Exclusively Setters

Home for Irish Setter Lovers Around the World

Hello all,

I'm hoping someone with some more knowledge of this breed can help me figure out what's going on with our pup, Sawyer. He's about 2 1/2 and has had digestion problems since we first got him. In the past year it has gotten much worse. He started to develop what looked like staph infections. We brought him to our vet at the time and it seemed they did everything to send the price up. The gave him anti-fungal shampoos, antibiotics, probiotics, antacids, yadayadayada. It didn't work. His hair was starting to fall out. We had a friend with a vet practice and decided to have him check out a new doctor. They thought it was allergies and started him on a hypoallergenic diet-- Hills Z/D. They also did a skin scraping and found staph so they put him on antibiotics. We all have staph on us all the time, so this seemed like a bit of a scam to me. The hypoallergenic food smelled really rich and had very large kibbles. It gave him bloat and GDV, luckily I caught it right away, brought him in to the vet, and he had surgery. Surgery is about $4,000. After that I decided to diagnose him myself. I dropped the antibiotics, bought a grain-free and chicken-free food, a homeopathic cream for spot treatment of bumps and lesions, within a week he looked significantly better. His hair grew back, he itched less, then he got worse again. He started throwing up, then started throwing up blood, then immediately afterwards was having the same effect on the back end. This was not pink, it was dark and thick. Obviously we brought him back to the vet again. They put him on a medley of pills including antibiotics, anti-nausea, antidiarrheal, probiotics, and antacids. They also gave him bland wet food that had grain in it. The blood stopped but the skin issues flared up again. I transitioned him back to his normal food. More blood--not as bad. Back to the wet food. No more signs of bleeding. After I ran out of cans I bought him a novel protein-- Kangaroo and red lentil. He liked it at first, then threw up after eating, then shied away from it in caution, then started eating it again. He's not crazy about it but is digesting it well. Though, he has thrown it up twice. He's still itching, but not as much. What to do... any comments or input would be a huge help. This dog is my shadow. He's high anxiety and can be a little terror if he doesn't get enough exercise, but he's the sweetest dog. I just can't afford these vet bills that seem to be just money pits with no results.

Views: 1825


Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion


How sad for you and what a worry.  Lots of people in England have gone on to raw feeding only, and those with skin and digestive problems seem to find this helps.

My 7 year old setter and 7months setter puppy have both been fed raw for  5months now, puppy was raw fed by breeder.  Neither had an problems but so much bad press about what some of the kibble contains made me change.

Do hope someone with more knowledge will follow with ideas for you.  Have you asked his breeder for suggestions? I am lucky my breeder is at the end of a phone if any problems.  Good luck and hope Sawyer is soon  100%

Firstly welcome to this site, hope you get some helpful ideas. I too have moved to raw feed about 18 months ago, and I will agree that this suits my girls far more than any food that I previously fed them on. The only time that I have had a digestive problem with them is when they have been swimming in a particular river and one lake where we did go, but I now avoid these places and have had no problems ( only when they drink the sea water lol ) 

I'm very sorry to read about your dogs problems - you've gone through such a lot of trouble already! I can only recommend Dr. Jean Dodds from hemopet - I know her personally and she's absolutely trustworthy - you could check your dog for food intolerance: http://www.hemopet.org/hemolife-diagnostics/nutriscan-food-sensitiv... - or you could do a blood test: http://www.hemopet.org/veterinary-diagnostic-laboratory.html - and I sincerely hope you manage to find the root of your dog's problems and can solve it. All the best, C & J

Hi Bailey, am so sorry to hear about the problems you are having with Sawyer, I know how distressing it can be...I agree with everything that has been said here, I feed mine raw after having awful skin and digestive problems with one of mine...not as bad as you describe but the back end sounds similar as in colitis, am inflammation of the bowel.....also skin hives, scaly skin etc.....Please do contact Jean Dodds as Cornelia suggests...two of my dogs were finally diagnosed with hypothyroidism, the one with the skin problems which were symptoms and another one who had no symptoms to speak of but his behaviour changed abruptly. I am just in the throes of reading her book and had both my dogs tested by her at hemopet..am sure she would be able to help you solve this. Good Luck and please let us know how you get on xxx

I would give the same advice....raw food and minimum grain, if at all. I would add a little sprinkling of slippery elm on the food to settle the gut inflammation. You can also add live yogurt and honey. I have just fed my litter of nine pups on raw since weaning and we had no problem at all. (see photos). Also in the UK we have Quistel Shampoo which is all natural and usually clear skins problems very quickly. I hope this helps clear his problems quickly.

