The Best Dog Foods for American Cocker Spaniels
The Ultimate Cocker Spaniel Food Buyer’s Guide
American Cocker Spaniels are the smallest members of the enormous Spaniel family of dogs. Spaniels date back to at least the 1300s in Britain where they were used to hunt woodcock and other small game. By the late 16th century, Spaniels had already been divided into land and water dogs, with some dogs being good for hunting on land and others used for water retrieving. Over the following centuries the dogs would become more specialized and develop into the breeds we have today, such as the American Water Spaniel, the Irish Water Spaniel for work as water dogs; and the Field Spaniel, Sussex Spaniel, Clumber Spaniel, and many others which work on land. At one time all English Springer Spaniels and Cocker Spaniels came from the same litters but they were eventually divided into different breeds, based on size. In the 1940s, the Cocker Spaniel was further divided into the American Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel by the AKC. American breeders had made some physical changes to the breed so they could specialize in hunting game here.
Cocker Spaniels were the most popular breed in the U.S. for 25 years. They are not quite as popular today but the breed is still beloved by many. Today they are the 31st most popular breed in the country. Cockers are known for being smart, happy, gentle, and affectionate dogs. Because of their small size (they are the smallest member of the Sporting group), they can make very good pets for people that live in apartments, as long as they get enough exercise. Many people love Cocker Spaniels because of their sweet, gentle temperament. Like many of the sporting breeds, Cockers love to be with you. They are affectionate, good-natured, playful, even cuddly little dogs. They can be sensitive dogs so they don’t do well with harsh words or rough training. They are usually good with children and with other pets and make very good family dogs. The breed does have a lot of hair that requires regularly grooming or clipping. Colors are black (including black and tan), ASCOB (an acronym for “any solid color other than black” – meaning buff, brown, silver, etc.), and parti-color (black and white, brown and white, red and white, and tri-color).
Quick Look : Top 4 Best Dog Foods for American Cocker Spaniels
|*New Formula* ACANA Grasslands Regional Formula Grain Free Dry Dog Food||$3.08/lb|
Male Cocker Spaniels are about 15 inches tall at the withers (where the shoulder blades come together); females are 14 inches tall. Males typically weigh 25-30 pounds, and females 20-25 pounds.
Some people still hunt with American Cocker Spaniels. If you do, you should take your dog’s activity level into consideration when figuring how many calories your dog will need in his diet, especially if your dog is very active. The same is true if your dog is competing in other events. Any kind of competition or stressful activity means your dog may need more calories or a change in diet.
According to the National Research Council of the National Academies, an active adult Cocker Spaniel weighing 25 pounds requires an average daily caloric intake of 780 kcal. Dogs that have been spayed/neutered, or that are older, may need slightly fewer calories. Some dogs may need more calories depending on their level of activity and their individual metabolism. For example, if you hunt with your Cocker Spaniel doing light field work, you might need to feed him somewhere around 993 kcal. Growing puppies consume more calories than adult dogs and so do young adult dogs. A young Cocker Spaniel puppy (4-12 months) weighing 20 pounds needs an estimated 733 kcal per day. You always need to adjust your dog’s food intake based on his activity level and other factors.
Since Cocker Spaniels are a medium-sized dog, it’s not hard to find many good foods that are appropriate for their size. You also have many choices for Cocker puppies since they don’t normally have any special food requirements.
You can choose a puppy food that is made for all puppies. Most breeders recommend feeding this food until your puppy reaches about 90 percent of his adult size which is usually 10-12 months of age for this breed. Some breeders, instead, recommend a puppy food for the first few months and then suggest switching to an adult food by the time the puppy is about six months of age. You should talk to your breeder about the food they recommend for their puppies since they usually have experience with how their puppies grow and develop.
Feeding Your Cocker Spaniel
According to the American Spaniel Club, the AKC parent club for the breed, American Cocker Spaniels are “foodies.” They enjoy their food, plus snacks. They also enjoy your food whenever they get the opportunity. Cockers can be prone to gaining extra pounds so you will need to watch how much your dog is eating. You will also need to make sure your Cocker is getting enough exercise, especially as he gets older.
