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Irish Water Spaniel

The Irish Water Spaniel first appeared in the early 1800s primarily from a kennel by a man named McCarthy.

His bred his dog, who he called “Boatswain,” who then had a litter of what looks like today’s Irish Water Spaniel breed.

Mr. McCarthy never revealed the exact source of the actual breeding, even upon his death, but many believe the breed was a cross between a poodle-type dog from France and the Portuguese Waterdogs that arrived in Ireland on fishing boats.

In Ireland, there were two different kinds of water spaniels with only one who had a curlier coat which probably was part of the breed’s formation.

The Irish Water Spaniel is still a popular working and companion dog in Ireland today.

The breed arrived in the United States in the late 1800s but has never been as popular here in the U.S. as in Ireland.

The Irish Water Spaniel is listed as the 133rd most popular dogs by the American Kennel Club.

Irish Water Spaniel Breed Characteristics

irish water spaniel hypoallergenic dogThe Irish Water Spaniel happens to be the tallest dog of the Spaniel breeds.

The male Irish Water Spaniel is around 23 inches tall and weighs from 60 to 65 pounds.

The female Irish Water Spaniel is around 22 inches tall and weighs from 50 to 60 pounds.

The Irish Water Spaniel is considered a large dog.

Sometimes mistaken for a poodle, the Irish Spaniel looks very similar with a curly coat that covers the entire body.

The Irish Water Spaniels’ coat is typically a dark brown or liver-colored with a curly-coated body and a smooth, hairless rat tail, except for at the bottom which has a couple of inches of curls.

His face is completely smooth like other pups!

The Irish Water Spaniel’s coat does need to be brushed a few times a week to prevent matting. The dirt stays in his coat and the brushing helps remove the dander and dirt.

Even though the Irish Water Spaniel has as a curly coat, they are considered a hypoallergenic breed because they don’t shed very much.

Irish Water Spaniels have uniquely webbed feet which makes them excellent swimmers.  And they just love swimming too. They love the ocean or any chance they can get to jump in the water and it’s a very good exercise for them as well!  Just keep an eye on them!

The life span of the Irish Water Spaniel is 12 to 15 years.

Irish Water Spaniel Personality

The Irish Water Spaniel is a sprite, athletic and inquisitive dog.

He is more reserved than most of the spaniels but is neither shy nor aggressive which makes him a great companion.

That isn’t to say that he is not high energy!  With the right training, he can become a very compatible family member.

Just like every breed, early training and socialization will make your Spaniel more comfortable around people and more courteous at home.

Due to his hunting nature and abundance of energy, the Irish Water Spaniel is much better in a home with a yard and not well-suited for apartment life.

He could use an hour a day of exercise and if you have a pool or access to water, even better!  This dog loves to swim, but just as you would with your children, keep your eye on your pup when he is the water.

The Irish Water Spaniel is a fairly quiet dog and will bark only when it seems necessary as a protection method to his family.

He is a great watchdog and tends to pick a specific family member to be his favorite.

Common Health Issues in Irish Water Spaniels

Irish Water Spaniels are considered healthy dogs, but similar to all pure-breeds, they are predisposed to certain health issues.

Of course, not all Irish Water Spaniels will have any of the below conditions, but it’s important to be mindful of the potential concerns if you decide to bring this pup home.


While allergies are common in all dogs, the Irish Water Spaniel tends to be more allergic than most.

Allergies that may occur in your pup can be food-related, flea allergies or even environmental.  The best way to cure allergies is to first see your vet to determine the type of allergy that has occurred and then the treatment that is most effective.

Many Irish Water Spaniels need year-round flea protection.


Cataracts occur when there is an opaqueness on the lens of the eye which will then cause vision loss.  The dogs’ eye will have a cloudy-like appearance.

Cataracts will generally occur as a dog ages or in certain breeds.  Surgery can sometimes help correct and improve the dog’s vision.


Distichiasis is a condition when an additional row of eyelashes (called distichia) start to grow on the oil glands of a dog’s eye.  This causes a protrusion around the edge of the eyelid that causes it to be irritated. Your pup might be pawing his eyes or squinting.

