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Media highlight Irish setter as a sick animal

The image of the Irish setter got another big blow in Dutch media this week because a breeder was fined to pay 6000 euro for selling and subsequently denying primary epilepsy in a dog. Nearly all media, from national television to dailies and social media focused on this. Last year it was only television, now the impact is way broader. What do you think, is there a way to get out of this misery? And how?


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You welcome Susan.

You wrote: Looking at Sam's pedigree (you can find it on the web)

For those studying pedigrees it is on http://www.hooley-irish-setters.co.uk/menu/edigrees/

VOLTAIRE OF THE HUNTER'S HOME M NHSB: 2790045 26 Nov 2009 14 Aug 2012 COI: 14.9%

Your attention please for the post of Ann Millington page 9, stating under more ...: "I know many Irish Setter Breed Clubs work hard on breed health, is it not time to pool resources, internationally? - in an energetic, purposeful way?"....

Actually page 10 ;o]))

A further bit of info.... in the vWD days, blood samples were needed for DNA collection - costing a trip to the vet and complicated postal arrangements to get the blood to the right place before deterioration.  Today the perfection of DNA swab kits means that it is so much less expensive (swab kits are free) and internationally very easy.

But first there has to be an accurate tally of the cases of epilepsy.  That means submitted by the owners or breeders, not by anyone else - 10 people 'reporting' the same case = 10 cases rather than  one!!

Pedigree information should be added, then DNA samples collected, affected and an unaffected control.  This would be a big step forward and ammunition to tackle the problem.

Look how the testing for PRA rcd4 took off by simply talking about it and being seen to be doing something to research the problem and develop a solution.  A huge contribution is made by rcd4 affected dogs for without them  the true picture is incomplete.  Much as we sympathise, and we truly do - we fully appreciate it and are grateful..


There are proactive owners on this list and I know a great volume of Irish Setter owners in other dimensions only too pleased to work for the erradication of epilepsy.  Knowing 'where it is' is half the battle... so muster the forces and get cracking!!

Having gone through the process, albeit in a smaller breed, I am more than happy to pass on any information, adviceand experience.

Thanks again Ann and yes: page 10, maybe 11 tomorrow. Alas no IRS breedclubs committee members react so far, although requests to provide information were in and responsible persons do check this topic.

My information about the epilepsy research supported by the ISCN is not checked and doublechecked, but from my memory they did not have enough bloodsamples so far. Whoever does know, please respond.

A quick googling tells a lot of breedclubs are active in researching, like the ISCA. But it is hard to find answers on: what percentage or pedigrees. Alas! This documents the need for an open worldwide information system to prevent an explosion of cases. Because if you don't know pedigrees or families concerned, this might mean more misery.

Henk, I would think that the setter clubs internationally have a responsibility to their members to be seen to be proactive in resolving these health issues.   Many of the committee members are show/breeders and maybe in the best position to contribute their knowledge of how they see the state of the breed currently.   Anyone breeding a litter a year must have a very good knowledge of what is truly happening in the breed and if they have encountered problems they must be made to report them for the benefit of all.  Openess and honesty - rears its head again!!!!!   It would help hugely in achieving resolution.   To facilitate a gathering of information the clubs could finance the research, as I've said previously perhaps breeders could be asked to contribute a sum from every litter they produce assuming of course, that they are in the breed because they love it not because they are in it because it "to turn a quick buck" and these breeders would prbably object.  I believe that the Animal Health Trust were very supportive recently and they may wish to be included again, or they may already be undertaking research for another breed and that information could be used for IS.





Good ideas, Georgina!

Hopefully responsible committee members will act this way. There is another good reason for them to act this way. If you can show media that you are doing everything what is in your power to beat the problem, it is in my eyes unlikely that media would have reported on Sam's case the way they did last week.

What is also missing is objective worldwide information for all setterfans. In the nineties the Australian club ISIC tried that. With all modern media a lot of things happening in Irish setter worlds are still as if we still live in the Middle Ages with selfcrowned kings telling us to shut up and most relevant issues dealt with behind curtains....  

