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I have a 5 month female setter. We’ve discussed with the vet spaying; she says that new research suggests letting the puppy go through one heat will decrease the chances of urinary incontinence later in life. This is my first setter. Does the breed have issues with urinary incontinence?

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Hi Nick and first of all welcome on ES! You can find a lot of info already in the Forum - just go to Forum and type in 'spay'. When reading through the discussions, you'll hopefully find, that most of the setter owners do not spay at all or only when really necessary due to health problems. The setter does not look like a setter anymore, when spayed - well that's maybe a bit exaggerated i.e. you'll still recognize your dog :-)) - but they do get a lot of undergrowth in their coat and the hair is far more difficult to entangle. I can not say, if spaying does prevent health problems like tumors or so - I think the subject is hotly discussed - but I would recommend to read up on the subject and think more than twice before doing so. Many vets just recommend spaying in general.

I have a 10,5 year old female - nearly 11 now - and we had to spay her 2,5 years ago due to pyometra, an inflammation of the womb. Her behavior changed totally after that and all my training went down the drain. She again behaves like a puppy - yes she is more playful, but her barking has become high pitched and she barks a lot now and does not listen to my commands anymore. But it had to be done - there was no other way. We travel a lot (throughout Europe) and we did so before and after spaying and never had any problems, when our girl was in season; we even took a night ferry in Italy and enjoyed the Sardinian beaches with possible stray dogs. 

Concerning urinary incontinence after spaying, we were lucky so far: We had several 'accidents' after the operation but could avoid having to give medicine because of that. However: To avoid those 'accidents', she has to be allowed out about 10 times a day, certainly each time after drinking or sleeping (like a puppy actually!) and is not allowed anymore to go swimming in cooler weather - that's when the 'accidents' happened. Other bitches leak constantly, like dripping continuously and some just wake up in a pool. So we are lucky and also glad, that our girl manages well through the night. 

I hope that was helpful. Good luck with your research and have fun with your lovely fur bundle! S & C

hi Nick, new research shows that the disadvantages of spaying outweight the advantages (see links to articles below). and yes, incontinence IS a thing in Irish Setters, i can't count the number of people regretting the decision. as Cornelia pointed out, the coat changes in a high percentage too, not so much in working line dogs but it does mostly with show lines. i found this article some weeks ago, which is a sensible writing, have a look at it. 


some more articles: 



Dear Nick

welcome! Indeed, I have a male IS and we had to castrate him at 8years old due to prostate problems. Fortunately the coat has not changed dramatically (maybe because he's older or we have just been lucky), but YES: it has changed! I wouldnt do this unless for health reasons ..sorry if this is not the answer to your question..

all the best to you and the lovely girl !!!! Silvia and Oberon

Hello Nick, it is hard to decide whether to spay or not... I had my lovely setter girl spayed after her first heat at the age of 16 months because I hoped  to prevent health problems later in her life. Only the ovaries were removed, the day after the operation she seemed as fit as before. The coat has not changed (not my priority, anyway, as Hedy is not a show dog), there are no signs of urinary incontinence (three years later). As to behavioral changes: Hedy has always been a rather timid dog with other dogs, this has not changed, although she tends to act unfriendly towards dogs that seem even less confident than her. All in all: Would I do it again? I do not think so, as I had a healthy dog undergo an operation. All the best and kind regards, Christina 

Hi Nick,

Birdie went through one heat and then was spayed using the "Ovary Sparing Spay" method -- one or two ovaries remain but uterus is removed. She still has very (very) mild heats and other dogs seldom notice. Her coat is still beautiful (no "spay coat") and we are glad we chose this approach. My first Setter also had an OSS with absolutely no problems. I've researched this process quite a bit and probably posted about it before. I highly recommend it if one is spaying.

I bet your little 5 month old is such a doll! Pictures? Best to you both, Carole




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