Distichiasis is treated with a surgery called Cyroepilation which freezes the excess eyelashes with liquid nitrogen and then removes them.  The surgery requires the dog to go under general anesthesia.


Entropion is a genetic abnormality which can cause the eyelid of the dog to roll inward and either irritate or injure the dog’s eyeball.

This condition, which is apparent at six months old, can occur in either or both eyes. If your Irish Water Spaniel has entropion, he might rub his eyes or paw at that.

Surgery can correct this condition but it can’t be done until the dog is fully mature.


Epilepsy is a condition that causes mild or even severe. Epilepsy can be genetic or it can be triggered by other infectious diseases, brain trauma, head injuries or poison ingestion.  The cause is not always known.

Seizures will usually cause a dog to shake uncontrollably, hide, stagger or run around frantically.


Folliculitis is a condition that causes hair loss and a change in the quality of the dog’s coat. Hair loss in the Irish Water Spaniels can occur from 2 years old on and can spread throughout the dog’s body.

While the change in the coat will be permanent, it has no effect on the dog’s overall health.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia, common in large dogs, is an inherited condition which occurs when the thighbone of the Spaniel doesn’t fit properly in the joint.  Some dogs will show lameness or pain on either one or both back legs and it can affect the dog’s gait.

While hip dysplasia is hereditary, it can also occur as a result of a dog growing too quickly, jumping often or carrying excess weight.

Depending on the severity, surgery is sometimes recommended.


Hypothyroidism is caused by a deficiency of the hormone that is produced from the thyroid gland.  Some of the symptoms are lethargy, obesity, weight gain, low levels of energy and even the drooping of the eyelids.

The fur of the pup can also fall out and the skin will become tougher and darker. The treatment is medication in the form of a daily thyroid replacement that is usually taken for the duration of the dog’s life.


Megaesophagus is a disease that causes the esophagus to dilate and lose its tone.  This will then make it difficult for the esophagus to normally function and can even prevent the dog from swallowing properly.

Dogs that have megaesophagus will tend to regurgitate food before it even reaches the stomach. The disease is usually treated with diet and medication, but it can sometimes hard to manage.


Paronychia is a condition that affects the dog’s toenails and causes the pup to then chew on his feet.  It can be genetic or merely occur with dogs who have their nails trimmed on a regular basis.

The toenail becomes mushy around the inner core which attracts bacteria and causes a foul odor. One or more toes can be affected by the condition and the outer shell of the dog’s toenail will eventually fall off completely leave the quick exposed.

Treatment is needed to help the dog from being in pain.  Diet and the removal of allergens can help while in more serious cases, the toes will have to be amputated.

Vaccination Sensitivity

Irish Water Spaniels will sometimes be very sensitive to routine vaccinations.  The symptoms include facial swelling, lethargy, and even soreness.

In extreme cases, a dog can die when having vaccinations sensitivities.  Just keep an eye on your pup after has any routine vaccinations.

Should You Purchase Pet Insurance For Your Irish Water Spaniel?

In the case of this breed, the answer is a definite “yes”.

You might be very lucky and your dog won’t inherit any of the above conditions.  But, what if your Irish Water Spaniel even develops some of the minor conditions mentioned?

The cost of treatment can be very high and even up to $15,000.  And that can be for just one condition.

With pet insurance, you would only have to pay up to 90% of the bill which can be a huge relief both emotionally and especially financially.

Make sure that you enroll in a plan that covers hereditary or genetic conditions.

Most of the top providers, like Healthy Paws, Petplan and Embrace will always cover these and even more conditions.

With a breed like an Irish Water Spaniel, that can develop some of these conditions at a very young age, it is especially important to purchase insurance when they are young and before any pre-existing conditions develop.

There aren’t any pet insurance providers that cover pre-existing conditions.

Look for plans that are more comprehensive in nature because they cover all accidents and illnesses.  You want to be covered for whatever condition or illness that might occur.

Wellness plans are another option for preventative care costs, but really not worth the extra money.

Pet insurance will allow you to always take great care of that special Irish Water Spaniel of yours and he or she is worth it.

If you are looking for a new pet insurance company for your Irish Water Spaniel or any pup you might have, our top 10 pet insurance companies is a great place to start!

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