The first requirement for understanding the health of a breed is a vigorous and ongoing health data collection. The framework for this for the Irish Wolfhound in North America is the Life Cycle II Study. This is sponsored and supported by the Irish Wolfhound Foundation. ALL hounds of ANY age are invited to participate.
More Owners Help
There has been a slow but steady increase in participation.
186 owners responded to follow up requests in 2016. In the first six months of 2020 after electronic responses were encouraged, there have been 167 returns, so hope for more than 300 follow ups for 2020 seems realistic.
Total entered hounds are 743 with 609 owners responding at least once to a follow up request.
Best scenario - 1000 more hounds enter to provide ongoing meaningful data for the overall health of Irish Wolfhounds.
These are health problems hounds are LIVING with - not cause of death statistics.
This report is based on 609 owner responses from 2016 to present.
Irish Wolfhounds remain a robust breed with 58% of responding owners reporting NO health problems for 2019-2020. This is compared to 77% reporting NO problems for 2016-2018. It is presently unclear if health problems are increasing or the data is coming from a broader population and aging hounds.
Data is needed on many more hounds but one strength of the report is the consistency of the reported health problems. When data is examined yearly there has been little change in the top ten reported problems for the past 4 years.
IW Top Ten
1. More hounds are reported to be living with HEART DISEASE than any other problem. This has been the number one reported health problem since 2016 and reflects the prevalence in our breed and the benefits of treatment.
2. is PNEUMONIA - second place since 2016. Again reflects the prevalence and the success of treatment.
3. ALLERGIES - holding the number 3 slot for the last 3 years and showing increasing number of affected hounds each year as well as prevalence in males.
The remaining top ten slots are filled by:
4. Living with weak and failing rears
5. Living with osteosarcoma
6. OCD and elbow dysplasia
7. Chronic diarrhea or “ mushy pudding” poop
8. Bloat survivors
9. Difficulty urinating
10. Kidney disease
Other significant health problems owners and hounds are living with include lymphoma, megaesophagus, and seizures.
There appears to be an increase in hounds with allergies, digestive difficulties, elbow dysplasia and males with difficulty urinating. Although these problems are not killers they affect the robustness of the breed and need to be followed and many more data points collected to document if these are increasing threats and need investigation.
Life Span and Cause of Death
There has been little change in life span when Lifetime Cardiac Study (LCS) data (2000-2015) and Life Cycle II Study (LCSII) data (2016-first 6 months of 2020) are compared.
In the LCS data mean life span was 89 months (7.41 years) and LCSII data 91 months (7.58 years) but at least there has been no decrease in lifespan.
Combined data has 1,011 hounds with reported COD (cause of death) and age at death.
Top Ten COD from 2000-2019
1. Osteosarcoma killed 20.3% of our hounds with mean age at death 7.16 years. There has been little improvement in this statistic in over 30 years.
2. Heart disease 12.8% mean age at death 7.58 years
3. Rear weakness 11.2% mean age at death 9.25 years
4. Cancer- other with mean age death 7.91 years
5. Bloat- mean age at death 6.58 years
6. Pneumonia mean age at death 7.08 years
7. Lymphoma mean age at death 6.42 years
8. Sudden death mean age at death 7.25 years
9. Hemangiosarcoma mean age at death 8.08 years
10. Infections other than pneumonia mean age at death 6.25 years.
Life Cycle II Data: Top Ten COD 2016 - June 2020
1. Osteosarcoma killed 21 % of our hounds with mean age at death 6.67 years.
2. Heart reported deaths 16.8% - mean age at death 7.92 years
3. Rear weakness 11.4% -mean age death 8.83 years
4. Cancer- other – mean age death 8.08 years
5. Hemangiosarcoma- mean age death 8.08 years
6. Sudden death - mean age death 7.5 years
7. Pneumonia (8.41 years ) and lymphoma (7.33 years) tied
8. Bloat- mean age 5.5 years
9. Megaesophagus (8.75 years) and trauma (8 years) tied
10. Infections other than pneumonia - mean age 5.25 years.
Cancer remains the main killer of IWs with a continued preponderance of osteosarcoma.
Heart disease and rear weakness follow. There is little change in causes of death in many years except for an early drop in bloat deaths attributed to better diagnostics and surgical care. The increase in hemangiosarcoma may correlate with the availability of ultrasound for diagnosis. It appears supported research efforts are targeting the correct problems at this time.
Top Ten COD from 2019-2020
Included here is the MOST RECENT data from January 2019 - June 2020 for the top ten causes of death
3. Rear Weakness
4. Cancer - other
5. Pneumonia and Lymphoma tied
7. Renal failure
9. Sudden Death
Numbers in some of these categories are small and need further data points for validity.
Please Help Future Hounds
How can we know what to be concerned about if we only have rumors for information? It is assumed our puppies are healthy but there is little data to support this - again relying on rumors does not push us forward and help our hounds.
It is easy now to participate with your valued health information.
Enter ALL your hounds in the LCSII. Ask friends to enter ALL their hounds. Enter puppies with their new owners before they take the puppy home. It can all be done online and participants will get a yearly reminder for follow-up
If necessary - skip the EKG and DNA.
The incidence of heart disease increases with age in IWs. Afib is usually the first sign and is found on an EKG rhythm strip.
It is inherited and treatable.
For the sake of your hound and future hounds a yearly EKG is beneficial.
(The incidence of heart disease is low in youngsters so yearly EKGs do not need to start until 2 years.)
There are many health problems in many breeds of dogs.
Research is expensive and difficult.
A DNA collection with associated health data is invaluable in attracting researchers to help solve problems in our breed - now and for the future.
Even if you do not wish to provide the blood sample or get a yearly EKG please consider participation with your hound’s valuable health data. EVERYONE can do this and EACH entry is helpful.
Click here to enter your hound.