As with any dog, you should feed your Cocker Spaniel a good quality dog food. Food that is high in animal protein is usually a good choice.
Whether you feed your dog a food with or without grains is a personal choice, too. Many people choose grain free dog foods because their dogs have digestive problems, food allergies or sensitivities, or skin problems. These particular issues do not seem to be big problems for Cocker Spaniels in general so, if your dog can eat dog food with grains, there’s no particular reason to avoid all of them. You may want to avoid the most common grains, such as corn and wheat which are often over-used in dog foods, but there are many good dog foods that use alternative grains/cereals such as oats and barley. If you still prefer to feed a grain free dog food, that should also work for your Cocker Spaniel. Try a couple of foods, with and without grains, and see how your dog does on the foods so you can make your decision.
Adult Cocker Spaniels usually do well eating two meals per day. You can feed Cocker Spaniel puppies 3-4 meals when they are very young, then move to three meals per day as they get older. By the time they are about a year old they should be eating two meals per day.
Cocker Spaniel Health Problems
American Cocker Spaniels are generally considered to be a healthy breed but, like most breeds, they can have some health issues. Health surveys have shown that the leading causes of death in the breed in the United States and Canada are typically cancer, liver failure, and immune-mediated illness. The American Spaniel Club says that the average lifespan for the breed is 12 years.
Because of the breed’s enormous popularity for many years there was a great deal of careless breeding prior to the 1960s. This led to some increased health problems in the breed which breeders are working to eliminate today. Several eye problems can occur in the breed such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cataracts, and glaucoma. The American Spaniel Club recommends that dogs being considered for breeding have annual eye exams by a veterinary ophthalmologist. Cockers can also have an autoimmune disorder known as autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA). Some dogs can have issues with hip dysplasia or luxating patellas (similar to a slipped kneecap in a human). Dilated cardiomyopathy can occur in the breed. A condition called phosphofructokinase deficiency occurs in an estimated 10 percent of the Cocker population. It is caused by a recessive gene that prevents the body from metabolizing glucose into energy, leading the dog to have low energy. Finally, Cockers can have epilepsy, including a form known as Rage Syndrome in which a normally calm dog makes a violent attack.
While this probably sounds like a lot of health problems, it’s important to realize that most dogs will not have these issues. These are simply problems known to exist in the breed – things that can occur. The American Spaniel Club keeps a health registry for Cocker Spaniels so breeders and owners can collect and use health information. There are health and genetic tests for some of these conditions so breeders can make the best possible decisions when planning a litter. Research is being done on some of the other health issues.
Cocker Spaniels do have long ears (and lots of fur on their ears). They are known for having a lot of ear infections. Cleaning the ears regularly and keeping them dry will help prevent ear infections. You can also keep hair trimmed away from the inside of the ear to help air circulate more freely. Dogs that have allergies may also have more ear infections so treating the allergy can help clear up the ear problems. Talk to your veterinarian.
Unless your Cocker Spaniel actually has one of these health issues, there doesn’t appear to be anything listed that should affect what you feed your dog. Obviously, it will be important to keep your dog fit and in good shape. Becoming overweight or obese can lead to other health problems which could lead to more serious issues. For example, an overweight dog is much more likely to have problems with arthritis or to develop hip dysplasia. Overweight dogs can also develop health problems such as diabetes, heart and respiratory disease, kidney disease, and other serious illnesses, regardless of their breed.
We did not find any “official” information stating that Cocker Spaniels have problems with food allergies but we did find some owners that reported this problem so we’ll discuss foods for Cockers with food allergies in a section below.
Ingredients to Look for and Some to Avoid
As with most dogs, when choosing a food for your Cocker Spaniel you should look for a food that has good sources of protein and fat.