I am perhaps being idealistic Henk.  With communication being so fast these days the world as shrunk so that anywhere becomes "our back yard".  Therefore the sharing of information between clubs/countries could be pretty instantaneous, and would benefit everyone so much.  When I was showing I refused to join committees, why? because I couldn't bear the power seekers who wanted to use their positions to further their own agendas.  Probably much like Sam's breeder did, but I don't know what their position was.  To achieve a club one has to have committees, and the club should be for the welfare of the breed and the club should be seen to be acting in the breeds best interest via the members.  They are not profit making bodies and therefore any funds they accumulate should be ploughed back into the breed, after expenses incurred, of course.   I think that some of the clubs may have receive legacies from deceased member's and  these funds should definately be used to the advantage of the breed.

There are lots of intelligent experienced dog owners out there and it would be good if they would share their knowledge.   I've learned so much with this blog, enlightened and reassured that there are some really lovely people who want to do their best by the breed, and yes a bit shocked too by the rudeness and ignorance of some people.

Thank you again Henk

This is possible thanks to work of Michelle Webster (member of ES) on her website see


Michelle also tries to acquire pedigrees of IRS outside mainstream showlineage. This is very important: the Dutch kennelclub mentioned a shrinking genepool in a reaction on the courtcase twice as a cause of rising defects in purebreds.

So let's hope it will be possible one day to see ALL existing lineage in one website. And let's help and thank Michelle for all her work until now!

Hi Susan, maybe it would be prudent to mimic the working side of the breed and not breed before 2 years if that is the latest time eplipesy rears it's horrible head?   apart from accident caused epilepsy.

You're a brilliant blogger!!!!!!!!

Thanks Sue, that's really interesting.   I have no knowledge of the disease and I've learned so much through this blog, it's fascinating.   Of all the breeds I think that IS are the most welcoming when a newcomer comes over the hill and the concern and support on various blogs has been heart warming.

I can now see that some of my comments may be considered naive when seeing the time span.

Much appreciated.

For that reason I think it's better not to breed from a bitch before she is 3 years old. For a sire I would say, don't breed from him until he is 5 years old.

Hi Georgina, thanks!

Sorry, time is lacking so I've not been able to reply. I see Sue Humphrey has already explained the typical age for idiopathic epilepsy to occur, I fully agree with her and would add that age can be quite variable.

I would just like to remark that you may have misunderstood my post on the age working dogs are usually bred from. You mention two years... that is very young. Quite often working lines are not bred until they are four, five or even six years old. Two years is the minimum age for a bitch to be bred from and I believe most kennel clubs in European countries will not register pups born from a bitch under two years of age.

If epilepsy is a worry in your bitch line then use a stud dog that is of advanced age, who's progeny is over 5 years of age and all are free of epilepsy! Storing frozen semen from a dog for later use could be a way forward. Bitches are that bit more complicated... it is not recommended breeding practice to have a first litter off a bitch who is already past her 5th Birthday.

We must stay realistic: There are many lines in the Irish Setter with a predisposition to idiopathic epilepsy. As I stated earlier the mode of inheritance is not a simple recessive gene. It is more complex than that.

It is impossible to avoid ALL risk of breeding an epileptic animal. It is usually only in retrospect that we see a pattern emerging and can make our deductions. So once again we are back to lowering the COI to lower the risk of 'bad genes' coming to the fore...


May I add a last recommendation for anyone who is so unfortunate as to have a dog with epilepsy: please start medication as soon as possible; as soon as you have your vet's definite diagnosis! Early treatment will hopefully prevent further attacks wheras if you wait, and your dog does fit again, then every fit will lower the brain's so-called 'fitting threshold' and it is all the more likely the fitting will increase in frequency and in severity. I believe the sad story of Sam is typical for a dog that was taken off medication.





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