Health and Education

The health of the breed is extremely important to everyone interested in setters, whether a breeder, owner or prospective puppy purchaser and the Club is pleased to be able to dedicate a separate companion website to puppies, ownership and health of the Irish Setter.

We are updating and adding new articles on a regular basis.  Please take time to browse through our sister site as that is where you will find detailed information about the breed and current health issues.  Sometimes information may be seen on both sites and that is because we want to reach the highest number of people. Please click on the link provided  to go to Irish Setter Health.



This survey closed in September 2011

Results published below.


Irish Setter Breed Health Online Survey Results

Last year, the Joint Health Coordinators Group set up an anonymous online survey to gather information about the incidence of diseases in the setter breed between 2005 and 2010. Diseases that are known or have been suggested to have a genetic basis were specifically investigated.  The survey results have now been analysed and give a snapshot of potential inherited problems in the breed. These results will not just allow the Group to focus on current problems but will also provide hard evidence for researchers seeking funding to investigate these problems. So I must therefore thank all Irish setter breeders and owners who took the time to complete the survey; the large number of responses received serves to strengthen any conclusions.

In fact, two surveys were conducted; one for owners of breeding bitches, and one for owners of stud dogs and pet setters. In total we had 159 owners of breeding bitches reporting on 767 puppies, and 361 stud dog and pet owners reporting on 1,031 dogs. The reason for this dual approach was to test the validity of the results. If results between the two surveys were vastly different, it might suggest that one group was being ‘economical with the truth’. In fact, the results were, gratifyingly, very comparable. Of course the survey was anonymous and we cannot know how many individual dogs may have been reported in both surveys; nevertheless the minimum number of unique dogs has to be over 1000, which is a fantastic response.

A summary of the key results is tabulated.

Disease category

Breeding bitch survey

Stud dog / non-breeding pet survey










GDV / Bloat



Hip dysplasia causing signs






In addition, the good news is that there were no (or only one) report of a number of conditions that have been listed as an inherited problem in the breed in the scientific literature, namely anal furunculosis, galactocerebrocidosis, carpal subluxation, osteosarcoma and tricuspid valve dysplasia.

Respondents were also asked to name other conditions of concern, and Cushing’s disease (a steroid hormone problem) and cancer were most frequently named. This new information again allows your Health Coordinators to focus on real problems, and further more targeted surveys may be instituted in future.

The current survey results have highlighted some areas of concern; clearly bloat (syn. gastric torsion, gastric dilatation/volvulus, GDV) is the most common condition reported, and was also chosen by over half of all respondents as the condition that concerned them the most. The survey was however, performed before the identification of PRA rcd4. Entropion (rolled-in eyelids) was reported in similar numbers, but respondents did not consider it such an important issue, presumably because it is not life-threatening.

Finally, as a caveat, we can not simply extrapolate to say that ~10 % of all setters are affected with bloat; it must be pointed out that the reported incidence of any condition may be biased by breeders/owners of afflicted dogs being more inclined to complete the survey. However, the relative incidence of the different conditions still provides guidance as to what diseases we should focus our efforts on in order to improve the health of the breed.


Ed Hall

Chairman, Irish Setter Breed Clubs Joint Health Coordinators Group

Feb 2012



New Kennel Club Mate Select Programme


Woof, He's Fit' - The New Doggie Dating Website That Puts Health First


The Kennel Club has developed a revolutionary new database that will enable people to find a perfect mate for their dog which will help to improve the health of future generations within the breed.

In a first of its kind, the Mate Select programme, which will be accessed via the Kennel Club website, will allow both occasional and regular breeders to assess the impact that a proposed mating will have on the genetic diversity within a breed.

As new health screening tools are developed, these will also be incorporated into Mate Select so that, in future, breeders will be able to select mating pairs which will maximise the chances of producing healthy puppies whilst having the optimum impact on the breed’s genetic diversity. 

These IT developments will greatly expand the Kennel Club’s ability to collect and store health information on registered dogs - information that will allow the development of new health screening tools which will find their way into Mate Select and improve the health of pedigree dogs. 

The Kennel Club wants to ensure that these healthy puppies go on to loving homes and has launched a new Breed Information Centre on its website. This includes a Health Test Results Finder, which records the health test results for any Kennel Club registered dog; an Accredited Breeder application that gives potential owners a list of responsible breeders in their area; and a Find a Breed application to show which breed’s characteristics would best suit their lifestyle.

Kennel Club Communications Director, Caroline Kisko, said: “People do a lot of thinking about their perfect partner but dogs’ needs are relatively simple - to find a mate that will give them healthy puppies, which will then be matched with loving owners.

“A lot of science is going into the Kennel Club’s new database, but the end result will be that the computer will help dog owners find a mate for their dog, which will give them the best possible chance of producing healthy puppies.

“Not only can we help to match the right dogs with each other, but equally important is matching the right puppy buyers to the right puppy and our newly launched Breed Information Centre will help people to find the right breed and the right breeder.”

Nick Blayney, former President of the British Veterinary Association, has spoken about the importance of the new database for dog health. He said: “The Kennel Club has helped develop many DNA tests and has a number of health screening schemes that are run with the British Veterinary Association and this knowledge should be central to any breeding decision. Sometimes though, there is so much information to compute that breeders often don’t know where to start. This database will do the complicated calculations for them, showing them clearly which dogs will make the most suitable match in order to produce healthy puppies.”