So sorry to hear of your problems. I too think you should try a raw diet. In the USa is it also possible to have a food allergy test (simple blood sample. One other thing that might possibly be worth a try



Hi Bailey,

               Welcome also to ES. I just wanted to say how sorry I was to read about Sawyer's health problems. I sincerely hope that he is getting some relief from whatever you are now trying and that you are less stressed, as it is very worrying dealing with his condition. My sincerest regards and best wishes.

A few people have reached out to me after this post, but I'm unable to send messages to them for some reason. Please feel free to find me on facebook or linkedin.


really hope you get your guy back on track, hope the following is some help, our setter came with a few digestive issues and it took us ages to find a working food solution. Good news is your chap is a young dog, still growing so hopefully he'll be ok soon enough.

Here's the routine that we found by trial and error works. Most foods didn't, anyway...

Autarky dry food + water twice a day, half cup a.m., full cup in evening. Bowl on chair, food wet. Dog winded after eating and left to rest. NO walks for 2 + hours after eating.l NO training, stress or activity for 2+ hours after eating. Water available all the time. This has worked for 5 years now. On his dry food he gets small amount of beef juice (from mince/steak etc) or chicken skin or oil from tuna steak if its going. The other treats are bonio (2/day), markies (5/day) and shapes (6/day), ONLY after food. Carrots (1/day).

As to the tummy problems we've had two bouts of sick + dark blood in stools. Both cured by metronidazole 200mg x2/day for week. Better in 2 days. He gets wormed and frontlined regularly too and I do his glands.

The scratching too us a while to work out. Before we had him he spent weeks in kennels as a young pup after the owners abandoned him. This left him doing a hind-leg-to-ear scratch almost like a nervous uncertainty thing for some reason. Whenever he was either confused or didn't convey what he wanted he did this almost like a polar bear walking in circles does. Distracting him broke the habit - he had no skin issues.

Finally, I have found that my setter, and other dogs I've had are sensitive to dogfood with maize in it, it seems to make them "run hot", causing rubbing along walls, scratching etc. Bit like us having hot porridge on a summers day - too much heat in the system.

Really hope you get him on track.


Hi Bailey, I'm sorry your much loved Irish has suffered so much, hope you can get him sorted with some sound advice from other Setter owners. I'll commend you on how quick you were with noticing GDV.....your quick response to veterinary treatment saved your boy.....he's a lucky lad to be owned by such a caring person. :o) take care and I wish you both well. Dianne & Irish

Over the years I have had so many digestive issues with Irish Red's that I could literally write a book about it.  My current two reds are absolutely no exception and Tallulah became extremely poorly and was given a poor prognosis by the vets at Queens Veterinary College, Cambridge. In fact she was given months to live. I was told she wouldn't reach her 8th birthday BUT she is here, going very strong now and hopefully she will be seeing her 11th birthday in September!

