The Pembroke Welsh Corgi has become one of the most popular dogs in the world, in no small part due to Queen Elizabeth II keeping Corgis as pets for many decades. Many people have become interested in becoming Corgi owners, which is good news for the breed.
However, before looking at sales for Corgi puppies, it’s important to be aware of the various health concerns the breed may be prone to, as preventing these issues may involve lifestyle changes for both the dog and the owner.
The Corgi’s short stature puts them at a disadvantage in terms of health – technically speaking, Corgis are a dwarf breed. This means they have the head and torso of a normal-sized dog on the legs of a much smaller dog. While this results in the Corgi’s trademark adorable appearance, it may also make them susceptible to future health problems.
5 Common Corgi Health Problems
It’s good to remember that all dogs, no matter the breed, have the potential to develop genetic health issues. Responsible breeders should be able to provide a health guarantee for their puppies, and tell you about any health problems in their breeding lines. Recognizing these common health problems early on will help you mitigate the risks and take better care of your Corgi.
When a dog suffers from hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland at the base of the neck is either partially or completely dysfunctional. This dysfunction means that the thyroid may be incapable of producing the thyroid hormones to properly regulate the dog’s metabolism. As a result, the dog’s metabolism will slow down.
Idiopathic thyroid gland atrophy and lymphocytic thyroiditis are the two most common causes of hypothyroidism, accounting for almost 95% of cases. The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism in dogs may include:
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Lethargy and weakness
- Ear and skin infections
- Slowed heart rate
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)
The Corgi’s short legs and long back make them prone to a condition called intervertebral disc disease, or IVDD. This is just one of a number of back and spine problems that Corgis may experience, but it is one of the most common.
The intervertebral disc is a vital part of the dog’s spine, as it serves as a cushion and separates adjacent vertebrae. Intervertebral disc disease is a condition that occurs when the discs between the vertebrae bulge or herniate. This can lead to pressure on the spinal cord and may result in paralysis or weakness. IVDD may be sudden or gradual in onset. Some of the symptoms of IVDD in Corgis may include:
- Weak or clumsy movement
- Pain in the hind legs
- Inability to urinate
- Back pain
- Reluctance to walk
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Hip and elbow dysplasia are a condition in which the bones of the hips and elbows may not fit together perfectly. This misalignment or defect in the joints may cause pain and discomfort when walking or even just standing.
Some Corgis can show outward signs, while others may be relatively unaffected by the condition. It’s important to take preventative measures for your Corgi. Dogs affected by hip and elbow dysplasia may exhibit a swaying gait, difficulty standing or walking, or a reluctance to move. The easiest way to confirm a diagnosis of hip or elbow dysplasia is a simple x-ray.
When a Corgi is unable to walk or stand, they are also incapable of exercising properly, which may cause even more health issues down the line. Some of the main signs of hip and elbow dysplasia may include:
- Paralysis or lameness
- Reduced activity level
- Unwillingness to exercise
- Uneven posture
- Uncoordinated or swaying gait
- Elbows bent at a peculiar angle
- Whining or howling when attempting to stand or walk
Degenerative myelopathy is a type of degenerative health condition that affects a Corgi’s spinal cord. It involves a gradual degradation of the tissue in the dog’s spinal cord and lower back. It may present similarly to IVDD, though the two are separate and distinct conditions.
Sadly, there is no cure for degenerative myelopathy, and treatment is limited to rehabilitation and exercise. It typically occurs in older dogs, from 4 to 14 years old. Because of the progressive nature of the disease, it can shorten your dog’s remaining lifespan to a couple of months or years. Degenerative myelopathy typically happens in four stages:
- Weakness in the hind legs
- Complete loss of control of the hind legs
- Loss of control of the front legs, making walking impossible
- Loss of control of all bodily movement
Management of the symptoms is the best that can currently be done for degenerative myelopathy. There is still much to be discovered about degenerative myelopathy in dogs and its causes, and hopefully there will eventually be a cure or effective treatment.
Von Willebrand’s Disease
Von Willebrand’s Disease (or VWD) is an inherited condition in which the dog’s blood does not have enough von Willebrand coagulation factor. Von Willebrand coagulation factor is a protein that is essential for the process of blood clotting. Corgis affected by VWD have less than half of the normal level of this protein.
When a dog with VWD is injured or wounded, normal blood clotting does not occur. This may result in excessive blood loss, and major injuries may cause a life-threatening lack of blood. VWD is common among a number of dog breeds, including the Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
DNA tests for VWD are available for some breeds, including the Pembroke, but these tests do not indicate whether the dog will actually exhibit bleeding tendencies. Blood transfusions and synthetic hormones may serve as temporary treatment. VWD has no cure, though veterinary care may stop the immediate bleeding. Some of the signs of VWD may include:
- Uncontrolled bleeding
- Bleeding from the teeth and gums
- Bloody stool and urine
- Easy bruising of the skin
While it may seem intimidating to get a dog due to the possibility of health issues in the long run, most of these conditions can be avoided by buying your dog from a reputable breeder.
In the process of responsible breeding, the breeder will have both parent dogs tested for common inheritable conditions and avoid pairings that will result in puppies that are prone to health problems. The puppies will then be checked for the same health conditions once they are born, ensuring that only healthy dogs are sold to new owners.
While this may not catch all of the possible health issues that a Corgi may have, it goes a long way to reducing the possibility of your Corgi developing some of the more serious inherited diseases and health conditions.