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The link for this Bloat Survey was just published in our "National Dog" Magazine here in Australia. 


The Abstract of the most recent study (2010) by Marko Pipan, Dorothy Cimino Brown, Carmelo L. Battaglia and Cynthia M. Otto can be found at this link:




The full survey results are not yet available, so I will be checking the Breeding Better Dogs website regularly.  It appears that this was an internet based survey done in USA.




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Well, Eva, you are taking the discussion from the general to the personal level. I am neither accusing you personally nor Camilla (who I believe knows what type I prefer...). I am trying to address our breed's problems in a more general view.

Of course you can be proud of your dog! Nothing wrong with that. We all are proud of our dogs in some way or another.


When speaking of general health issues you will agree that we should not be looking at just the first generation but at the breed as a whole. The idea of genetic diversity covers the whole popluation fo a breed. This is not about Concept in particular but about the TOP SIRES / TOP DOGS in general. We will not help the breed if all breeders use the popular sire even if the first generation appears to be healthy. Where do you go from there? 

I think we've been into theses discussions enough elsewhere on this site and I will not be going into all that again.



Oh Susan...............I am not taking this discussion to a personal level at all.  You are stating that UK breeders are not using dogs with low hip scores.  In defence all I am doing is quoting you examples.  I can only do that with what I know.  Please re-read my latest comment ref Top Breeder etc.

I totally agree with you that we will not help the breed if all breeders use the popular sire and am fully aware what can happen..  And yes, we need to look past first generation progeny to maintain the general health of the breed but we have to start somewhere and starting from the first generation is a good beginning.  But then the worry is where to go without bringing in new and potential problems.  Even outcrossing to working stock brings with it possible dangers for working dogs are not free from HD nor are they free from bloat etc.  Genetically diversifying just for the sake of it does not always work you absolutely have to know what you are doing.  That is difficult with so many unknowns.  Breeding dogs is not an exact science.  Wish to God we worried as much about breeding healthy humans.

As for titles, well there is no harm in striving for excellence, in beauty as well as health.  We all need goals to achieve otherwise what would be the point to all this.

Hi all, no need to apologise for going off subject.  It is all health matters and all areas of health are just as important.


To come into the discussion on hip scoring, I would like to commend every breeder who does hip score their stock.  Here in Australia, there is no legislation to mandate DNA testing for CLAD, PRA or any testing like hipscoring, etc for Irish Setters.  I don't believe there is any stock here that isn't DNA tested and there are a number of breeders who do hipscore. 


But as a breeder here in Aus it is difficult with the very small gene pool here to use stud dogs that are scored and so even if your own breeding stock is scored, you may not be able to use a dog that is scored.  So, you can take 2 steps forward and then take a step back!!


Going back to bloat, Susan, I have the article you are looking for, so will e-mail it to you.  I made contact with a company on another matter, who offers DNA testing here in Australia, so I asked about any developments on research for GDV and any glimmer of hope in the future for a DNA test, but unfortunately nothing yet.  She did send me an interesting article by Dr John Armstrong (written in 1998) "The Nature of Genetic Disease".  You may have all seen it and read it, but I am attaching here for anyone who would like to read it.  It clearly talks about the genetic, the environmental and the behavioural aspects of bloat.  Given this recent survey about the feeding regime, etc I think we need to educate our puppy owners about the risk of bloat in regard to the environmental and behavioural factors as well as the predisposition of bloat due to their genetic structure?  Could and/or does this type of education minimise the cases of bloat?  Any comments?

