- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Corgis are adorable, popular, and distinctive, and there’s a reason they’re such beloved family pets. But they do suffer from some unique health problems that corgi owners should be aware of. With the recent sad loss of Queen Elizabeth’s last corgi, Whisper, this breed has been in the news. Read on for info about common corgi health problems and more cool facts about corgis.
Cardigan or Pembroke?
There are two varieties of corgis currently recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The oldest is the Cardigan Welsh corgi, which is a sturdy herding dog named for Cardiganshire, a medieval kingdom in Wales.
This breed has existed and worked alongside humans for over a thousand years! Historians believe they may have been brought to Wales from Central Europe by the Celts over 3,000 years ago.
The Pembroke Welsh corgi is a separate breed from the Cardigan Welsh—it has been a distinct breed since the 1800s, the AKC notes, but the two varieties were freely interbred until the early 1900s and still share many physical traits. The Pembroke is likely descended from herding dogs brought to Wales by Flemish weavers in the early 1100s.
You can tell the two types of corgis apart by their ears, tail, and size. The smaller Pembroke has pointed ears while the Cardigan has rounded ones, and the Pembroke has a very short tail while the Cardigan’s tail is longer and fox-like.
The Queen’s Favorite Dog Breed
The Pembroke Welsh is perhaps best known because Queen Elizabeth II of England is a lover of the breed. The queen has owned over thirty corgis during the course of her reign, and many of them were descended from her first corgi, Susan.
Queen Elizabeth’s beloved corgis have been referenced throughout pop culture, and there’s even an adorable animated movie about her furry friends slated for release in 2019.
Corgi Health Problems
All corgis have achondroplasia, which is a form of dwarfism that results in shorter legs. According to petMD, this genetic mutation has been selectively encouraged in corgis (along with other dogs like the dachshund and some breeds of terrier) and gives them their diminutive stature. While the dwarfism isn’t technially one of the corgi health problems—it’s intentional, after all!—it does contribute to potential health issues later in life.
Corgis originally herded and guarded cattle—their height made them uniquely suited to nipping at heels and ducking between stomping hooves. Though they’re hardy dogs, the breed is prone to some potentially serious medical conditions. Read on for the full scoop on common corgi health problems.
Hip Dysplasia in Corgis
One of the most common health issues that corgis face is hip dysplasia, which affects the development of the hip joint and causes loss of joint function over time. This condition usually takes a while to develop, but the AKC notes that dogs as young as four months can begin to experience symptoms like a decreased range of motion, difficulty standing up or jumping, a swaying gait, pain, or stiffness.
Obesity and lack of exercise (or too much exercise) can exacerbate hip dysplasia, so if you notice your corgi experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule a visit with your vet to make sure your pet is on the right diet and getting the right amount of exercise.
Depending on the severity of the dysplasia, there may be other options for treatment, including physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, or surgery.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
petMD notes that corgis can also develop progressive retinal atrophy, or PRA. This is a degenerative condition that affects the photoreceptors in a dog’s eyes, degrades vision over time, and eventually leads to blindness. It’s not painful, but it can affect a dog’s quality of life.
Some early symptoms of PRA include night blindness (which, according to VCA Hospitals, may manifest as nervousness about going outside when it’s dark or bumping into things in dark rooms), eyes that appear very reflective when light shines on them, or pupils that look more dilated than normal.
There’s currently no known treatment for PRA, but if you notice that your dog is exhibiting symptoms of decreased vision, it’s time for a visit to your vet. They can diagnose PRA and discuss how you can help your pet stay safe.
Corgis also have an increased likelihood of developing a serious nerve and spine condition called degenerative myelopathy. This condition affects the dog’s central nervous system, spinal cord, and brain stem.
Common symptoms include muscle atrophy and posture issues, partial or full limb paralysis, and decreased muscle mass. There’s currently no known cause for degenerative myelopathy, but scientists are investigating the genes that may increase a dog’s likelihood of developing it.
As of this writing, there’s no treatment for degenerative myelopathy, but there are management techniques that will help make an affected dog more comfortable.
Von Willebrand’s Disease
Among common corgi health problems is von Willebrand’s disease, a hereditary disorder that decreases blood clotting. This can cause excessive bleeding after an injury and may lead to dangerous blood loss and anemia.
Common symptoms of von Willebrand’s disease include spontaneous bleeding from mucosal surfaces like the nose, genitals, or gums; blood in the urine or feces; bruising; and prolonged bleeding after an injury or a surgical procedure.
While this can be pretty scary for the corgi’s human family, the prognosis for dogs with von Willebrand’s is usually good. If the dog has only mild or moderate von Willebrand’s, they will need minimal treatment (though they should be monitored for more severe symptoms). A vet will usually treat a more severely affected dog with blood transfusions.
Keeping Your Corgi Healthy
Yes, these corgi health problems can seem alarming. But loving corgi owners can take precautions to help prevent, manage, and treat them effectively so their dogs live happy lives.
One of the best things to do is to keep your corgi’s weight in check! Provide a high-quality diet along with an exercise regimen to keep them lean and strong. Corgis can also injure their backs by jumping down off furniture or using stairs, so it’s important to limit those activities as your dog ages and see a vet right away if you spot any signs of discomfort.
Love these stubby pups? We’ve got you covered. Check out this fun article for more cool corgi facts. And if you’re thinking about adopting a corgi, visit our breed spotlight to get the lowdown (get it?).
Featured image: Pixabay/farmgirlmiriam