed averages are just averages. Buddy has exceeded the average. So did Uno. I also know someone else who once owned a 16-year-old Cocker Spaniel. But I was told they put her down when her heart problems caused her distress.
Speaking of the heart. Cocker Spaniels are apparently prone to heart murmurs. Our dog was diagnosed with this condition a few years back. We decided to take a very low-tech approach. I think it’s been the right one. This murmur doesn’t seem to have affected his lifespan.
If we noticed additional symptoms, such as a dry cough, we’d start to explore medical options. But I’m of the mind that if something isn’t really broken, don’t try to fix it.
Actually, it took a while to find out our dog had a heart murmur. During one visit, the vet thought he might. But he was so distressed (because he was at the vet) that she really wasn’t sure. It was impossible for her to really hear what was going on because he barked so much. But she gave us really good advice. Take him on walks, not runs.
Cocker Spaniels are also prone to other health problems. These include:
- Hip dysplasia
- Liver problems
- Cherry eye – our own dog has this when we adopted him from the shelter. It was very unsightly. But it worked out in our favor. That’s because medium-size dogs go quickly. Especially purebred Cocker Spaniels that are good with children. Our dog had been at the shelter for a month before we found him. The shelter corrected this problem free of charge. All was well for awhile. But he’s been bothered by persistent eye growths in his later years.
American Cocker Spaniel Life Span
I don’t think we can claim credit for our dog’s relatively long life. But there are a few things we did that I think were wise. Please understand I’m not a vet, so this article is my personal opinion only, and is not meant as medical advice.
We now feed him a lot of real food, people food. This is nutritionally superior to dry kibble. It took me years to realize that dry kibble may not be the best thing to sustain an animal.
Almost four years ago, we noticed our dog wasn’t thriving. He had been eating a high-end brand of kibble. But it was filled with grains. Corn was a primary ingredient. There are two problems with corn. One is that dogs (genetically identical to wolves) are not designed to eat a lot of grain. The other is that nearly all of the corn grown in the United States is genetically modified.
How Long Do Cocker Spaniels Live?
Genetically modified feed has been shown to cause cancer in a laboratory animals. These animals were rats. So the association hasn’t (yet?) been proven in dogs. Still, this is yet another good reason not to feel my dog corn. Since he wasn’t thriving anyway, we switched him to a grain-free higher nutrition kibble that contains bison, fruits and vegetables. This kibble sustained him for about a year, until he lost is taste for it. During that time, he did very well on it.
This Taste of the Wild kibble is made in America. Our dog did so much better on this than he did on a grain-based diet.
Raw Food Diet for Cocker Spaniels
Eventually, though, we realized he’d do even better if we fed him more people food. Some of this is table scraps. But I make sure it’s food that’s good for dogs. A lot of times, when I’m cutting chicken, I’ll throw him the extra pieces of breast meat that we’re not going to use. This is the meat that contains fat and chewy tendons. He loves it. No complaints.
Raw feeding dogs is a somewhat controversial practice. So please don’t do it unless you talk to your vet beforehand. I personally wouldn’t do this unless I knew the meat was raised without antibiotics, a practice known to breed superbugs. Please note also that raw meat comprises a relatively small amount of my dog’s diet. But it’s something he enjoys and it doesn’t appear to have hurt him.
Cocker Spaniel Life Stages
We adopted our dog when he was 3 1/2. So we haven’t gotten to enjoy all of his life stages. We noticed a gradual slowing down beginning when he was about 11.
At one point, two years ago, we thought we were going to lose him for good. He had stopped eating, and he was already very old. Fortunately, we had a wonderful homeopath. The remedies she helped us select apparently worked. He pulled out of this slump like a trooper, with his appetite returning with a vengeance.
I’m so glad we didn’t take the drastic step of “putting him to sleep.” Instead, we’ve been able to enjoy more time with him. Euthanasia is so final. It’s never something to enter into lightly, without first exploring all of your other options. (At least that’s my personal belief.)
Anyway, we are now (most likely) at the final stage of our dog’s life. It’s been a great run. He’s been a great dog.
English Cocker Spaniels tend to live about about 12 to 14 years, according to the American Kennel Club. This is a little longer (on average) than American Cocker Spaniels.