Pack breeding early in its development led to a level of genetic variation, so the hereditary conditions of more popular breeds are not common in the AWS. The breed however is known to suffer from eye issues including cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy. Inheritance is suspected in both conditions, with the average age of cataract onset at under a year old.
Additional concerns are hypothyroidism, allergies, epilepsy, diabeties and glandular disorders which may cause baldness. The hair loss occurs at around six months of age, affecting the neck, thighs and tail; however the frequency has been reduced through work conducted by the breed clubs. Hip dysplasia is seen in around 8.3% of the breed, according to surveys conducted by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals over a twenty five year period between 1974 and 1999. This was one of the lower results of the sporting breeds, with Greyhounds coming lowest with 3.4%, and the related Boykin Spaniel coming in second highest at 47%. There was no evidence of elbow dysplasia found. The breed has an average life span of 10–13 years.
Read more about this topic: American Water Spaniel
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