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The English setter is (as the name implies) one of our native British dog breeds, and one that has been around for a very long time – in fact, the first ancestors of the breed we now call the English setter can be traced all the way back to the 1400s.
However, English setters are far from the most common or popular dog breed you might see around in the UK today, and in fact, they’re relatively rare – over the course of 2018, a total number of just 22 English setters were advertised here on Pets4Homes, and whilst we’re not the only pet classifieds website in the UK, we are the largest, and so reflect the state of the wider market as a whole.
This places the English setter in 132nd place in the popularity stakes out of over 240 different dog breeds and types advertised here, and as a breed with a relatively small number of dogs in the available gene pool to breed from, means that any hereditary health issues that are found within the breed stand a greater chance of being spread widely across the breed as a result.
Many hereditary health issues can be tested or screened for in parent stock prior to breeding from them in order to ensure that only healthy parent dogs are used, and when it comes to health conditions that are considered to pose an acute threat to a breed as a whole, the Kennel Club advises or mandates testing for dogs of the breed in question.
New tests are developed all the time, and the Kennel Club regularly reviews the necessity of recommending or mandating additional tests for each individual dog breed as needed – and as a result of this, the Kennel Club announced in August 2019 the introduction of two new DNA testing schemes for the English setter dog breed.
Read on to find out more about the new English setter DNA tests, whether they’re advisory or mandatory, and what they are designed to achieve.
The two new testing schemes that the Kennel Club has just introduced for the English setter dog breed are:
Progressive retinal atrophy is a condition of the eyes that leads to a gradual, progressive and irreversible blindness in affected dogs. The ultimate result is total blindness that develops over time, generally reasonably slowly, and whilst this is not painful, it is of course disabling and has great implications for an affected dog’s lifestyle, care and quality of life.
Progressive retinal atrophy comes in quite a number of different variants depending on the genes responsible for it, and so there are several different DNA tests for the condition, depending on which one is prevalent within the dog breed in question
In the case of the English setter, this is the PRA-rdc4 variant of progressive retinal atrophy.
Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis, often shortened to simply “NCL” is an inherited health condition that has a severe and wide-ranging combination of effects on the dogs that develop it, and which results in a gradual, progressive and irreversible degeneration of the dog’s nervous system.
The speed of onset and symptoms displayed in any affected dog can vary widely, but commonly include a combination of several serious and very limiting conditions including epilepsy, dementia and sight loss.
Currently, both the PRA DNA test for the English setter and the NCL DNA test for the English setter are advised by the Kennel Club and the English setter breed’s health coordinator, in association with the English setter breed club; but they are not mandatory tests.
This is the same for Kennel Club Assured Breeders, who are often required to undertake DNA tests on their parent stock that are not mandated for other types of breeders.
Because both progressive retinal atrophy in the English setter and English setter neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis can be identified in parent stock by means of a simple DNA test, it is easy and non-invasive to find out the status of any English setter.
This is a very good idea for all responsible English setter breeders, and you might also want to get your own dog tested just for your peace of mind and to have a better idea of what their future health might hold.
To get an English setter tested for either PRA, NCL or both, just take your dog to the vet and ask them to take a buccal swab or blood sample, which they can then send off to an approved testing laboratory to return a result on the dog’s status for the condition or conditions in question.
This information can also be entered into the breed health database and a certificate issued for clear dogs upon the inclusion of the dog’s Kennel Club registration certificate.
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