"Health Issues Commonly Seen in Irish Setters

"Health Issues Commonly Seen in Irish Setters

Health & Safety

A healthy and well cared for Irish Setter can live anything from 10 to 14 years and they are generally a healthy breed that have been popular pets for a very long time. Unfortunately, like so many other pure breeds, the Irish Setter does suffer from certain hereditary health issue as well as a few acquired ones which existing and potential dog owners should be aware because an early diagnosis on many of these conditions results in a much better outcome when treating them.

Below is a list of these health issues some of which are passed on to puppies by their parents and are therefore hereditary disorders and others are acquired conditions the breed is known to suffer from.

Hip Dysplasia

Another condition that commonly affects Irish Setters, hip dysplasia is caused by the abnormal development of the hip joint which typically occurs when dogs are still growing. Dogs with the condition tend to be extremely lame and in severe cases, arthritis sets in debilitating a dog's movement even more. Veterinary attention should be sought if you are at all worried about your dog because the sooner the condition is diagnosed, the sooner your pet would be made more comfortable.


This painful bone disease affects Irish Setters when they are young between the ages of 6 to 24 months old. Panosteities in puppies can last anything from a few months to much longer but usually clears up on its own although there are always long-term after effects to have to cope with.

Bloat - Gastric Dilatation

Bloat is a very painful condition where the stomach fills with air which then rotates. It is a condition that needs to be taken very seriously because often it could prove fatal due to the fact that the supply of blood is cut off. Irish Setters as well as large breed dogs which have deep, narrow chests are more prone to developing the condition. If you notice your dog showing any signs of a swollen stomach and restlessness, veterinary attention should be sought as soon as possible.

Other symptoms include :

  • Excessive Drooling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shallow, rapid breathing

Progressive Retinal Atrophy – PRA

This is a condition that affects quite a number of breeds including Irish Setters . It is a degenerative disorder affecting the eye which results in total blindness. Dogs can be tested for the condition by way of a DNA test which helps reduce the chances of puppies inheriting the condition as any dogs or bitches with the condition would not be used for breeding purposes.


As a breed, Setters can also be prone to Hyperthyroidism. This is a thyroid malfunction that occurs when the thyroid gland stops functioning and producing thyroid hormone responsible for proper metabolism. Symptoms include hair loss, weight gain, muscle loss, lethargy and in some cases heart problems. This disease is usually diagnosed through blood tests. It can be effectively treated with drug therapy under your vets supervision.


Sadly, the breed is also prone to suffering from epilepsy which can be quite frightening when a dog first has a fit. However, the condition can be very successfully controlled by giving dogs with the condition the right type of medication. Because it is incurable, dogs diagnosed with the condition would need to be kept on medication for the rest of their lives.

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)

This is a condition where normal growth of the cartilage found in a dog's joints does not develop properly and it typically affect elbows but can affect shoulders too. It is a painful disorder that causes joints to stiffen which restricts a dog's movement considerably. Dogs as young as 4 month old can be affected and it's thought that an incorrect diet that's too rich in proteins may be partly responsible for them developing the condition. Read more information aboutOsteochondritis Dissecans and the breeds it effects in our article.

Canine Leukocyte (CAD)

This is a hereditary condition that affects the blood and the ability of white cells to fight off infection. The disorder impacts the immune system and results in dogs continuously suffering from infections.

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD)

This disorder causes dogs to go lame and is thought to develop as a result of them being fed a diet that is too high in protein and calcium. Puppies as young as 4 months old can be affected by the condition. Other symptoms include the following:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen joints
  • A reluctance to walk
  • Lethargy
  • Occasionally, the condition can prove fatal

HOD is rather hard to diagnose but can be treated using antibiotics, steroids and prescribe pain relief.


Although it seems like Irish Setters are prone to suffer from a lot of health issues, many dogs live their entire lives without developing any of them. However, being forewarned about a condition helps both existing and potential owners recognise any symptoms of a problem earlier rather than later. As a rule the earlier a condition is diagnosed and then treated, the better the outcome would be for the dog.

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