Canine leukocyte adhesion deficiency (CLAD) is a rare inherited disease that affects Irish Setters. There has been at least one documented case of CLAD in a mixed-breed dog, but in general this is a disease of Irish Setter dogs. CLAD affects the immune system, rendering infection-fighting white blood cells virtually useless.
Patients with CLAD will have recurrent bacterial infections throughout their lives. Though the infections will respond to antibiotic therapy, shortly after finishing a course of medication, infections will return. Affected dogs usually show signs at a very early age, and sometimes even at birth. They might present with an infection at their umbilicus (belly button) and progress to gingivitis, joint infections, and sores that do not heal.
Affected patients have plenty of white blood cells, and blood work will reveal their high numbers, but unfortunately, due to a genetic defect in the way the white blood cells function, they are unable to travel to the site of infection to do their work.
CLAD is an inherited disease, and the mutation that causes it is recessive, meaning that an affected dog would have had to get a copy from both his mom and his dad. Clearly, a dog with CLAD should not be bred, but dogs who are just carriers for the disease will have no clinical signs, and might therefore be bred. If two carriers are bred, pups with CLAD can result.
CLAD is devastating because it is invariably fatal, and usually at a young age. Currently, there is no practical treatment for the disease, although research is ongoing. There have been some developments in the area of gene therapy and stem cell therapy that are promising, and our hope is that a cure is on the horizon.
In the meantime, genetic testing is available for Irish Setters to determine if they are carriers for this deadly disease. If you are purchasing or adopting an Irish Setter puppy, insist on seeing test results for both the sire and the dam.