Online Survey Results

In 2011, 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