It is important to stress that English Springer Spaniels usually live long and healthy lives.  Nevertheless, although not widespread, some inherited disorders are known to exist and there are certain health tests that should be carried out by breeders to reduce or eliminate the risk of producing affected dogs. 

Health tests fall into two categories: Genetic (DNA) and Clinical.

Genetic (DNA) Tests:

Genetic tests are available in many breeds for known, simple, inherited disorders.  They analyse a dog's DNA to determine if it is genetically Clear, a Carrier or Affected for a specific disease caused by an identified, single recessive genetic mutation.  Each DNA test only needs to be carried out once in a dog's lifetime and can be done at any age.  (Note: Very young puppies should be tested after they have been weaned, in order to avoid any cross-contamination from the mother's milk.)

Genetically Clear dogs have two normal copies of the gene associated with a particular health disorder.  These dogs don't have the disorder and CANNOT pass on a mutant copy of the gene to their offspring.

Genetic Carriers have one normal copy and one mutant copy of the gene in question.  Carriers don't have the disorder themselves but CAN pass on a mutant copy of the gene to their offspring.

Genetically Affected dogs have two mutant copies of the gene in question.  They are affected by the condition (even if not showing any clinical signs) and will ALWAYS pass on a mutant copy of the gene to their offspring.

Why use DNA tests?

DNA tests enable breeders to avoid the risk of producing dogs affected by certain inherited health conditions, by ensuring that at least ONE parent in any mating is genetically CLEAR of the mutations that cause particular conditions.  They also enable essential genetic diversity to be preserved, by allowing for the safe use of Carriers if they offer many desirable breed characteristics that might otherwise be lost, provided those dogs are otherwise in excellent health, with good results from other screening tests, and provided they are only mated to dogs that have been confirmed as genetically Clear.  Over time, the aim is to reduce the number of Carriers in the gene pool, thereby reducing the frequency of the mutation and, eventually, eliminating it.

Further information and breeding advice on DNA Testing and Inherited Disorders can be found on the KC Website.

DNA tests for English Springer Spaniels:

ESS DNA tests are routinely available for Fucosidosis, PRA Cord1, Acral Mutilation Syndrome (AMS), Phosphofructokinase Deficiency (PFK) and Dyserythropoietic Anaemia and Myopathy Syndrome (DAMS)

Official Kennel Club DNA Schemes are in place for all the above DNA tests, which means the results are automatically sent to the Kennel Club by the testing laboratory.  They are then added to each dog's registration record and published on the Kennel Club's online Health Test Results Finder, making the results freely and easily accessible to everyone.

Since 2023, a DNA test has also become available for Paradoxical Pseudomyotonia (PP), but this is not currently recognised by the KC as a relevant/priority test for the breed and the results are not recorded on KC registration records.  

Other DNA tests may be offered by some testing laboratories, but they are not recognised as priority tests for ESS and the results are not recorded by the KC.

All the above DNA tests require saliva samples from inside a dog's mouth, which can be easily collected using a cheek swab kit (supplied by the testing laboratories).  Tests can be ordered online from each laboratory and the results are usually advised within 3 - 10 working days from receipt of sample.  Discounts are offered by some laboratories when ordering more than one DNA test for an individual dog or when some tests are on special offer.

Clinical Health Tests:

Clinical health tests are used for disorders where DNA tests are not available.  They include tests for complex inherited disorders that are often caused by a number of different genes, and/or where the mode of inheritance is not straightforward.  Clinical tests involve a physical examination of the dog to see if it has any clinical signs of a particular disorder.  Clinical tests don't determine the genetic status of a dog for a disease and, importantly, they cannot identify any hidden genetic 'carriers'.  Nevertheless, they are a valuable tool in helping to identify dogs that are clinically free from certain inherited disorders, as well as those affected by or at risk of developing them.

A dog's genetic status for any inherited disorder will never change, which is why DNA tests only need to be carried out once in a lifetime.  However, their clinical status can change, particularly for 'late onset' diseases that may not develop until a dog is middle-aged or even older.  For that reason, clinical eye tests should be repeated over the course of a dog's breeding life - click on the link below for details of the recommended frequencies for each test.

Results of clinical health tests are recorded in different ways, depending on the test.  Some are recorded as 'clinically unaffected' or 'clinically affected', others use grading or scoring systems, which rate to what degree the dog is affected by the condition.  Click on the link below for details of how results are recorded for each test.