Ideally you will select a dog food that features two or three meat proteins in the first several ingredients listed. Both whole meats and meat meals are good sources of protein. Whole meats refer to foods such as whole chicken, beef, fish, and lamb. Some people don’t like meat meals as much as whole meats but they are a concentrated form of the meat in which the moisture has been removed. They contain several times as much protein as a whole meat. Meat meals are usually quite acceptable as one of the first ingredients in a good quality dog food. They are used by many good dog food brands.
Many dog foods today, even some of the most expensive and highly touted, use lots of plant proteins such as lentils and peas. These foods often have high protein percentages on the label. When you read the guaranteed analysis it’s important to consider how much of the protein in the food comes from meat and how much comes from plants. Your dog is able to digest meat protein more easily than plant protein. Meat protein is a much more natural source of protein for your dog than plant protein.
Dogs also need good sources of fat. You should look for named fat sources such as chicken fat. Other named fats also provide needed nutrients such as fish oil which can provide omega-3 fatty acid to help keep the skin and coat healthy. Puppies can benefit from DHA which is Docosahexaenoic acid. This is a specific form of omega-3 fatty acid that helps with brain and eye development. Older dogs seem to benefit from medium chain triglycerides which feature medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). These have been found to help older dogs feel and act younger. They are often made from a combination of coconut oil and other oils.
If you want to avoid corn, soy, and wheat in your dog food, your Cocker Spaniel may still be able to eat an alternative grain such as barley or oats. Or you can feed a grain free dog food that uses an alternate source of carbs that is low glycemic such as sweet potatoes. You don’t have to feed a dog food with an excessively high percentage of protein but it’s a good idea to keep the carb percentage low to moderate.
If your Cocker Spaniel has a food allergy or food sensitivity, you may need to work with your veterinarian to identify the food triggers unless they are very obvious. There are lots of good foods with alternative meat proteins today as well as limited ingredient diets which we will discuss below.
Recommended Dog Food For An Adult Cocker Spaniel
Cocker Spaniels should be able to eat most good quality dog foods. If your dog has a food allergy or food sensitivity you will need to try to avoid foods with ingredients that are triggers for your dog. We have listed some foods we recommend for dogs with food allergies and food sensitivities below.
We have suggested a variety of foods here for Cocker Spaniels. Most of the foods we have selected do not contain corn, wheat, or soy, unless noted. You may have to try a couple of foods to find which one is best for your dog. You should also keep in mind that your dog’s dietary needs can change as he grows and ages so you may have to change foods to suit him.
Best Dog Foods for Cocker Spaniel Adults
|*New Formula* ACANA Grasslands Regional Formula Grain Free Dry Dog Food||$3.08/lb|
We really like Fromm Family Foods, especially their Gold and Four-Star product lines. Their Adult Gold formula has duck, chicken meal, and chicken as the first three ingredients. It has 24 percent crude protein and 16 percent crude fat, and 3.5 percent crude fiber, with 408 kcal/cup. It is AAFCO-approved for growth and maintenance. The food includes salmon oil – a great source of omega-3 fatty acid for healthy skin and coat; probiotics, and prebiotics. No corn, wheat, or soy. The food is made at the family’s own facilities in Wisconsin. The Fromm family has been making dog food and dog products for over 100 years and they have a great reputation. The food includes brown rice and pearled barley in the first five ingredients. It also contains oatmeal and potatoes so if you are trying to keep the carbs very low you may not like this food. However, we think the ingredients are good quality and many Cocker Spaniels will do well on this food.
We found this food when we were looking at bestsellers on Chewy.com. It looks like people have identified a really nice food from Merrick. The first five ingredients in this food are Deboned Beef, Lamb Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, and Potatoes. This recipe is an all life stage food with 422 kcal per cup ME (metabolizable energy) on an as fed basis (calculated). It has 70 percent meat ingredients, 30 percent vegetables, vitamins, and minerals. It is grain free – no corn, soy, or wheat. No gluten. No poultry by-products, no artificial preservatives. No ingredients from China. It has 38 percent crude protein and 15 percent crude fat, with 3.5 percent crude fiber. It also has glucosamine and chondroitin added, as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Merrick uses local growers from Texas, where the food is made. We think this is good quality protein and other ingredients for Cocker Spaniels that need good nutrition for an active lifestyle. Not everyone will like a protein percentage this high but if you do, give this food a try.
