All purebred and mixed breed dogs are prone to hereditary health problems. The Portuguese Water Dog is no exception. We endorse and support PWDCC responsible breeding practices to help reduce or eliminate hereditary health problems. We participate in the PWDCA sponsored PWD Health and Litter Database to share information with other breeders. All of our dogs are individually tested before breeding. Whether your pup is destined to be a loved companion or a show or performance champion (no less loved!), we want to provide you with a healthy sound PWD.

PWDCC (Portuguese Water Dog Club of Canada)
recommended testing for breeding pairs:

Individual testing for both sire and dam:
Optigen prcd-PRA with at least one parent testing normal (non-carrier)
Current passing ECR (formerly CERF)
Final OFA Hips certification rating Excellent, Good or Fair or
FCI Hips rating A, B, or C
OVC certification Normal hips

Individual testing Normal for either sire or dam:

OFA Elbows

Chic Certificate Clear by Parentage Testing (for one generation only) for:
Optigen prcd-PRA
indicating Normal

Conditions and Diseases in the PWD

Addison’s Disease

Addison’s disease is caused when the adrenal glands deteriorate. These small hormone producing glands are located above each kidney and are important for controlling the metabolism of sugar and maintaining the salt and water balances in the body. Physical and behavioral symptoms develop, sometimes in an inconsistent manner, so an owner might observe one or any combination of signs: depression, lethargy or weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and/or a lack of interest in food, which is always a telltale sign that something is wrong. If your dog is exhibiting any combination of these signs, speak to your Vet and consider an ACTH test to diagnose the problem, and don’t give steroids before the test. Once diagnosed Addison’s is a manageable condition.


Cancer is a condition common to all dogs, not just Portuguese Water Dogs. It is commonly fatal, depending on the type of cancer and how early it is detected. Treatment frequently consists of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, nutritional support and homeopathics.

Coat: Hairloss, Allergy

Improper Coats

Portuguese Water Dogs can inherit “improper coat”. The dog may have some undercoat and shed. The appearance of a wavy with improper coat is like a Flat Coated Retriever or Border Collie, a curly will tend to look like an American Water Spaniel or Curly Coated Retriever. This condition is one of appearance, in the Canadian Standard this coat is a disqualification, in the American Standard this coat is a major fault. The temperament and behavior of a dog with “improper coat” will not differ from his properly coated litter mates.

Hair Loss

Follicular Dysplasia or patterned hair loss is a genetic condition that affects some Portuguese Water Dogs. The condition generally presents itself at between two and four years of age. The hair may fall out and grow back or it may never grow back. Of the dogs affected with hair loss, it appears that the majority have tight curly coats and are the result of breeding two curly parents. It must be remembered, however, that not all dogs, not even most dogs, with tight curly coats will have hair loss. There are other causes for hair loss. Thyroid deficiency, Cushing’s disease, allergies, parasites, environmental toxins and drugs are some agents that can cause the temporary loss of hair.

Eyes: Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), annual ECR test

There are various inherited and congenital eye problems found in all breeds. Progressive rod-cone degeneration (prcd) is the form of PRA that affects the Portuguese Water Dog. There is a DNA marker gene test than can determine dogs that are normal, carriers or affected. The test, from Optigen,, indicates by Pattern A or A1 for normal dogs that will never be affected by prcd and that cannot transmit the disease. Pattern B or B1 are carriers of prcd, but will not develop prcd and Pattern C or C1 indicates a dog will be affected with prcd. Pattern C dogs must get a copy of the gene from each parent to be affected. A pup that has at least one parent with an Optigen A rating will never have PRA but could be a carrier.

All our dogs are Optigen tested and annually ECR tested by OFA to ensure the overall health of their eyes, certificates are supplied to our puppy buyers. Note the ECR program has replaced the CERF program, and a CERF certificate presented as current would fraudulent.

Gastrointestinal (IBD)

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The cause of canine IBD is unknown, but is believed to have an autoimmune basis. Genetics, nutrition, infectious agents and abnormalities of the immune system can all be underlying factors. There are several forms of IBD, which are determined by the type of cell causing the inflammation. Symptoms can include chronic diarrhea, vomiting, bloody stools, abdominal pain, and weight loss. There currently is no cure for IBD. Strict diet changes and anti-inflammatory drugs will help in the control and stabilization of the dog. A positive diagnosis usually occurs after performing an endoscopy exam with biopsy.

GM-1 (Storage Disease)

GM-1 Storage disease is a rare disease which affects humans and Portuguese Water Dogs. It is a genetically transmitted fatal metabolic disorder which occurs when two carrier dogs are bred. Affected puppies will not reach adulthood. Non-Carrier, Carrier and Indeterminate PWDs have a normal life expectancy.

All our dogs are DNA blood tested through Optigen. And all our breeding dogs are rated Normal.

Heart: Cardiomyopathy

Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy (JDC) is an inherited fatal disease in the young Portuguese Water Dog that is caused by a recessive gene (both parents of a puppy must carry the gene to produce the defect). Sudden or rapid death of a puppy occurs with the average age being 6 weeks to 7 months old (there have been cases reported younger than 6 weeks as well as older than 7 months). Some pups have no physical signs or symptoms and are found dead by the breeder or new owner. Some have a 12 to 48 hour onset with loss of appetite, decreased energy level, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. There is no known cure or treatment at this time.

The exciting news is that after years of research funded by the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America there is now a Linked Marker DNA test available. All breeding stock should be tested, the test results will specify 1-1 probable normal, or 1-2 probable carrier. The only way to breed affected puppies is by breeding a carrier to a carrier. So effectively, breeders can now plan their programs without the worry of producing this tragic condition. All Seabury stock will be tested for the linked marker for JDC. Go for more information.


Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) occurs in most breeds of dogs including mixed breeds. A dog that has hip dysplasia is said to be dysplastic and has hip joints that are not formed perfectly. CHD is a common canine inherited condition that is not apparent at birth, the imperfection can be slight or severe. The dysplastic dog may experience no pain or problems from its condition or it may experience mild to severe discomfort when moving. Veterinary prescribed anti-inflammatory medication can control the symptoms in milder cases. Management includes keeping weight off, regular moderate exercise, medical management, and, in some cases, surgery. Hip dysplasia can only be properly diagnosed by an x-ray.

The Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph did do hip assessments for dogs at least 18 months of age. However, this program is now closed. Their database is however, still available to check.

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA, see evaluates hip x-rays that are submitted to them. An x-ray taken of a dog less than two years old will receive only a temporary “Preliminary” rating. An x-ray of a dog two years old or older evaluated as not dysplastic will receive permanent certificate with an “OFA number” and rating status of “Excellent”, “Good” or “Fair”. If the dog is determined to be dysplastic, only a rating as to the degree of dysplasia from “Mild” to “Severe” will be provided.

All our breeding dogs are evaluated at 24 months for CHD at OFA.