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Health Issues

Fortunately English Setters aren’t affected by many of the serious hereditary diseases that have been identified in many other breeds. However this does not mean that the breed is free from hereditary conditions, so it is most important that you check with breeders before making a purchase.

Ask about hip and elbow dysplasia; also hereditary deafness, which while rare, does sometimes occur. A responsible breeder will be only too pleased to answer these questions, plus provide you with:
  • worming and vaccination schedules,
  • advice on proper housing, exercise and diet,
  • further support.

It is important that prospective purchasers ask breeders if the hip dysplasia (HD) and hearing tests have been undertaken, and that evidence of results be available on request. Refer to the Code of Practice - Breeding, below.


As a condition of membership, each member, upon application for admission or renewal of membership of the Club, shall adhere to the following breeding practices:

A member shall breed primarily to improve the breed.

A member shall take responsible action to reduce the incidence of hereditary diseases.
a) Hip Dysplasia
Hip scores must be obtained prior to breeding.
Evidence of scores must be provided on request to prospective puppy purchasers.

b) Hereditary Deafness
Parents must be BAER tested prior to breeding.
Evidence of test must be provided on request to prospective puppy purchasers.
The Club will refer enquiries to members/breeders and ask that they supply the information as above. It will be seen as a breach of the Code of Practice if members/breeders do not comply. Breaches of the above will be considered a disciplinary matter and will be dealt with by Committee of Management

The Code of Practice - Breeding became effective from 1 January 2010.

Some information on Hip Dysplasia

Almost all breeds suffer from hip dysplasia which is an abnormality of the hip joint, whereby the ball and socket joint of the hip does not fit correctly. Hip dysplasia can cause great pain and also affect mobility. In extreme cases surgery is the only option to relieve the pain.

On the other hand many dogs affected by hip dysplasia show no clinical signs such as lameness or reluctance to move. In fact the way a dog moves is not an indication of the health of its hips.

There are a number of scoring systems for hip dysplasia, however the most commonly used is the BVA/KC (British Veterinary Association and Kennel Club) which is the system generally used by the Australian Veterinary Association.

The breed average score for the English Setter on the AVA/ANKC Breed Average listing for 2014 was 15.9. The below link gives the scores for all breeds.


It is recommended that breeding should occur with animals that are below the breed average, as hip dysplasia is a polygenic and therefore inherited condition. By limiting selection of breeding stock to those with low HD scores we should see the breed average decrease over the years resulting in lower hip dysplasia susceptibility.

Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is a deformity of the hip joint that occurs during a dog’s growth period. The ball of the femur does not fit properly into the hip socket. Some dysplastic dogs show absolutely no signs of this condition, whilst others may be severely affected. With increasing age arthritis can develop in affected dogs.

Signs of Hip Dysplasia may include any of the following symptoms:
  • Hind leg lameness
  • Lack of coordination in the hind quarters (swaying and staggering)
  • Reluctance to run and jump
  • Difficulty when attempting to lie down or stand up
  • Abnormal gait
However, accurate diagnosis can only be made by a veterinarian who will need to x-ray the hips. The lower the score for each hip, and the combined total score, the healthier the hips are. Further information can be obtained from links below.


Club policy on Hip Dysplasia
The English Setter Association of Victoria Inc. supports the Australian Veterinary Association’s position that all breeding stock be hip x-rayed and only those animals with scores below the breed average should be bred. The ESAV has developed a Code of Practice-Breeding to which members must adhere. Both the sire and dam of a litter must be x-rayed for Hip Dysplasia and the results made available to puppy purchasers. Infringements are reportable and will result in disciplinary action from the Committee of Management.

Inherited Deafness

Inherited deafness is recognized in white coated breeds. In some breeds the percentage of affected animals is high. It is not a common condition in English Setters but it does occur. There is now an accurate diagnostic test available to breeders and owners known as the *BAER Hearing Test. Responsible breeders will ensure that the sire and dam of a litter are tested and their puppies also. It is a requirement of the ESAV through the club’s Code of Practice-Breeding, that litters sold via the club have been BAER hearing tested and results are available to puppy purchasers. Failure of members to comply is reportable and will result in disciplinary action by the Committee of Management.

*BAER … The hearing test known as the brainstem auditory evoked response …. Click on this link for information about how the test works: www.Isu.edu.deafness/baerexpl.htm

Disclaimer: Notification of members' dogs or litters available for sale is purely a list of those members who have notified the Club of animals for sale. The Club does NOT endorse or recommend, or make any representations as to the reputation of any breeder and accepts no responsibility in regard to information provided in listings by club members. Prospective purchasers need to consult with breeders re any health issues and/or hip and hearing scores of sire and dam prior to purchasing a dog or puppy.

NB: There are breeders of English Setters who are not members of the English Setter Association of Victoria, so it is buyers’ responsibility to ask if their breeding stock has been screened for HD and deafness and to ask for proof of the results.

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