"German wirehaired pointer hereditary health and longevity
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"German wirehaired pointer hereditary health and longevity

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The German wirehaired pointer is a medium to large dog that was developed in the 19th century in Germany. Originally bred as a hunting dog and gun dog, the German wirehaired pointer’s ancestors include the griffon, and various other working German dog breeds. Today, they are widely owned as pets and companions, but still remain as the most popular working gun dog in Germany.

The German wirehaired pointer is a muscular dog that is well balanced and lithe, with a weight in proportion to their height. They have the typical pointer dog conformation, but also have webbed feet, which makes them keen and adept swimmers! They share some similarities in appearance with the Spinone Italiano, a breed with which they are often confused.

The coat of the dog is short and wiry, with a thick, dense undercoat in the winter that sheds almost entirely in the summer. They can be seen in colours including liver, liver and white, black and white, or solid black, although not all breed clubs permit the solid black variant.

If you are considering buying or adopting a German wirehaired pointer, it is important to find out about the temperament and core traits of the breed before committing to a purchase. An important part of this involves finding out about the breed’s hereditary health and average lifespan too, which we will cover in more detail in this article. Read on to learn more.

German wirehaired pointer lifespan

The average lifespan of the German wirehaired pointer is 9-12 years, which presents quite a range of variance across the breed. The top end of the scale is firmly within the average ranking across the board for dogs of a similar size and build, but at the lower end, indicates a shorter lifespan than most equivalent pedigree dogs.

Genetic diversity and conformation

The coefficient of inbreeding statistic for the German wirehaired pointer is 3.6%, which indicates that the breed is relatively genetically diverse, and not subjected to a significant degree of inbreeding. The ideal figure for pedigree dogs is 6.25% or lower, and all pedigree breeders are advised to keep the figure for their own breed lines as low as possible.

While the conformation of the German wirehaired pointer is considered to be healthy and proportionate, the deep chest of the breed does place them at risk of bloat, or gastric dilation. This condition causes the stomach to fill with gas, and possibly twist on itself, which is very painful and can prove fatal without surgery.

Health testing for the German wirehaired pointer

A range of health schemes and testing schemes are in place for the breed, in order to identify a predisposition to certain hereditary health problems prior to breeding. This permits breeders to make an informed decision on whether or not to breed from their dogs. Current schemes and tests available include:

  • Hip score testing, with the breed average being 10.4. Breeders should only seek to breed dogs with a score below this figure.
  • DNA testing for Von Willebrand’s disease, a blood clotting disorder.
  • DNA testing for haemophilia, another blood clotting disorder.
  • DNA testing for EIC, or exercise-induced collapse.
  • German wirehaired pointer breed clubs also recommend echocardiogram testing for dilated cardiomyopathy.

Other health conditions

The German wirehaired pointer breed is also known to be prone to a small number of other health conditions, but which are not considered to be common enough across the breed as a whole to necessitate pre-breeding testing. Such conditions include:

  • Idiopathic epilepsy, and dogs with epilepsy should not be used for breeding. However, post diagnosis, epileptic dogs can usually lead relatively normal lives by means of ongoing medication.
  • Atopy, a condition that causes a hypersensitivity to certain protein particles, including pollen. This causes intense irritation and itching, and may lead to the dog scratching their skin raw.
  • Entropion of the eyelids, which causes them to rub on the surface of the eyes. This leads to pain and soreness, and may require surgical correction.
  • Cataracts of the eyes, although these do not usually develop until maturity, and are often operable.
  • Hypothyroidism, or an underproduction of the necessary thyroid hormones, leading to weight gain and lethargy among other things. However, this condition can often be managed by means of ongoing hormone therapy.
  • Osteochondritis dissecans, a painful condition of the joint cartilage, which causes inflammation and the onset of arthritis.
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart disease caused by the enlargement of the chambers of the heart and associated muscle weakness, which can lead to heart failure.

While it is not possible to test for these conditions prior to breeding or in puppies from the litter, looking at the health and background of the parents and grandparents of the line can help to identify whether or not any given condition has occurred within the breed line before. This can help you to make an informed decision as to whether or not the condition is likely to have a higher chance of developing in puppies from the same line.

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