Exciting news if you like Acana. Champion Pet Foods has completed their new kitchen in Kentucky and they are now reformulating some of their dog and cat foods to reflect what is now “regional” to the Kentucky area. So, it’s still the same award-winning company, but Acana will be made in Kentucky. We’ve had a chance to review the Acana dog and cat foods and there are some changes in the meat proteins but the foods still look good. If you visit the Acana web site you can view the old and new formulas to see the changes (we really like being able to compare the formulas). The current (old) Grasslands formula, for example, is heavy on lamb, duck, whitefish, and lentils. The new formula (due any time) will feature goat meal and catfish meal, in addition to the lamb and duck. The old formula has 31 percent crude protein, 17 percent crude fat, 5 percent crude fiber, and 10 percent moisture. The new formula has 33 percent crude protein, 17 percent crude fat, 6 percent crude fiber, and 12 percent moisture. The food has 60 percent animal protein ingredients and 40 percent vegetables, fruits, and botanicals. No grains, potatoes, or tapioca. If you’re looking for a good grain free dog food for your Cocker Spaniel that is low in carbohydrates, we think that the Acana foods are a good choice. Acana foods typically have slightly less meat protein than Orijen (made by the same company), but we think they’re a good choice for many dogs.
NutriSource Adult Chicken & Rice Formula Dog Food
Quite a few Cocker Spaniel owners have recommended NutriSource for people seeking information about what to feed their Cocker Spaniel. NutriSource Adult Chicken & Rice Formula is the basic food for this product line but they also have lamb, senior, puppy formulas, as well as weight management, performance, and super performance foods, plus canned foods. The adult chicken & rice formula has Chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, barley, and chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid) as the first five ingredients. The guaranteed analysis shows 26 percent crude protein, 16 percent crude fat, 4 percent crude fiber, and 10 percent moisture. The food has 429 kcals/cup. Other ingredients include chelated minerals for easier digestion and probiotics. This is an all life stage food.
Best Dog Foods for Cocker Spaniel Puppies
Cocker Spaniel puppies can usually begin eating a puppy food after they are weaned or they can eat a good all life stage food. Some people like to feed a puppy food for a few months and then switch over to an all life stage food when their puppy is a few months old. If you have questions about how to feed your puppy, we recommend talking to your puppy’s breeder. They usually have the most experience with raising Cocker Spaniel puppies and can guide you.
Puppy foods should have a calcium to phosphorus ratio of about 1.2 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus, though there is some slight room for variation such as 1.5:1.2. It’s also important that dog and puppy foods do not have an excess (or deficiency) of calcium since this can affect bone growth. If you are feeding your puppy a food that is properly formulated, you should not add any extra calcium, such as milk, cottage cheese, or other calcium supplements. Doing so can lead to serious health problems such as OCD (osteochondritis dessecans) – painful bone spurs that may require surgery – and other orthopedic problems.
Here are some of the puppy foods we like for Cocker Spaniel puppies. Note that an All Life Stage food can also be fed, as long as the nutrients are appropriate for your puppy.
Canidae Grain Free Pure Foundations Puppy Formula is a limited ingredient food with nine ingredients plus vitamins and minerals and probiotics. It’s grain free with probiotics to help digestion; antioxidants for a healthy immune system; and omega 3 and 6 to support healthy skin and a beautiful coat. The first five ingredients are Chicken, menhaden fish meal, lentils, peas, potatoes. The recipe is supposed to be especially good for puppies with sensitive digestion. The food has 30 percent crude protein, 12 percent crude fat, 4 percent crude fiber, and 10 percent moisture. This food checks in at 520 kcal/cup, so it’s high in calories but active, growing Cocker Spaniel puppies can usually burn them off. Just remember that you don’t need to feed a lot of food with these very nutrient-dense foods. If your Cocker Spaniel puppy does well on this puppy food, Canidae has some good adult foods – both grain free and foods with grains.