Official BVA/KC Health Schemes for Hip, Elbow and Eye Testing:

The Kennel Club and the British Veterinary Association jointly operate official health schemes for Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia and Inherited Eye Diseases.   The schemes have been developed over many years, and aim to provide scientifically based expert opinion to identify those dogs that are clinically free of such diseases, in order to help conscientious breeders make the best possible choices for their breeding programmes.

Results of all clinical tests carried out under the official schemes are automatically added to each dog's registration record and published on the Kennel Club's online Health Test Results Finder and in the KC Breed Records Supplement.  

Where To Find Officially Recorded Health Test Results (UK Registered ESS):

Individual Dogs: Go to the Health Test Results Finder and enter the registered name of the dog.  All its official health test results (both clinical and DNA tests) will be shown, including whether they are 'hereditary' clear for any of the above genetic conditions.

Lists of DNA Tested Dogs: Go to the English Springer Spaniel section of the KC website. Scroll down to 'Health' and click on 'More about health'.  Under 'Priority health schemes and tests', you can then click on lists of English Springer Spaniels that have been tested as DNA Clear, Carrier or Affected for Fucosidosis, Cord1 PRA, AMS and PFK** Please note: 'Hereditary' clear dogs are not included in these lists.



DNA (Genetic) tests:


Note:  Hereditary Clear means a dog whose parents have both been tested genetically Clear, or are themselves the product of tested or hereditary Clear parents.  It is also important not to worry if one parent is a genetic Carrier of a particular disease mutation, provided the other parent has been confirmed as genetically Clear.  This ensures that affected puppies cannot be produced and, by not excluding all Carriers from the breeding pool, it helps to maintain essential genetic diversity within the breed. 

Clinical tests:

For many breeders, deciding whether to hip score isn’t entirely straightforward. The problem with it is (a) it requires anaesthesia or heavy sedation, so there is a small risk to the dog; (b) hip scores don’t always directly correlate with clinical symptoms of hip dysplasia (i.e. how much the dog might be affected by pain/discomfort/immobility); (c) hip scores don't always reflect the genetic risk of a dog passing on the condition to its offspring.  If a breeder considers the risk of producing hip dysplasia from a particular mating to be extremely small (i.e. there is no known history of hip dysplasia on either side of the pedigree) and they're not aiming to breed working gundogs or field trial dogs, then many breeders may decide hip scoring isn’t particularly beneficial – the main thing is that they should be able to justify their decision when asked.

Note: English Springers currently have an average (median) hip score of 10, although it's worth bearing in mind that this represents a relatively small number of tested dogs out of the overall ESS population. A score of 0-4 is considered perfect or near perfect and 5-10 is considered to show borderline changes which are unlikely to deteriorate with age.


The only source that currently guarantees health tested parents is the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme.  Members of this scheme have to meet a number of criteria (including their premises being inspected by the Kennel Club) and they also have to undertake breed specific required or recommended health tests.  The current health test requirements and recommendations for English Springer Spaniels under the Assured Breeder Scheme are as follows:


REQUIRED tests for BOTH parents:

Fucosidosis DNA test

Cord1 PRA DNA test

Annual standard eye test

3-yearly gonioscopy eye test


RECOMMENDED tests for BOTH parents:

PFK DNA test

Hip scoring

In addition, bitches under 20 months not to produce a litter.


If a breeder claims that the sire and/or dam have been health tested, ask to see all the relevant test certificates.  Official health test results for any KC registered dog can be verified on the KC website Health Test Results Finder – just enter the full KC registered name of the dog (making sure it is spelt correctly).

To help you with what questions to ask a breeder, there is some excellent guidance on the Kennel Club website.  You may also find it useful to look at the Puppy Contract on the RSPCA website.


To sum things up overall, the advice we would give is to ask breeders about the above ESS health tests and assess their reaction.  If they just dismiss the whole idea of health testing, that’s a red flag to walk away. If, on the other hand, they may have carried out some health tests and they can justify (to your satisfaction) why they don’t consider the other tests to be necessary (and they are happy to answer your questions), then that’s a positive sign of an informed and responsible breeder.

For further advice, including how to spot a puppy farmer or dealer, visit our 'Buying an ESS Puppy' page.