Home » dog » Irish Water Spaniel: character, care, diseases [vet medicine Małgorzata Miłosz

Irish Water Spaniel: character, care, diseases [vet medicine Małgorzata Miłosz

Irish Water Spaniel (Irish water spaniel) is a breed whose history is shrouded in mystery.

Irish Water Spaniel

The first ancestors of the entire group of spaniels, described as long-haired flashers with hanging ears, most likely come from Spain, where at the turn of the 7th and 8th centuries they were often used for hunting, although there are also reports of dogs in the type appearing on rock paintings before ours era.

In the following years, these dogs spread throughout Europe, and in the 16th century, groups were separated from them depending on the mode of work and divided into land, water and peace spaniels.

As you can guess, the Irish Water Spaniel belongs to the breeds working in water, which are not afraid of scaring and retrieving wild birds from lakes and even marshy wetlands.

The very name of the spaniel seems to be rather historical in relation to the appearance of these dogs, and the appearance of the water spaniel at that time, known to us at the time, resembles a rather complicated combination of a retriever, a poodle and a setter.

The creator of the modern IWS is considered to be Justin McCarthy, an athlete from Dublin, who perfected the exterior of the breed, and his dog, Boatswain, was to be its first purebred representative.

Unfortunately, the information on how he obtained a dog with such an appearance, McCarthy took with him to the grave.

From 1859, water spaniels became regular visitors to exhibitions and in a short time their popularity significantly increased not only on the British Isles, but also in the United States. The American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed in 1884.

Colloquially called "rat tails " or "clowns among spaniels ", they are less often used as flushing dogs, and most of all they are companion dogs.

According to the FCI classification, the Irish Water Spaniel belongs to group 8.

  • Irish Water Spaniel character
  • Irish spaniels provide a thorough description of the breed
  • Irish Water Spaniel Grooming and Feeding
  • Irish spaniel of disease
    • Hair follicle dysplasia
    • Hip dysplasia
    • Elbow dysplasia
    • Cataract
    • GREAT
    • Hypothyroidism
    • Epilepsy
  • Is it worth choosing an Irish water spaniel??

Irish Water Spaniel in character

Irish Water Spaniels are energetic, vigorous, strong and resistant to a variety of environmental conditions.

They are not afraid of work, and mud on their beautiful curls is not the slightest problem for them, on the contrary, they will gladly jump into a puddle or a muddy ditch, not only in pursuit of a wild goose, but also during an ordinary walk.

They need a lot of exercise, and being natural born swimmers, retrieving in the water or simply swimming is one of their favorite activities.

They are also happy to go for mountain trekking, long walks in the forest, jogging or jogging by bike. The most important thing is that the right dose of activity is administered to them every day.

They are also great for dog sports, which are becoming more and more popular all over the world, such as agility, flyball or obedience.

As hunting dogs, they also have a very good sense of smell, which is used by the police, e.g. for drug detection.

These dogs are intelligent and fast learners, but they can be stubborn and wayward, especially in the case of males. This breed is also characterized by a rather late maturation, so we can enjoy their puppy antics a little longer.

The clown label stuck to them, thanks to both their carefree and funny way of being, and the storm of curly curls falling over their eyes. Of course, such performances are not intended for everyone.

These spaniels become attached to their owners and are loyal and friendly towards them, but they are not so effusive towards strangers. The same is true for other pets.

Water spaniels, like most dogs, do not like to spend time alone, because they get bored quickly, and then they develop destructive tendencies.

They need the company of a second dog or just attention from their owners so they don't feel rejected. Therefore, they should not live alone in a kennel or playpen.

When they live with a family that willingly devotes their time and provides them with the right amount of training, they are happy and literally flourishing.

Irish spaniels provide a thorough description of the breed

The Irish Water Spaniel is a strong-built dog with an elegant, compact body.


The height at the withers for a male dog is 53 - 59 cm, and for a bitches - 51 - 56 cm.


Adult body weight is between 22 and 26 kg.


