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Cocker Spaniels/Cocker & Clinging Behavior


QUESTION: Dear Dr. Beck,
We have a wonderful cocker spaniel who will turn 12 this September.  Recently he has displayed behavior which we can only describe as "clinging".  He follows my husband or me around the house and just stands at our side throughout the day.  If we are seated he will want to be with us and we'll put him in the chair or sofa with us. He'll stand by my chair or by the sofa until we bring him up with us. He is beginning to lose interest in his breakfast and will eat only after he has been up for a while.  Earlier this week he waited until noon to eat his breakfast.  This is very unusual as he has always wanted to eat as soon as he gets up in the morning.  He is fed 1/3 c. food 3 times/day (Holistic Select senior or Nutro Natural Choice adult).  In the morning we add Cosequin DS and Grizzly Salmon Oil.  We usually will add a little grilled chicken or bits of fish to his evening meal to make it a bit more interesting.  He thoroughly enjoys this! In all other regards he seems healthy.  My husband works part time and is home with him in the afternoons so he is only alone during the morning.  Do you have any thoughts on what might cause this behavior?  We would appreciate any thoughts you might have.  Best, Lynn

ANSWER: I suggest a vet check up.  Especially his eyes.  Do you have a vet opthalmologist in your city?
If not, have your vet do a Schirmer tear test & look for cataracts.  If he's having vision difficulty, he may feel safer close to you.

1/3 cup of food 3x a day isn't much even if his food is calorie dense.  Perhaps changing to canned food (and slightly warm it) may perk up his morning appetite.

At age 12 he could be approaching cognitive problems but fortunately (if that's the case) there is a med called Anipryl that's quite effective.

How is his energy level?  Does he seem to enjoy his walks? Weight stable?  Stool okay?

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dr. Beck, Thank you for your thoughtful answer.  The nearest ophthalmologist is approximately an hour away so we'll be able to schedule an appointment for Dooley.  Your thoughts regarding  his vision as a possible explanation make sense.  While we don't relish the thought of cognitive problems as he ages we realize that this is a distinct possibility.  We'll do whatever necessary to keep him comfortable.  His energy level hasn't changed; he enjoys walks in the park and likes to run with my husband.  Regarding his weight he has maintained 25-27 lbs. all of his adult life with his eating regimen so I think he's ok.  I'll try some canned food and I'm sure he'll be delighted to try that!  If he seems to get bored with his daily kibbles we mix in cottage cheese, plain yogurt, turkey meatloaf, peanut butter, fish or chicken which seems to help.  I can't imagine eating the same thing 3 times a day every day!  Again, thank you for your help.  Best regards, Lynn Humphrey

You're welcome, Lynn.  Your own vet should be able to do a tear test (it's very simple - two tiny strips are put in his bottom eyelid for 60 seconds to measure tear production).  Your vet should also be able to detect cataracts.  Both these conditions are, unfortunately, very common in cockers.  Have you noticed him trying to rub his face/eyes?  You can also safely try putting a little Genteal eye "gel" (not drops} in his eyes several times a day.  Opthalmologists love this stuff.  A proper opthalmology check would be great but I know sometimes budget is an issue.

Cottage cheese is fine if it's "no salt added".  There's only one way to cook meat for dogs and that's to boil it.  Too much cooked fat can cause a pancreatic attack.  A little boiled ground beef (rinsed) or ground chicken (rinsed) is best.

Sometimes behaviors like this just come...then go..but at his age a Wellness check (bloodwork/stool sample/urinalysis} is something I'd do first.

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Delores Beck


Health, nutrition, training. Please note: I used to highly recommend Innova products but, unfortunately, as with Canidae, they have sold out to Proctor & Gamble. This guarantees lower quality to a dangerous point so I will no longer be advising anyone to buy it.


20 years of owning this breed.

Psychology, MA

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