The short answer is – yes, Pembroke Welsh Corgis and Cardigan Welsh Corgis are both fairly healthy dog breeds.
The long answer is a little bit more complicated.
Common Hereditary Diseases found in Corgis
Fortunately, the Pembroke Welsh Corgis and Cardigan Welsh Corgis are relatively healthy breeds, with just a few health concerns that affect them.
- Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) – DM is an old-age disease, affecting the spinal cord of senior dogs. The white matter in the spinal cord degenerates, resulting in the progressive loss of function of the hind legs, traveling toward the front of the dog until full paralysis. The condition is irreversible, but painless. Not enough studies have been done to determine the exact cause of the illness to present clinical symptoms as many “at risk” dogs (with two copies of the mutated gene) never develop any symptoms throughout their life.
- Hip dysplasia (HD) – HD is the most common inherited orthopedic illness in dogs, affecting their rear legs. Canine Hip Dysplasia develops as the dog grows and is the result of an improper fit between the ball of the femur and the socket of the hip. It usually leads to increased looseness and lameness in the joint, resulting in arthritic changes and inflammatory processes in the joint. CHD is polygenic, meaning that many genes are responsible for its development and it can further be exacerbated by the environment and upbringing of the dog.
- Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) – IVDD is the disease that causes degeneration of one or more of the spinal discs. The degenerated disks have reduced shock-absorbing capacity, and it can ultimately lead to disc herniation and spinal cord compression. Increased IVDD risk is associated with the Chondrodystrophy CDDY gene – the gene which gives the two corgi breeds their short legs.
- Eye Diseases – Cataracts, persistent pupillary membranes (PPMs), and retinal dysplasia/detachment (PRA) are hereditary eye diseases occasionally found in corgis. They are typically painless and non-lethal however, they can reduce the quality of life if the dog has difficulty adjusting to poor vision.
- Von Willebrand Disease Type 1 (VWD) – VWD is a disease that’s characterized by the inability of the blood to clot properly. In dogs it can range from mild bleeding to severe blood loss, with, or without cause. It is autosomal dominant with variable penetrance, which is a fancy way of saying a dog only needs to inherit one copy of the gene (from either parent) to have clinical symptoms. However, not all dogs who carry a copy of the mutated gene will be symptomatic.
In an effort to reduce hereditary diseases passed on to future offspring, reputable corgi breeders should have their dogs tested for hip dysplasia and eye disorders. Pembroke Welsh Corgi breeders specifically should also test for von Willebrand disease.
Additional health screening tests are also available to a breeder if they choose to perform them. These include tests for elbow dysplasia, cardiac health, and degenerative myelopathy.
Purebred Does Not Equal Well-Bred
It all sounds scary, doesn’t it?
It shouldn’t be.
If you purchase a well-bred dog from a reputable breeder, the chances of ever dealing with any of those issues are tremendously reduced, in comparison to just getting a purebred dog from whoever is willing to sell you one.
There is a major misconception in the world that purebred dogs are, by definition, not healthy due to inbreeding/line breeding. And, if you want a healthy dog, you should adopt a mix-breed dog instead.
While there are definitely healthy mutts and mixes in the world, there are also a lot of healthy purebred dogs too.
So why does this misconception exist?
Unfortunately, the majority of purebred dogs that people see and encounter on a daily basis are, in fact, not well-bred.
And, at its core, being well-bred is what can ensure a healthy purebred pup.
Just because a dog is purebred, meaning it’s the offspring of two dogs of the same breed, that does not necessarily mean that dog’s parents were selected as breeding candidates with health in mind.
And that makes a huge difference.
As most issues are a result of a single mutated gene, proper breeding practices and extensive health testing of the breeding pair ensure that the offspring will not have clinical symptoms for diseases like vWd, DM, and eye diseases.
Issues like hip (or elbow) dysplasia are not 100% preventable as they are the result of but breeding only dogs with passing scores vastly reduces the chance of clinical symptoms developing in future litters.
While all dogs deserve loving homes, if you are looking for a healthy Corgi to add to your family, you should not support unethical breeders that continue to spread preventable hereditary illnesses.
Instead, find a reputable corgi breeder.
How To Keep Your Corgi Healthy
In any case, prevention is also crucial. There are genetic tests that will tell you whether your dog carries any hereditary disease(s).
Screening your pup’s hips and elbows if they show any lameness, or even if they don’t, is also crucial in finding any issues before they become too major.
Even if you don’t plan to ever breed your dog, preventative screening gives you not only good knowledge of your pup’s current health status, but what can come up in time.
Preventative hips and elbows screening can be done as early as a few months old, but a conclusive opinion is given on radiographs of dogs older than 12 months in Europe (FCI) and older than 24 months in the USA (OFA).
Genetic testing can be done as early or as late as you like.
Catching any illness early can be key in slowing down any further developments, especially in cases like hip and elbow dysplasia.
While we cannot change the genetics of the dogs we have, we can take the necessary steps to ensure their health and catch issues early enough. That way we have a bigger fighting chance if something is to arise.
And while most diseases on this list look scary, proper breeding programs ensure you have a wonderful, happy, healthy puppy.
So while there are bad apples everywhere, we can confidently conclude that corgis are, in fact, one of the healthier breeds.