The Breed History
The breed name in Portuguese means dog (cРіo) of the water (de agua). These dogs were a fisherman's working dogs, at home on the trawlers and in the water. Early breed origins may trace back to Asia. It is thought that breed progenitors entered Portugal (Iberia) around the 8th century via the Goths. Irish Water Spaniel dogs are thought to have derived from Portuguese Water Dog stock, and Poodles may share a common progenitor with the Portuguese Water dog. First breed specimens were exported to the USA in 1958. The AKC first accepted this breed into the stud book in 1983.
Breeding for Function
As Portuguese fishing dogs, the ideal dog was selected for stamina, excellent swimming ability and a weatherproof coat; along with a tractable nature. These dogs were fish herders, retrievers of equipment and a messenger dog between boats, and from boat-to-shore.
Height at Withers: female 17-21" (43-53 cm), male 20-23" (51-58.5 cm).
Weight: female 35-50 lb (16-22.5 kg), male 40-60 lb (18-27 kg).
Coat: If clipped, a lion clip or retriever clip is done. The coat is single, dense, waterproof, and two distinct coat varieties exist. One type is a curly coat, the other a wavy haircoat. Accepted colors include black, white, black and white, brown, brown and white. Those with black and/or white in the coat have a bluish tinge to the skin.
Longevity: 12-14 years
Points of Conformation: A medium sized dog of strong constitution, well muscled and boned and slightly longer than high, the Portuguese Water Dogs are characterized by a domed wide skull, their coat, and the thick strong tail which is very useful for swimming since it acts like a rudder. Feet are also webbed. Roundish eyes are wide set, and are black or brown in color. Palpebral margins are black or brown. Ears are folded with the tips resting against the head, and the ear leather is fine. The occipital protuberance and the stop are both prominent. The muzzle is long and blocky. The nose is black or brown and possesses large open nostrils. The mucous membranes under the tongue and gingiva are black ticked, black, or brown. The neck is short and strongly muscled, head carriage is high, and the throat is clean. Thorax is deep, the ribs are well sprung and moderate tuck up of abdomen is evident. The well-plumed tail extends to just above or just to the tarsus. When alert, the tail is held over the croup in a ring. Limbs are well muscled and straight boned. Dewclaws may be removed on the forelimbs. There are no rear dewclaws. Feet are flat and round in shape and are well covered in hair. The energetic gait is short-strided and quick.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Intelligent, spirited in work but a calm demeanor, very hardy, excellent stamina. For some, this breed can be a low allergy choice and has a non-shedding coat. The Portuguese water dog is a good watchdog and very loyal. This breed of dog needs close human companionship. Some individuals have an independent streak. They have high exercise needs; preferably some swimming as well as running. Good with children and other pets. Generally, these dogs are aloof with strangers. Grooming is needed at least a few times per week at a minimum; is considered a high grooming needs dog.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Improper Coat: An autosomal recessive condition. An improperly coated wavy PWD will tend to look like a Flat Coated Retriever or Border Collie and a curly PWD like an American Water Spaniel or Curly Coated Retriever. Improperly coated dogs can also have some undercoat and shed. Caused by a mutation in the RSPO2 gene. Reported at a frequency of 0.68% in the 2005 PWD Health Survey. A genetic test is available.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 13.0% affected. Molecular genetic research suggests left and right hip status may be controlled by different genes. Reported at a frequency of 6.9% in the 2005 PWD Health Survey.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRCD-PRA): Autosomal recessive progressive rod cone degeneration (prcd) form. Age of onset between 3-8 years of age, eventually causing blindness. Optigen testing reports 4% affected, and 35% carriers in Portuguese Water Dogs. Reported at a frequency of 1.1% affected in the 2005 PWD Health Survey. A genetic test is available.
GM1-Gangliosidosis (Storage Disease): Fatal autosomal recessive disorder causing rapidly progressive ataxia, intention tremors, wide-based stance, dysmetria, and weakness beginning around 3 to 5 months of age. 2% of the breed tests as carriers. A genetic test is available.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 1.7% affected.
Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison's Disease): Immune mediated destruction of the adrenal gland. Typical presentation of lethargy, poor appetite, vomiting, weakness, and dehydration can occur from 4 months to several years of age. Treatment with DOCA injections or oral fludrocortisone. Heritabililty of 0.49. Reported incidence of 1.5% affected. Controlled by a major autosomal recessive gene, but not a simple recessive disorder. No genetic test is available. Reported at a frequency of 1.7% in the 2005 PWD Health Survey.
Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy (JDCM): Fatal autosomal recessive disorder causing sudden death between 2-32 weeks of age from congestive heart failure. Echocardiograms are normal until 3-7 days prior to death. Occurring at a low frequency in the breed. A direct genetic test is available, showing a 12% carrier frequency worldwide.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Reported at a high frequency by OFA, but too few Portuguese Water Dogs have been screened to determine an accurate frequency.
