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Although Pembroke Welsh Corgis are generally healthy dogs, it is important to be aware of some common corgi health problems the breed faces.
Reputable Breeders should do their part to limit genetic diseases from being passed on to future offspring (i.e your future puppy) by health testing their breeding dogs.
In this article, we will discuss common corgi health issues and what the everyday corgi pet owner should be aware of, and what red flags to look for in Pembroke Welsh Corgi Breeders.
What Is “Health Testing” and Why Is It Important?
Every dog comes into the world with predetermined genetics that set the path for their overall health.
Some dogs enter the world perfectly healthy, gracing their owners with long years and minimal vet bills.
While other dogs enter the world with a genetic code that sets them up for frequent vet visits due to painful, often preventable illnesses.
What if you, as a pet owner, could (mostly) avoid the latter?
For the most part, you can, by seeking a reputable breeder who ensures the health of the dogs they produce through all means possible.
Primarily through health testing and clearances.
At the end of the day, healthy parents equal healthy puppies.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi Structural Health
Structural health refers to the overall structure of the dog.
A well structured dog will be less likely to break down over time. This means less arthritis, spinal injuries, and joint issues.
One of the ways to prove a parent dog is structurally sound is by ensuring they meet the breed standard via showing in a prestigious venue such as the AKC or FCI.
It is ideal that at least one of the parents, if not both, have acquired a Champion title.
Furthermore, the pedigree backing the parent dogs (grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.) should also consist of dogs that have earned their championship.
A dog with a pedigree that has few to no champion titles is not a dog that is likely to meet the breed standard.
If a parent dog is not structually correct, then the offspring of that dog will also not be structrually correct.
Both of these methods require x-rays of the dog’s hips to be taken.
A team of orthopedic veterinarians then scores those x-rays to determine the quality of the hips.
While the scoring methods differ between OFA and PennHIP, the overall goal of both is to determine whether a dog’s hips are dysplastic or not.
A reputable breeder aims to prevent hip dysplasia in their puppies by having the hips of their breeding dogs evaluated.
By only breeding dogs with passing scores, breeders greatly decreases the chance that the puppies of those dogs will have hip dysplasia.
A great resource to learn more is the OFA website.
By entering the registered names of the parent dogs, you can see if they have received an OFA hip score.
Since PennHIP doesn’t have a searchable database like OFA.
You must ask the prospective breeder for the paperwork proving the parent dogs have had their hips done via PennHIP.
If the dog’s hips are not posted to OFA and the PennHIP paperwork can’t be provided, then it is likely the breeder did not have their hips examined. In this case, you should be highly wary of the breeder and their puppies.
Corgi Eye Health (CAER)
At two years old (and every year thereafter), Pembroke Welsh Corgis should be examined by a canine ophthalmologist to rule out any eye issues.
Cataracts, persistent pupillary membranes, progressive retinal atrophy, and glaucoma are some of the more common issues these exams will look for.
A typical OFA eye screening consists of dilating the eyes so an ophthalmologist can look for the aforementioned issues and more.
Dogs who do not pass their initial or annual eye exams should not be bred.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as dietary cataracts, which are non-genetic.
But, in general, it is important for a breeding dog to pass all of their annual eye exams.
Similar to OFA hips database, the OFA website also allows you to look up the results of the parent dogs’ eye exams.
Again, if results are not posted, asking for proof of testing should be your next step.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi Genetic Health
It is equally as important to asses the genetic health of breeding dogs.
Genetic health refers to the genes the dog carries that could potentially put the dog at risk for certain diseases.
In Pembroke Welsh Corgi’s, we primarily test for two diseases.
- Canine Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)
- von Willebrand Disease (vWD).
It is important to note that many backyard breeders only test for genetic health and tend to skip eye and hip testing.
This has led to them often advertising puppies as “triple clear”, a term not typically used by reputable breeders.
Genetic health testing can be done at any age, but should be done prior to breeding at minimum.
Canine Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)
Typically, DM is an old age disease defined by dogs losing the ability to feel and use their rear legs.
A dog can be classified as DM clear, carrier, or at-risk.
This disease is a complex disease as it is not controlled by one singular gene.
This means ‘at-risk’ dogs are unlikely to be affected by the disease despite their ‘at-risk’ status. Based on a study by UC-Davis, only 0.6% of at-risk Pembroke Welsh Corgis actually develop symptoms associated with DM.
What does this mean?
Breeding or purchasing at-risk dogs is not the end of the world.
However, it is important the breeder tracks the pedigree to ensure their dogs have never exhibited symptoms of DM.
Breeding at-risk dogs is something most reputable show breeders do as they also tend to carefully track the health of the dogs within their lines.
While you might find a dog that is DM clear (not at-risk), it is far more important to find a breeder who proves structural conformation, scores hips with OFA or PennHIP, and has had their eyes examined by a canine ophthalmologist.
von Willebrand Disease (vWD)
Von Willebrand’s is a blood clotting disease characterized by the inability to form blood clots properly.
This means affected dogs are at risk for more severe bleeding during surgery, and have a tendency to bruise.
Pembroke Welsh Corgis are only able to be affected by von Willebrand Disease type 1.
Type 1 vWD is the more moderate type of von Willebrand Disease when compared to other types.
A reputable breeder will test both parents to ensure their breeding dogs are not affected by vWD.
This means they will not breed a carrier to another carrier, and will aim to produce puppies that are vWD clear.
While some breeders may claim their dogs are clear by parentage, you should always ask for proof of testing to back up the claim.
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)
While not preventable by breeders, it is important that all Corgi owners to be aware of Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD)
Corgis are globally recognized for their short legs and long backs.
The gene responsible for this appearance is the chondrodystrophic (CDDY) gene.
All purebred corgis will carry two copies of the CDDY gene.
Two copies of the CDDY gene also increase a dog’s risk for IVDD.
In other words, you cannot have a purebred corgi that is not at risk for IVDD.
IVDD is a disease that attacks the spine and can lead to painful mobility or ruptured disks.
Much like DM, a dog that is at-risk for IVDD may never develop symptoms of that disease.
To minimize or prevent the symptoms caused by IVDD, it is important to keep your corgi at a healthy weight.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi General Health
In general, Pembroke Welsh Corgis are relatively healthy dogs.
While the issues listed above can be tested for, there is also baseline health to consider.
Dogs with heart, kidney, liver and immune issues should never be bred.
This includes dogs with severe allergies as allergies can be genetic.
Most of these general health issues can be discovered by a general wellness check.
General health is often just as important as genetic and structural health, and should not be forgotten.
This is why reputable breeders should always ensure their breeding dogs are in the best health possible prior to breeding.
Although corgis are considered to be an generally healthy breed, they are not free from risk.
Overall, a reputable breeder should care deeply about the health of the puppies they produce.
Their breeding dogs should be thoroughly examined and health tested.
A reputable breeder will ensure their breeding stock is genetically, structurally, and generally healthy.
Testing the parent dogs will increase the chance their puppies will live long and healthy lives.