Susan. I am not accusing you of bashing the Brits. I am not asking you to praise the consciencious breeders I am just asking you to paint a balanced picture. If all we ever talk about is those that don't then those that do are swept into the same pile and tarred with the same brush. Give credit where credit is due.
The reason breeders hip score in Europe is because their respective Kennel Clubs force them to do it and set parameters below which they will not register their stock. If that were not the case then the situation would be much as it is in the UK......that is basic human nature. If the UK Kennel Club adopted the same practice then the UK breeders would also fall into line. Maybe we should take special note of the UK breeders who do DESPITE not being made to.
To go back to Bloat.......survey after survey just proves that we are still clutching at many straws to find the reasons for this dreadful condition. There has to be a time when fact finding stops and research begins. We cannot keep going over the same old and tired ground.
Let me just add a cautionary note. We have had situations where those entrusted with confidential information have used it to their advantage. This has made everyone wary and distrusting, preferring to deal directly with the researchers rather than submitting details to the information gatherers. So forgive me if I have a slightly jaundiced view of any schemes set up by Bodies of Breeders.

Eva, if you read my early post you will realise that may main concern are not those breeders who DO hipscore but those who DON'T. There is no need for you to defend UK breeders. I am a breeder (sometimes...) myself, I base my breeding on UK lines, I prefer UK type  - so why do you say:

Susan, I think you malign us.........yet again ?

There is no 'you' and 'us'. What I am trying to explain here is why little or no improvement in the average hip scores. I wrote:

Looking back over 5 years at Irish Setters that have been scored under the BBVA/KC scheme it becomes sadly apparent that no real improvement can be seen in the average score each year. Selection is not working. Why? Because there is a) no rigorous selection going on b) all animals go back to practically the same show stock and c) animals with low scores are not used for breeding as they do not represent the winning type...


Admittedly, I should have worded this more carefully... but you will realize I am looking back over 5 years of the past and can not predict what the effect of increased awareness may be in 5 years to come. Still, the a), b) and c) together still form the reason why hip scorees will not improve as fast as we may wish. Allow me to elaborate: on each point

a) rigorous selection would mean all dogs used for breeding must have a score that is well below the breed mean score, preferably as low as 6 (total score) or have an Estimated Breed Value that is lower than average with regard to hip scores. The EBV takes in account siblings, first degree relatives and would have a higher predictive value than the inidvidual dog alone.

b) If you take in account that almost all show lines go back to the same few animals (Wendover Gentleman, Kerryfair Nightfever, Caspians Intrepid, Twoacres Gold Eagle, to name but a few) it is going to be very difficult to improve the breed mean score unless we find different avenues to take up, be this by introducing fresh blood (well researched working strains) or by actually using some UK lines known to have lower scores than the breed average...

which brings me to 

c) in Irish Setters it is apparent that some lines produce better scoring dogs than others. The example in my mind is the Brackenfield/Hartsbournes - there are breeders who have continued on those lines. There has in the past and is still a marked reluctance to use these lines for fear of loosing 'type'. Maybe there will be an improvement if you choose low scoring offspring from the lines you prefer, but my experience shows that a 'one off' good one will not have the same impact as the good one from a line of good ones.


And as said before, it is no use if all breeders go to the one and only low scoring dog - this will start off the popular sire synromde all over again. Maintaining genetic diversity is just as important.


Please keep in mind that it is by no means just the UK breeders that show this reluctance. Most of us 'continentals' prefer the so-called 'Wendover' type (though how many similarities there are to those dogs today would be another discussion completely).


Eva, we all rely on the UK for what we like in Irish Setters and that is where our problems start (like it or not). There is no arguing away the fact that many of us prefer that type - but we (meaning all breeders) have come to an impasse when it comes to breeding healthy dogs. So we look to our peers and hope for guidance. I consider the breed clubs to be the ones to offer  guidance and steer the boat in the right direction.


The reason I joined in on this discussion was your criticism of a UK breed club that is working in the right direction.

I rest my case.







