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Sulfa Drugs Warning

Some Irish Water Spaniels have had serious (fatal) reactions to sulfa drugs.  Please have your veterinarian write in large red letters on your puppy's file: NO SULFA DRUGS.   Be sure to ask every time you are given a prescription for your Irish Water Spaniel to ensure that it is not a sulfa drug.  The following are based on Potentiated Sulphonomides for veterinary use:

  • Co-trimoxazole Sulphamethoxazole TrimethroprimTribrissen/Di Trim

  • Delvoprim

  • Dulphatrim Sulphadiazine Trimethroprim

  • Norodine

  • Scoprin

  • Borgal Sulphadioaxine Trimethroprim

  • Zaquilan Sulphadimethoxine Baquiloprim

  • NB Septrim and Bactrim are brand names for Co-trimoxazole


It used to be the common thought, and I believed it, that the best pet owners were the ones who gave their pets annual vaccinations.  However, there has been extensive research that annual vaccinations are not needed and in fact, may cause more harm then good.  The top veterinary schools no longer recommend annual vaccines.  Therefore, I recommend the following vaccination schedule.


Reprinted from Giant Steps © Nov.-Dec. 2000

Note: This schedule is the one I recommend and should not be interpreted to mean that other protocols recommended by a veterinarian would be less satisfactory.  It's a matter of professional judgment and choice.

Age of Pups                Vaccine Type  (No DHLPP Vaccines!)

9 weeks                       MLV Distemper/Parvovirus only (e.g. Intervet Progard Puppy) 

12 weeks                     MLV Distemper/Parvovirus only (e.g. Intervet Progard Puppy) 

16-20 weeks                MLV Distemper/Parvovirus only (e.g. Intervet Progard Puppy)

                                 (Total of 3 doses ONLY first 3)


24 weeks or older      Killed Rabies Vaccine (try to give the rabies vaccine no earlier than 6-8 months of age

1 year                       MLV Distemper/Parvovirus only booster 

1 year +                    1 year from previous rabies vaccine, booster (and then a booster once every 3 years after that)

MLV=modified-live virus

After 1 year, I do not administer annual vaccines.  Instead, I ask my vet to measure serum antibody titers against specific canine infectious agents including distemper.  I vaccinate for parvo once every three years.  I use only killed 3 year rabies vaccine for adults and give it separated from other vaccines by 3-4 weeks. In some states, they may be able to give titer test result in lieu of booster.

I do NOT use Bordetella, corona virus, leptospirosis or Lyme vaccines. The currently licensed leptospira bacterins do not contain the serovars causing the majority of clinical leptospirosis today.  Do not give the leptospirosis vaccine as many dogs have had very serious negative reactions to this vaccine.

Please do NOT accept the information you read on my page or ANY other page on this or any website as gospel. Instead, read, learn, study some more, then form your own conclusion after consulting with your own Veterinarian.


Lyme's disease is transmitted by ticks.  In some areas of the country, Lyme's is very rare but in the area I live, it is unfortunately way too common.  Maggie was diagnosed with Lyme's when she was about 6 years old.  I put her on a course of antibiotics and she was fine since the treatment although occasionally, I have to put her on another treatment of antibiotics as she would have a flare up of the infection.  Unfortunately, I lost Drake to Lyme's Nephritis.  Nephritis is when the Lyme's disease attacks the kidneys.  It is always fatal.  Drake showed no symptoms until just about a week before he passed away.  Drake was diagnosed with Lyme's on a Thursday and by Monday, I lost him.  Lyme's nephritis is relatively rare and occurs more frequently in younger dogs than older dogs.  Usually, Lyme's causes severe joint damage.  Because of the prevalence of Lymeís in the Maryland and Connecticut areas and the fact that both Maggie and Drake showed no symptoms, I have my dogs tested every 6 months.  This practice of testing was reinforced when I took Scout and Maggie in for a test in the fall of 2006, Scoutís test came back positive.  Around the house and daily activities, Scout also showed no symptoms until I took her to an agility trial that weekend and she walked around the course.  She obviously was not feeling well at all.  However, after her course of antibiotics, she returned to normal activity.  I used to use Frontline to protect my dogs but I found that it lost its effectiveness.  Now living in Connecticut with the tick and Lyme threat even more, I now use Nexgard and so far it is working well.  I give it with food to minimize risk of vomitting.

Selecting a Veterinarian

Selecting a veterinarian that you are comfortable with is very important.  You need to know that you can ask questions and have them answered just as you would with any health care professional.  First and foremost, you should select a vet that you are comfortable with.  Ask for recommendations from friends and family.  Meet the vet and take the puppy for a general wellness exam (no vaccinations).  How do they handle the puppy?  Do they tell you what they are doing and why?  Do they answer your questions? 

As explained above, IWS should never receive sulfa drugs.  Will your vet take this seriously or just ignore it?  If they will not listen to this warning, leave immediately.  What vaccination protocol do they follow?  Will they follow the Dr. Jean Dodd protocol/limited vaccine protocol?  If not, find another vet.

