Genetic Health Testing
Ensuring the integrity of the purebred Irish Setter is not only breeding to type and temperament. Generations of reputable and ethical breeders are also trying to reduce and eliminate serious genetic health issues in the Irish Setter. We have come a long way since the early days, but many problems still exist.
Research continues to grow and testing becomes clearer, which helps to ensure the longevity of the breed. If you are considering breeding your Irish Setter, purchasing a puppy or adult, you need to be aware of these issues so our breed continues its way to a healthier future.
Here are the main health issues afflicting our dogs with information on test procedure and organisations which provide proper industry results.
CANINE HIP DYSPLASIA
A serious condition of the ball of the femur not sitting correctly in the pelvis. There may also be edges, abnormal bone growth, and various other factors which can cause the dog serious pain and discomfort. Arthritis tends to set in more often than not. This condition is common and hereditary.
This test is performed by X-Ray at your Veterinarian's office. Find a Veterinarian in your area proficient in this test as many factors may give a false reading. Xrays are submitted to either OFA or PennHip in the USA. A grade is given by the organisation. Dogs with less than a FAIR result should not be used for breeding purposes.
PROGRESSIVE RETINAL ATROPHY (PRA)
This disease is characterised by the bilateral degeneration of the retina, causing progressive vision loss culminating in blindness. There is currently no treatment.
For more information on PRA please visit: http://www.aht.org.uk/cms-display/genetics_prarcd4_irish.html
Testing is done at your Veterinarian via blood sample and sent to either OFA or OPTIGEN. http://www.optigen.com/opt9_test_rcd1_pra.html
HYPOTHYROIDISM OR AUTOIMMUNE THYROIDITIS (TGAA):
A very common occurence in many types of Setters. This is an affliction of the thyroid not producing enough hormone or if the body produces antibodies which attack a healthy thyroid gland. Luckily, we have a simple blood test that garners comprehensive results and management options are available. There are many organizations which provide results to work with your Veterinarian. We recommend a full TGAA5 Panel for the most comprehensive results.
A quick look at the Canine Health Information Centre Website provides more information.
OTHER HEALTH ISSUES AND CONCERNS:
While not high on the list of genetic health testing, the following afflictions should also be taken into consideration. Many breeders will test or watch for these in their breeding stock regularly to help uphold the health of our Breed.
CLAD - Canine Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency
VON WILLEBRAND'S DISEASE
DEGENERATIVE MYELOPATHY ( DM)
What is Degenerative Myelopathy?
Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive disease of the spinal cord in older dogs. The disease has an insidious onset typically between 8 and 14 years of age. It begins with a loss of coordination (ataxia) in the hind limbs. The affected dog will wobble when walking, knuckle over or drag the feet. This can first occur in one hind limb and then affect the other. As the disease progresses, the limbs become weak and the dog begins to buckle and has difficulty standing. The weakness gets progressively worse until the dog is unable to walk. The clinical course can range from 6 months to 1 year before dogs become paraplegic. If signs progress for a longer period of time, loss of urinary and fecal continence may occur and eventually weakness will develop in the front limbs. Another key feature of DM is that it is not a painful disease.
Genetic Testing is available via Cheek Swab Testing and can be done at any age for accuracy. Dogs may be Clear, Carriers, or Affected.
Testing can be done via:
BLOAT AND TORSION
Not a genetic disease but a sudden serious disorder which Irish Setters and other deep chested breeds may be afflicted. While research is not conclusive, risk factors include:
Gulping of food and/or water thus swallowing air.
Hard exercise before and after meals.
Some dry food or kibble diets which swell when moistened.
One big meal per day.
Dogs may appear restless or out of sorts, pace, pant, switch positions very frequently as to try to get comfortable. Many will present with retching in trying to vomit but nothing comes up but white frothy fluid. Some will show a distention in the abdomen and it will feel like the top of a drum. The stomach fills with gases and air thus twisting the stomach, cutting off blood flow to various organs. It is imperative the dog is taken immediately to emergency care as this condition is life threatening.
HYPERTROPHIC OSTEODYSTROPHY (HOD)
This is a serious life threatening disorder of the joints and growth plates which can affect puppies from 3-4 months of age. The dog becomes feverish, lame, anorexic, lethargic and has a general feeling of being unwell. Studies are still trying to prove if it is a hereditary issue or simply something that can affect some dogs randomly.
Triggers may be vaccine reactions and the stress resulting thereof, teething, foods very high in protein. Many breeders will recommend diets less than 26% protein or the feeding of raw or cooked diets. Any stress trigger may also set this into action. At this point, keeping the puppy in the least stressful situations may help.
Many vets may misdiagnose as it is not a common occurrence. The Irish Setter Club of America has been working with Dr. Gary Brown in trying to find genetic markers and also establishing treatment protocol. The findings and treatment can be found in the link provided.
The information provided here is a guideline to health issues. Please contact your Veterinarian if you feel your dog is unwell or afflicted with any of these diseases or disorders.