Health test results and details of any surgery or operations that a dog has had will be inputted into the health database by dog owners and vets and will then be verified. Dogs will then enter the ‘dating pool’ and be matched with other dogs, of the same breed within the surrounding area, on the basis of their Estimated Breeding Value (the genetic value of the dog based upon health considerations). Work is already under way on the database which will be available by the end of the year, and the Mate Select programme within the following twelve months.

Professor Jeff Sampson, Kennel Club Chief Scientific Advisor, said: “The Kennel Club has been working with scientists to develop Estimated Breeding Values for many years. These EBVs are based on very complicated calculations such as the prevalence of certain diseases in a particular breed or the size of the gene pool. The database is the first of its kind to be able to compute all of this information and to tell breeders not only which two dogs will produce the healthiest offspring, but which pairings will have the most positive effect on the overall health of that breed.

“The programme will be available for pedigree dogs, because we know their heritage and therefore have more information available for them, but we hope that information about all other dogs will also be fed into this database. At the moment we have frighteningly little information about diseases within crossbred dogs, but this database will help to throw light on this grey area and help us, therefore, to improve the health of pedigrees and crossbreeds alike.”



The demands on dog breeders grow increasingly complex in efforts to ensure future generations of dogs are bred responsibly. Today's dog breeders have a number of different considerations to make when deciding whether to mate two dogs together, although the emphasis that each breeder places on these will vary according to what they are trying to achieve:

  • Temperament
  • Breed Type and Characteristics
  • Health Screening
  • Genetic Diversity

Predicting breed type and characteristics requires experience. If you are new to dog breeding then you should seriously consider joining an appropriate breed club where you will be able to meet and talk to some very experienced breeders. The guides below, however, can take you through the steps to gain a better idea of the health of potential parents and the likelihood that they will not pass defective genes to their offspring, increasing the chances that any puppies born will have the best chance of living a healthy life.

Mate Select has a number of services that will help breeders manage loss of diversity and benefit the breed as a whole.

It can be accessed here on the Kennel Club Website





With today’s welcome sunshine, and summer fast approaching, the Kennel Club is warning people that they risk cooking their dogs alive if they leave them unattended in a car.


Dogs are extremely sensitive to the heat and should never be left in a car alone, even on a fairly warm or cloudy day. Surprisingly, leaving a car window open or supplying water makes little difference and the dog will suffer, as a car can quickly heat up to around 50°C.


Each year the Kennel Club receives reports of dogs being left in cars, and many incidents where dogs die from heatstroke as a result. The Kennel Club is calling for urgent action to prevent irresponsible dog ownership this summer.


To promote the seriousness of the issue the Kennel Club has produced a three minute video called ‘Don’t Cook your Dog’, which is supported by Dogs Today magazine’s Don’t Cook Your Dog campaign. The video is available through Youtube from today (25th June) and demonstrates how easily dogs can suffer from brain damage, organ failure and death, if left in a hot car.


Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary said: “We might not be experiencing a scorching summer but today’s sunshine reminds us that even on fairly warm and cloudy days cars can heat up at an alarming speed that can be fatal to dogs.  Every year dogs die traumatic deaths after being left in cars so we urge people to take care when out about with their dogs. Whether in the sun or the shade, cars heat up quickly and it can be unbearable even for us before the air-conditioning comes into effect, never mind for dogs.


“Dogs can only cool down by panting and sweating through their paws, so they will find the heat far worse than humans. Owners must realise that dogs cannot handle heat like we can and that it is never safe to leave the dog in the car alone, whether the windows are open or not.”


The Kennel Club has issued the following advice regarding travelling with your dog during warm weather.



·         Consider the weather and your journey in advance, especially if you don’t have air conditioning in your car. Think about whether the journey is absolutely necessary for your dog.

·         Plan your journey and check out the Kennel Club’s Open for Dogs site and use the Dog Friendly app to find places that will allow dogs in with you

·         Make sure your dog has plenty of space in the car and isn’t squashed or forced to sit in direct sunlight.

·         Always make sure there is shade provided: even in an air conditioned car a dog can become too hot if in full sun.

·         Make sure plenty of stops are taken with lots of water available to drink.

·         Take cold water in a thermos rather than a plastic bottle so it stays cold rather than being lukewarm. Ice cubes are helpful in a thermos for cooling too.



·         Leave a dog unattended in a car, even with the window open and water available. Take them out of the car and leave them in a secure, cool place with access to shade and water or take them with you, there are plenty of places that are part of the Kennel Club’s Open for Dogs scheme and will allow dogs in.

·         Let your dog take part in unnecessary exertion in hot weather, or stand in exposed sunlight for extended lengths of time.

·         Pass by a dog if you see one suffering in a car. Whether it be in a supermarket car park or at a show, make sure you let someone in authority know and if in doubt call the police or the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.


To help avoid the need to leave dogs unattended in cars, the Kennel Club ‘Open for Dogs’ campaign encourages more businesses and services to welcome dogs. Thousands of dog-friendly attractions are listed on the website,  making it the ideal way to plan for trips for the whole family including your dog over the forthcoming holiday season. To view the Youtube video ‘Don’t cook your Dog’ visit



Dogs in Cars on Wet Days.


Your dog is vulnerable and AT RISK if left in a vehicle on a wet day ( at a SEISC show) and even on days considered as slightly wet.

Please take care of your dog.

If your dog is found to be at risk from flooding, forcible entry to your vehicle may be necessary, without liability for any damage caused.