Sad news for the Cambridge family

Lupo, the working cocker spaniel belonging to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge has died aged nine.

Lupo was a wedding present to the couple from the Duchess of Cambridge’s brother, James Middleton.

Not long enough

Vet Neil McIntosh who writes for Shooting Times commented: “It is always devastating to lose a family pet, especially when the feeling is he did not live as long a life as you might reasonably have expected. Cocker spaniels make great companions, as they are so busy and generally eager to please. Add to that their relatively small size and even temperament and you can see why seven year old Prince George will have loved Lupo’s company. And, of course, Lupo has been an ever present in the Prince’s life.

“Cocker Spaniels usually live 12-14 years and so nine years is just not long enough! Although they have more skin, eye and ear problems than many breeds, they are affected by relatively few serious diseases.  Pancreatitis, some heart conditions and, rarely, auto-immune disorders can occasionally prove to be fatal and there are inherited conditions (that can be tested for using the Kennel Club’s CombiBreed test), including familial nephropathy, adult onset neuropathy and acral mutilation syndrome.
“I am sure Lupo will remain forever in Prince George’s memory in that very special ‘My First Dog’ place. I have no doubt his parents will be most upset and they have my heartfelt sympathy.”

DNA health testing

Cocker spaniel trainer Nick Ridley who writes for Sporting Gun adds: “Working Cockers are generally a fit and healthy breed and with the recent increase in DNA health testing many of the genetic issues are gradually being bred out of the breed. However, just like humans their life span can vary.  I currently have four cockers,  the eldest being a fit and healthy 12 years old and “Harry” worked three to four days a week in the shooting field for the past ten years,  although now he is quite deaf and is enjoying his retirement. My first cocker Sweep, lived to the ripe old age of sixteen and suffered no illness until her back legs gave up. Unlike many pedigree breeds there isn’t any “common” illness that the working type cocker suffers from; they are a pretty robust dog which is to be expected,  considering they have been bred for generations to work in the shooting field in all weathers and conditions. Obviously, diet, exercise and lifestyle will all have a long term effect on the dog’s longevity. The general consensus is that the average life span of a cocker (and that includes working and show types) is between 12 -15 years.

“When you lose a much loved canine companion at any age it is hard and it is something I have had to experience too many times but I always console myself that I have given them the best life I possibly could have and I could do no more. When their time comes it is my responsibility to make sure that they do not suffer in any way…it is the least I can do after the companionship and loyalty they have given me over the years.

Gundog writer David Tomlinson says: “To lose an apparently healthy, working-bred gundog before its 10th birthday is always a shock, so it’s no wonder that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are deeply saddened by the death of their black cocker, Lupo.

“We have not been told what caused the death of Lupo, but working cockers do suffer from a number of hereditary and congenital health issues. These range from heart problems to adult onset neuropathy, an unpleasant autosomal recessive disorder seen in older cockers, typically of about the same age as Lupo. There is a DNA test available in the UK for this disease. Cancer is also a major killer of cockers, responsible for around 30% of recorded deaths.

“Sadly, it’s a fallacy to think that working cockers are much healthier than their show cousins. In recent years the over-use of certain popular sires has greatly reduced the genetic diversity in the breed – too many are related to each other. Outbred dogs with no shared ancestry tend to be much healthier than those where the same name appears on both sides of the pedigree.”

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Looking after a working cocker

Nick Ridley advises: “In my opinion one of the most important thing is to make sure they are properly dried off and rugged (coat) up after a day’s shooting. In the long term this will help to prevent problems in the joints and as a result will give a longer working life; cockers do not cope with the wet and cold very well as they don’t have the same kind of coat as some of the other gundog breeds. Another consideration is to make sure your dog is fit before the shooting season, it needs to be able to cope with the rigours of hunting and retrieving in what can be quite tough conditions, especially after they have had a lazy summer break. Also be vigilant in checking the dog after being out. I have know a number of cockers die from grass seeds tracking up through the paw into the leg and then into the lungs. A  friend lost a 12 month pup from exactly that and it was a tragic way to lose a dog.”