Sebaceous Cysts: Benign subcutaneous cysts of sebaceous material. Reported at a frequency of 10.0% in the 2005 PWD Health Survey.
Cryptorchidism: Undescended testicles can be unilateral or bilateral. This is a sex-limited disorder with an unknown mode of inheritance. Reported in 10.0% of litters in the 2005 PWD Health Survey.
Aggression and Behavior: Based on the 2005 PWD Health Survey, 7.4% show dog to dog aggression, and 3.4% show aggression towards people. 7.1% show noise phobia, and 5.7% show shyness.
Allergies: Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). Based on the 2005 PWD Health Survey, 6.2% show food allergy and 3.4% show inhalant allergies.
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 5.52% of Portuguese Water Dogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported at a frequency of 1.6% in the 2005 PWD Health Survey.
Otitis Externa (Chronic Ear Infections): Can be bacterial or yeast infection. Reported at a frequency of 5.4% in the 2005 PWD Health Survey.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 4.8% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%). Reported at a frequency of 4.3% in the 2005 PWD Health Survey.
Undershot Jaw (Overbite): Reported at a frequency of 3.7% in the 2005 PWD Health Survey.
Malignant Cancer: Based on the 2005 PWD Health Survey, 3.1% were diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, 1.6% with lymphosarcoma, 1.4% with mammary gland cancer (some of which may be benign), and 1.1% with mast cell cancer.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 3.04% of Portuguese Water Dogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported at a frequency of 1.2% in the 2005 PWD Health Survey.
Cataracts: Anterior cortex punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. Identified in 2.87% of Portuguese Water Dogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported at a frequency of 5.9% in the 2005 PWD Health Survey. CERF does not recommend breeding any Portuguese Water Dog with a cataract.
Umbilical Hernia: Congential body wall defect at the umbilicus. Correct surgically if large. Reported in 2.7% of litters in the 2005 PWD Health Survey.
Cleft Palate: Congenital disorder of incomplete closure of the maxillary processes to form the roof of the mouth. Reported in 2.3% of litters in the 2005 PWD Health Survey.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract causing chronic vomiting, diarrhea, and/or weight loss. A low frequency of Portuguese Dogs suffers from IBD. Affected dogs can usually be controlled with diet and/ or medications. Reported at a frequency of 2.1% in the 2005 PWD Health Survey.
Bladder Stones: Based on the 2005 PWD Health Survey, 2.1% developed bladder stones. The composition of the stones was not indicated.
Seizures/Epilepsy: Generalized or partial seizures. Based on the 2005 PWD Health Survey, 1.7% are reported with seizures or epilepsy.
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS, Dry Eye): Ocular condition causing lack of tear production and secondary conjunctivitis, corneal ulcerations, and vision problems. Reported at a frequency of 1.2% in the 2005 PWD Health Survey.
Follicular Dysplasia (Hair Loss): Inherited, non-inflammatory, truncal, symmetrical, cyclic hair loss. Only occurs in curly dogs from two curly parents. Unknown mode of inheritance. Reported at a frequency of 0.62% in the 2005 PWD Health Survey.
Coat Dilution Alopecia and Microphthalmia are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Juvenile Renal Disease: Cases of death due to renal failure in young Portuguese Water Dogs have been reported over the years. Some have had pathological findings of renal dysplasia.
Gastrinoma and Somatostatinoma: Case study of a ten year old Portuguese Water Dog with multiple endocrine tumors consisting of a pancreatic islet cell somatostatinoma, and a gastrinoma in the mesenteric lymph nodes and liver.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for JDCM is available from PennGen. Direct tests for prcd-PRA and improper coat are available from Optigen. Direct test for GM1-Gangliosidosis available from New York University Neurogenetics Laboratory: http://www.pwdca.org/health/ tests/instructions/GM1TestInstructions.html. Test for black and brown colors, and black or brown nose is available from HealthGene and VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Hip radiographs, CERF eye examination (annually until age 10), and direct genetic tests for GM-1 and prcd-PRA. Optional tests include congenital cardiac evaluation by a cardiologist, elbow radiographs, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, skin biopsy for sebaceous adenitis, patella evaluation, and genetic test for JDCM. (See CHIC website; www. caninehealthinfo.org).
- Breed name synonyms: Portie, CРіo de Agua, CРіo de Agua de Pelo Ondulado (longhaired variety), CРіo de Agua de Pelo Encaradolado (curly-coated variety).
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 64 (1,427 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Portuguese Water Dog Club of America: www.pwdca.org
Portuguese Water Dog Club of Canada: www.pwdcc.org
Portuguese Water Dog Club of Great Britain: www.portuguesewaterdogs.org.uk
Portuguese Water Dog Health Foundation: www.pwdfoundation.org
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