The Havanese is overall a healthy, happy breed with few health issues, especially
when compared to more popular breeds. In order to continue keeping the Havanese breed genetically
strong, breeders need to be aware of all potential health issues and the
importance of proper testing and certification.
As a breeder,
R'Gang Havanese is very proactive in our stance towards limiting the
proliferation of health issues within our breed. You can help us in this
effort by becoming an informed consumer and insisting on only purchasing
your Havanese puppy from a breeder who health tests. Please support
the best possible future for the Havanese breed!
Heritable cataracts are the
most frequent health problem seen in Havanese. Responsible breeders and
owners should have their dogs' eyes examined annually by an ACVO Diplomate
(American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologist). The exam
results should then be registered with CERF
- Canine Eye Registration Foundation, the Purdue-based organization
that maintains a registry and research
database of information generated by all such examinations.
During the painless procedure, the dog's eyes are
dilated and examined to look for abnormalities. It only takes a few
minutes, costs are minimal and the benefits are enormous.
As a breeder, the annual CERF exam is
the only way to know the current status of your dogs' eyes and to avoid
breeding any dog that fails an exam. As a pet owner, the annual CERF
exam allows early intervention via surgery to correct the cataract while
still operable and to provide the best outcome.
When researching the parents of a litter, it is vital that every potential
buyer verify that the parents are indeed CERFed and that the date of
the exam is within the last 12 months. Do NOT ever take someone's word
that a CERF test is current. Check for yourself. To reach the CERF website
to do your own research, click on the following link: CERF
- Canine Eye Registration Foundation.
Unilateral and bilateral deafness has been reported in the Havanese breed.
Although deafness does not appear as frequently as cataracts, it is
certainly easier to diagnose and control through careful breeding
practices. A one time test known as the BAER - Brainstem Auditory Evoked
Response test is used to confirm the presence of normal hearing or
to diagnose unilateral or bilateral deafness. The test is relatively
painless as electrodes are placed on the scalp of the dog. Then foam
earplugs are placed in each ear to emit a tone. The electrodes measure
the brain's response to that tone and if the dog had normal, bilateral
hearing a nice pattern of waves will be shown on the screen.
Again, the BAER test is not expensive and is painless
for the dog. Holding them still for the few minutes it takes to perform
the test is usually the greatest challenge. A unilaterally deaf Havanese
can still make an excellent pet as they can compensate almost completely
for their lack of hearing in one ear. Although we absolutely would not
breed a Havanese that is unilaterally deaf, some breeders feel comfortable
with that level of risk and do breed them. Of course, the biggest risk
takers of all are those breeders who have no idea of the hearing status
of the dogs they are breeding since they refuse to BAER test. Click on the following link to
locate a BAER testing site near you.
As in many toy breeds, the Havanese can have a problem with their patellas
(kneecaps) "slipping" out of the trough in the
bone where nature intended them to slide. Puppies should be specifically
examined by a vet for this problem prior to being placed in their
new homes. After the age of 1 year, your vet can also check the patellas
and you can submit the test result to OFA
- Orthopedic Foundation for Animals
for certification. OFA certifies the patellas as "normal" or
"abnormal" and also assigns severity grades to the abnormal
. Depending upon your dog's symptoms and the severity of the patellar
luxation problem, surgery may be required. The following link will take
you to the OFA - Patellar Luxation website
for more information on patellar luxation.
Havanese rarely have a problem with hip dysplasia. Although
not a widespread issue, it is still recommended that all dogs have hip
x-rays done prior to breeding. After the age of 2 years, OFA
- Orthopedic Foundation for Animals will
grade these x-rays and will issue an OFA certificate to those who
pass. Passing grades include Excellent, Good and Fair ratings. OFA
also assigns a Borderline rating as well as Dysplastic (abnormal)
ratings of Mild, Moderate and Severe. If a breeder plans to breed
a dog prior to the age of 2 years, it is recommended that a prelim
hip x-ray be done and evaluated. The following link will take
you to the OFA - Hip Dysplasia website
for more information on patellar luxation.
Although the Havanese breed has several well-known and frequently-used
sires who have a hip rating of fair, we see little focus from breeders
to improve hip health. The average hip rating in our breed is "good"
or better and OFA recommendations for improving hip health within a breed
involve breeding only dogs whose hip rating is at or above the average
rating for the breed. They also recommend looking at the number of fair
ratings within both the depth and breadth of your pedigree before
choosing to breed a dog. Even though we've not ever produced
a dysplastic dog, we're committed to continual improvement of
hip health here at R'Gang Havanese. We simply intend to keep it that
way if at all possible by being diligent in this area and "bucking the
trend" in our
Another skeletal abnormality seen rarely in Havanese is Legg-Calve-Perthes
(LCP). The same x-rays used to evaluate hips can also be used to evaluate
the dog for LCP. If a breeder first has the hips evaluated by OFA,
they can then use that OFA number to have the x-ray evaluated for
LCP. In my opinion, this is an easy opportunity for breeders to screen
their dogs for yet one more potential health issue.
