GUN­DOG VET: Dis­ease al­pha­bet

Wel­come to our new se­ries: an in­for­ma­tive guide to the most com­mon health is­sues our gun­dogs are likely to en­counter

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -


The in­flam­ma­tion of a joint can be caused by a num­ber of things in­clud­ing in­fec­tion, trauma, and au­toim­mune dis­ease, al­though own­ers are usu­ally re­fer­ring to os­teoarthri­tis, a de­gen­er­a­tive con­di­tion where joint car­ti­lage thins and wears away, joint fluid be­comes thin and new bone forms around joints.

Signs of this in­clude stiff­ness, re­luc­tance to jump and lame­ness. Os­teoarthri­tis should be a dis­ease of older dogs, but younger dogs may be af­fected if they have in­her­ited joint prob­lems such as hip dys­pla­sia.

An ex­am­i­na­tion by your vet, pos­si­bly in­clud­ing x-rays, is rec­om­mended to rule out other causes of lame­ness. Early os­teoarthri­tis can be im­proved by weight and ex­er­cise con­trol, hy­drother­apy and joint sup­ple­ments con­tain­ing glu­cosamine and chon­droitin. Later cases may re­spond to herbal sup­ple­ments, es­pe­cially those con­tain­ing turmeric or boswellia. More ad­vanced cases may need pain re­lief pre­scribed by your vet.

Au­toim­mune dis­ease

A range of dis­eases are caused by the dog’s im­mune sys­tem at­tack­ing an or­gan in the body. Sadly, some of our gun­dog breeds seem to be more prone to these dis­eases than oth­ers, es­pe­cially spaniels. The most con­cern­ing au­toim­mune dis­eases are au­toim­mune haemolytic anaemia (where red blood cells are de­stroyed) and menin­gi­tis (where there is in­flam­ma­tion in the brain). There are also con­di­tions where tear pro­duc­tion is af­fected, and where the joints be­come in­flamed.

These se­ri­ous con­di­tions need di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment, which will be­gin with high doses of steroids and some­times other im­muno­sup­pres­sive drugs which may be re­duced over time. These drugs can have side ef­fects in­clud­ing risk of in­fec­tion, weight gain and lethargy. It is not rec­om­mended to breed from dogs which re­cover from au­toim­mune dis­ease.

Acral mu­ti­la­tion syn­drome (AMS)

This has been a hot topic in the gun­dog world over the last few years. The con­di­tion is caused by a ge­netic mu­ta­tion which af­fects sen­sa­tion on the feet, lead­ing to dogs caus­ing se­vere dam­age by chew­ing, some­times down to the bone, and most are eu­thanised. Af­fected dogs tend to dis­play symp­toms be­tween three and 12 months old.

In the past, these cases were of­ten thought by vets to be se­vere al­ler­gies, or be­havioural prob­lems. The ge­netic mu­ta­tion has been iden­ti­fied in sev­eral gun­dog breeds in­clud­ing English springer spaniels, cocker spaniels, French spaniels, point­ers and Ger­man short­haired point­ers. A DNA test is avail­able to iden­tify the dis­ease in af­fected dogs and in case of breed­ing.

Alabama rot

More prop­erly called cu­ta­neous and re­nal glomeru­lar vas­cu­lopa­thy, this dis­ease causes ero­sions on the skin (es­pe­cially of the ex­trem­i­ties), and se­vere kid­ney dam­age. Cases are most com­mon in the win­ter and spring and may be associated with dogs ex­er­cis­ing in muddy wood­land ar­eas.

De­spite ex­ten­sive re­search, the cause re­mains un­known, and al­though the dis­ease is usu­ally fatal, cases re­main ex­tremely rare (there have been less than 100 con­firmed cases in five years).

Wash­ing dogs after ex­er­cise has been sug­gested as a pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sure, but may only help in iden­ti­fy­ing early le­sions.

Alabama rot is thought to be associated with dogs ex­er­cis­ing in muddy wood­land, but don’t panic too much, as it is very rare

Some dis­eases are more preva­lent in some breeds than in oth­ers

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