The Corgis was bred as a working dog, used to herd livestock, and as a general farm dog used for a range of activities around the yard and barn. The breed has become a popular house breed, too, thanks to its people-oriented character, intelligence, and agreeable personality.
It owes a lot of its current popularity to Queen Elizabeth II, who kept dozens of the breed during her life and her reign as Queen of the United Kingdom. Although generally considered a healthy, hardy breed, the Corgi is prone to certain genetic and physical conditions, especially thanks to its short stature and long back.
Read on for more information about this breed and especially some of the common health problems it faces.
The Corgi was first bred in Wales, although exactly when they were developed is somewhat uncertain. Some believe that they were bred from Viking Vallhunds in the 10th Century. Others believe they originated from Flemish dogs in the 12th Century. Folklore argues that they were bred as the mounts of Welsh fairies. Whatever their history, the breed was used to herd sheep, goats, and other cattle, and the Corgi is considered an ancient breed with a long history.
In 1934, the UK Kennel Club split the Corgi breed in two with the Pembroke Welsh Corgi and the Cardigan Corgi being treated as two separate breeds. The American Kennel Club followed suit in the same year and the two have been treated as separate ever since.
Pembroke Corgis, also called Welsh Corgis or Pembroke Welsh Corgis, are the more popular of the two breeds and are the smaller. It also has a docked tail, whereas the Cardigan Corgi has a full tail and stands taller and heavier than the Pembroke. Both breeds share a lot of similarities, both physically and in terms of their character.
The breed is friendly and gets along with all family members. It is intelligent, likes to please its owners, and is still used as a herding and working dog today. They tend to be more on the independent side and can be stubborn. It is a generally healthy breed but is prone to certain illnesses and conditions—many of which are a result of its short stature.
Corgis, like Dachshunds and at least a dozen other short breeds, get their most distinctive feature from a genetic mutation. It is caused by the existence of the FGF4 gene, which leads to achondroplastic dwarfism. This canine dwarfism gives Corgis their short legs that are ideal for herding because it means that the dog is less likely to get kicked by the cattle they tend, but it also carries some side effects.
The short legs and long back of the breed mean that Corgis are more likely to suffer certain spinal conditions than other dogs. They are also prone to some other genetic conditions, some linked to the FGF4 gene and resulting dwarfism, some not. Below are 12 conditions that Corgis are more likely to suffer compared to other dog breeds.
12 Common Health Issues to Watch Out for
The long back and short legs of the Corgis may have proven useful for herding, but these physical characteristics also carry certain risks. As such, the breed is especially prone to skeletal and conditions, including the following:
1. Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is a condition that is common in a lot of breeds. Corgis are especially prone because of their short legs and long backs. Hip dysplasia causes the thigh bone to sit abnormally in the hip joint with joint laxity. The condition has similar symptoms to canine arthritis over time.
Sufferers tend to endure discomfort and the resulting arthritis condition can cause pain. Arthritis tends to develop later in a Corgi’s life, but hip dysplasia is in part an inherited condition. Breeding Corgis should be screened for the condition and if you are buying from a breeder, you should ask to see proof that the parents are free from hip dysplasia. If you are adopting from a rescue or shelter, you can have the dog tested for hip dysplasia.
The development and progression of hip dysplasia depends on genetics, early exercise and dietary conditions of those that are at increased risk of developing the problem.
A vet will usually recommend exercise, medication and dietary changes to help beat the symptoms of the condition. It is possible to have the hip replaced, but this can be an expensive treatment and is usually considered a last resort.
2. Intervertebral Disc Disease
The long back of the Corgi can also increase the risk of intervertebral disc disease. Affected dogs have varying degrees of neurological problems and pain caused by the protrusion of discs between the dog’s vertebrae to push onto the spinal cord. Symptoms such as weakness, inco-ordination, pain or even paralysis.
If the condition is mild, a vet will usually recommend weight control, medications and possibly essential fatty acid supplements, but if the disease is causing significant neurological problems, it will require surgery.
3. Degenerative Myelopathy
Degenerative myelopathy occurs when the white matter in the spinal cord progressively degenerates. It is a genetic condition inherited from both parents and symptoms usually occur when Corgis are around 11 years old.
Symptoms include weakness in the rear legs, eventually leading to paralysis of the dog’s hind legs. There is no known treatment for the condition, but there have been recent developments in DNA testing for the condition. Sadly the condition is ultimately fatal.
As well as being prone to spinal conditions, Corgis are also known to be at higher risk of developing some eye conditions when compared to other breeds.
Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye develops dense cloudy patches. They can occur in dogs, as well as humans, and Corgis are more prone than most other breeds. Cataracts tend to surface later in life and can cause poor vision.