Susan, I accept most of what you say but please let us all be a little more optimistic.  Every year more and more owners of IS in the UK are hip scoring their dogs as is borne out by the yearly lists of results. You must agree this is a step in the right direction. We cannot expect it to be an ovenight success.....improvement takes time. I don't accept that we need to select down to as low as 6 (total score). There is no difference between a score of 6 and a score of 12 in the ability of a dog to lead a fit, active and healthy life. In this we must also take into account the vagaries of the various hip scoring schemes which allow a dog to have a "C" hip in one country and an"A" hip in another. Until this is standardised across the board we really do not have a reliable system in place anywhere. At the end of the day our goal is to breed dogs fit for purpose so we must look at the bigger picture and not just obsess about extremely low hip scores. We cannot eliminate dogs from our breeding programmes simply because they don't fall way below the mean average. As was said in a previous comment..............an AA hip mated to an AA hip will not necessarily produce AA hips. Even after 10 generations of careful and selective breeding HD can rear it's ugly head. What are we left with then?
With regard to the "one popular stud dog syndrome" I do fervently hope that stud dog owners have the sense not to allow their dogs to overwhelm the genetic pool. I agree that maintaining genetic diversity is important but it must work within the parameters of the the IS as a breed and not just for the sole purpose of diluting lines. Very careful thought and research must be undertaken in total outcrossing.
With regard to steering the boat in the right direction we should be looking to the breeders as a collective body to initiate health programmes and the Breed Clubs to be the linchpin. That is how it should be but please re-visit my cautionary note and understand my concerns.

Thank you, Eva.

I must be an optimist at heart or else I'd probably have given up long ago: maybe in 1979 when our first Irish Setter died of GDV... or after breeding our first litter in 1984 with: one case of MO (euthanised), one with entropion, an adult dog suffering of GDV... or after importing a bitch from the UK with massive HD in 1996... or after breeding a litter in 2000 with two cases of epilepsy. In four litters from different lines I have bred dogs with over-sensitive digestive systems. I cannot believe it is only me...


I have remained optimistic and the developements in recent years (not only since the film 'Pedigree Dogs Exposed') allow me reason for optimism. There has been a marked increase in health awareness both in the breed clubs and amongst some breeders.


I admit, though, to feeling very frustrated when 'successful' breeders argue agains hip scoring with simple notions as: "I used a low scoring dog and still got dysplastic progeny, so that proves all this scoring hype is a waste of time". As I tried to line out in my a), b), c) - reply life is not that simple. Both GDV and HD are not simple recessive genes that we can chuck out in one generation.

Last year I read an article written by someone with no serious background in genetics and who had not consulted the scientific literature on HD that is available world wide. In his article he wrote confirming these very basic and ignorant views and had many people congratulating him - hereby doing more harm than good. 

It is these moments when I wonder why I bother at all... 


Hi Susan,

Thank you for your honesty in all the problems you had breeding....I wish more breeders were as open and as responsible as you are.......

Susan........and you told me off for getting personal!!
I agree with Camilla and sympathise with you but, in all fairness, not everyone has been in the same boat. You can talk to breeders who have had completely differing experiences, who have had pet owners come back time and time again because they have had wonderful, healthy dogs from them.
The last litter I bred was ten years ago and, as far as health was concerned it had it's fair share of problems, which is why I never bred on from the bitch I kept and started again. I have also bred litters where there has been no GDV, no MO, no entropion and all the siblings have lived to a ripe old age. Dogs are not mechanical dolls. They are not put together from measured bits passed by quality control. They are living things, born with imperfections because nature is not perfect.
A friend who shows also works in a veterinary surgery and decided, after her last IS had died that she fancied a change. In the end she settled on another Setter because of all the dogs that had passed through the surgery the Irish was still the healthiest.

Thanks, Catherine;-)

But I feel I must agree with Eva on this one: I have drifted from the general to the personal level, sorry! J

So let us compare what we’ve got: my own personal experience and thereby purely anecdotal evidence that suggests to me that Irish Setters are not the healthiest of breeds. On the other hand there is Eva’s and Camilla’s anecdotal evidence suggesting that they are indeed a healthy breed, as a whole.

Obviously we are all speaking of the breed we love, so it is quite likely that whatever our personal opinion, we are sure to be biased. After all, we are only human!

I remember reading a supplement in one of the UK dog papers published in February 2009 where various breed representatives were asked about what their view were on health issues that affected their preferred breed. Out of maybe 15 breed representatives interviewed, almost all started off by saying: ‘in general, ours is a very healthy breed…’then going on to list what they considered to be a problem.

