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SWDs Health

The SWD Club of America (SWDCA) is dedicated to maintaining and improving the health and well being of the SWD breed.

As we learn more and more about this wonderful breed, we will provide as much information as is available concerning known health risks and available tests.

The following health issues have been found in the Spanish Water Dog: Hip Dysplasia, prcd-PRA, Compensative Autoimmune Thyroiditis (hypothyroidism), Congenital Hypothyroidism with Goiter (CHG), Addison's Disease, Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), Glaucoma, allergies, and Epilepsy.

There are many tests that a breeder can do in order to reduce the chance of having some of these issues. The SWDCA recommends you enquire about a sire and dam's health clearaces prior to purchasing a puppy.

Clinics that offer testing at reduced cost are often made available by different breed clubs, at dog shows and at veterinary practices. Many of these clinics are advertised locally and through all-breed and/or training clubs posting. By visiting the Cavalier Health Fund you can find scheduled clinincs in your area.

Eye Clearances

  • Annual CERF evaluation (required). This exam is performed by a board-certified veterinary opthalmologist (A.C.V.O.). The dog's pupils are dilated to look for physical abnormalities in the eye, much as is done with humans. Conditions such as cherry eye, distichia, glaucoma, PPMs, and the onset of PRA can be detected.
  • One-time OptiGen DNA test for prcd-PRA (required). PRA is a group of diseases which cause the degeneration of the retina. The prcd form (progressive rod-cone degeneration) is a late-onset condition where the rods and cones in the eye degenerate, leading first to night- and then full-blindness. prcd-PRA is the most common form of PRA in canines. The disease is passed through a simple recessive gene which can be detected through OptiGen's DNA test. Only dogs which have inherited two PRA alleles (affected) will develop prcd-PRA.

Hip Dysplasia

Most breeds have some incidence of hip dysplasia, and the Spanish Water Dog is no exception. As a medium-sized breed, however, the SWD seems not to be as affected by debilitating arthritis as is larger breeds.

Testing for hip dysplasia by a recognized certification organization is required. OFA is preferred; PennHIP is also accepted.

Elbow Dysplasia

At this time, the SWD does not show a tendency towards elbow dysplasia. Testing is optional, through OFA.


Compensative Autoimmune Thyroiditis

Full OFA thyroid panel through an approved laboratory (required). It is unknown how hypothyroidism is passed, but it is generally accepted that genetics plays a large part in its development. Compensative Autoimmune Thyroiditis is a common autoimmune disorder to many breeds of dogs. The body's immune system begins to attack the thyroid gland, sometimes before two years of age. The thyroid is able to work overtime, compensating for damage. During this time, outward symptoms are not apparent. Generally between 5-7 years of age, the thyroid is finally unable to function and the dog becomes clinical. Dogs may exhibit all, some or none of the following symptoms: lethargy, dullness, hair thinning or loss, intolerance to cold (hypothermia), obesity, elevated cholesterol levels.

Congenital Hypothyroidism with Goiter (CHG)

DNA panel through Dr. John Fyfe, Michigan State University (required). Click here for more information. CHG caused by inadequate thyroid hormone production and is generally detectable within the first 2 weeks of life. Untreated, it is lethal. The disease is passed through a simple recessive gene. While not unheard of in humans, it is somewhat rare in canines. In 2010, related Spanish Water Dog puppies were diagnosed with this disease. Research conducted by Dr. Fyfe supported by the SWDCA and and ACORN grant through the Canine Health Foundation developed a DNA test to determine normal, carrier, or affected status in a subject.

The SWDCA is committed to improving breed health. The SWDCA Health Committee is headed by Colleen Nolan. Please contact swdca.healthcommittee@gmail.com if you have any inquiries or concerns about the health of your SWD.

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