Cocker Spaniel Eyes: Conditions, Symptoms, and Treatment

June 25, 2022

As a breed, Cocker Spaniels have a reputation for having many eye problems.

It is important to know the problems which can occur. If you are able to recognise the signs your Cocker Spaniel has an eye problem you will be able to seek treatment early before they get out of hand and cause long-term health complications.

Understanding this is very beneficial to dog owners but critical to those who breed Cocker Spaniels as they do not want to pass on hereditary conditions through breeding.

This is particularly true seeing that many eye diseases are overrepresented in this breed.

In this article, we will cover the main eye problems which afflict Cocker Spaniels, the symptoms you should look out for and what the options for treatment are.

By the time you finish reading this article, you will be very well equipped to keep your dog's eyes healthy throughout their lives.

So, with no further ado, let's get started!

Are Cocker Spaniels Prone to Eye Problems?

Yes, Cocker Spaniels are known for being susceptible to a wide range of eye problems.

For some of these conditions, they are even more likely to be afflicted than other dog breeds. This could be through breeding, genetics, or just plain bad luck.

Over the course of your Cocker Spaniels life, it's very likely you will gain some experience dealing with at least one of the eye conditions talked about below.

There are ways to reduce the chances your Cocker Spaniel has eye problems such as ensuring the parents did not have eye diseases which are hereditary or have a bad track record of getting them.

You will want to check the parent's medical history if you are getting a Cocker Spaniel puppy.

Which Eye Conditions are Cocker Spaniels More Likely to Get?

The reputation a Cocker Spaniel has gained for being susceptible to eye problems is well-founded.

There are several conditions which a Cocker Spaniel will have more chance of getting. These include glaucoma, conjunctivitis, cataracts, cherry eye, dry eyes, and progressive retinal atrophy.

A few of these problems are easily manageable/avoidable through active care and vigilance while some are most likely to be inherited diseases that stem from poor breeding practices.

We will dive deep into all of this in this article though.

How to Take Care of a Cocker Spaniels Eyes

Actively caring for your dog's eyes is very important, particularly seeing the range of conditions that a Cocker Spaniel can get.

Try to examine your dog's eyes regularly. This could even be when you are giving your Cocker Spaniel a cuddle and relaxing. It only takes two minutes and can catch a condition a lot earlier.

To check their eyes you will want to be in a well-lit area and carefully look for any of the symptoms listed below.

Keep a look out for any behaviours during the day which could signify a problem. This could be pawing at their eye or your dog squinting a lot for example.

Cleaning your Cocker Spaniels Eyes

Cleaning your dog's eyes on a regular basis can have a few benefits.

A good clean could alleviate any friction or irritation from their eyes and can reduce the chances of infection if they have any slight abrasions on their eyes and got debris in there during their adventures.

Remember, your dog spends all of its time really close to the ground. This means it's much easier for pollen or other irritants to get into their eyes.

Washing your Cocker Spaniels Eyes

To wash your Cockers eyes you'll need:

  • Eyewash
  • A soft cloth
  • Ophthalmic gel

First, you will want to flush your dog's eye with a saline eye rinse. This will help clear out anything pollen, or other contaminants. Then grab that soft cloth and wipe away the excess. Then apply the ophthalmic gel to offer an added layer of protection.

You may also want to grab some eye stain wipes to clean those tear stains which can appear around your Cockers eyes.

Food and Supplements

Ensuring your Cocker has a complete and balanced diet can go a long way to ensuring they remain happy and healthy for longer and can reduce the chances of illness.

There are foods which contribute to a dog's eye health. If your Cocker Spaniel's diet is on point then you'll likely be doing everything you should be to maintain their health. We do have a full article on this, but basically, you should ensure you are feeding your dog a complete and balanced diet.

Aside from their normal food if you want to give your Cocker a little extra nutrition or a healthier option for treats you have a few options.

In the past, we've used carrots, kale, blueberries, and sweet potato. This can be a bit better than store-bought treats too.

What Eye Problems Can Cocker Spaniels Have?

So, which problems can Cocker Spaniel eyes get?

Here we will cover the top nine conditions to which Cocker Spaniels are susceptible. The reasons this can happen will vary greatly from genetics, to tear glands not draining properly, to abrasions or friction on the surface of their eye.

This includes:

  • Glaucoma
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Entropion & Ectropion
  • Cataracts
  • Cherry Eye
  • Dry Eye (KCS)
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • Distichiasis
  • Ectopic Colia


Glaucoma is when the level of intraocular pressure in your dog's eye increases past its normal level. This condition is one which is more prevalent in Cocker Spaniels.

A dog's eyes need to maintain a level of pressure between 15-20 mm Hg. To maintain this pressure a dog's eye needs a healthy balance of a clear fluid called aqueous humour and effective drainage.

Essentially, Glaucoma is an eye drainage problem.

As this condition takes hold pressure continues to build and if left untreated the consequences can be very serious. In severe cases, it can even lead to blindness.

So what are the symptoms of Glaucoma in dogs?