It is important to remember that your veterinarian is your partner in the health care of your dog, but that the ultimate responsibility for your animals health and welfare is in your hands.  If you do not wish to have a certain treatment, leave and don't allow it to happen.  The veterinarian is essentially your employee and you can always seek another provider for the care you want.  Get second and third opinions if the veterinarian is suggesting any surgery or major treatment.  I was going to a vet for over 9 years but when they made fun of me because of my concern about a lump on Scout's ear, I left and found a new vet.  I loved my new vet in Maryland and he takes all of my concerns very seriously and he is crucial in the care of my pets.  He asks great questions and he knows I know my dogs and I'm very in tune with their health.  It was very difficult to leave my vet in Maryland.  Luckily, it seems like I have found a vet in Connecticut that I will also be able to work effectively with.  The vet should always be willing to explain anything they are doing to your pet (including vaccinations) and answer any reasonable question. 

Flea and Tick Control

Like most people, I hate fleas and ticks.  The nice thing about a naturally-fed dog is that they will be less appealing to fleas.  Since I have started to feed my dogs a raw diet, I have never had a problem with fleas.  However, if you live in a bad flea area or go to a lot of shows, your dog may pick up a couple.  I use Nexgard for tick prevention as Lyme's disease from a tick was fatal to Drake.  You will have to evaluate your individual dogs needs to determine if they are okay with and/or need the regular dose once a month. 

Under no circumstances should you use the new products that "protect" against heartworm, fleas, and intestinal worms.  This includes the product called Revolution.  Most IWS that have had this have had severe skin reactions to this product.

Heartworm Preventative

Heartworms can be fatal and there are many options to protect your dog from them.  Some have reported problems with the brand containing Ivermectin in their IWS.  My approach is to have my dogs tested every spring.  This is a quick and simple blood test performed by your veterinary.  Once tested, I give my dog the monthly preventative.  I used to give Interceptor but it is no longer available.  Some dogs have had severe reactions (seizures) to Heartguard but other dogs have done just fine on it.  Luckily, there is now a test to determine if your dog has the gene that would make it susceptible to a negative reaction to the ingredient in Heartguard. The test is called the MDR1 genotyping test.  It is available through your vet or through Washington State University.  You can order a testing kit by going to  You will be sent a kit to perform the collection of a cheek swab.  You send it back along with the fee and in about 2-3 weeks you get the results.  As Sentinal is much more expensive and this would make a huge difference with having multiple dogs and I don't like multiple treating preventatives, I had all four of my dogs tested.  All came back Normal/Normal which means they do not have the gene so they themselves would not be susceptible to a negative reaction nor are they carriers.  I have had the dogs on Heartguard for many months and they are fine.  I do not recommend Trifexis or Revolution as several IWS have had bad reactions to these preventatives.  Do not give both flea/tick treatment and heartworm preventative on the same week.


Grooming your IWS is a very important part of maintaining your dog's general health.  IWS require regular grooming.  You should brush or comb your dog every week and have it trimmed every 6-8 weeks.  Even if you do not trim the dog, it is your responsibility to keep it free from mats.  Mats, if left in the coat, can be very irritating and very painful to remove.  They can also lead to sores on the dog. Your breeder should be able to show you how to brush your dog.  It's best to start this as soon as you bring your puppy home.  While they may not have enough coat to mat for a while, they must get used to being groomed.  This can become a very relaxing routine for you and your dog.  I usually comb out my dog while I'm watching TV in the evening.  You should bathe, or have your dog bathed, every 6-8 weeks.  Too often will dry out the skin.  You should check your dog's ears at least once a week and clean them as needed.  Those long floppy ears create a great environment for yeast.  You must also trim your dogs nails.  Again, if you start this with your puppy, it should just become a regular routine.  I trim my dogs' nails every week.  You can also have a professional groomer trim your IWS but most do not know how to trim an IWS properly so you may have to search to find one who can trim for shows.  But most groomers will do fine for regular pet trims.  The Irish Water Spaniel Club of America's website has very good information about grooming your IWS.  The website is:

Other Health Tips

  • There is a long list of BAD foods, including: chocolate, especially baking chocolate, pasta noodles (or anything that will expand in water), green potatoes, raisins, onions and some nuts. If in doubt, donít give it to your pup.

  • Never give a Calcium supplement to your dog.

  • Do not give frequent baths. This may dry the skin out and cause excessive flaking. Instead, brush your dog regularly and give him a bath as needed.

  • Just because something has the label "natural" on it does not mean it is right for your dog.  You should educate yourself to determine what best suits the needs of your dog.  Your breeder can be a great resource and so can the yahoo group for Irish Water Spaniels.

  • One of the greatest threats to the health of a modern dog is the use of lawn chemicals.  Dogs exposed to lawn chemicals are far more likely to develop lymphosarcoma. 


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