  • Large head with a dome-shaped skull with a well-defined stop and an occipital tumor, covered with abundant, twisted hair falling between the eyes in the shape of a long fringe.
  • The muzzle is long and square, covered with smooth hair - only on the back of the lower jaw the longer hair forms the chin.
  • Jaws strong with a full set of teeth set in a scissor bite.
  • A well developed nose truffle, dark brick red in color.
  • Small and slanting eyes with intelligent expression, dark amber or dark hazel in color.
  • The ears are low-set, long and lobed, with ringlets.
  • The neck is arched and long, well tied to the shoulder blades, turning into a short and wide back.
  • Deep chest with well sprung ribs.
  • Wide and deep loins, long croup with rounded groins.
  • The so-called "rat tail " is characteristic of this breed - low set, thick at the base and tapering towards the end, covered with fringes only 7.5 - 10 cm from the base. The rest of it is covered with short, sparse and straight hair.
  • Limbs straight and strong, covered with ringlets up to round paws, which are also very hairy between the toes.


Waterproof hair cover, made of dense, dark brick curls with an admixture of black and red or black-brown-liver.

Irish Water Spaniel Grooming and Feeding

The coat of Irish water spaniels is waterproof, thanks to the appropriate natural lubrication, which does not let water in, making the skin dry even after prolonged contact with it.

The hair sheds little, but you need to brush it 1 to 3 times a week, making sure that the teeth of the brush or comb reach deep enough.

In order for our quadruped to retain its bookish appearance, the hair should be trimmed once every approx. 6 to 8 weeks including the interdigital area.

After bathing in a lake, river or sea, rinse the coat with clean water to remove impurities in the form of salt or algae that can dry it and thus destroy it.

We use a care bath with the use of shampoo when it is necessary. It is important not to do it too often, so as not to weaken the protective lipid layer of the skin.

The condition of the ears, claws and teeth should be checked periodically. Due to the long and heavy auricles and the love of water, Water Spaniels, which often indulge in this entertainment, may suffer from inflammatory diseases of the outer ear.

IWS does not have specific nutritional requirements, so we can feed him both with the use of ready-made dog food and prepare meals ourselves.

When calculating the daily ration, the dog's physical activity should be taken into account. Since the breed may have a tendency to obesity, which is especially problematic in hip dysplasia, we need to pay attention to whether we overfeed the quadruped.

Irish spaniel of disease

Hair follicle dysplasia

Hair follicle dysplasia is most likely a genetic disorder in proof spaniels.

It manifests itself in dogs aged approx. 2 - 4 years.

Initially, the sides of the body experience alopecia caused by breaking hair, which over time may extend to the entire torso. Hair loss can be periodic or permanent - without regrowth.

Regardless of its type, there is no specific treatment, and the regrowth of the hair can only be supported by supplementation with NKKT and biotin.

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is an inherited polygenic disease.

It occurs primarily in dogs of large breeds, but not only.

The disease consists in improper connection and shaping of the structures that make up the hip joint, i.e. the acetabulum of the hip bone and the femoral head.

The shallowing of the acetabulum and the disappearance of the round shape of the head cause the joint to appear loose due to mismatch, and as a result of the pressure, productive changes develop that negatively affect the mechanics of the hip joint and cause pain.

Apart from genetic factors, the occurrence of the disease is also influenced by various additional factors, such as dietary mistakes, or the excessive amount and intensity of exercise served to growing animals.

The first symptoms are usually seen in puppies between 6-12 months of age, which are:

  • reluctance to move,
  • frequent lying down,
  • difficulty getting up,
  • rabbit jumping,
  • hind limb muscle atrophy.

The clinical examination also shows pain in the affected joint, mainly during abduction, as well as looseness in the knee joints.

In older dogs, the chronic form is dominant, manifested by limited mobility of the joints and stiffness of the pelvic limbs.

The diagnosis is made by the veterinarian on the basis of data from the history, the result of a clinical examination and an X-ray taken under sedation.

Prophylactic X-ray in puppies aged approx. 5 months, even if they do not show symptoms characteristic of dysplasia.

Treatment of dysplasia can be pharmacological (analgesic / anti-inflammatory) or surgical.

The most frequently used procedures are: triple osteotomy of the pelvic bones, denervation of the hip capsule, amputation of the femoral head and neck, and pectinectomy.

In recent years, new methods of fighting the disease using stem cells or Orthokine Vet Irap have been introduced. Rehabilitation treatments also bring good results.

Elbow dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a polygenic defect, which means that more than one gene is responsible for its occurrence.