VeRUS Puppy Advantage Chicken Meal, Oats and Brown Rice Holistic Formula
VeRUS Puppy Advantage is a good holistic food for puppies. The first ingredient is chicken meal followed by easy-to-digest ground oats and ground brown rice. The formula contains DHA for proper brain development, omega-3 fatty acid from fish oils, non-Chinese sourced vitamins and chelated minerals. The food also includes a freeze-dried live probiotic that is unique among dog food manufacturers. The chicken used in their food is cage-free, U.S.-grown and guaranteed to be antiobiotic-free. VeRUS has none of the undesirable ingredients that are sometimes found in pet foods. No meat by-products, no artificial flavors or colors, no fillers, no corn, no wheat, no soybeans, no sugars. Any dog lover who may be concerned about chemicals or additives in pet foods should check out VeRUS.
Best Dog Foods for the Senior Cocker Spaniel
It’s not unusual for many American Cocker Spaniels to live into their teen years. This means that you will probably need to consider what kind of food to feed your Cocker Spaniel as he gets older. As your dog ages it’s a good idea to plan an annual senior check-up with your vet. Many older dogs begin to put on pounds as they become less active. For this reason, most senior dog foods have fewer calories and they can skimp on protein. You should watch your older dog’s weight as he gets older to make sure he doesn’t become overweight. In some cases you can simply cut back on the portions of his regular dog food to help him stay fit or increase his exercise.
On the other hand, some very old dogs often start to have some problems metabolizing nutrients, including protein. It can become hard for them to keep good muscle tone and weight as they age. For this reason, you may wish to avoid many dog foods labeled “senior.” These foods are often formulated for older dogs that have gained weight. Instead, look for a senior dog food that we like which has lots of protein. As long as your older dog doesn’t have any problems with his kidneys or with phosphorus, there is no reason to avoid higher protein levels.
Orijen Senior provides plenty of excellent quality protein for your older Cocker Spaniel. This food features free-run chicken and turkey, wild-caught fish, and nest-laid eggs. It helps keep older dogs in good muscle even as they become less active. Made of 80 percent meats and fish, the food is low-glycemic and has low carbs to help keep your older dog’s blood sugar steady. The food also contains natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin to keep your Cocker Spaniel’s joints healthy. The food is 38 percent crude protein and 15 percent crude fat. It checks in at 445 kcal per 250ml/120g cup. We think this is a very good food for senior dogs who often need extra protein as they get older. (We know Orijen is expensive but this food really stands out for senior dogs.)
Another food you may want to consider for older dogs is Weruva’s Caloric Harmony Venison and Salmon Meal Dinner with Pumpkin. This food (and several others in this product line) is potato-free with no corn or wheat, easy to digest, and low-glycemic. It contains pumpkin and oatmeal for healthy gut motility. Meat protein comes from grass-fed venison and the food also features salmon meal and herring meal. The dry matter basis for this food is an estimated 37.8 percent protein;14.4 percent fat; 3.9 percent fiber; and 35 percent carbs. The calorie count (calculated) is Metabolizable Energy (ME) 3320 kcal/kg; 348 kcal/cup. Those look like good figures for senior dogs who need more protein without extra fat.
Best Dog Foods for Cocker Spaniels with Skin Problems/Allergies
As mentioned earlier, Cocker Spaniels can have some allergies and skin problems. If your dog needs to avoid common proteins, you can try this food.
Any dog suffering from skin problems or food allergies may benefit from Wild Calling!’s Xotic Essentials recipes. Formulas like their rabbit meal recipe use exotic meats that are rare in today’s pet food market so your dog hasn’t eaten them before – less chance of having an allergic reaction. The foods are also highly digestible. Wild Calling! also uses what they call LITe (limited ingredient technology). They don’t use any of the ingredients commonly found in most dog foods such as chicken, grain, gluten, egg, yeast, corn, wheat or soy. If your Cocker Spaniel has a food allergy, he may benefit from Wild Calling! The foods are formulated for rotational feeding and they offer several Xotic Essentials recipes, such as kangaroo and bison, so your dog doesn’t get over-exposed to one kind of meat protein. This is an All Life Stage food. We think that dogs with skin problems and food allergies can definitely benefit from these recipes.
