Portuguese Water Dogs are generally healthy, however, they have a somewhat limited gene pool. As a result, they, like most purebred dogs, are vulnerable to certain genetic defects. There are four major health concerns for Portuguese Water Dogs:
GM-1 Storage Disease is a rare (recessive) genetically transmitted fatal metabolic disorder, which affects humans and Portuguese Water Dogs. GM1 storage disease is a member of a family of closely related conditions known as GM1 gangliosidoses. It is caused by a deficiency of beta-galactosidase, with resulting abnormal storage of acid lipid materials in cells of the central and peripheral nervous systems, but particularly in the nerve cells. This disease strikes in puppies around six months of age and results in a number of cerebral problems such as seizures and ataxia, as well as eye lesions and temperament changes. Fortunately, a direct gene test has been developed to identify carriers of the disease and although PWDs are all rather closely related to one another and share a limited gene pool, PWDs who were GM1 storage disease carriers were able to be genetically identified, and the condition has now been almost entirely eliminated from the breed
Hip Dysplasia is a congenital and developmental problem with the hip joints, which occurs in most breeds of dogs including mixed breeds. The imperfection can be slight or severe. A dog with hip dysplasia may experience no pain or problems from its condition, or it may experience mild to severe discomfort and have difficulty moving. Veterinary prescribed anti-inflammatory medication can control the symptoms in milder cases. Aging, arthritis and obesity can aggravate the condition. Surgery may be done but only in the most severe cases. Hip dysplasia can only be diagnosed by an x-ray.
Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy is an inherited fatal condition which causes cardiac failure in young puppies, a result of an autosomal recessive gene. Affected puppies die suddenly or with very little warning usually between the ages of six weeks to seven months old. The signs and symptoms include a 12- to 48-hour onset of loss of appetite, decreased energy level, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. Some pups have no physical signs or symptoms at all, and may just collapse and die, or are found dead by the breeder or new owner. At this time, there is no known cure or treatment for Juvenile Dialated Cardiomyopathy. However, a University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Medicine research team developed a DNA gene-based test, utilizing a cheek swab or a blood sample to determine if a dog is a carrier and there is hope that this condition can be reduced or eliminated from the breed.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an eye disease which causes "night blindness" and may lead to complete blindness in Portuguese Water Dogs. For a dog to be affected by PRA they must get a recessive gene from each parent. Fortunately, DNA testing, known as "Optigen Testing", can identify dogs carrying the recessive genes for Progressive Rod-Cone PRA and Early Onset PRA."Normal" or "A" dogs do not carry the gene. "Carriers" or "B" dogs carry one copy of the gene and will not express the disease but may pass on the gene to 50% of their offspring. "Affected" or "C" dogs have two copies of the progressive retinal atrophy gene and will probably express the disease.