Major Health Concerns

Irish Setter HealthIrish Setters are generally healthy dogs although prone to some genetic disorders as well as conditions common to all large dogs. Fortunately genetic testing has reduced the frequency of some of their inherited diseases and careful breeding can diminish other conditions.

A potential owner is warned not to overreact to a discussion of ailments common to a dog breed — consider how long and scary the list is for humans! But Irish Setters are at risk for a quite a few hereditary and congenital diseases. A list compiled by W. Jean Dodds, DVM, for example, lists 42 specific conditions associated with the Irish setter as compared with only 2 for the English Foxhound.


Bloat is a serious condition with a 25-50% mortality rate if untreated. A 2011 survey of UK breeders and owners found that nearly 10% of their animals were affected by bloat. Bloat is caused by the dog’s stomach not being anchored firmly in the abdomen. Swallowed air and fluids build up in the stomach because of abnormal function of valves entering and leaving it. The stomach bloats and twists, puts pressure on the abdominal veins, and leads to multiple organ failure. In Irish Setters, bloat is difficult to diagnose; often, extreme restlessness is the only clue an owner has. To try to prevent bloat, owners are cautioned to feed these dogs three small meals a day, restrict exercise before and after meals, and reduce stress at meals.


The UK survey found 4-5% of dogs had epilepsy. If seizures are frequent they can usually be controlled with daily medication. To avoid a dog with epilepsy, potential owners should receive information about dog’s parentage.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Several forms of inherited diseases of the eye lead to blindness in the Irish Setter. There is a DNA test for two of the more common forms of PRA, rcd1 and rcd2. Breeding is being discouraged between two carriers of the recessive PRA genes. The prevalence of late onset PRA is thought to be as high as 30-40% and can affect dogs as young as four years old. Potential owners can have a dog screened for this and other genetic diseases.

Canine Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency (CLAD)

CLAD is a fatal disease in Irish Setters. Puppies die from multiple infections because their immune systems don’t work properly. As many as 20% of Irish Setters In Europe are carriers. In the US, the rate is lower, maybe less than 10%. Breeders can prevent the disease through screening of carriers. Potential owners should demand the genetic status of a dog’s lineage.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition and refers to a hip’s poorly formed ball and socket: the socket isn’t as deep as it should be, the ball doesn’t really fit into it. Hip muscles and tendons are loose and become looser over time. The condition has been reported in 6-10% of Irish Setters. Any animal to be bred should be x-rayed first to rule out the condition. Potential owners should demand reports of the hips of parents and grandparents of any dog they’re considering.

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD)

HOD affects rapidly growing pups within large breeds. It is a painful condition that affects all four legs of the puppies around four to eight months. The puppies have extreme pain, won’t eat or stand. The condition is sometimes fatal.

This condition may be avoided by not giving puppies too much protein and supplements.

Other Health Concerns

Incidence of hypothyroidism may be as high as 20% among Irish Setters. About 15% have an allergic condition and 6% some form of heart disease. Of cancers, osteosarcoma affects about 4% of the dogs.