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Home The Club The Breed Events Results Health Useful Information

On the whole the Gordon Setter is one of the healthier breeds of dog…


Many live active lives for around 10-12 years of age. However, there are a few health conditions that can affect Gordons including:



Please feel free to contact Carolyn Pearce of the Gordon Setter Club of Scotland or any of the Gordon Setter Club of Scotland's committee in the first instance, who will be more than happy to share information or point you in the right direction regarding any health issues.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a group of inherited conditions that affect the retina. There is no cure for PRA and the condition may lead to total blindness at some point in the dog's life. Many breeds are known to suffer from PRA; however it is only recently that the condition  has been recognised and documented in Gordon Setters.  

PRA in Gordons is late onset, meaning that Gordons can suffer from total blindness in their later years. It always affects both eyes, and night vision is the first thing to go; but not all Gordons will suffer from late onset PRA.

PRA is carried on a recessive gene meaning that both parents must be carriers of the gene for the condition to be inherited. The different genetic mutations of  PRA are clear, carrier or affected. Carriers are clinically normal & will not go blind. If both parents are carriers there is a 1 in 4 chance with each pup that it will inherit the disease. The mating outcomes from each scenario are:

Through combined work of the Gordon Setter Clubs in the UK, the Breed Council and the Animal Health Trust (AHT) the gene causing PRA in Gordons has been identified, and a genetic DNA test has been developed to test for PRA (rcd4) . With the DNA test it is possible to know which dogs are affected, carriers or clear without requiring any clinical signs of the disease. DNA test kits are available to order online from the Animal Health Trust. The test is a simple swab from the dogs mouth.

The results where dogs have been tested are published by the Kennel Club and results can be found via the Health Test Results Finder.

Over time with careful breeding we should be able to eliminate the disease. Carriers and affected dogs can still be used for breeding where mated with a DNA tested clear dog.


Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the hip socket. It can cause crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the joints. It is a genetic (polygenic) trait that is affected by environmental factors. It is common in many dog breeds.

All dogs used in the breeding programme should be hip scored as part of the BVA/KC Hip Dysplasia Scheme. X-rays are taken of the dogs joints and a score is assigned to each hip. The minimum hip score is 0 and the maximum is 106 (53 for each hip). The lower the score the lesser there is a degree of hip dysplasia.


Cerebellar Abiotrophy (CA)

The Gordon Setter Breed Council has recently been made aware of a new DNA test available to Gordon Setters. It is for the neurological condition Cerebellar Abiotrophy [also referred to as cerebellar ataxia, cerebellar cortical degeneration).

The condition is usually seen in young Gordon Setters ranging in age from 6 months to 4 years, but may be seen in puppies as young as 3 weeks. It develops when the neurons known as Purkinje cells located in the cerebellum of the brain begin to die off. These cells affect balance and coordination so symptoms may include low head carriage, staggering/ataxic gait, stiffened posture, loss of muscle-tone and the inability to stand. Affected puppies may die or be euthanased and young adults may be euthansed as the condition progresses.

The mutant gene is an autosomal recessive, like PRA so to produce affected offspring; both parents must carry the gene.

Cases have been documented in show and working lines and have been seen in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia. CA is not thought to have a high frequency within the breed.

The Breed Council wishes to make breeders aware of the condition and the test, but is not making any recommendations that breeders must use the test prior to breeding. Testing for CA will be voluntary and the Breed Council will monitor the situation, advising breeders accordingly in the future.

The DNA test is offered by the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at North Carolina State University. For more information on the test see http://www.cvm.ncsu.edu/vhc/csds/vcgl/index.html

Link to recent research paper on CA


Other conditions to be aware of include Gastric dilation volvulus [GDV/'bloat'] and Hypothyroidism.