Irish Water Spaniel Club of America

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IWS Health Issues

Using the IWSCA 2010 Health Survey and Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA) data, we have compiled this list of the most frequent ailments of IWS. None of these ailments are specific to Irish Water Spaniels; they are found in varying degrees in many breeds of dogs. 


Cancer was aliment most often cited in the survey with overall rate being 32%. This is not    surprising, since cancer is the leading cause of death in all dogs, and has been estimated to be at a rate of 30-35% across all breeds. 


Chronic ear infections were cited at 14% in the Survey.  Long drooping ears are known to encourage ear infections.  These infections are often thought of as a management problem, and good ear care should reduce this rate of infections.


Seizures were reported in almost 10% of IWS in our Survey.  While all seizures are not epilepsy, it is clear that many are.  The Health and Genetics committee has been supporting the leading study of the genetic causes of epilepsy (Dr. Gary Johnson, University of Missouri) for a number of years.  Finding the mode of inheritance and eventually perfecting a genetic test can result in a much smaller number of effected dogs.


Joint Problems, genetic malformations of the elbow and hip joints, exist in IWS.  A number of years ago IWS had a high incidence of hip dysplasia, mis-formed hip joints that cause pain and disability in their acute forms.  Through rigorous breeding, that incidence has been drastically reduced and now IWS have achieved, in the last few years, a rate of 29% Excellent hips, the highest score possible.  Elbow dysplasia has only recently been recognized in IWS, but is quite severe at 18%.  In 2012 our breeders have accepted a new breeding practice which should, in time reduce that rate. 


Alopecia, hair loss, can be caused by a great variety of illnesses, or can be entirely natural such as the coat loss that a puppy undergoes when growing it’s adult coat.  Some of the causes can be serious, so any notable coat loss should be discussed with a veterinarian.  Among the many causes can be hypothyroidism which can be diagnosed with a simple blood test.  Another possible cause is atopic dermatitis, an allergic condition, reported in 4% of dogs in our Survey.   A third rarer cause of hair loss is follicular dysplasia which requires a series of tests to adequately diagnose. 


Allergies were reported with some frequency in the Survey.  Approximately 16% of surveyed dogs had some sort of allergy, with food allergy being the most common at almost 8%.   


Eye Problems IWS have a low rate of cataracts that might be genetic in origin.  We test our dogs to make sure that this rate is not rising.


Thyroid IWS have one of the lowest rates, of all breeds, of the genetic form of thyroid disease.  We test our dogs to make sure that this rate is not rising.


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