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Gordon Setters are usually quite healthy dogs and with a good diet, and appropriate exercise and care should enjoy a healthy life to 10-14 years. The following is some information on conditions that can occur in Gordons as well as other breeds.

Register of Health and other Inherited Conditions

The Gordon Setter Club of NSW encourages all breeders to use screening schemes that are relevant to the breed such as genetic testing for PRA which causes blindness in affected dogs, Hip and Elbow x-raying and scoring and colour testing of dogs who are possible carriers of the liver or red gene.

Because of the importance to the breed of the information provided by these test and the fact that there is no official Australian site for the recording of the outcomes the Club maintains a Register of Health and other Inherited Conditions which is displayed on this website. Please note that the submission of results for inclusion on the Register is voluntary so not all Australian results are displayed.

To submit results please click here to download the form. To view reults for dogs born before 2000 click pre 2000 or for those born 2000 to the present click 2000 to present.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

In the UK in 2009 it was realised that a number of old dogs (over 7 years old) were going blind and after examination being diagnosed with Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA).

What is PRA
PRA is a widely recognised inherited condition that many breeds of dog are predisposed to. The condition is characterised by bilateral degeneration of the retina which causes progressive vision loss that culminates in total blindness. There is no treatment for PRA.

Several genetically distinct forms of PRA are recognised, each caused by a different mutation in a specific gene. The various forms of PRA are typically breed-specific, with clinically affected dogs of the same breed usually sharing an identical mutation. Clinically affected dogs of different breeds, however, usually have different mutations, although PRA-mutations can be shared by several breeds.

Owners report that their affected dogs develop night blindness in the first instance. That is they have problems seeing in the dark.

Mode of Inheritance
PRA is caused by a simple autosomal recessive gene. This means that unlike a condition such as hip dysplasia, it is possible to eradicate the condition once a genetic test is available, if everyone works together.

Diagnosis - Genetic Test for PRA in Gordon Setters
PRA can be clinically diagnosed once the dog starts to display possible symptoms. This is problematic Diagnosis can be difficult if the dog has also developed cataracts (a secondary disease that can be caused by PRA), and clinical diagnosis might not be possible until late in a dog's life (after it has been bred from).

Many forms of PRA can now be diagnosed through DNA testing. Each form of PRA has its specific DNA test. This is the preferred means of diagnosis because it can be carried out while a dog is still young and "carriers" as well as "affected" dogs can be identified.

Genetic Test for PRA rcd4 in Gordon Setters
The Animal Health Trust (UK) has identified a mutation responsible for PRA in Gordons and has developed a diagnostic genetic test. .

The following is an extract from their report on their research:

"The research we have carried out to identify the PRA mutation has revealed that there are at least two forms of PRA segregating in the Gordon Setter. The DNA test we are offering is for the mutation that causes one of these forms, which we are calling rcd4 ; the mutation that causes the additional form has yet to be identified.

Our research indicates rcd4 is the most common form of PRA among Gordon Setters and the development of this test therefore enables breeders to slowly decrease the frequency of an important form of PRA in their lines. However, because we know that at least one other form of PRA exists within the breed, we cannot guarantee that any dog will not develop PRA, even if they are clear of the rcd4 mutation.

Breeders using the test will be sent results identifying their dog as belonging to one of three categories:

CLEAR: these dogs have two normal copies of DNA. Clear dogs will not develop PRA as a result of the rcd4 mutation, although we cannot exclude the possibility they might develop PRA due to other mutations they might carry that are not detected by this test.

CARRIER: these dogs have one copy of the mutation and one normal copy of DNA. These dogs will not develop PRA themselves as a result of the rcd4 but they will pass the mutation on to approximately 50% of their offspring. We cannot exclude the possibility that carriers might develop PRA due to other mutations they might carry that are not detected by this test.

GENETICALLY AFFECTED: these dogs have two copies of the rcd4 mutation and will almost certainly develop PRA during their lifetime. The average age of diagnosis for dogs with rcd4 is 10 yo, although there is considerable variation within the breed.

Our research has demonstrated that the frequency of the rcd4 mutation in Gordon Setters in (UK) is high. The mutation is recessive which means that all dogs can be bred from safely but carriers and genetically affected dogs should only be bred to DNA tested, clear dogs. About half the puppies from any litter that has a carrier parent will themselves be carriers and any dogs from such litters that will be used for breeding should themselves be DNA tested prior to breeding so appropriate mates can be selected.

It is advisable for all breeding dogs to have their eyes clinically examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist prior to breeding and throughout their lives so that any cases of PRA caused by additional mutations can be detected and that newly emerging conditions can be identified."

The diagnostic test which involves a mouth swab is available through the AHT's new online webshop www.ahtdnatesting.co.uk/canine_tests/gordon_setter

PRA in Gordon Setters in Australia It is important that we (Australian Gordon Setter breeders and owners) work together to eradicate PRA rcd4 from our Gordons and to ensure that other PRA mutations do not take hold. We are aware that a number of dogs in Australia (who have been bred from) are carriers of PRA rcd4.

