"Pointer dog hereditary health and health testing
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"Pointer dog hereditary health and health testing

Dogs
Health & Safety

The pointer, also sometimes referred to outside of the UK as the English pointer, is one of several variants classed as pointing gun dogs that were historically used to point for game. They are medium to large in size, with males standing up to 27” tall at the withers, and females being slightly smaller. They can weigh up to 34kg.

The pointer’s build is lithe, muscular but not heavy, and reasonably tall and in proportion, with dropped ears and a long muzzle. They have short, close cropped coats and are smooth haired. The pointer can be seen in either liver and white, black and white, orange and white or lemon and white, or any solid variant of liver, black, orange or lemon.

While the pointer is an efficient and energetic working dog, today they are more widely owned as pets and companions, and are versatile and intelligent enough to fulfil a wide variety of roles including taking part in canine sport such as agility and flyball.

If you are looking for a lively, intelligent and active dog breed, the pointer might be one of the breeds that you are considering. When making the decision to buy any type of dog, it is important to do plenty of research, including finding out more about the general health, average lifespan and any health testing advised for the breed. We will cover these factors in more detail within this article.

Pointer longevity

The average lifespan of the pointer is 12.4 years, which places the pointer firmly in the average range across the board for all dog breeds of a similar size and build.

Pointer genetic diversity

The coefficient of inbreeding statistic for the pointer breed is 8.9%, which indicates that the pointer is subjected to a reasonable amount of inbreeding in order to keep their breed lines viable. The figure for the pointer is slightly higher than the ideal for pedigree dog breeds, which is 6.25% or lower, and pointer breeders are advised to reduce the coefficient of inbreeding statistic within their own breed lines where possible.

Conformation issues

The build and shape of the pointer is considered to be well balanced and robust, and not subject to exaggerations or overtyping as part of the breed standard. This indicates that the general conformation of the pointer should not pose any problems or challenges for the dog itself, and their shape and build is fit for life.

However, like all deep chested dog breeds, the pointer may be at risk of developing bloat or gastric torsion, an acute condition that causes a dangerous build-up of gas in the stomach. This can lead to the stomach twisting on itself, and may prove fatal without prompt veterinary attention.

Health testing

The British Veterinary Association and the Kennel Club collate statistics on common conditions that occur within each pedigree dog breed, and where possible, organise screening and testing programmes to identify a propensity to such conditions. This permits breeders to test their parent dogs to find out if they are healthy and viable candidates for breeding before going ahead.

Health schemes in place for the pointer dog breed are:

  • Hip score testing, with the mean hip score of the breed being 9.3. Potential parent dogs of the breed should receive a hip score below this figure in order to be considered to be viable breeding stock with good hip health.
  • Eye testing for progressive retinal atrophy, a painless condition that leads to progressive and irreversible blindness.

Other health issues

While the pointer breed as a whole is not considered to be a particularly unhealthy breed, or one that is at risk of a high level of health problems, like all pedigree dogs, certain health conditions that may have a hereditary aspect to them can present within the breed.

As well as the conditions listed above, potential pointer buyers should be aware of a slight risk within the pointer breed for the following health conditions:

  • Various forms of cancer, particularly in old age.
  • Aortic stenosis, a heart condition caused by a narrowing of the aortic valve of the heart, which may lead to heart failure.
  • Various types of allergies of the skin, which can cause intense itching and the dog scratching themselves to the point of hair loss and sore patches developing.
  • Hereditary epilepsy, which may be manageable with medication. However, known epileptic dogs should not be used for breeding.
  • Hypothyroidism, an underproduction of the necessary thyroid hormones that can lead to weight gain and lethargy.
  • Wobbler syndrome, a neurological condition that causes a lack of coordination of the hind legs, leading to a wobbling or shaky gait.
  • Osteochondritis of the shoulders, leading to pain and lameness of the front legs.
  • Entropion of the eyes, in which the eyelids fold inwards and rub on the cornea.
  • Hereditary cataracts.
  • Deafness.
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