Information on skin problems in cocker spaniels

Updated November 21, 2016

Cocker spaniels, Americanized from Europe in the late 1800s, are often used for family companionship or for hunting. Cockers, like any other dog breed, have their share of health problems, including maladies involving the skin. Many of the underlying skin problems in the spaniel breeds are due to allergens and infestations that can be treated or cured with the help of a veterinary professional.


Veterinarians typically divide seborrhoea in cocker spaniels into two separate types: primary and secondary seborrhoea. Primary seborrhoea is less severe but incurable; it mimics human dandruff with flaky scales that fall or peel off. Another version is called oily primary seborrhoea and may lead to folliculitis, which is a blockage of the hair follicle that can possibly lead to infection. Treat seborrhoea with hypoallergenic shampoos that help the symptoms; some shampoos contain chemicals to flush the hair follicles.

Secondary seborrhoea has the same symptoms of primary seborrhoea, but the underlying cause is due to another skin condition, such as mange, dermatitis, alopecia, flea allergies or scabies. Primary seborrhoea cannot be accurately diagnosed without the ruling out of secondary seborrhoea; veterinarians often treat it in the same manner as primary seborrhoea.

Atopic Dermatitis

The development of atopic dermatitis in your cocker is caused by allergens and may begin when the dog is between 1 and 3 years of age. These allergens are either inhaled or absorbed through the skin and can cause common to severe itching that may result in hair loss, sores and even a secondary bacterial infection. Allergens may include the same types that cause allergic reactions in humans, including pollen, wool, plant fibres and dust. Depending on the severity of the allergy, atopic dermatitis may appear to be an allergic reaction to flea bites. To reduce the possibilities of dermatitis, wipe the dog down with a damp towel when she comes in from outside or switch to a high-quality dog food. More severe cases may require additional therapy from a licensed veterinarian.


Folliculitis is an infection that you can quickly identify by the appearance of small pustules over the hair follicle, with a piece of hair protruding out through it. Mild cases appear as scaly rings that surround the hair follicles, and more severe folliculitis in cocker spaniels causes rather large puss-filled pustules over the hair follicles. The skin condition may be due to the progression of another condition, such as scabies, mange or seborrhoea. Treat folliculitis with special medicated shampoos, or in severe cases, antibiotics.


Cocker spaniels can suffer from three types of mange: cheyletiella, demodectic and sarcoptic, which are caused by an infestation of microscopic mites. Symptoms of mange can include hair loss around the face, eyes, ears, front and legs; obsessive itching; flaky dandruff material on the dog's head, neck and back; and oozing sores. Sarcoptic mange can be spread with a lesser effect to humans sharing the home with a dog suffering from mange. The diseases can be difficult to diagnose without the expertise of a veterinarian, so at the first sign of excessive and persistent itching, please make an appointment for your dog to seek professional testing. Antibiotics and skin treatments are commonly used to treat mange in the dog and make take upwards of three months to completely alleviate the disease.

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