Look out for:

  • Excessive tearing
  • Red eyes
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Irritable, may be scratching eye with paws
  • Protruding eyeball
  • Yellow or green eye discharge
  • Sensitivity to light

If you suspect your Cocker has Glaucoma you should book an appointment with your vet. Your vet will measure the intraocular pressure in your dog's eyes and visually examine the eye's drainage.

They will look to decrease the pressure in the eye as quickly as possible. Often this condition is treated by a combination of surgery and medication.

Treatment will not work 100% of the time. Even with professional care, it could still lead to your dog losing the use of the eye. Fast treatment is critical.


Cocker Spaniels are also susceptible to conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye. This occurs when the conjunctiva of the eye becomes inflamed.

This condition is just like the one that humans can get from time to time. As anyone who has had this in the past will attest it is quite uncomfortable and that eye is really initiable. Resisting that temptation to rub your eye in pursuit of some relief can be a challenge.

And this can be a problem for dogs as they'll just try to rub their face with a paw which can irritate it more.

This is the most common eye problem found in Cockers. One that most Cocker Spaniel owners are likely to be acquainted with at some point.

It is worth noting that if your dog has Conjunctivitis it can be contagious to other dogs. If you suspect your Cocker has this separate them from any other dogs you have.

You will want to book an appointment with your vet if your dog has conjunctivitis. Treatment is fairly straight forward and the outcome is positive long-term.

Conjunctivitis is treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointment. I'd request the eye drop version if you can. They are much easier to put in.

The cause is often an allergic reaction to pollen, dust, distemper, or any airborne irritants.

Bacteria can also be the culprit. Your vet will be able to tell you the cause though.

Eyelash Problems: Entropion & Ectropion

Ectropion and entropion are both eyelash problems which can afflict Cocker Spaniel eyes.

Though the names are near identical the key difference to remember here is that ectropion is the rolling of the lower eyelid while entropion is when either of the eyelids turns inwards. It's usually the lower side that is affected though.

Ectropion is the worse of the two as it causes eyelashes to rub against the eyeball. Quite a painful condition, perhaps even more than the others on this list. And, worse yet, it often affects both eyes at the same time.

These conditions can be passed down from parents and usually present themselves by the time your Cocker Spaniel turns one. For this reason, breeding dogs who have been diagnosed with this condition is discouraged.

If left unchecked this could cause serious damage over time.

The main symptoms to look out for are:

  • Excessive tearing
  • Eye discharge
  • Corneal ulcers
  • Squinting
  • Swelling
  • Rubbing eye with a paw
  • Eye redness
  • Excessive blinking

Take your Cocker to the vet as promptly if you suspect your dog has one of these conditions. Your vet will perform an ophthalmologic examination of your dog's eyes and eyelids to diagnose.

If diagnosed as one of these eyelash conditions the treatment will depend on how far it has gone on.

Ectropion is the less serious of the two and might just be managed with eye drops.

Entropion is a different matter and may require a surgery called Blepharoplasty in more serious cases or treatment with creams, ointments, or eye drops to reduce friction on the eye if caught early on.

Even with creams and eye drops your Cocker may end up getting surgery anyway for a long-term solution.


Cataracts are when the lens of your dog's eye clouds. As the lens becomes cloudy light can't reach the retina which leads to blindness.

This eye disease is another which a Cocker Spaniel is more likely to be affected.

A Cocker Spaniel's eyes with cataracts will seem like they have a haze over their eyes. You will also notice that they are not as receptive to their environment. This could be not managing to grab a ball thrown to them, bumping into walls or other obvious obstacles.

If you've just got a new Cocker Spaniel puppy and they are behaving like this you may want to take a trip to the vet.

There are a few reasons cataracts can appear during a dog's life. It could be caused by physical trauma or diabetes. However, most of the time it is a result of genetics or breeding.

As mentioned this is another condition which can be inherited through breeding. If a Cocker Spaniel is going to get cataracts as a result of breeding it will generally happen by the time they are four years old. It is possible this can occur in later life too though.

Be sure to check the parent's health history when buying a Cocker Spaniel puppy.

Symptoms to look out for:

  • Hazy eyes. Can appear white, grey, or blue
  • Bumping into things
  • Impaired vision

Of all Cocker Spaniel eye problems cataracts are ranks quite high in seriousness. It needs to be promptly assessed and treated by your vet. If dealt with early on your dog will easily recover.

Your vet will do an ophthalmologic examination that assesses if your dog has any vision loss.

If not treated your Cocker Spaniel will experience a lot of pain, lower quality of life, and even become blind.

The only cure for cataracts is surgical removal.

Read our article about cataracts in Cocker Spaniels here.

Cherry Eye

Dogs have a third eyelid which is designed to protect their eyeball. You can see it at times when they blink. This is all normal.

However, if the tear gland of this eyelid moves out of place and appears to swell in the corner of your dog's eye your dog has cherry eye.

This can be a little scary the first time you see it. You might mistake it for a tumour and panic. Luckily, cherry eye is not that serious if dealt with.