The disease consists of an abnormal development of the articular surfaces of the elbow joint and includes the following subunits:

  1. Unfixed accessory ulnar (UAP).
  2. Fragmentation of the medial peak process (FCP).
  3. Osteochondrosis of the medial epicondyle of the humerus (OCD).
  4. Articular Mismatch (EI).

The first symptoms in the form of lameness and reluctance to bend and straighten the chest limb are most often seen in puppies aged 6 to 12 months.

A diseased joint can also be painful, hot and swollen, especially after exercise.

The clinical picture may vary depending on which of the subunits we deal with. For diagnostics, apart from a clinical examination, an X-ray image is necessary.

The basic method of treatment is surgery.


Cataracts are one of the most common eye diseases in dogs.

Its essence is the progressive clouding of the lens of the eyeball, which initially causes visual disturbances and, over time, leads to complete blindness.

Its causes include:.in. gene mutations, metabolic diseases and injuries.

In IWS, cataracts are most likely hereditary, and the first symptoms are observed in animals aged approx. 5 years.

The disease is diagnosed with the use of:.in. slit lamp examination and electroretinography.

Cataract treatment is surgical and involves the so-called. phacoemulsification, i.e. breaking the lens with ultrasound, performed in specialist clinics.


PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) is an acronym that describes a group of hereditary diseases, the essence of which is the progressive atrophy of the retina, i.e. the degeneration of its photosensitive cells.

The rods are the first to disappear, therefore the dominant symptom in the initial stages of the disease is the impairment of vision at dusk.

A visually impaired animal can become overly shy and bump into objects in the evenings.

When the suppositories are also destroyed over time, the dog has problems with eyesight also during the day, and as the disease progresses, he becomes completely blind.

PRA is painless for a quadruped, but unfortunately there is no cure for it. Nor can the disease be slowed down.

An electroretinograph is used for diagnostics, which makes it possible to evaluate the reaction of photoreceptors to light stimuli.


The essence of hypothyroidism is the reduced secretion of hormones - thyroxine and triiodothyronine, which are responsible for the regulation of many metabolic processes in the body. The most common causes of the disease include:

  • lymphocytic thyroiditis,
  • idiopathic thyroid atrophy,
  • neoplastic changes,
  • congenital underdevelopment of the thyroid gland.

The course of the disease is very diverse, and the symptoms are initially not very characteristic. The most common are:

  • seborrhea,
  • recurrent otitis externa,
  • apathy,
  • panting,
  • weight gain,
  • increased thirst and urine output,
  • no heat and much more.

Blood tests with the determination of T4, fT4, TSH and cholesterol are used for diagnostics.

Treatment is chronic and is carried out for the life of the animal.

It is based on the oral supplementation of synthetic levothyroxine.

The dose of the drug is adjusted individually for each patient and is subject to periodic monitoring.


Epilepsy, also called epilepsy, is one of the most common diseases of the nervous system in dogs.

Due to its cause, we can talk about:

  • secondary epilepsy (occurring as a consequence of systemic diseases),
  • idiopathic epilepsy (most often genetic).

It is characterized by recurrent seizures, often associated with loss of consciousness and involuntary urination or defecation.

The attack is preceded by the so-called aura during which the animal, sensing the approaching attack, begins to behave differently.

Usually it hides or, on the contrary, seeks contact with the owner.

The goal of treatment is to reduce the frequency of attacks. The most commonly used active substances are phenobarbital, potassium bromide and imepitoin.

Is it worth choosing an Irish water spaniel??

Irish Spaniels are not recommended for beginners, because despite their cheerful disposition, they are also independent and stubborn.

They require patient and varied training and early socialization so that they do not become overly fearful in the future.

Their owner should be charismatic and self-confident and, above all, like sports, not only on the TV screen.

These dogs require attention and a large dose of daily physical activity that will allow them to maintain good physical and mental condition and keep them relatively calm at home.

IWS will be a good companion for children with whom they will gladly jump in puddles on a rainy day.

Lines to a small extent, thanks to which his hair does not fly all over the apartment, but he can apply a lot of mud after such fun outdoors, so we need to spend some time and energy on his care.

These Spaniels are vigilant, making them good watchdogs, but they won't bark for any reason.

If we want to have a dog of this breed, unfortunately we will have to do some research and rather abroad, because at the moment only one kennel is registered in the Polish Kennel Club.

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