The Breed History
In the 18th century in Ireland, this breed most probably originated from a mix of Pointer, Spaniel, English setter, and Gordon setter breeds. The early specimens of these scent dogs were red and white, but in the 19th century, they were progressively selected for the solid red color. Disney's "Big Red" helped to propel this breed's popularity. AKC registry began in 1878.
Breeding for Function
Bred to be a gun dog for both pointing and retrieving, they are now most widely seen in conformation shows, obedience trials, and as a household pet.
Height at Withers: female 25" (63.5 cm), male 27" (69 cm)
Weight: females 60lb (27 kg), males 70 (32 kg).
Coat: The beautiful medium-length smooth, flat and glossy coat has a rich mahogany or chestnut red color. Small white markings are not faulted on feet or chest.
Longevity: 11-15 years.
Points of Conformation: A long, lean appearance with good bone, finely chiseled muzzle, dark to medium brown colored eyes, ears almost reaching the nose, well-defined stop and prominent occiput characterize these dogs. These dogs have prominent flews and the nose is pigmented black or brown. Their topline is gently inclined downward to the rear, and the tail should almost reach the tarsus, and is carried curving or straight nearly level with the back. They are very deep-chested.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
These dogs progress slowly but steadily during development of their working skills, but excel at hunting tasks once fully trained. They are gentle, loyal, outgoing dogs, with a characteristically stable temperament. They are affectionate, have high energy levels and while some are reserved, others may be a bit high strung. They are not known to have well developed guarding instincts, instead they may seem to want to "clown around". They require high levels of exercise, and without adequate human contact, they may develop boredom vices such as barking, digging or chewing. They are moderate shedders and their grooming needs are average.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 12.1% affected. Reported at a frequency of 7.3% in the 2003 ISCA National Health Survey.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 3.4% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Irish Setters have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA, RCD-1): Autosomal recessive, early onset rod, cone dysplasia form of PRA with an onset of 25 days of age, and progressing to blindness by one year old. A genetic test is available, revealing 7% carriers and 0.5% affected. A late-onset, rcd-4 PRA also occurs in the breed with a average age of onset of 10 years. A genetic test available.
Canine Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency (CLAD): An autosomal recessive, fatal immunodeficiency disease found in Irish setters. Affected dogs present with severe recurrent infections, neutrophilia and low body weight. A genetic test is available, showing 11% testing as carriers in Germany, and 7.6% testing as carriers in Australia. The frequency in the US population is not published.
Hypochondroplastic Dwarfism: A rare, autosomal recessive form of dwarfism has been identified in the breed.
Hereditary Quadriplegia and Amblyopia: A rare, congenital, autosomal recessive disorder causing inability to stand, tremor, amblyopia with nystagmus, and seizures has been identified in the breed.
Allergic Dermatitis: Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis. Irish setters have a significantly increased risk for atopy versus other breeds. Reported at a frequency of 15.8% in the 2003 ISCA National Health Survey.
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat, GDV): Life-threatening twisting of the stomach within the abdomen. Requires immediate veterinary attention. Irish setters with the deepest thorax relative to width had the greatest risk for GDV (8.45x odds ratio). A lifetime risk of 24.9% is reported, with 4.8% of all Irish Setters dying from the condition. Reported at a frequency of 12.8% in the 2003 ISCA National Health Survey.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 12.6% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%) Reported at a frequency of 20.7% in the 2003 ISCA National Health Survey. Dorn reports a 1.87x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Umbilical Hernias: Congenital opening of the abdominal wall at the umbilicus. Correct with surgery if large. Reported at a frequency of 10.3% in the 2003 ISCA National Health Survey.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 5.83% of Irish setters CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 5.56% of Irish Setters CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Idiopathic Epilepsy: Inherited seizures can be generalized or partial seizures. Control with anticonvulsant medications. Reported at a frequency of 5.3% in the 2003 ISCA National Health Survey. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD): Immune-mediated disorder causing fever, and painful, swollen joints and bones in young Irish Setters. Occurs mostly within 3-14 days post-vaccination. Age of onset is 8-16 weeks. Reported 14.3x odds ratio versus other breeds. Reported at a frequency of 5.0% in the 2003 ISCA National Health Survey. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Urinary Incontinence: Spayed female Irish setters are over represented compared with other breeds for urinary incontinence. Reported at a frequency of 5.0% in the 2003 ISCA National Health Survey.
Osteosarcoma: The Irish Setter is a breed with an increased frequency of malignant osteosarcoma, usually in the long bones of the limbs. Reported at a frequency of 4.6% in the 2003 ISCA National Health Survey.
