Breed Health Information

The Schipperke is a robust, hardy little dog with few health problems and very few conditions where there is a known or suspected hereditary component. Like all living creatures, Schips slow up with the years and can develop some of the ailments of old age, such as arthritis but it is not at all uncommon to find dogs living healthy, active lives well into their teens and even beyond.

In the last few years, the health of pure-bred dogs has been in the spotlight and the UK Kennel Club requested that each recognised breed appoint a health committee to examine health issues in the breed. The Schipperke Club appointed Ian Millar to act as the named health co-ordinator and chair of this committee and health matters are now discussed at every meeting of the Club’s full committee.

In common with every breed, the new Health Committee had two initial tasks from the Kennel Club; to scrutinise the Schipperke Breed Standard in order to ensure that it did not call for any feature which might affect health adversely and to nominate the three health conditions most commonly encountered in Schipperkes.

After deliberation, the Health Committee concluded that the Standard did not specify any feature which might compromise health or lead to exaggerations in conformation. The Schipperke is a “natural” canine shape and there was no evidence of health risk stemming from the dog’s basic structure as demanded by the Standard. In the event, the Kennel Club made one minor change and the Standard now describes the hindquarters as “lighter” than the forequarters as opposed to the original “finer”.

Three health conditions were specified, MPSIIIB, epilepsy and Legg Calve Perthes Disease, although it must be stressed that none of these conditions is by any means prevalent in the breed.

MPSIIIB is a serious degenerative disease affecting the neurological system. It usually manifests itself between the ages of 2 – 4 years with early symptoms of muscle weakness, tremor and loss of co-ordination. There is no effective treatment and affected dogs are usually put to sleep before they become incapacitated. At present, there have been no cases of affected animals in this country but dogs carrying the mutated gene for the condition have been identified here after testing via mouth swabs or blood samples.

An article by Dr J. Sampson on breeding to ensure that this disease is not perpetuated, appears elsewhere in this section of our web-site. The Club’s Code of Ethics has now been amended to require breeders to test stock for MPSIIIB before mating and an open register of test results has now been set up and maintained on the Club web-site. With care, co-operation and openness, it is entirely possible that the threat of this condition can be eradicated from UK Schips in the foreseeable future.

For more detailed information on MPSIIIB and testing, see .

EPILEPSY in varying degrees of severity is found in Schipperkes from time to time. As in humans, there is thought to be a hereditary element in at least some forms of epilepsy but at present, the pattern of transmission is unclear. A longitudinal study on epilepsy in Schips is currently underway at the University of Finland in Helsinki and the UK Club has been involved in providing buccal swabs and some blood samples from our dogs. It will be some time before a report is published but ultimately, any findings will be reproduced on this web-site. Dogs affected by epilepsy can, if the condition is not severe, be treated with anti-convulsant medication and with careful management, can live a relatively normal life. Again, it must be stressed that this disease appears to affect only a very small percentage of Schips.

LEGG CALVE PERTHES DISEASE is primarily seen in smaller breeds of dog and is a disease of the hip joint which results in deformity of the ball of the joint. Most affected dogs show symptoms of pain and lameness before their first birthday and if untreated, increasingly severe inflammation and arthritis are likely to result. Surgery to remove the head and neck of the femur [the longer leg bone] is the only effective treatment and the prognosis is good provided that rehabilitative therapy is followed. At present, the causes of this ailment are not fully understood but it is suspected that heredity may well play a part. Dogs’ hips can be x-rayed under anaesthetic or sedation after the age of approximately 9 months to check for irregularities or inflammation which may be indications that the disease is present No animal found to be suffering from this illness should be used in breeding.

In 2009, the Schipperke Club conducted a survey of breed health by means of a questionnaire sent to all UK Club members. The response rate was disappointing, less than 20%. A second short survey was carried out in 2014 but sadly, this had an even poorer response rate. Nevertheless, despite the limitations of these two exercises, the picture of a healthy little breed was largely confirmed.

The Kennel Club web-site [www.] lists on its “health test” section all individual test results received and recorded by the Kennel Club from a British Veterinary Association / Kennel Club Health Scheme or an official Kennel Club DNA testing scheme. In addition, the Breed Watch section of the web-site identifies any points of concern on health matters in specific breeds. No points of concern are currently listed for Schipperkes.

The Club has a code of ethics which follows the blue-print issued to all breed clubs by the Kennel Club. The purpose of the code is to ensure that all breeders and owners strive for the highest standards of care and husbandry at all times.

If you have concerns about any aspect of the health of this breed which you consider should be brought to the attention of the Health Committee or require more information on any health matter, please feel free to contact the Health Co-ordinator.