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What to Know About English Toy Spaniels

Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on July 05, 2022

The snub-nosed English toy spaniels are best known for warming the laps of royalty. They'll warm your lap, too, once they've deemed you worthy of their company.

English toy spaniels are great for owners who want to lounge with their pets and spoil them. Who else will groom their silky coat?

Characteristics of English Toy Spaniels

English toy spaniel size. As a toy breed and all-around lap dog, these spaniels need to fit in your lap. Male and female English toy spaniels stand between 9 and 10 inches tall. They typically weigh between 8 and 14 pounds. 

Coat characteristics. English toy spaniels have a gorgeous double coat. It's medium-length and silky, so upkeep is essential.

Their coats come in four color combinations with proper names. They are:

  • Blenheim: red and white
  • King Charles: black and tan
  • Prince Charles: white, black, and tan
  • Ruby: solid red

Famous face. English toy spaniels have a famous face framed by long, floppy ears. They have a short snout, big eyes, and chubby cheeks that give them their unique look.

Many people confuse English toy spaniels with cavalier King Charles spaniels. These dogs are indeed similar, but they’re two distinct breeds.

One way to tell them apart is their faces. English toy spaniels have a uniquely squashed face with a nose that’s the same height as their eyes.

Lifespan. English toy spaniels have a slightly shorter lifespan than some similarly sized dogs. They have a life expectancy of about 10 to 12 years.

English toy spaniel personality. English toy spaniels are devoted companions, snuggle buddies, and lapdogs. They're easy going dogs who want to be by your side.

English toy spaniels love to lounge, but they still enjoy a fair amount of play. As long as they’re doing it with you, they’re up for anything.

Caring for English Toy Spaniels

Coat care. Aside from their squashed faces and lapdog personalities, English toy spaniels are known for their beautiful coat, but a beautiful coat needs proper grooming. 

English toy spaniels are moderate shedders. They have a silky double coat that needs to be brushed twice a week or more with a soft-bristle or pin brush. 

Their coat can be prone to tangles. Use a long-toothed metal comb and your fingers to remove the tangles gently. Tangles can be uncomfortable and lead to skin problems.

Your English toy spaniel will also need regularly trimmed fur around its face and feet. Long hair can irritate their eyes, and long fur on their feet will get dirty.

Bathe them once every 4 to 6 weeks using a gentle shampoo. An appropriate shampoo will keep their coat soft and wavy.

Feeding and nutrition. English toy spaniels can live on high-quality dog food, but a dog food formulated for small dogs can be beneficial.

Small dogs sometimes need more nutrients and calories than larger dogs because of their higher metabolism. This can mean feeding them a small-breed dog food multiple times every day.

At the same time, it’s easy to overfeed small dogs, so you should always consider the following when planning your spaniel’s diet:

  • Their age and weight
  • The type of food
  • The frequency of meals

Work with your vet to determine the best feeding regimen for your English toy spaniel. 

Exercise and activity. English toy spaniels love lounging around, but they still enjoy playtime and exercising. They especially love time outside.

Take them out once a day to walk on a leash or do a moderate amount of playing in the yard. 

Parasite prevention. Even though your English toy spaniel spends most of its time on the couch, they still need protection from ticks, fleas, and other parasites. Ticks and fleas cause your dog discomfort and can transmit parasites like tapeworms.

There are plenty of medications for controlling fleas and ticks available. Your vet can help you determine which medication is best for your dog.

Your English toy spaniel should also get year-round prevention for heartworms. Mosquitoes transmit heartworms, which can be deadly without treatment.

Talk to you vet about checking for heartworms and getting preventative medications at their regular vet visits. 

Tooth and nail care. Your dog needs its nails trimmed about once a month. You can trim them yourself or take your dog to a groomer or your vet.

Forget the claims that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s. They still need their teeth brushed daily.

You can clean your English toy spaniel’s teeth by:

  • Brushing their teeth
  • Giving your dog dental treats and chew
  • Having your vet professionally clean their teeth

Heat sensitivity. English toy spaniels are a short-faced (brachycephalic) breed like pugs and bulldogs. They sometimes have difficulty breathing because of the structure of their airways.

Dogs pant to maintain their body temperature when they get too hot. Brachycephalic breeds have a hard time maintaining their body temperature, though, because of their airways. 

