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Let's Be Honest......

There are health issues surrounding every breed of dog. Some breeds have more than others. The havanese breed has a few health concerns that you should read up on before making the educated decision to add one to your family. 

We've all seen what happens to other breeds when their breed clubs are reactive instead of proactive with health issues or when the popularity of the breed explodes and breeders are out to meet the demand for puppies without any regard to the breed's health. This is when the breed's general state of health declines.

With that in mind, the Havanese Club of America has set criteria as to what health tests must be done to all dogs used in a breeding program to receive a CHIC number (see paragraph below). As of the basic health tests are annual eye examinations, BAER testing (hearing), patellas (knees) and hips certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, better known as OFA. 

These test results, if registered with OFA can be verified online at All you need is the dog's registered name and the test results will be available. Look at each test's result....hips for example, have ratings. If the dog in question has had all four tests registered with OFA the dog would also receive a CHIC number (canine health information center) which can be verified at Again, look at each test's result.

If, for some reason, the breeder has not registered the tests results with OFA obtain copies of the test results before going ahead and adopting the puppy. Do not accept that 'those health problems don't exist in my lines' as an acceptable answer. No one can honestly make that claim.

Currently we just don't know exactly how some of these issues are inherited Until we know for sure, we feel that health testing breeding dogs is just one way to help in keeping these problems from becoming a serious health issue. 

The HCA has a web page on havanese health. The data and pass/fail percentages seen on their health page only correlate to those havanese owner's who have submitted results to OFA. Most breeders submit only those tests with passing results so therefore, the percentages that are posted on the OFA website are skewed*. A perfect example of skewed results is the Legg Calves Perthes health test. It is a young puppy disease (generally 6 months to one year old). OFA hip xrays are used for this test but..... the xrays are taken on dogs 2 years old or older. Therefore, those dogs with Legg Calves Perthes are not having their hips rayed for OFA purposes. I know of numerous havanese puppies that have had this disease, including one of our own. Did we have her x-rayed at 2 years old so we could submit the results to OFA? No, we know from her earlier x-rays that her hips are not 'normal'.

*(The only test where veterinarians submit data independant of havanese owners is CERF, so those results are reliable.) CERF has been discontinued and eyes are now OFA certified only.

We here at Gilwood strongly believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a heck of a lot more than a pound of cure.

You may think 'well, what's my one little puppy got to do with health testing... why would it be important to me'. Read our story below.

We've have had our own health issues crop up.

Our bulldog Axel, was an adorable pet shop puppy. We learned the hard way why buying from a pet store is not a good idea (besides the fact that they obtain their puppies from commercial breeders, also known as puppy mills). Bulldogs normally range in weight up to approximately 55 pounds. Axel high weight was 84 pounds! He was a big, tall boy. Since we had not seen his parents we had no idea he would get this large. Axel had his anterior cruxiate ligament repaired (expensive knee surgery) at one year old. He also had continual skin allergies and extreme dry eye, requiring eye drops twice a day for the rest of his life, which limits his vision. Since we got him from a petstore we had no way to contact his breeder to see if these health problems were in his background. We don't even know if his parents were health tested. And we had no one to 'hold our hand' through these health issues.

The hard truth is that we didn't do our research... we bought him using our hearts and not our heads. We fell for that doggie in the window and because of that we have paid for him many times over in veterinary bills.

On the other hand, one of our havanese girls, as a 6 month old puppy, developed Legg Calves Perthes (necrosis of the femoral head). She was fortunate in that we were able to treat her with acupuncture instead of major surgery. Medical consensus is that this disease is genetic in nature so she was been spayed. Her breeder was with us for the entire time, encouraging our decisions and was a major source of comfort. Our open communication...letting her know what was going on with the health of one of her puppies... helped her to make necessary adjustments in her breeding program. To this day she continues to show us the true meaning of being an ethical breeder and we value her knowledge and advice.

Yes, unfortunately two of our dogs have had health issues. But from our experiences we know just how important it is to have a good relationship with your puppy's breeder. You can have an real effect on the future health of generations of dogs by keeping the lines of communication open between you and your breeder. Your one little puppy can make a big difference.

Mother nature has her own agenda so please keep in mind that even with all the testing in the world a breeder, in good faith, can not guarantee you a healthy dog for life. Health testing certainly gives you a good head start and that combined with a breeder you feel comfortable with, makes all the difference in the world.

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