Breed Health

Please see below the latest health information, at the bottom of this page you will also find a link to download the current health survey form. This form will soon move to an electronic form that can be completed on this page and sent directly to the breed health Coordinator, but in the meantime if this can be downloaded, printed and sent directly to Kathryne Wrigley, her address is printed on the form.

Gordon Setter Health Introduction (2020)

Generally Gordon Setters are a healthy breed with an average lifespan of approximately 10-12yrs.  However there are some potential hereditary conditions which owners should be aware of. 

These are –

• Hip dysplasia

• Progressive Retinal Atrophy [PRA rcd-4] 

Health Schemes;

The Gordon Setter breed clubs have as part of their Code of Ethics all breeding stock should be tested prior to breeding and should use the following official schemes (this advice should apply to anyone prior to their stock being used in a breeding programme);

•BVA/KC Hip Dysplasia Scheme

•BVA/KC Eye Scheme

• PRA [rcd-4] DNA test []

The Kennel Club website  gives you links where you can go to get further information on the above schemes.

You can also log onto the Kennel Club ‘Health Test Results Finder’ at  which gives you access to health test results for any dog who has been through the official Kennel Club schemes.

Other conditions owners may need to be aware of include;

•Gastric dilation volvulus [GDV/’bloat’]

A life-threatening condition where the stomach fills with gas and then twists causing shock and death if not treated immediately.  Any deep chested breed may be at risk of this.


The thyroid hormone is responsible for many metabolic processes so if deficient symptoms may include lethargy, weight gain and poor coat growth. This condition is treated with lifelong medication and blood tests will be required to test thyroid levels


A word of advice –  Gordon Setters and some other black and tan breeds occasionally do not take to the initial parvo vaccination [due to high maternal antibodies]  and there have been cases in recent times where vaccinated Gordon puppies have died of parvovirus. Be aware of this and talk to your vet about it. The dog will be covered when it has its booster at a year old but it may be at risk before that. You could either ‘titre test’ (A titer test is a blood test that measures the amount of antibody in the blood to a given disease agent. So, for example, a parvo titre would show the amount of antibody against parvovirus that a dog has in their blood) this usually takes place two weeks after second vaccination or you could give a third vaccination at 16 weeks of age [by this time maternal antibodies should have gone and allow the vaccine to work]. Ask your vet how much of a parvo risk there is in your area.

Health Surveillance

The Gordon Setter Breed Council has a breed health report form for breeders and owners to report any health condition affecting Gordons whether hereditary or not. The hope is to build up health information over time to see what conditions Gordons are affected by and if any conditions warrant further investigation or research. Sharing information can also help with treatment protocols.

Forms are currently downloadable or  I can email them directly. An online report form is currently being devised to make reporting easier. No owner/breeder or dogs names are disclosed and the reporting of conditions is anonymised.

The Breed Health and Conservation Plan is available and the purpose of this is to ensure all breed health concerns are identified through evidence-based criteria. This can be viewed or downalded in the link below.

The breed has an ongoing heart survey with Nottingham University. Mark Dunning is running the project and can be contacted at

Please feel free to contact the Gordon Setter Health Coordinator Kathryne Wrigley on –

Gordon Setter Health Report – 2020

I usually start the year off by giving a health update and reflecting on the previous year at breed club AGMs which is always a good chance to discuss any health queries members may have. Obviously COVID scuppered that and with no face to face committee meetings, it does seem quiet on the health front. I can assure you though that I am still working on health matters but this year does feel a bit like I am treading water.

The KC have recently updated the Estimated Breeding Values [EBVs]. The zero now reflects the average of dogs born in the last 10 years rather than all the dogs in the pedigree so some dogs scores may have changed slightly.

The KC have also updated the Breed Health and Conservation Plan [BHCP] which includes the most recent data available from insurance and Breed watch etc. This can be found on breed club websites.

I am still waiting for an update on the Heart survey at Nottingham University. Mark Dunning who is running the project is a clinical vet and speaking personally I know how stressful the working day for veterinary professionals has been during this crisis and I am not sure how much disruption the students working on the research may have had. Hopefully it won’t be too long until we have some results and the KC Health Team are aware we are waiting for an update.

During the crisis the requirement for health testing was suspended until September by the KC. However, some eye panellists are now offering tests again and the BVA are accepting hip and elbow scoring -not all vets may be offering the service though so you may need to take this into consideration. There was a backlog at the BVA as in June they were scoring from February and March but they seem to catching up now.

The biggest health news of the year was the sad demise of the Animal Health Trust [AHT]. A huge blow for a number of reasons- the specialised animal hospitals, the animal cancer centre and for breeders, the Canine Genetics Centre. Gordon Setters have certainly benefited from the work of Cathryn Mellersh and her genetics team with the PRA rcd-4 test. We reported the problem in 2009 and by early 2011 we had a test. This has given us the freedom to breed our dogs without producing affected progeny.

 I remember how worried and frightened breeders were when we became aware of this problem and the test has taken that worry away and has meant that no dog has had to be taken out of the breeding population. We were very lucky that they found the gene as when we pledged the money to do the research, it wasn’t guaranteed that we would get a test- if the gene couldn’t be found, no test. I have met the researcher who found it and I thanked her very much on behalf of the breed!

Cathryn was able to use some money from LUPA towards the research so we did have a surplus. This money was ringfenced to be used for the breed at a later date. We discussed a breed specific survey and then some of the money was used for the Genome project. This is currently on hold but I really hope this can be salvaged.

My biggest concern was the loss of the DNA samples the breed has stored. Samples from the PRA research and tests as well as other samples which have been sent there over the years. The AHT had stored these samples at no cost to the breed. I was one of many health coordinators who contacted the KC about the potential loss of these samples. The KC understood concerns and as it is the KC charitable Trust who has funded the Canine Genetics Centre, they considered the samples and the associated data as their property. They therefore arranged to for the samples to be moved and safely stored at Cambridge. I don’t know exactly how many samples we have [I am trying to find this out] but I do know to lose them would have been a huge loss to the breed as many of the dogs are now dead so they would be gone forever.

Going forward, it is hoped that Cathryn and her team can continue the work they started but as yet nothing has been confirmed so I am keeping everything crossed.

Although I have been contacted by owners to ask about conditions, I have received no Health Report forms so far this year. People tend to ask me if Gordons are prone to a certain condition but to be blunt if no one reports conditions then I don’t know! Again, with not being out at shows and breed club events it has been difficult to promote the report forms but I can email them or they are available on breed club websites.

A growing concern this year is the demand for puppies across all the breeds including Gordons. Luckily, I think most Gordon enquiries have been genuine but it has been a concern that there may be some choosing the breed on a whim. Prices have shot up, puppies are going to the highest bidders and dog thefts are on the increase -all very worrying. Breeders need to be vigilant, we are a small community so if you have any concerns about a potential buyer then please share. We are lucky to have responsible breeders but for some breeds I can see a potential health and rescue crisis looming.

Let’s hope we can all look forward to a better 2021 and get back on track. Even if it is the ‘new normal’.

Kathryne Wrigley RVN

Gordon Setter Health Co Ordinator

Breed Council Helth Report Forms

Kathryn Wrigley has now devoloped an electronic form that can be completed on-line with ease. The electronic version is very easy to complete, the completed form will be forwarded directly to Kathryne Wrigley with no third party involvment.

Please use the link below that will take you directly to the form.

Online Health Report Form

If you prefer then the paper version is also still available fror you download and print using the link below