We are all biased toward what we own and love. Who would expect a mother to say her child that it was nasty… or a man to say he was not satisfied with the car he’d just bought (Sorry, that is being sexist, I admit;-))… nor would we easily admit that our much loved pet is a vicious animal… What I am trying to say is that when it comes down to the ones we love, we lose our objectivity. This is why we need the health surveys conducted by scientists who will analyse data and draw conclusions that are not biased.

We’ve recently seen results from two surveys: the Irish Setter Health Survey 2010 and the AHT Bloat/GDV survey as outlined in the ISBCs newsletter. We can also access the Hip Dysplasia Scheme Breed Mean Scoresof all breeds and compare our breed with others. The facts they come up with are these:

The Irish Setter Health Survey lists cancer (various forms) and GDV/bloat as the two principal health conditions. The  AHT Bloat/GDV survey by Katy Evans and Vicki Adams states Irish Setters to be amongst the four breeds in the UK with the highest prevalence of GDV (the other three being the Bloodhound, the Grand Bleu de Gascogne and the Otterhound). This was out of 44 breeds with reported cases of GDV. Gordon Setters do not figure that high up on the list despite being of a similar build (though not as deep and narrow chested as the Irish Setter).

The Breed Mean Score (date 01/11/2009) in Irish Setters (BMS 15) is higher than in Rottweilers (BMS 12), Leonbergers (BMS 12), Weimaraners (BMS 12). Would you believe it, but more Leonbergers (total 1282) and more Weimaraners (total 1953) had been scored than Irish Setters (total 1142). The number of Rottweilers scored was an incredible 12’106. To fill in the picture for the other Setter breeds, here the scores: English Setters BMS 18, Gordon Setters BMS 23 and Irish Red & White Setters BMS 10.

Susan.  Do you have the number of puppies born/registered in each breed in any one year as a comparison.  This could give us a better evaluation.  I would assume there are more IS registered each year than Leonburgers so statistically the Leonburger would probably have a better track record with respect to numbers of dogs hip scored.  However, I would be interested to compare the others against the Irish.  We, as a breed in the UK, only seriously started to hip score in the last ten years so we do have a bit of catching up to do.....but we are very aware of this and will get there.

With regard to the AHT Bloat/GDV survey well the British Association of German Shepherd Dogs refused to participate so that immediately compromised the results.  In the USA and Australia additionally Great Danes, German Shepherds,Standard Poodles and Weimeraners are identified as having a higher susceptibility over the IS.  It really depends on which survey you read......and that is the whole point of my original comment.  It is also possible that in ten years time the results might change again.  I, personally would prefer researchers to stop publishing surveys and start coming up with preventitive measures to combat GDV because really and truly it makes not an iota of difference where the IS stands, what matters is how to eradicate it.......if that is at all possible.

Sorry, Eva, I do not know the total number of Irish Setters registered each year in the UK but I am sure you will find those numbers in the KC Gazette or maybe the KC can give you those figures. But I would assume the same as you: I doubt that more Leonbergers are registered than Irish Setters. As to Weimaraners I know they have had a great boom in the UK and it seems clear by the numbers scored that this breed has a strong view on hip scoring, the same as do people in German Shorthaired Pointers.

I'm not sure that the missing GSDs would make such a big difference, except possibly being the 5th most affected breed... as they did not join in they can't say: we don't have a problem...can they? Please note we are not in the US, that is why it is important to have a UK study. As you know the IS lines are different to ours.


Now for funding research into how best deal with these problems.


As to cancer, well there again we must assume a complex background but must also take in account that various other breeds with a high level of inbreeding are afflicted by an increase of cancer of different types. To name just two that I know for sure: The Bernese Mountain Dog and the Flatcoated Retriever. This is possibly where the compex issue of 'Major Histocompatibility Complex MHC' and epigenetics come into the game... and don't ask me to explain, please! I'm only just learning more about it myself...





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