What I discovered almost by accident, not only saved her life, but saved the life of my younger Red Barkley too. Barkley was going the same way.  Constantly at the vets, on a drip. One thing upon another. Then what happened was a Polish vet appeared in the emergency room.  I had been told that I could pick Barkley up on the Sunday morning, but I got a call from this Polish vet saying "I am going to keep him here a bit longer, because there is something on his blood work I am not too happy about".  He went on to explain that what was out on his test results was pancreatic.  In fact he felt Barkley had a very mild pancreatic insufficiency and required digestive enzymes.  Coincidently, Dr. Karen Becker from www.mercola.com put out a video within days of this diagnosis explaining about malabroption, and not  only did I hear ALL of Talllulah's symptoms from when she was a young puppy - but also all of my other reds who'd suffered digestive issues too!!!!  The solution given on the video - digestive enzymes - precisely what the Polish vet had suggested I put Barkley on!!!!  I tell you - I couldn't get my hands on those enzymes fast enough.  Once they arrived, I started adding them to their food.  Within days Tallulah started passing normal poo. Not too hard and not too soft or runny either.  No undigested fats or meat appeared. It was just normal.  I couldn't bear to raise my hopes with regards to Tallulah because she was so poorly.  But a week later, she chased a rabbit across the field, a week after that she was out there again chasing squirrels.  I took a video of this and sent it to the vets at Queens who was as shocked and as amazed as anyone.  Tallulah is still on thyroid treatment (as she has low thyroid issues - but the damage had already been done) and still on her enzymes and I don't think she has had one tummy upset since !!! Barkley's condition totally reversed.  As I said he was going the same way as Tally and my other setters, but is no longer.  He is in absolute top form,. Like Tallulah is he raw fed, no dried food at all, he wolfs all his food down now, and he is no longer picky with his food. Every day the bowl is licked clean. He has had one episode of vomiting and that was a few months ago, but he very quickly recovered, and didn't end up at the vets on a drip which is how it used to go.  His coat is glossy and he is a normal healthy and very very active Setter.  The digestive enzymes I use are for dogs, not the human variety.  I just mix them into their dinners every day and they are gone.  I feed them a very good quality raw food.from  www.wolftucker.co.uk

Considering I have owned 6 Irish Setters with serious digestive issues, including one who went as far as GDV I can see a real pattern to this. Malabsorption leads to: hypothyroidism, laryngeal paralysis, neuropathy, myeopathy, GDV .... well it would wouldn't it, if the dog i unable to absorb all the nutrients to support and maintain the system!   and before anyone jumps on me for raw feeding ...... Tallulah and Barkley are my first raw fed Reds. Flicka, Kille, Lotte and Nalle were all fed so called good quality dry foods, such as Purina,  Hills, James Wellbeloved and they did NOT prevent their problems from occuring!  What raw has given my current Reds, is an easier way for them to absorb their nutrients, and now they have the digestive enzymes to enable them to not just survive - but thrive.    The interesting thing is - my Red and White has a cast iron gut!!! Never a days trouble from her.

Also I have had it said on here in the past "it must be something you are doing".  Two of my past reds were rescues and already had the problem when they arrived !   There IS a problem in Reds. Am seeing it over and over and over again - not just with my dogs, but on posts such as this one I am replying too. Not just on here, but seeing it on the facebook forums too. Here in the UK and in the U.S  It's time the Setter community woke up and got this properly investigated.  Had it not been for that Polish vet arriving in the emergency room on that Sunday morning and diagnosing the problem correctly in Barkley, Tallulah would have been dead before her 8th birthday, and undoubtedly I would have had a hypothyroid Barkley or possibly worse by now. I have sooooooo much to thank that vet for. No one else could see it - not even the so called best in the world at Queens.  They could see the end result - they only saw 'the conditions which resulted and gave no hope". What they could NOT see was the actual cause  - and that was one particular organ which was not quite doing what it should have been doing, and producing as much enzyme as it should have been.  The test results were just within the normal range - just - but the Polish guy had the wits about him to combine the symptoms with the low normal range result. For goodness sakes dogs are not all text books any more than humans are.  This "normal range" medicine needs to stop too especially when you find out that "normal ranges" are usually set after observing 30 laboratory Beagles - and not masses and masses of dogs of different breeds.

I hope this helps.  But the digestive enzymes I get are digestive enzymes for dogs from Mercola Healthy Pets.  They have now helped a number of dogs, including other Irish Setters whose owners have taken on board what I have had to say.  Good luck. and hopefully as your dog has suffered GDV you can get the thyroid treated too, as all these things tie in together.

I'll take all this on board too Fran. Since flame suffered GDV I've fed him mostly raw....I need to make the full plunge with him, he's just fussy with which bones I add...chicken fine. BUT he has never ever looked as good as he does now on raw food. Extremely interesting reading I do at times wonder if my Ruby has some sort of issue with digestion. Thank you for the post.




© 2024   Created by Gene.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service