Consequently, English toy spaniels can overheat in hot weather or be too cold in cold weather. Keep an eye on your dog when you take them to play outside and ensure that they stay at a comfortable temperature.

Vet visits. The age and health of your English toy spaniel will determine the frequency of their vet visits.

Puppies need a monthly visit. Your vet can monitor their development and give a core set of vaccines. 

Adults need a yearly visit for regular health checks to update their records, update vaccines, monitor their weight, and catch health conditions early.

A senior English toy spaniel needs a checkup every 6 months. Your vet will monitor signs of age and do diagnostics for common health conditions. 

English Toy Spaniel Health Issues

Responsible English toy spaniel breeders will make sure that serious genetic conditions are less likely to be passed down across generations. Regardless, English toy spaniels can be more susceptible to some conditions. 

Eye conditions. Spaniels are more at risk for developing eye diseases such as:

  • Dry eye
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma

Some eye conditions are genetic, and others occur due to environment or age. Eye conditions can also result from conditions like diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure.

Symptoms of eye conditions are often obvious and noticeable. Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Redness
  • Cloudiness
  • Discharge
  • Excessive blinking
  • Squinting
  • Excessive rubbing

Treating eye conditions early will lead to a higher success rate and can help your dog’s quality of life. Intervening too late, on the other hand, can allow irreparable damage to occur.

Heart disease. The two most common types of heart disease are mitral valve disease and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Mitral valve disease is more common in smaller breeds, like English toy spaniels.

Common symptoms of heart disease include:

The earlier heart disease is caught, though, the easier it is to treat. 

Luxating patella. This disease causes your spaniel’s kneecap (patella) to move out of place. They will have difficulty running, jumping, or getting up. They may also pick up their leg or skip to avoid putting weight on the leg.

Surgery can help correct a luxating patella. Medications can also relieve symptoms and discomfort. Mild cases without severe symptoms may not need treatment at all.

Ear infections. Breeds with floppy ears are susceptible to ear infections, so be sure to clean them. Infections are easy to treat if caught early, though, before the infection worsens.

Ear infections can be caused by bacteria and yeast. Allergies, moisture, wax, and preexisting conditions can create an environment for the bacteria and yeast to grow.

Minor infections caught early can be treated within a week or two. Your vet will decide which treatment option is best. Treatment options include an ear cleanser, topical medications, oral antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory medications.

English Toy Spaniel Facts and Considerations

Are they good with other pets? English toy spaniels are laid back. They’re easy going around cats and other dogs when  properly socialized.

Are they good with kids? As an easygoing breed, English toy spaniels are a great family pet. They’re good with kids when socialized.

Are they hypoallergenic? English toy spaniels shed a moderate amount and can be bothersome for people with allergies.

Are they vocal? Spaniels only bark for a good reason. They’re easygoing and don’t bark except to alert you of something important.

Do they drool? Despite their chubby cheeks and droopy jowls, English toy spaniels don’t drool much. 

Are they trainable? They’re loving and eager to please. At the same time, English toy spaniels are smart and can be stubborn when it comes to training. Stay positive and patient when training your pup.

History of English Toy Spaniels

English toy spaniels date back to the British monarchs of the 1500s. They were so beloved that the spaniels were the only dogs permitted in the House of Parliament. 

Over time, the spaniels were bred with pugs and the Japanese Chin from Asia. This crossbreed was recognized as the English toy spaniel in America.

The English toy spaniel warmed the laps of English nobility for generations throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. They were eventually the third breed recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1886.

Their popularity has changed over time, but their devotion to being by your side hasn’t!

Show Sources

Photo Credits:

1. Bob Viva / EyeEm / Getty Images

SOURCES:

AKC Canine Health Foundation: “Canine Eye Health,” “Heart Health.”

American Kennel Club: "Best Dog Food for Small Breeds," “Dog Ear Infections: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention,” "English Toy Spaniel," “How Long Can You Keep Your Dog Outside?” “Keep Your Dog’s Teeth Clean With Five Tips,” “Tips on Heartworm Prevention & Medication for Dogs,” “What Is the Best Flea and Tick Prevention for Dogs?”

Humane Society of Macomb: "How Often Should your Pet get a Checkup?"

Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue: "About the Breed: English Toy Spaniel."

VCA Animal Hospitals: “Luxating Patella in Dogs.”

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