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Irish Setter Health Care & Feeding

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Irish Setter

Start your Irish Setter off on the right foot by feeding the right food, giving the right vaccinations, finding the right vet, and if you're going to spay or neuter, don't do it too early.

Jump down to this list of
Irish Setter Health Problems

Or check out my advice for raising a healthy Irish Setter puppy or adult dog:

Obedience instructor and author Michele Welton Dog Health Care – The Sensible Way
Read my advice on daily health care so your Irish Setter lives a long, healthy life and seldom needs to see the vet... [read more]

numeral 33 Best Ways To Feed Your Dog Healthy Food
You can dramatically increase your dog's chances of living a long, healthy life by feeding the right food. Cutting right to the chase, the best foods for your Irish Setter are... [read more]

Real homemade dog food A Quick Way To Make Homemade Dog Food
Your Irish Setter will love real chicken, turkey, beef, fish, eggs, yogurt, broccoli.... this is not just "people food" and I'll tell you why... [read more]

Dry kibble and canned dog food 5 Best Kibble and Canned Dog Foods
Some are better than others, but I must be honest – I'm not a huge fan of dry or canned dog food. Here are my concerns... [read more]

Information on booster shots for your German Shepherd. Vaccinations and Booster Shots: Needed or Not?
How many vaccinations does your Irish Setter puppy really need? Does your adult dog need yearly booster shots? The vaccination guidelines have changed! Find out what some vets aren't telling you... [read more]

Information on spaying Spaying Your Female Dog: Pros and Cons
Should your female Irish Setter be spayed? Current research says, "The AGE at which you spay can be vitally important to your dog's future health." So what's the best age? [read more]

Information on neutering your male dog. Neutering Your Male Dog: Pros and Cons
Have you been told that you must neuter your male Irish Setter? Current research shows that the issue is not so simple. Pet owners are not being told about some risks associated with neutering male dogs, especially neutering too early... [read more]

Information on choosing the best vet Make Sure Your Vet is the Best!
Is your current veterinarian really the best choice for your dog? Here's how to tell... [read more]

Assisi Loop Assisi Loop Review
Does your Irish Setter suffer from arthritis, hip dysplasia, disk disease, colitis? My honest review of a veterinary device you can use at home to reduce inflammation and pain. [read more]

Irish Setter

Complete list of Irish Setter health problems

Orthopedic diseases in Irish Setters

Irish Setters are susceptible to several orthopedic diseases (especially hip dysplasia) that can cause pain and lameness and often requires surgery to repair.

But the two Irish Setter colors (solid and patterned) have different rates of these orthopedic problems. That isn't surprising, since they're considered separate breeds, so their gene pools are kept separate.

The solid setter has a much higher rate of hip dysplasia than his patterned cousin.

The Orthopedic Foundation of America evaluated the hip X-rays of 12,000 Irish Setters (solid red) and found 12% dysplastic. Whereas the Red & White Setter had much better hips – of 300 X-rays, only 4% were dysplastic.

Similarly, in elbow dysplasia, the solid has a 2-3% rate (which is good for this size dog!), but the patterned did even better at 0%.

Keep in mind that there are far, far fewer patterned setters to test, compared to their much more popular solid cousin.

Young  Irish Setters are susceptible to two syndromes that cause pain and lameness. The milder one is called panosteitis and is usually self-limiting. The other is called hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD), which can be extremely severe.

Eye diseases

The most serious eye disease in Irish Setters is progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), which appears in two forms:

  • One form appears in young puppies and progresses to blindness by 1-2 years old.
  • A second form occurs in elderly Irish Setters.

Cataracts can appear at 6-18 months old.

Other eye diseases in Irish Setters are entropion, cherry eye, eyelash abnormalities, and persistent pupillary membranes.


Irish Setters are one of the Top 10 breeds most likely to develop an emergency gastrointestinal syndrome called bloat, which can kill a dog within hours.

Bloat is a serious problem in the breed. The Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine reports that the Irish Setter is the 6th most likely breed to bloat.

About 1 in every 4 Irish Setters will experience bloat. All you can do is race your dog to the veterinary emergency room. And pray.

Skin problems in Irish Setters

Most common is chronic allergies, which cause itchy skin that often leads to nasty inflamed "hot spots" on the skin.

Seborrhea occurs in Irish Setters, and occasionally sebaceous adenitis.

Ear infections are common due to the long narrow ear canals filled with hair.

Irish Setters are very prone to an odd disorder where they become obsessed with licking and licking and licking a particular spot on their leg. Vets are unsure whether the cause is physical, mental, emotional, or psychological, but the result is an irritated/infected lesion called a lick granuloma.

Other serious health problems in Irish Setters

Both colors are affected by thyroid problems at around a 20% rate.

Epilepsy is a real concern in Irish Setters.

Heart disease includes cardiomyopathy, patent ductus arteriosus, and tricuspid valve dysplasia.

A lot of Irish Setters are lost to cancer, especially osteosarcoma and melanoma.

Blood-clotting diseases to be aware of are von Willebrand's and hemophilia A.

Other health issues reported in Irish Setters include laryngeal paralysis, megaesophagus, perianal fistula, autoimmune hemolytic anemia, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy (chronic diarrhea caused by gluten intolerance).

Preventing health problems

Some health problems are inherited. For example, if your dog inherits from his parents the genes for an eye disease called PRA, he will go blind and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Dog feeding and health book by Michele Welton But most health problems can be prevented by the ways you raise your dog.

FREE eBOOK! My free online health care program, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy shows you how to raise your Irish Setter in all the right ways that help prevent health problems. Become your dog's health care champion!

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

My best-selling books – now available  FREE  on my website

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy is for puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know. Click here to read for free.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say. Click here to read for free.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life. Get my honest advice about all 11 Things before you bring home your new puppy, because some mistakes with early health care cannot be undone. Click here to read for free.