The Havanese is a generally healthy breed with susceptibility to few major genetic health problems. Unfortunately, there are still somewhat limited possibilities of health issues that any potential Havanese puppy buyer should be aware of before purchasing their puppy.
It is important to research your breeder and ask questions. A responsible breeder will only breed the very best offspring to be sure to not perpetuate any health problems. In some situations, health testing can help with this, but in the end a responsible breeder will know their own dogs well enough with or without testing to make the best decisions for the future of their breed.
The following four health conditions are not common but have occurred in the Havanese breed, and you should make sure to discuss them with your breeder! Often times, the newer the breeder is the more common problems like these can occur.
What is patellar luxation?
Patellar luxation is a knee joint abnormality that occurs most commonly in toy and miniature dog breeds, such as the Havanese. Female dogs are more likely to have the abnormality than male dogs. It is usually the result of a congenital abnormality.
When a dog has patellar luxation, their patella (kneecap) moves out (luxates) of its normal location. Signs include sudden lameness or abnormal gait. Patellar luxations are graded from I – IV based on severity, and depending on grade, it may lead to other health issues, such as torn cruciate ligaments and arthritis.
How is patellar luxation diagnosed?
Your veterinarian will diagnose it based on physical examination and x-rays.
How is patellar luxation treated, and what is its prognosis?
Surgical repair may be recommended by your veterinarian depending on the grade. If surgical intervention is required, prognosis is generally good as long as surgery was performed before further knee injury or damage. While patellar luxation does not affect lifespan, it may affect quality of life due to pain or decreased range of motion.
For most Havanese who have minor to moderate patellar luxation, by two years of age they will have outgrown it and will not require surgical intervention.
What is elbow dysplasia?
Elbow dysplasia is the result of several different developmental abnormalities of the elbow joint. It can occur in any breed, but is most common in large or giant dog breeds such as the Labrador Retriever.
Signs of elbow dysplasia may show at an early age, as young as a few months old, or may not show until the dog is several years old. Front limb lameness is the first sign of elbow dysplasia and worsens over time. The lameness is generally worse after exercise but does not completely resolve with rest. Often both forelegs are affected.
How is elbow dysplasia diagnosed?
Elbow dysplasia will be diagnosed by your veterinarian using physical examination and x-rays, and possibly other forms of radiology imaging.
How is elbow dysplasia treated, and what is its prognosis?
Surgery may be recommended, but in milder cases management through medication and therapy may be the preferred course. Regardless of treatment course, the earlier the intervention, the better the recovery and outcome. However, any injuries caused by the elbow dysplasia prior to treatment, such as arthritis, cannot be resolved through the surgical or medical management of the elbow dysplasia itself.
Prognosis depends on severity and intervention. For example, early surgical intervention will have a better outcome than late surgical intervention. Elbow dysplasia does not affect a dog’s lifespan but may affect his quality of life.
What is Legg-Calve-Perthes disease?
Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is also known as avascular or aseptic necrosis of the femoral head. The head of the femur suddenly starts degenerating, and over time this degeneration leads to collapse of the hip and arthritis. Legg-Calve-Perthes disease occurs most commonly in toy breeds and terriers. Signs generally show before a year of age.
While a genetic cause of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is suspected, it is not confirmed. In fact, the exact cause of the condition is unknown.
The first sign of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is gradually worsening limping on the affected leg. Eventually, the dog will be unable to bear any weight on the leg. Generally, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease only affects one hindleg. Loss of muscle mass on and discomfort when handling the affected leg are both signs of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease as well.
How is Legg-Calve-Perthes disease diagnosed?
Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is diagnosed by x-rays.
How is Legg-Calve-Perthes disease treated, and what is its prognosis?
Mild cases of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease can be managed with medical therapy, but severe cases may require surgical intervention. Surgery will involve removal of the femoral head, a surgical operation known as femoral head and neck osteotomy (FHO). Total hip replacement may be an alternative to FHO, but both surgeries have similar outcomes.
Dogs with Legg-Calve-Perthes disease will require medical management long-term.
What is portosystemic shunt?
Also known as a liver shunt, portosystemic shunt occurs due to an abnormal connection between the portal vein (a vein that collects blood from the pancreas, spleen, and gastrointestinal system, and carries it to the liver) and another vein, allowing blood to bypass (shunt) around the liver. In most cases, a liver shunt is caused by a congenital abnormality. Rarely, a liver shunt may be caused by severe liver disease such as cirrhosis.
Signs of a liver shunt include poor development, abnormal behaviors, and seizures. You may notice your dog acting disoriented, and he may suffer from stunted growth. Some dogs may not show signs until they’re older, when they’ll begin to develop urinary problems.
How is portosystemic shunt diagnosed?
Your vet will diagnosis a liver shunt based on physical examination and tests such as a complete blood count (CBC), a bile acid test, and/or a urinalysis. Other tests may be required to confirm diagnosis.
How is portosystemic shunt treated, and what is its prognosis?
A liver shunt may require lifelong alterations to diet and lifestyle, as well as medications. Severe illness may require further treatments. Surgery may be an option as well, but is only a possibility in certain shunts.
Many dogs improve with diet changes and medication, however more than half of dogs will require humane euthanasia within ten months of diagnosis due to behavioral changes, neurological issues, or liver damage. Dogs diagnosed at an older age tend to have a better prognosis.