Background to the Group
The Irish Wolfhound is one of the healthier giant breeds. In spite of its size, it remains totally unexaggerated in type and conformation, being bred with the ability to gallop as the priority, and has a temperament that is renowned for reliability.
We are a very proactive breed as far as health issues are concerned, and have a very open and caring culture. Should a problem arise, we are very good at sharing information and trying to find a solution.
Of the key diseases that can affect a wolfhound, most have some form of testing, risk analysis or research programme already in place. The three big concerns are bone cancer (osteosarcoma), heart disease (specifically dilated cardiomyopathy),and bloat/torsion (gastric dilatation/volvulus).
Wolfhounds are often seen as relatively short lived, but that is not always the case and we are actively seeking ways of trying to ensure longevity in our breeding programmes.
An early and first achievement of the Health Group was to persuade the Kennel Club to lift their objection to the use of artificial insemination from living donor males domiciled in the UK in the specific case of Irish Wolfhounds. We are now permitted to use the semen of hounds which are alive and over 8½ years old, as these are cases of proven longevity and should not be excluded from the gene pool.
The Irish Wolfhound is a specialist breed. We do not encourage indiscriminate breeding to avoid future welfare and rescue issues - and to safeguard the integrity and health of the breed.
We have a very strong Code of Conduct and a very long established and successful rescue service. It is testimony to the majority of breeders that we have a relatively low rescue problem in the breed.
We are often criticised by new puppy enquirers that we behave like the Spanish Inquisition before considering them for a puppy - we would say that this makes for the best homes and future for our beautiful hounds.
Breeders continue to test litters for liver shunt
to ensure only healthy puppies are sold. The incidence is low and research carries on with breeders giving DNA from affected puppies to the research programme.
We have had regular heart screening in place for since the mid 1980s and offer a regional heart testing programme that ensures screening available to all Wolfhound owners and breeders at an affordable price.