All posts by Walt Cottrell

Contributing Member My first English setter was a rescue in 1972. I didn't know he was a Ryman type until I was formally introduced to them by Walt Saling. Along the way there have been seven others, three of which are with me now. My wife and I have whelped some 35 pups, sometimes for others, and sent them to their new homes. Professionally, I was a wildlife biologist between 1975 and 1981, and have been a veterinarian since 1985; now a wildlife veterinarian these last 10 years. I have written a column on canine health for The Upland Almanac since it's inception 18 years ago. My dogs and I hunt ruffed grouse and woodcock here in New England, prairie grouse in the west every year we can, and occasionally quail. These wonderful dogs are still teaching me and I am still learning.

English Setter Health

Health Screening for English Setters

English Setter HealthLike any canine, English setter health can be affected by many diseases or conditions. We have chosen to describe the four conditions on this site for 2 reasons: first, they directly affect soundness and ability to perform in the field. Dogs with these conditions are unfit for their work and, if allowed to reproduce, dilute and diminish the Ryman-type gene pool. Secondly, they all can be prevented to one degree or another through some sort of diagnostic screening by breeders. Breeders who participate in Rymansetters.com understand this and are committed to breeding healthy dogs.

Canine Hip Dysplasia or HD, is defined as the malformation and subsequent degeneration of the joint between the pelvis and the femur. It is a developmental disease caused by multiple genes. In young dogs that are affected there is a tendency for the head of the femur to be only partially seated, called subluxation. The abnormal relationship between the 2 bones causes misdirected forces that eventually lead to damage and remodeling of the bones, pain, and a compensating abnormal gait in middle-aged and older dogs. The history and the physical examination may be strongly suggestive of HD, but the diagnosis is made reliably by examination of x-rays taken with the dog in a prescribed position. Some practicing veterinarians can be fairly accurate in making the diagnosis, as can many board certified radiologists, but the final diagnosis must be made by one of the radiologists that have the experience gained by working with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. This panel has the ability to evaluate the films with the breed in mind, and will give a rating of either dysplastic or Fair, Good, or Excellent- referring to joint conformation and congruity. Preliminary films can be done on young dogs less than 2 years old, but a final rating must be made on films taken after the dog is 2 years of age when the bones have finished growing and the architecture of the joint is complete. Even dogs that pass this radiographic examination can produce affected pups, but the only way that is currently available to eliminate the disease is to eliminate affected dogs from the breeding population using this radiographic screening.
Elbow Dysplasia is defined as a series of inherited developmental abnormalities that, individually or in combination, lead to malformation and/or degeneration of the elbow joint. These conditions are seen in both elbows about 50% of the time. Lameness, often made worse by exercise, is usually seen between 4-18 months of age, but subtle chronic cases can be seen at any age.
These abnormalities are:
Ununited aconeal process (UAP)- a failure of a tip of the ulna to unite with a neighboring part.
Osteochondrosis Desiccans (OCD)- a disturbance of bone formation in a region of the lower end of the humerus leading to a retained flap of cartilage.
Fragmented medial choronoid process (FMCP)- fragmentation or fissure of another tip of the ulna.
Incongruity-referring to malformation or abnormal alignment of the elbow joint as a result of differing rates of growth in the radius and the ulna, leading to abnormal forces with resulting wear and erosion of the joint cartilage.
These conditions are usually diagnosed with radiographs taken with specific views. Survey radiographs can be submitted to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for review by their participating board certified radiologists. Left alone they lead to degenerative joint disease with pain, dysfunction, and often a shortened lifespan.
Autoimmune Thyroiditis refers to low thyroid hormone caused by antibodies produced by the dog itself against itself. These antibodies destroy portions of the thyroid gland and in turn keep it from producing thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone plays a major role in many metabolic processes, including the metabolic rate or energy level, and its absence can manifest itself in a variety of clinical presentations. This condition is diagnosed by a blood test and may require interpretation by an endocrinologist. While a genetic basis has not been established the condition is thought to be highly heritable and the basic recommendation at this time is to not breed any dog that has been shown to have the condition.
Deafness can be present in one or both ears. Because it is related to a lack of pigment in the inner ear dogs with coat patterns like English Setters have a relatively high incidence of the condition. The only way to know for sure if the pup can hear with either ear is to have the non-invasive test called Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response, or BAER, which unfortunately is not widely available. In the case where access to the test was not possible breeders can explain to prospective buyers what they look for in bilaterally or unilaterally deaf puppies.

Walt Cottrell