Health & Health Tests
Information about the health of Spanish Water Dogs and the tests involved
The Spanish Water Dog Club is doing its utmost to maintain and improve health of the breed and there are various health tests available for your Spanish Water Dog. These health conditions are known within the breed and the club recommend the health tests for each health condition are carried out before breeding.
We continue to negotiate a discounted rate on behalf of our club members with Laboklin Laboratory for Clinical Diagnostics, based in Manchester. They provide a breed specific 'bundle' of tests, which can also be selected individually and we are pleased to confirm that they also include the newly launched 'Early Onset PRA' test at a discounted rate. If you are a member of the club and require a test form, please contact the Honorary Secretary on
We would also recommend new owners checking the health results of any parents before buying an SWD.
(Summary from the BVA leaflet ‘Hip Dysplasia in Dogs’)
Hip dysplasia (HD) is a common inherited orthopaedic problem in dogs. The abnormal development of the structures that make up the hip joint leads to the deformity. The term ‘dysplasia’ means abnormal growth. The primary changes are associated with growth and are developmental changes and may lead to wear and tear. The secondary changes relate to osteoarthritis (OA), osteoarthrosis or degenerative joint disease (DJD).
Unfortunately throughout life, one, and even both, hips may become mechanically defective. When it comes to this, the joint(s) may become painful and cause lameness.
Signs can range from normal to minor changes in gait to obvious lameness, stiffness following rest, as well as exercise intolerance and pain. Unfortunately, observation alone is not a fair way of estimating the severity of the condition due to some dogs appearing more stoical than others. Due to this, a veterinary surgeon’s physical examination can provide a more reliable result as this will reveal joint movement limitation, muscle wasting and joint(s) pain. This pain is likely to be dull and continuous and therefore dogs will not yelp in pain.
There are two main factors that can determine whether HD will occur, as well as the severity. These factors are ‘hereditary’ and ‘environmental’ factors.
Outside influences which alter the growth and function of bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and muscles
Fortunately it is possible to decrease the pain level caused by HD. There are now medications and surgical procedures available to treat the condition.
For more information please refer to the BVA Hip Dysplasia leaflet which can be downloaded below:
Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
A healthy eye is dependent on the pressure within the eye remaining constant and this pressure is maintained by the fluid inside the eye. This fluid is constantly being produced and drained away. However, in the case of a dog suffering from glaucoma, the internal fluid is not being drained away effectively. This may be due to the tissues of the meshwork of the drainage angle being thickened and therefore causing the channels to narrow and ultimately become blocked and cease to function. Meanwhile new fluid is still being produced and consequently the pressure inside the eye increases.
Primary glaucoma is the result of an inherited defect leading to dogs that are born with narrow drainage angles. If the dog has inherited normal, wider drainage angles, it is highly unlikely that the dog will go on to develop primary glaucoma later in life. This does not mean to say that they are immune to secondary glaucoma as this is an issue that is not inherited, but instead due to reasons such as eye injuries, inflammation, and certain drugs such as steroids.
The initial signs of the disease are easily overlooked and are frequently mistaken for other problems associated with the eye. Unfortunately, they can mimic infection or conjunctivitis.
These symptoms include:
Bulging of the eye
Sensitivity to light
Loss of vision
If treatment for glaucoma is not started within a few days or, sometimes, a few hours, the pressure will increase and the dog’s vision will be lost completely from the affected eye. The pressure can cause the cells of the retina to crush, as well as the cells of the optic nerve and therefore these become non-functional. It can also break down the structures holding the lens in place (lens luxation) and alternatively cause damage to the iris and cornea.
The pain, often severe, associated with glaucoma is due to the increasing pressure within the eye because of the level of fluid increasing. The eye begins to bulge and becomes discoloured.
Glaucoma can occur over a period of time, but may also happen incredibly quickly. It is often usual for one eye to be affected first and the other to soon follow, but it is also found to affect both eyes simultaneously.
Glaucoma must be considered as an emergency situation. If not treated quickly, loss of vision may become permanent. It is advised that if there is a problem with the dog’s eyes, it is imperative that the owner seeks professional advice at the earliest opportunity. If a diagnosis is made, treatment can then begin immediately, or alternatively, a specialist can be contacted and arrangements made to gain more a more reliable result with the use of more sophisticated and comprehensive equipment.
Wanda Sooby (KCAI ObA GCDS) is happy to provide support and advice regarding glaucoma so please feel free to contact her if you require extra information. This service is free of charge and Wanda is very knowledgeable regarding this subject.
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a group of genetic diseases seen in certain breeds of dogs and, more rarely, cats. Similar to retinitis pigmentosa in humans, it is characterised by the bilateral degeneration of the retina, causing progressive vision loss culminating in blindness.
Although there have been no reports of affected PRA in this country as far as we know, there have been reported cases abroad. To prevent problems it has been agreed that all breeding stock should have been DNA tested. Other countries’ equivalent certificated schemes are acceptable. Any bitch or dog “carrying” the gene must only be mated with a “clear” PRA status.
The newly discovered condition Early Onset PRA (EO PRA) information will be uploaded here very soon.
Congenital Hyperthyroididm with Goiter (CHG)
Congenital Hypothyroidism with Goiter (CHG) is an inherited disease. Affected dogs lack an Enzyme that is important in the production of thyroid hormone which is necessary for the normal development and metabolism of dogs. Over all this disease is fatal.
There have been reports of a number of affected dogs aboard and recent information shows a number of carrier dogs present in the UK.
To prevent problems all breeding stock should have been DNA tested. Other countries’ equivalent certificated schemes are acceptable. Any bitch or dog “carrying” the gene must only be mated with a “clear” CHG status.
Neuroaxonal Dystrophy (NAD)
Neuroaxonal Dystrophy (NAD) is an inherited, neurodegenerative disease. The disease affects the nerve axons in the brain and other parts of the body. NAD is apparently associated with an abnormal build up of substances throughout the nervous system which prevents them from working the way they should. There have been reports of affected dogs aboard and recent information shows a number of carrier dogs present in the UK.
To prevent problems all breeding stock should have been DNA tested. Other countries’ equivalent certificated schemes are acceptable. Any bitch or dog “carrying” the gene must only be mated with a “clear” NAD status.
There are two main forms of the disease – cutaneous (skin) and visceral (organ). Each is associated with different species of the parasite and affects different parts of the body. The infection occurs when sandflies transmit the parasite into the skin of the host. These sandflies are widespread and can be found in many areas such as Southern Europe, Asia, and Central and South America. The incubation period from infection to symptoms can range from one month to several years. Within the dog, it spreads throughout the body to most of the organs and renal (kidney) failure is the most common cause of death.
Skin lesions/alopecia/ulceration (predominately head and pressure points)
Ocular signs (e.g. uveitis, conjunctivitis)
There are several different methods of diagnosis. These include:
High levels of antibodies are found in dogs with leishmaniasis
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
Amplify Leishmaniasis DNA in the dog
After 20 years, a vaccine has been produced that will provide dogs with another level of protection from the infection. Virbac has a vaccination course of three injections at three-week intervals, with a one annual re-vaccination to maintain the immune defence. Please ask your vet for more information on Virbac.
Although vaccination is existent, sandfly control is extremely important in the prevention of leishmaniasis. Dogs are able to have regular monitoring via the use of blood tests at least once a year. This measures the level of Leishmaniasis antibodies in the blood.
For further information, please refer to the PDF below taken from the scientific journal, Parasites & Vectors.
Solano-Gallego, L. et al., (2011).
LeishVet guidelines for the practical
management of canine leishmaniasis.