Cataracts can be treated, although your vet will decide whether surgery is likely to be successful and whether the surgery is worthwhile, according to the age and physical condition of your dog.
5. Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive retinal atrophy is the result of several eye conditions that cause the condition of the retina to deteriorate. This will lead to night blindness, initially, and can eventually lead to full blindness. Dogs are good at adapting to progressive retinal atrophy, but they will need to stick to a daily routine to be able to do so.
There is no known treatment for progressive retinal atrophy at the moment. Genetic testing for PRA can be carried out.
6. Retinal Dysplasia
Retinal dysplasia occurs when the retain develops abnormally. There is no treatment for this condition, which is less common than progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts, and breeders should have their dogs tested for its presence to ensure that it is less likely to be passed on to puppies.
There are certain other conditions that Corgis are prone to. Some of these conditions are common to all breeds while others are more prominent in the Corgi breed.
7. Von Willebrand’s Disease
Von Willebrand’s Disease can be present in humans and in dogs and is similar to hemophilia. The dog’s blood does not clot as effectively as it should, and it can cause nosebleeds and gum bleeds. It may also mean that your dog will suffer prolonged bleeding after an injury, following surgery, or as a result of heat cycles.
You may also notice blood in your dog’s stools. The condition is inherited and while there is no cure for von Willebrand’s disease, it can usually be effectively managed through transfusions and medication.
8. Patent Ductus Arteriosus
Patent ductus arteriosus is a heart condition whereby a vessel between the aorta and the pulmonary artery fails to close at birth. The condition means that unoxygenated blood bypasses the lungs. It can lead to congestion in the lungs which eventually causes the heart to become enlarged.
Untreated, patent ductus arteriosus can lead to heart failure. Symptoms include shortness of breath and trouble breathing. Treatment requires the closing of the vessel, which can usually be done through keyhole surgery by a specialist.
Epilepsy is a neurological condition. It may be inherited but may develop independently and it causes seizures. Seizures can take different forms from unexplained periods of hyperactivity to periods of unconsciousness.
Epilepsy can be managed but it needs to be identified and diagnosed quickly to ensure the best chance of successful management.
Obesity is a problem with many breeds, and it is especially dangerous for Corgis because their short stature means that it can be very difficult to shift extra weight once it is on.
You should ensure that you feed the right amount of good quality food to your Corgi and that you give regular exercise to help maintain a healthy weight for your dog. Avoid giving too many treats or feeding human food, because it doesn’t take a lot for a dog to put on extra weight.
11. Cutaneous Asthenia
Cutaneous asthenia is a skin disorder caused by a defect in the dog’s collagen. This means that the layers of the skin are abnormally fragile and it leads to droopy or stretchy skin. Other symptoms can include excessive bruising and blistering.
There is no treatment for the condition but your vet may be able to offer advice to help make your dog more comfortable and prevent injuries and subsequent illnesses.
Typically more frequently present in male Corgis, cystinuria is the result of a genetic mutation that causes the reduced reabsorption of cystine in the kidney and gastrointestinal tract. This can lead to the formation of bladder stones due to too much cystine in the urine. Passing the stones is extremely painful, and symptoms of this condition include difficulty urinating. Your dog may want to go out more often because it struggles to pass urine, and it can lead to urinary tract blockages.
Your vet may recommend increasing fluid intake and special foods. If this fails to correct the problem, some drugs can be administered to break down the stones so that they can be more easily passed, or surgery may be needed.
What Is the Average Lifespan of a Corgi?
The Corgi has an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years, with most living around 12 or 13 years. Ensure a good diet and plenty of exercise, and if your Corgi shows symptoms of any health conditions, be sure to have them checked by a vet to help ensure as long a life as possible.
Are Corgis Prone to Anxiety?
The Corgi breed is not especially prone to anxiety, but any breed of dog can suffer from anxiety at some time. Causes of anxiety include being separated from their owners for too long, health problems, and sudden changes to the dog’s surroundings or routine.
Are Corgis Prone to Back Problems?
The long back and short legs of the Corgi mean that this breed is especially prone to spinal and back problems. Above, we have highlighted some of the most common, and you should look for signs of back pain. Try to limit the amount of climbing and running your Corgi undertakes because these can increase the likelihood of developing spinal conditions.
Corgis are a popular working dog and a popular breed of companion or pet dog. They are friendly, loyal, and intelligent. While the list above looks long and frightening for potential owners, Corgis are generally hardy dogs.
If you are buying from a breeder, ensure that they have conducted the relevant screening on the puppy’s parents, and once you get your dog home, ensure it follows a healthy diet and gets plenty of exercise to help ensure its good health.
Featured Image Credit: ElfinFox, Pixabay