Another food that is often recommended for dogs with food allergies and skin problems is Zignature. It comes in proteins such as trout & salmon, kangaroo, turkey, duck, venison, and others. It’s available in dry and canned versions. Foods are potato- and grain-free, and chicken-free. They do not use common bonding agents in their foods which are high in simple carbs and starches. They only use low glycemic carbs such as chickpeas that add extra protein and fiber to the food. They work with Tuffy’s in Minnesota and Performance Pet in South Dakota to make their foods. Many people like Zignature very much. If you have a dog with food allergies, this is a brand that you might consider.
Best Dog Foods for Cocker Spaniels with Sensitive Stomachs
If your dog has a sensitive stomach it can be an indication of a food sensitivity, which is different from a food allergy. A dog with a food sensitivity will have gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting or diarrhea. Or it could be something more serious.
A dog with a sensitive stomach can often be helped by feeding the right dog food. Sticking to a limited ingredient diet food with as few ingredients as possible can reduce the chance of your dog having a bad reaction to something in the food.
We recommend Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Sweet Potato & Fish Formula Small Breed Bites Dry Dog Food. This food is grain free with limited ingredients. It has good quality, alternative ingredients that are easily digestible for a dog with a sensitive stomach. And it contains no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. The first five ingredients are: Sweet Potatoes, Salmon, Salmon Meal, Canola Oil, and Potato Fiber. It has 21 percent crude protein, 10 percent crude fat, 4.5 percent crude fiber, and 10 percent moisture. It has 380 kcal/cup and it’s an all life stage formula. If your dog can’t eat some of the ingredients in this food, Natural Balance has lots of other LID recipes that you might check.
Best Dog Foods for Overweight Cocker Spaniels
If your Cocker Spaniel becomes overweight, it may be due to overfeeding and not enough exercise. You can help your dog lose weight by cutting back on his portions and encouraging him to get more exercise. Cocker Spaniels are very active and playful dogs as puppies and young adults but they tend to become much more sedentary as they get older. You will probably have to encourage your Cocker to get more exercise as he ages.
If your Cocker Spaniels needs to lose more than one or two pounds, however, you may need to consider a weight control dog food.
We do not recommend a weight control dog food for a puppy or a very old dog. These foods generally have fewer calories and may have some other differences in nutrients that make them inappropriate for growing puppies or older dogs who need special nutrition.
If you have a Cocker Spaniel that needs to lose weight we recommend Merrick Grain Free Healthy Weight Recipe. We like the fact that this food has 32 percent crude protein. The crude fat percentage is between 8 and 11 percent with 5 percent crude fiber so your dog should not feel like he’s starving. It is AAFCO-approved for a maintenance diet. The food has 3,210 kcal per kilogram or 360 kcal per cup ME (metabolizable energy) on an as fed basis (calculated). It is grain free and made from 55 percent beef and poultry. And it contains no corn, wheat, or soy and no ingredients from China. The first five ingredients in this food are: Deboned Beef, Chicken Meal, Potatoes, Peas, and Sweet Potatoes.
If your dog needs to lose weight, you should proceed slowly. No crash dieting. You should aim for your dog to lose no more than 3 to 5 percent of his body weight per month or about one percent each week.
American Cocker Spaniels have been beloved by generations of Americans. With their big, soulful eyes and sweet nature, they are hard to resist. They make wonderful pets whether you live in the city or suburbs as long as you have time to devote to their needs. They do need regular daily exercise outdoors. They also need regular brushing and grooming, especially if you keep your dog’s coat long. Otherwise, you should plan to visit a professional pet groomer about once a month to keep your Cocker Spaniel’s coat trimmed. A Cocker Spaniel will be your devoted companion day and night. Gentle, easy to train, and eager to please, the adorable Cocker Spaniel could be the perfect pet for you.