If left untreated the gland can become irritated or inflamed. One of the main risks to the third eyelid being exposed is your Cocker scratching at it looking for relief. This can further aggravate it or lead to complications like infections.

Cherry eye often occurs as a result of the eyelid being a bit loose or rough play with other dogs.

Some advocate for trying to deal with cherry eye yourself at home, however, I would recommend just seeing your vet.

It may be possible for your vet to massage it back into place and prescribe eye drops or recommend surgical removal. If surgery is the solution then your Cocker Spaniel will be more susceptible to dry eyes as the third eyelid was also responsible for tear production.

Cherry eye is another condition that has been observed more commonly in this breed.

Dry Eyes (KCS)

Dry eyes is exactly how it sounds. It is when your Cocker's eyes are not producing enough tears to lubricate their eyeball.

Cocker Spaniels are one of the breeds most prone to this problem.

A lack of tears leads to a dry and itchy eye, which leads to a dog scratching the eye, and finally leads to abrasions on the cornea and a trip to the vet.

There is a wide range of conditions that the above scenario can lead to such as corneal ulcers, infections, or even blindness.

Symptoms include:

  • Redness
  • Inflammation
  • Squinting
  • Light sensitivity
  • Discharge

If you recognise the above signs on your Cocker Spaniel you should consult your vet. They will easily be able to offer support.

First, they will diagnose dry eye with a Schirmer tear test. This assesses if your dog's eyes are producing enough tears to keep the eye moist. A normal dog eye could be between 15 and 25mm per minute. Anything under 5mm a minute is classed as dry eye.

If your Cocker Spaniel does have dry eyes they'll be prescribed lubrication such as artificial tears to keep their eyes moist. They might also get antibiotics if your dog has damaged the front of their eye by scratching.

This condition is most commonly caused by the immune system attacking the eyelid gland.

Dogs can have this condition as a result of other problems or procedures such as third eyelid removal for cherry eye. In this case, you will have to medicate your Cocker with eye drops for the rest of their lives.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy is a group of degenerative diseases that affect photoreceptor cells in your dog's eyes.

Anything with atrophy in the name means degrading over time. As this condition is about your dog's eyes they will do just that. Gradually over time, your dog will lose the use of its sight.

While this condition is not a painful one it's one that will progressively get worse and there is currently no effective treatment available.

Unfortunately, this condition is more present in Cockers than in other breeds.

Early on you may notice similar symptoms as you see in dog's eyes who have cataracts.

If you see these go to your vet and get tested. With any luck it is cataracts and there is a positive outlook.

There are a few symptoms to look out for:

  • Night blindness
  • Reflectivity of the retina
  • Dilated pupils

As the condition progresses the night blindness will turn to day blindness and eventually your dog will be completely blind.

PRA is another condition that can be hereditary and you will want to check the parent's health history for this too.


A dog with distichiasis has eyelashes growing from the oil glands of its eyelid. This can cause irritation to their eyeball. This friction leads to corneal ulcers, inflammation, or eye infections.

Symptoms to look out for:

  • Red eye
  • Inflammation
  • Squinting
  • Rubbing eyes with paws

If you notice these see your vet. Once examined and diagnosed there are several treatment options available. Which your vet opts for will depend on the severity. They may manually remove the eyelash, use electrolysis, or in more serious cases surgery.

Antibiotics might also be prescribed to clear infections if your dog has been scratching at the eye too much and created abrasions.

Entopic Colia

This condition is very similar too distichiasis although the eyelashes grow from inside the eyelid. This constantly creates friction between the eyelid and eyeball.

It is a very painful condition and can lead to corneal ulcers, infections, or other irritations. You may see your Cocker pawing at their eye for some relief


  • Squinting
  • Pawing at eye
  • Tearing
  • Discharge
  • Corneal ulcers

The treatment for entopic colia is the same as distichiasis. Your vet will remove the eyelash manually or possibly with surgery.

Do Cocker Spaniels Eyes Get Worse as they Age?

Just like people, your dog's vision will deteriorate over time.

While a Cocker Spaniel's eyes can get conditions at any age older dogs are more susceptible to the range of afflictions detailed above.

There is one which exclusively affects senior Cockers called nuclear sclerosis. It is a condition that develops on the lens of an older dog's eye and causes cloudiness over the eye.

There is no cure for this condition either.


Cocker Spaniel eyes are prone to a wide range of eye problems.

You can reduce the impact of these conditions by keeping an eye out for the symptoms and acting quickly. Know what normal looks like and remember that if remember that not all conditions will be apparent to a naked eye.

This can make a big difference to any discomfort your pet feels and their long-term health.

A few of these conditions are passed down through the parents. The breeder should know this though and only breed dogs who have good health backgrounds.

There is no way to completely prevent hereditary conditions.

As with anything for your Cockers health, if you are not sure contact your vet.

Take good care of your family dog and book regular eye screenings as part of their regular maintenance.

It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your dog's health.

Allan  Noble
Hi, my name is Allan! I am the owner of Spaniel Advisor and I've got over seven years experience of owning Spaniels.  
I hope this article was helpful for you! 
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