Misc. Skin Problems
Skin and coat issues tend to be more of a cosmetic nuisance than a true
health issue, but can run the gamut from poor coat quality and dandruff
to sebaceous adenitis (SA), which is basically an inflamation of the sebaceous
glands. Relatively little is known about SA, even in breeds who have been
studying SA for years. In some dogs, SA is more of a cosmetic issue while
in others it may present along with additional disorders (such as Cushings
Disease) which can complicate the situation. While a skin punch biopsy
is the "gold standard" in confirming SA, I don't see much value
in it as a screening tool to rule out SA. Breeders who claim a dog to
be free of SA on the basis of a one time biopsy are only fooling themselves
Heart murmurs are reported within our breed and we make it our practice
here to have OFA Cardiac Exams performed on our dogs. We do these every
two years or more frequently for our older dogs. In general, I find
that owners whose Havanese do indeed have cardiac issues do not report
that publicly on OFA, so I feel these problems are understated in our
breed. Hopefully at some point our parent club will include cardiac
testing on the list of tests required to receive a CHIC number or
health related award from HCA.
An article was published awhile back stating
Havanese was one of the breeds who had a very high incidence of liver
issues. We were surprised as that was not something borne out by our
club's health survey, the health foundation's ongoing research or by
personal experience by most breeders.
In looking at the data used for
the article, it was found that the author used data only submitted
through veterinary school clinics, which often require a referral (and
a serious situation) in order to be seen there. The resulting numbers
that came in for Havanese represented a very small population of the
breed...so small that it was statistically meaningless. Nevertheless,
you will read on some websites that all Havansese should have an SA320
blood test (paired bile acids) as a way to screen out liver disease
prior to breeding. This claim is simply not borne out with facts.
Antech labs (who run the SA320) states in their documentation that both
the sensitivity and specificity for this test is low in both areas and
that there are many factors which can influence test results. In
addition, as part of the health foundation's research, SA320s were run
on over a hundred Havanese and did not seem to relate at all to liver
disease in Havansese who were otherwise asymptomatic. The same Havanese
could have the SA320 test run several times within a week or two and
would have vastly different results from the labwork. Some results
would be in the normal range, others would be abnormal.
If this test
were used for routine screening in our breed, it appears that some
Havanese who do not have liver disease would be labelled wrongly as
having a problem and other Havanese might be seen as being normal when
in fact that is not the case. What problems that could cause for
breeders who are simply trying to do the "right" thing. Again, at this
time I do not perform this test, nor do I recommend it as a screening
tool. Of course, if your Havanese is small for its age or if it
exhibits other signs of liver abnormality you should check first with
your vet to see if this is part of further testing that may be needed.
Other Less Frequent Health Problems
All of the following have been reported but are less frequent than the
issues I have mentioned above. Although they are less frequently reported,
their severity can have a much greater impact on the health and quality
of life for the dog. These problems include:
- Cushings Disease
- Thyroid Problems
- Kidney Dysplasia
Also known as CD, this is basically a form of dwarfism in which the growth
plates in the legs close prematurely causing short, bowed and/or asymmetric
forelegs in the Havanese. In and of itself, CD is NOT a disease, but rather
a skeletal abnormality. It is theorized however that a cluster of problems may sometimes accompany CD . Research
into this is in the very early stages, but you can learn
more at the HEART website, which serves as the health foundation for
the Havanese breed.
A "Healthy" Breed???
I suppose by now, after reading all of the above, you may be wondering
how the Havanese are often referred to as one of the most healthy breeds.
Be assured that we have simply covered all possibilities and that the
overwhelming majority of R'Gang Havanese live long,
happy lives ranging up to 15 years of age. When obtained from a reputable
Havanese breeder, your Havanese puppy will fulfill your every dream
of the perfect family dog!
When your family comes home, eagerly run to greet them.
Always gaze lovingly into their eyes and be ready to cuddle.
Do your best to pay attention and practice obedience.
If you make a mistake, look as cute as possible!
Be ready for a spontaneous joyride.
Go for the ecstasy of having the wind in your face.
Always invite your friends, the more the merrier!
Take long naps near the people who love you.
Wake up in a great mood.
Run, romp and play at every opportunity.
Give plenty of attention and encourage people to hug you.
On sunny days, lie on your back in the grass.
On hot days, drink lots of water and lounge under a shady tree.
When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
When you're scolded, quickly forgive and be ready to try again.
Remember your past, but fill today with I love you.
Celebrate the simple pleasures of walking with a friend.
Notice what you are eating and insist on the best.
Stop when you've had enough.
Always be loyal, but spread the love around.
Never pretend to be something you're not.
When you want what's buried, go ask your Mom to get it for you.
When someone is having a bad day, sit close and nuzzle
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a contract of any kind. As such, any information contained herein
is subject to change without notice.