The following statement was published in Dog World under the Gordon Setter breed notes column on 20 February 2009.

Gordon Setters have always been considered, as a rule, to be a fairly healthy breed. The main concern having been hip dysplacia, which breeders have diligently tried to address and work towards improving.

Last weekend we received a very disturbing report which we feel should be made public as soon as possible rather than waiting for Newsletters etc to be sent out or worse – the rumour mill to distort the information. If proven, this could have world-wide repercussions within the Gordon Setter breed.

Wendy Smith (Kewstoke) has undertaken a lot of work investigating this and we would unreservedly thank her for bringing the matter to our attention.

It appears to indicate that two male Gordons bred by us, Shannas Family-Fortune and his son, Carek Dark Command, carried an inherited eye disease. Family-Fortune was by Sh Ch Wickenberry Philosopher at Liric ex Sh Ch S Midnight Shadow; Dark Command was ex C Blue Belle.

In 1998 and 1999, they were mated to two of Wendy’s bitches, Kewstoke Caernie and Kewstoke Kiss Me Kate, who were both sired by Northinch Briar of Keepersgate ex Sh Ch Kewstoke Bryony Belle.

The two bitches must also have carried the gene as within each litter, there were Gordons who lost their sight when around 10 years old.

Obviously, this gene must have been carried throughout the pedigrees of all four dogs for several generations and lots of affected or carrier dogs would have been bred from without their owners even suspecting there was a problem. Indeed, it could even have been assumed that any deterioration in sight was attributable to old age. Many males within these pedigrees were used extensively and a lot of bitches formed the foundations of today’s breeding lines, which is why almost any Gordon today could potentially have inherited, or be carrying, this gene.

Unfortunately, perhaps because of the late age of onset, there appears to be very little information or records of this.

We would ask breeders to unite and work together to gather as much information about the incidence of this in the breed today rather than simply having witch hunts and trying to apportion blame. It is only by everyone being open and honest about this that things can be moved forward.

Wendy has submitted a copy of her report to the breed clubs and we have sent it to Jeff Sampson, KC Genetic Consultant, who has been particularly helpful and supportive.

From initial enquiries, this does not seem to be the same mutation that causes PRA in other Gundog breeds, although the mode of inheritance is likely to be the same. This means that further investigation must be undertaken by taking blood samples from affected dogs to try and eventually establish a DNA test.

If you have a Gordon which is around 10 years old, that is blind, please arrange a BVA/KC Ophthalmologist to undertake an eye test as soon as possible. A blood sample should also be taken. This applies to all lines, so please do not be complacent.

It will by no means be easy or straightforward – remember, the age of onset is around 10 years old and it does not seem to be possible to detect by eye testing until affected dogs begin to lose their sight at over eight years of age. Even an eye test at this age will not prove that a dog does not carry the gene.

signed by: Bonnie Scougall (Shannas) and Yvonne Horrocks (Carek)