English Setter Health

As with all breeds, taking good care of your dog can minimise the risk of many health issues occurring.

  • Weight should be monitored. Ideally you should be able to feel, but not see, a dog’s ribs. Behind the dog’s rib cage, they should have a clear waistline. Regular, age appropriate, exercise will help maintain a good weight, in addition to good muscle tone and mental wellbeing.


  • Regular grooming is essential to prevent knots from forming and pulling against the skin. It also provides an excellent opportunity to check your dog over for any injuries or lumps, as well as for any ticks or fleas.


  • Ears should be monitored and cleaned when required. Young dogs in particular may produce excess wax when they are teething and as the ear canal develops. Regular maintenance should prevent this from becoming a problem. Many proprietary cleaners are available. If you are unsure how to clean your dog’s ears, consult your dog’s breeder or a veterinarian. If the ear canal or flap becomes inflamed or gives off a foul odour, consult a veterinarian as a matter of urgency.


  • During the summer months, check your dog carefully for grass seeds, paying particular attention to the eyes, ears and between toes. If grass seeds are left in the coat, they can pierce the skin and travel underneath, causing significant pain and/or infection.


  • Nails, including dew claws, should be monitored and are likely to require regular trimming. If you are unsure how to cut your dog’s nails, consult a veterinarian or a professional groomer.


Hip dysplasia is instability of the hip joint, arising from incorrect formation of the joint. The condition is common in many large breeds of dog. Symptoms, including pain and loss of mobility, may worsen over time. The condition is diagnosable by x-ray and may be managed by various treatments. There is a genetic component to the condition and it is important to ensure that any dogs used for breeding are screened via the KC/BVA Hip Dysplasia Scheme. Further information is available on the Kennel Club website: KC Hip Dysplasia Screening Scheme. Nutrition and exercise management during the growth phase are also important and puppy buyers are likely to receive advice from breeders on these points.

British Veterinary Association. Professional organisation for vets – together with the Kennel Club administers the Hip Dysplasia scoring scheme.

Many breeds with predominantly white hair or fur have an increased risk of deafness. Deafness can affect one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral). The condition may be congenital (present at birth) or acquired (e.g. through age, trauma or infection). BAER testing is the only definitive test for deafness and may be carried out on any dog over 6 weeks old. Other methods, such as hand clapping etc, cannot be relied upon. Further information is available on the Kennel Club website: KC Baer Testing Breeders may choose to screen puppies and/or their breeding dogs.

(BVA/KC Hip Dysplasia, BAER, DNA-PRA4 & DNA-NCL) are recognised by the Kennel Club and the results may be added to a dog’s registration details. The results in relation to any specific dog may be found on the Kennel Club website: Health Test Results Finder | The Kennel Club

DNA tests are available to screen for Progressive Retinol Atrophy and Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis. At present there is no evidence that these conditions are an issue for English Setters bred from UK lines. There is no requirement or recommendation to test English Setters bred from UK lines; however, imported dogs and litters sired by a foreign dog should be DNA tested, before being bred from, unless the imported dog or sire is shown to be hereditary clear. For further information, please see the press release from the Breed Health Coordinator: Document

Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, is a common hormonal condition which typically affects middle-aged dogs, though may affect dogs of any age. Symptoms include weight gain, lethargy, poor coat quality and hair loss. Behavioural changes may also be seen. The condition is diagnosable by blood test and most dogs respond well to appropriate veterinary treatment.

Atopic dermatitis is a common skin disorder, where an allergic reaction causes insatiable itching. An atopic dog will excessively scratch and nibble, causing hair loss and skin lesions. Feet, ears and face may be particularly affected. It is important to eliminate fleas/mites. Symptomatic dogs may undergo allergy testing, which should be done through a veterinarian for the most accurate results. The condition is likely to require lifelong management. Further information is available on the Kennel Club website: KC Sensitive Skin in Dogs

This is a painful but short-lived condition, thought to be a muscular strain, where the dog is unable to lift and/or wag their tail – though they will still try! The dog will often spin in circles and nibble at their tail, in obvious discomfort. Dead tail may occur after the dog is bathed, after swimming, any prolonged exposure to cold/wet conditions or overexertion. Symptoms will generally subside within a few days without veterinary intervention; however, pain management may be required under veterinary advice. Keeping the dog as warm, dry and quiet as possible will assist with pain management and recovery.

Breed Health and Conservation Plan English SetterV4 Final Document 

Pet Blood Bank UK  Could your setter save a life? Modern vets can work wonders – but only if they have the resources they need. Most healthy dogs weighing over 25kg can be recruited as donors. The dog gets a biscuit afterwards, but the owner gets the cup of tea!

World pedigrees.com Fascinating site maintained by Mike Herwin, ideal for tracing bloodlines

We thank Ellie Bryant for providing the above information and she can be contacted at e.bryant.mess@gmail.com if you require further help.