What to do?
The Gordon Setter Club of NSW strongly recommends that Breeders and owners of dogs that have been or will be bred from should have all their breeding stock tested especially if they have British lines in their pedigree.

In Australia there is no central register for the recording of inherited diseases so a number of years ago the NSW club established a register which can be found on its website at: www.gordonsetterclub.com.au/health.php. Results of DNA tests for rcd4 will be included on the Health Register so please send any that you receive from the AHT to Meg MacCormick at megmaccormick@hotmail.com for inclusion on the Register. In this way we will be able to identify Clear, Carriers and Affected dogs and to build up a picture of the extent of the problem in Australian Gordons.

If as a breeder you discover, after testing that you have a dog that is a carrier or is affected you should consider carefully the advice above from the AHT. If you have already bred a litter that might contain affected Gordons it is recommended that you contact the owners of the dogs to advise them of the situation in case their dog starts to go blind in the years to come.

If you own a Gordon that is not going to be bred from, you do not need to take any action unless you suspect that your dog's eyesight is failing. If this happens have him checked by a Canine Opthamologist and preferably do a genetic test. Also notify the NSW Club and the dog's breeder of the results.

Testing Labs

Hip (and Elbow) Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia (HD) is the malformation of the development of one or both ball and socket joints in the hip. The hip joint is composed of the socket, which is formed by the bones of the pelvis, and the "ball" (head) of the thigh bone (femur). Normally, this joint is very tight fitting, however if suffering from dysplasia there will be too much movement in the joint resulting in wear of the joint resulting in pain and lameness. The degree of hip dysplasia present is indicated by a score assigned to each hip. Using the BVA/AVA system the hip score is the sum of the points awarded for each of nine aspects of the X-rays of both hip joints. The minimum hip score is 0 and the maximum is 106 (53 for each hip). The lower the score the less the degree of hip dysplasia present. In the UK an average (or mean) score is calculated for each breed scored under the scheme and advice for breeders is to use only breeding stock with scores well below the breed mean score.

The minimum age for hip scoring is one year, and each dog is only ever scored once under the scheme. Hip (HD) and Elbow Dysplasia (ED) is a multifactoral, genetically based disease which is greatly influenced by environmental factors. The modes of inheritance of HD and ED are complex and the degenerative changes occur with growth if the unfavorable genetic and environmental factors are present. Due to this complexity, normal hipped/elbowed dogs can produce offspring with all degrees of dysplasia and dysplastic dogs can produce normal offspring.

The Gordon Setter Club of NSW encourages all breeders to X-Ray and score the hips of at least all their breeding stock. To look up the scores that have been submitted to the club click here. The lower the score per hip/elbow, the better. In Australia the breed mean score was 11.3 in 2004.

Treatment of HD is directed at the alleviation of pain, and in severe cases involves major (and expensive) surgery to replace the joint.


Some of our Gordons will get cancer during their lives. We don't have a genetic test nor do we know the mode of inheritance for cancer.

This is a cause of grief for many owners and causes the early deaths of far too many of our beloved animals. If your Gordon is limping, has a growth, a wound that won't heal or any unusual sign, the sooner you get to your vet's surgery to be examined the better.

Some owners choose to pursue aggressive chemotherapy for their Gordon, others pursue herbal treatments and in some cases there is little that can be done to halt or even slow down the progress of the disease. Early detection will, of course, help the odds and you and your veterinarian decide which course to choose.

Many Veterinary teaching hospitals have cancer treatment programs and outcomes are often more positive than they were in the past.

More info on cancer in your pet can be found at the following link:
Cancer and Tumors in Dogs (US Site)

Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) - More commonly known as "Bloat"

BLOAT IS AN EMERGENCY - The technical name for bloat is "Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus" ("GDV"). Bloating of the stomach is often related to swallowed air (although food and fluid can also be present). It usually happens when there's an abnormal accumulation of air, fluid, and/or foam in the stomach ("gastric dilatation"). Stress can be a significant contributing factor also. Bloat can occur with or without "volvulus" (twisting). As the stomach swells, it may rotate 90° to 360°, twisting between its fixed attachments at the esophagus (food tube) and at the duodenum (the upper intestine). The twisting stomach traps air, food, and water in the stomach. The bloated stomach obstructs veins in the abdomen, leading to low blood pressure, shock, and damage to internal organs. The combined effect can quickly kill a dog. It is frequently reported that deep-chested dogs, such as German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Dobermanns are particularly at risk.

Symptoms of Bloat:
The dog may have an obviously distended stomach especially near the ribs but this is not always evident depending on the dog's body configuration.

The biggest clue is the vomiting: the pet appears highly nauseated and is retching but little is coming up. If this is seen, rush your dog to the veterinarian IMMEDIATELY for stomach decompression and shock management.

Bloated dogs, once stable, should have surgery. Without surgery, the damage done inside cannot be assessed or repaired plus bloat may recur at any point, even within the next few hours. Surgery, called gastropexy, allows the stomach to be tacked into the normal position so that it may never again twist. Without gastropexy, the recurrence rate of bloat may be as high as 75%!

For more information, visit the following links:
Bloat - The Mother of All Emergencies (US site)
Bloat in Dogs (US site)