Cataracts: Anterior, posterior, and capsular intermediate and punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. Identified in 3.89% of Irish setters CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported at a frequency of 5.3% in the 2003 ISCA National Health Survey. CERF does not recommend breeding any Irish Setter with a cataract.
Entropion: Rolling in of the eyelid. Can cause corneal irritation. Entropion is reported in 2.22% of Irish setters CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported at a frequency of 2.1% in the 2003 ISCA National Health Survey.
Gluten (Wheat) Sensitive Enteropathy: Irish setters can demonstrate an inherited gluen sensitivity that produces poor weight gain or weight loss, with or without diarrhea. Pathologically the intestinal crypts become blunted, with increased intestinal permeability. Reducing exposure to gluten (dietary cereal) will minimize clinical signs. The mode of inheritance has not been determined.
Seborrheic Dermatitis: Skin disorder presenting with greasy skin and haircoat. Unknown mode of inheritance. Dorn reports a 2.51x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Persistent Hyaloid Artery: Congenital defect resulting from abnormalities in the development and regression of the hyaloid artery. Identified in 1.11% of Irish Setters CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
IgA Deficiency: Inherited disorder seen in Irish setters causing recurrent bacterial pneumonia, diarrhea, poor weight gain, skin infections, allergies, and immune-mediated diseases.
Laryngeal Paralysis: Irish setters are a breed at increased risk to develop geriatric laryngeal paralysis secondary to axonal degeneration of the recurrent laryngeal nerve. Clinical signs are exercise intolerance, inspiratory stridor, inspiratory dyspnea, gagging, coughing and dysphonia.
Megaesophagus: Irish setters are identified as a breed at increased risk of developing acquired megaesophagus. Causes include peripheral neuropathy, laryngeal paralysis, acquired myasthenia gravis, esophagitis, and gastric dilatation. Hypothyroidism is not associated with megaesophagus. Clinical signs include regurgitation, excess salivation, and aspiration pneumonia.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM): Affected dogs show an insidious onset of upper motor neuron (UMN) paraparesis at an average age of 11.4 years. The disease eventually progresses to severe tetraparesis. Affected dogs have normal results on myelography, MRI, and CSF analysis. Necropsy confirms the condition. Unknown mode of inheritance. A direct genetic test for an autosomal recessive DM susceptibility gene is available. All affected dogs are homozygous for the gene, however, only a small percentage of homozygous dogs develop DM. Clinical DM is reported at a prevalence of 0.68% in the breed.
Acral lick Dermatitis, Brachygnathism, Cervical Vertebral Instability, Color Dilution Alopecia, Cutaneous Asthenia, Ectropion, Factor VIII Deficiency, Lissencephaly, Lupoid Onychopathy, Narcolepsy, Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, Osteochondrodysplasia, Perianal Fistula, Prognathism, Retained Primary Teeth, Sebaceous Adenitis, Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia, Vascular Ring Anomaly, and von Willebrand's Disease are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Patent Ductus Arteriosis (PDA): A right to left shunting PDA was identified in a six-month-old, female Irish setter presented with a two-month history of progressive hindlimb weakness and collapse on exercise. Thoracic auscultation revealed a soft systolic murmur and a split second heart sound.
Aortic Bulb/Valve Mineralization: Six of 20 affected dogs were Irish setters in one study. The mineralization was visible radiographically, but did not cause clinical signs.
Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy (Krabbe disease): A rare, autosomal recessive lysosomal storage disease causing severe neurological symptoms including seizures, hypotonia, blindness, and death in young affected dogs was identified in a family of Irish setters. A genetic test was developed for this cohort.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for Canine Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency is available from HealthGene, Optigen and the Animal Health Trust. Direct test for Rcd-1 PRA is available from HealthGene, Optigen, VetGen, and the Animal Health Trust. Direct test for Rcd-4 PRA is available from the Animal Health Trust. Direct test for a DM susceptability gene is available from OFA.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip radiographs, CERF eye examination or genetic test for PRA, and thyroid profile including autoantibodies. Recommend elbow radiographs, patella evaluation, and cardiac examination.
- Breed name synonyms: Irishman, Irish Red Setter (historical), Red Setter
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC(Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 69 (1,291 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Irish Setter Club of America: www.irishsetterclub.org
Irish setter Club of Canada: www.irishsettercanada.org
Irish Setter Association, England: www.isae.co.uk
National Red Setter Field Trial Club: www.nrsftc.com
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