Breed Health

Gordon Setters are energetic , fun loving dogs with an average life expectancy of 10-12 years. They are a generally healthy breed but owners should be aware of some possible hereditary conditions which can affect Gordon Setters

1/ PRA rcd-4 Progressive Retinal Atrophy

This is a hereditary condition of the eye causing progressive loss of sight and eventual blindness due to degeneration of the retina at the back of the eye. Affected dogs can develop sight problems over months or years and are often affected later in life. Testing involves testing DNA from a swab taken from the mouth.

2/ Hip Dysplasia

A complex hereditary condition involving several genes- Hip dysplasia is the failure of the hip joint ball or socket  to develop perfectly. Environmental factors such as nutrition, exercise and trauma may also contribute to the development of symptoms. Testing which involves x-rays of the hips gives a hip score (the lowest score being the most favourable). The breed average score for Gordons is currently 14 combined score for both hips. Symptoms may include laxity of the joints, pain, early onset arthritis, weakness around the hips and altered gait.

3/ Cerebellar Ataxia

Is a hereditary condition affecting the cerebellum the part of the brain associated with balance and coordination. Symptoms often appear later in life and include clumsiness, swaying, loss of balance, uncoordinated movement and falling.

In accordance with the British Gordon Setter Club Code of ethics all Gordons used for breeding must be tested  for genetic conditions using  official schemes .Your breeder will be happy to show you test results for the Dam and Sire of your puppy’s litter

PRA (rcd-4) DNA test  

Laboklin  ( )

Optigen (

KC Eye Scheme                                                                       ( )

BVA/KC Hip Dysplasia scheme                                                       ( )

Visit The Gordon Setter Breed Council for further details on current health issues.

The Gordon Setter Health Coordinator is Kathryne Wrigley she may be contacted at




Gordon Setter Breed Heart Survey 2018                                      

This survey has been created due to increasing concerns that Gordon Setters may be suffering from early onset heart disease. Before we can understand more about any specific condition, we need to understand more about how frequently Gordon setters suffer with heart disease in general. The School of Veterinary Medicine and Science at the University of Nottingham is therefore conducting this survey into general heart disease in Gordon setters. This survey will gather information on the nature of heart disease including the clinical signs the dogs suffered with as a result of their condition along with their treatment response and outcome. By completing this questionnaire, you will be providing us with valuable insight and enable us to determine how we may best undertake future research into any specific heart condition in Gordon setters, ultimately to provide treatment options and possibly a way to eradicate the disease’   Nottingham University

Click on the link below to complete the survey. Although it is predominantly aimed at the UK population, any Gordon owner is welcome to complete it. No dog identification other than name is required. The survey takes about 20 mins and it may be useful to have some information to hand such as your Vets details. You will be asked at what age your dog was diagnosed with a heart problem, what clinical signs they had, how the condition was diagnosed and what medication they were given. The survey can be completed for any Gordon currently living with heart disease or those which have sadly died of heart disease.

Owner and dog details will only be seen by the university researchers, no breed people will see this.

It does take time and effort to complete a survey but your participation is much appreciated. Thankyou.

Any problems, there is an email contact for the university in the survey introduction and I can be contacted at

Kathryne Wrigley RVN  UK Gordon Setter Breed Health Co-ordinator 

October 2018

Other Conditions to be aware of:

1/ Bloat / Gastric Torsion /Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV)- This is a veterinary emergency as the condition may progress rapidly and the dog may die.

Excessive air taken with food plus fermentation of undigested food causes the stomach to fill with gas. The stomach may then twist closing the entrance to the stomach preventing release of the gas. This will cause shock and death if not treated immediately. It is a problem that is more common in larger deep chested dogs such as the Gordon. Symptoms include:-

  • Repeated attempts to vomit or produce a stool without success.
  • Distended stomach with abdomen feeling hard
  • Evidence of abdominal pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive salivation and drooling
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Stiff legged stance with arched back
  • Lethargic
  • Heavy panting
  • Pale/cold lips and gums (indicates the onset of shock)

It may be helpful to feed from a raised bowl and exercise should be avoided immediately after eating to allow digestion and reduce risk of fermentation of undigested food in the stomach


Lack of thyroid hormone can affect many of the body’s functions.  Hypothyroidism can be treated with medication.

Symptoms include:-

–          Lethargy

–          Weight gain

–          Poor coat

3/ Parvovirus –

Along with other Black and Tan breeds, Gordon Setter puppies may not gain protection from their initial Parvo vaccinations. This is thought to be due to high levels of residual maternal antibodies. Vaccinated puppies may therefore be at risk of contracting the virus before their booster at a year old. It is worth discussing the risk of Parvo virus in your area with your vet and it may be advisable to give a third vaccination at 16 weeks or to Titre test to evaluate the level of antibody in the puppy’s bloodstream to see if this is necessary.