Genetic Diseases

Irish Terriers are one of the healthiest of all pure bred dogs, thanks to selective breeding over the years. Unfortunately, it most likely won't always be this way. Puppy mill dogs are already exhibiting health problems that this breed isn't normally prone to.

When purchasing a puppy, it's important to ask the breeder what, if any, health problems are prevalent in their line.....and what kind of a health guarantee they offer. Please realize, though, that individual dogs, like people, can come down with unexpected ailments and diseases.

In the United States, I recommend purchasing your Irish Terrier puppy ONLY from a member of the Irish Terrier Club of America, or from one of the other national Irish Terrier breed clubs. The members of these clubs are required to abide by certain ethics.

Two genetic diseases that Irish Terriers are prone to are:
Digital Hyperkeratosis, also known as corny feet, and Cystinuria. These are both RARE in dogs in the United States.

Digital Hyperkeratosis (click here to view photos) is inherited by a single pair of recessive genes, one from each parent. A dog can be a carrier, and show no symptoms of the disease.

On the foot pad, the outermost layer of skin cells produce something called keratin. Keratin is a fibrous protein barrier that serves as protection from the environment. With Digital Hyperkeratosis, there is a defect in the process of the production of keratin. This leads to an increase in the thickness of the outer layer of skin, and results in fissures, erosions, and ulcerations in very dry tissue. These lesions are painful, usually persist for life, and cause lameness.

Depending upon the severity of the disease, treatments may include surgical removal of excess dead tissue, and any foreign material that may be in the lesion, wet soaks and wraps, and topical lubricants that help break down the excessive keratin.

Cystinuria, a serious inherited disease caused by a recessive gene from each parent, is potentially life-threatening. A dog can be a carrier of this and show no symptoms of the disease. It affects the bladder, kidneys, and urinary tract. It's caused by a defect in the transport of cystine (an amino acid) in the kidney tubules. Usually, cystine is filtered in the kidney, and is reabsorbed within the tubules. This results in little cystine in the urine. Dogs with Cystinuria do not properly reabsorb cystine, which, in turn, causes high levels in the urine. When excessive cystine is not excreted, it can form stones in the kidney and/or bladder, in both males and females. This is particularly serious for males because of their anatomy. If not treated promptly, it can lead to kidney failure, bladder rupture, and death.

There are several methods of control for Cystinuria, but no cure. This disease is identified by a test on the urine.


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