- GENETIC. Hereditary traits result from the chance combination of countless genes. The smallest combination of genes that can determine a hereditary trait is a pair; one gene inherited from each parent. When two genes combine, the dominant gene determines the trait. A recessive gene does not determine a trait unless combined with another recessive gene. Other combinations may be additive, that is, both genes contribute in part to the expression of the trait.
Here are recognized problems in the breed:
- Luxating patella
- Cleft lip; cleft palate
- Hydrocephalus with or without open fontanel
- Cardiac defects: early and late
- Hang tongue and wry jaw
- Vertebral disc disorders
- Seizure disorders
- Undescended testicles
- Legg calve perthes disease
- Ectopia and extropia (wall-eyed or cross-eyed)
- Skin problems: eczema, seborrhea, and pyoderma
English Toy Spaniels are basically healthy animals. They need good care, good nutrition, careful grooming, and lots of tender, loving care. They are not outside dogs. Although they love to play outside, they should reside within the home. They do not do well in a kennel situation. Awareness of common health problems and routine veterinary check-ups are important elements in assuring your ETS's chance for a happy life. The average life-span of a Charlie is 10 to 12 years.
Here are problems you might encounter:
- EARS. Routine cleaning at bath-time keeps down inflammation. Watch and treat for ear mites and ear infections.
- EYES. Slight exophthalmia and poor corneal enervation can lead to eye injury. Keep eyes clean. Wipe with a cotton ball dampened with sterile eye solution. If mucous or purulent material persists, or eye is painful, see your vet immediately.
- NOSE. Brachycephalic faces will have smushy noses but very rare problems.
- MOUTH. Jaws can be fragile and easily fractured. The temporal mandibular joint can be loose and therefore easy to dislocate. This condition can be extremely painful. Most reduce spontaneously but may need vet care.
- CHEST. Rare.
- CARDIAC. Patent ductus arteriosis can occur and can be occasionally closed with medication. Sometimes surgery is necessary to close. Mitral valve insufficiency, common in toy breeds, is the most frequent cause of the late onset of severe congestive heart failure. It is the most common cause of death in the breed.
- BACK. Occasional disc problems.
- GASTROINTESTINAL. Maintaining good diet, treating parasite infestations, and routine immunization can keep G.I. problems to a minimum.
- SKIN. Atopic dermatitis, secondary to fleas or other allergins, may easily become infected and result in loss of coat. Careful grooming and frequent brushing can keep you ahead of these problems.
- EXTREMITIES. Subluxation of patella is common and may require surgery. Occasional shoulder dysplasia may occur. Syndactaly of toes (fused toes) may cause interdigital cysts that can become infected. Toe nails may also be fused.
Things that are _NOT_ health problems include:
- FUSED TOES. Fused toes may be misdiagnosed as a health problem. This is a breed trait and not a cause for concern.
- OPEN FONTANELLES (a soft spot on the top of the skull) in dogs under a year are common and generally not a cause for concern. Occasionally, a Charlie must be put down for hydrocephalus (water on the brain). Usually this occurs during the puppy phase, and is unlikely to affect most pet owners. However, unless clear neurologic signs of hydrocephalus are present, a veterinarian should not be permitted to diagnose hydrocephalus based on the open fontanelle or the fact the dog has a domed skull alone. These are breed traits, and the opening in the skull, which is also called a molera, is even mentioned in the Chihuahua standard.
- HERNIAS. Finally, it is typical for English Toy Spaniels and Cavaliers to have umbilical hernias. Unless these are open, it is strongly recommended that the risk of surgical correction far outweighs any risks the hernias themselves may cause. If the animal needs such a correction, it should probably done along with other necessary surgery (i.e. spay/neuter, teeth cleaning etc.).
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