top of page

Breed Health

The IWS is  generally a healthy breed, however there are issues that affect dogs including IWS and these issues should be considered before breeding or buying a puppy

Hips: Hip Dysplasia can cause lameness and pain.  It is strongly recommended that IWS have their hips X rayed and scored under the joint BVA/KC System.  The scores are rated from 0 to 53 on each hip, with 0 being the best and 53 the worst outcome.  The combined score should be no more than the mean average of 10.  This is an important consideration if considering breeding from your IWS.

Elbows: Elbow Dysplasia can cause lameness and pain. It is strongly recommended that IWS have their elbows X rayed and scored under the joint BVA/KC System.  The scores are rated from 0 to 3 on each elbow, with 0 being the best.  It is recommended that IWS with a combined score of higher than 1 should not be bred from.  This is an important consideration if considering breeding from your IWS.

All hip and elbow scores are registered with KC and published on KC Breed Mate Select website. Both the IWSA & SIWSC advise owners to do both Hip and Elbow scoring.

Irish Water Spaniel Swimming

Eyes: Although there is no specific issues recorded with the IWS eyes, the IWSA recommends that IWS have an annual eye test. This will enable any potential issues to be recorded and if necessary investigated.  Both the IWSA and SIWSC recommend that eye testing should be carried out.

Looking for a puppy? A check on whether the Sire and Dam have been Health Tested might be informative:  Your breeder will hopefully have ensured Sire and Dam have been health checked as part of planning their litter, and if so you should be able to find the results listed on the Kennel Club website - SEE HERE.  For more information, see the Health and Breeding section on this Kennel Club website page


Autoimmune disease - Can you help...?


The Royal Veterinary College (RVC ) is calling for owners of dogs in the UK with autoimmune diseases to take part in a vital piece of new research to help owners and vets make well-informed decisions

“This is an observational study, meaning that the treatment and management of your dog is not affected: your veterinary surgeon will continue to make their normal recommendations for you and your dog."


PLEASE NOTE: The RVC will not be monitoring the information collected in real time, so please do not use this study to tell them if you are worried about your dog or have concerns about their treatment. You should discuss all such questions with your own veterinary surgeon, or their out of hours provider if they are closed.

To read more about this study - including criteria* and information for enrollment , please see this page on the RVC website.

To participate in this study, please see this page on the RVC website

* Dogs must have been diagnosed with any of the following conditions in the past 10 days: immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia (IMHA), immune thrombocytopenia (ITP, low platelet count), immune-mediated polyarthritis (IMPA), or steroid-responsive meningitis arteritis (SRMA).


Brucella Canis (Canine Brucellosis)


If you have - or are contemplating -  importing an Irish Water Spaniel (or any other dog), or semen for breeding, then you need to be aware of current concerns over the disease, the precautions you should take and the restrictions and veterinary precautions you are likely to encounter.

For more information:-




Some IWS suffer from Epilepsy, although the causes are varied.  The Irish Water Spaniel Association was one of fifty breeds considered in the  'Give a Dog a Genome' project run by the Animal Health Trust.  The IWSA contributed to this project with funds from the legacy left in the Will of the late Ank ter Kuile, and the money put forward for this was doubled with a grant of £1000 from the Kennel Club. Sixteen breeds elected to have dogs with epilepsy swabbed.  Of the swabs from IWS we sent a dog was selected to have the swab analysed. Sadly, following fundraising issues exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic, the charity was forced to close its doors and enter liquidation on 31 July 2020.

In January 2023 The Kennel Club facilitated a webinar on the subject of canine epilepsy. Professor Holger Volk, renowned for his specialism in small animal neurology, joined this webinar to give an overview of what is known about canine epilepsy to date, including influencing factors, how to support and manage dogs affected with this condition, and where research could lead to in the future.

You can view the webinar on YouTube, at:

Can you help The University of Glasgow with their trial of of a potential new treatment for canine epilepsy?

Canine epilepsy is the most common neurological disorder in dogs. Up to one third of epileptic dogs do not respond to conventional anti-seizure medications affecting their quality of life and causing owners significant levels of anxiety.

The University of Glasgow (in its Small Animal Hospital, a part of the School of Biodiversity, One Health and Veterinary Medicine)is conducting a study to test how safe and effective a new medication is in dogs with canine idiopathic epilepsy which is not responsive to conventional anti-seizure medications. 

More information on the trial - including criteria for volunteer participants - can be found in the leaflet available HERE.

More information on the study and the medication under evaluation can be found on the University of Glasgow website HERE



Drugs Warning

For more than ten years, thanks to Penny Diamond’s research, we have been warning Irish Water Spaniel owners to alert their Veterinary Practices to the risks involved in giving the POTENTIATED SULPHONAMIDE

group of antibiotics to our breed.

I recently checked with my Surrey based vet whether these antibiotics are still commonly prescribed now, and his advice was that although most vets would not prescribe these anymore it would still be possible that large

animal vets might.


It is therefore still advisable to alert your veterinary practice not to prescribe any of the following for your IWS:-


• Co-trimoxazole

• Tribrissen

• Trimacare

• Chanoprim,

• Duphatrim

• Trimedoxine

• Norodine

• Trinacol


Sue Hempstead



We would like to reach out to IWS owners to help with this research. 


Unfortunately our breed is too small to be a selected breed in the trials but we can help by sending in samples of biopsies and blood from dogs who are suspected of having cancer.


Please email David Wilcox - Breed Health Representative to KC.

Coat Problems / Hair Loss


Sadly, some IWS do suffer from hair loss as they get older.  Two studies in to this phenomenon have been published in the veterinary press. You can download these to read by clicking on the links below.  


Studies on the inheritance of hair loss in the Irish Water Spaniel

(R. Cerundolo, D.H. Lloyd and H.G. Pidduck - The Veterinary Record November 1999)

An analysis of factors underlying hypotrichosis and alopecia in Irish Water Spaniels in the United Kingdom

(R. Cerundolo, D.H. Lloyd, P.E. McNeil and H. Evans - Veterinary Dermatology November 2000)

Postgrooming furunculosis in dogs


This strange-sounding affliction is something all owners should be aware of and keep a look-out for.  A bacterial infection, it can cause severe, painful inflammation generally appearing 24 to 48 hours after bathing, hand stripping, or traumatic brushing especially in the back, neck, or tail of the dog. It can progress to sepsis,multiple organ dysfunction and possibly death of an affected dog. Prevention comes down to managing the hygiene of your grooming tools and products, and being cautious about allowing your dog to swim or be bathed too soon after a vigorous grooming session. 

The following links offer more information:

bottom of page