The Havanese is a healthy little dog with a life expectancy of 12 – 15 years, or longer. Each individual breed has specific health issues that they may be predisposed to and the Havanese is not any different. Although the majority of Havanese experience few significant health issues it is imperative that you research thoroughly and choose a breeder with care to ensure that you are getting a quality puppy from a reputable, ethical breeder who tests their breeding stock regularly against heritable disorders. Of course this is not a guarantee that these issues will be completely eliminated but careful health testing can help to minimize problems.
Of the genetic hereditary disorders that we currently know Havanese to be prone to, these are the most common:
Cataracts: Cataracts can develop at any age and can cause blindness or may grow slowly and never actually progress to blindness. Annual eye examinations are highly recommended for early detection and treatment
Cherry eye: Cherry Eye occurs when the base of the gland embedded in the cartilage flips up and is seen above and behind the border of the third eyelid. This condition frequently occurs in both eyes and is most common in young dogs. Although this condition has not been proven to be hereditary, some breeds are more predisposed to it than others. Surgery can be performed to anchor the gland and cartilage back into place however a relapse can occur.
Liver shunt: The livers most important function is to clear toxins from the blood. A liver shunt occurs when a portion of the blood bypasses the liver and goes directly to the heart. A build up of toxins can cause neurological signs and symptoms can include loss of appetite, lethargy, weakness & disorientation as well as seizures. The shunt may be kept under control with diet or surgery may be a possibility depending on the location of the shunt
Heart disease: Heart disease may start at an early age or not appear for several more years. Symptoms may include lethargy, sudden weight loss, coughing, shortness of breath or fatigue. Early diagnosis is essential so treatment can begin as soon as possible
Neurological disorders: Epilepsy has been diagnosed in the Havanese but is still relatively uncommon with the most evident symptom being seizures. Treatment for epilepsy may include medication to control the seizures
Hip Dysplasia: Although hip dysplasia occurs more often in medium and large or extra large breeds, small breeds like the Havanese can develop this health issue as well. The only way to reduce the occurrence of hip dysplasia is to get breeding dogs tested. Only parents that have been tested and found to be free of hip dysplasia should be used in a breeding program since puppies born of parents with dysplasia are much more likely to develop HD than those born to healthy parents.
Legg-calve Perthes: This is another disorder of the hip joint and is most often seen in miniature and toy breeds between the ages of 4 months and 1 year. LCP has been shown to have hereditary components and has been found occasionally in the Havanese.
Patella Luxation: The patella , or kneecap, is part of the stifle joint (knee). In patella luxation, the kneecap dislocates or moves out of its normal position. This is a common condition in dogs, especially small breeds. Animals can be affected as early as 8 weeks but usually becomes evident between the ages of 4 to 6 months.
Deafness: The Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test is used to determine canine deafness. Each ear is tested individually and the test usually takes 10 – 15 minutes to complete. Responsible breeders should have their puppies BAER tested prior to placing them in their new homes. Both parents should also have been tested prior to breeding and if either of them is even unilaterally deaf, they should be spayed/neutered.
Thyroid Deficiency: Hypothyroidism is a common cause of skin and hair problems. Possible symptoms may be dry brittle hair, thinning coat and hair loss, dry flaky skin, cool skin, skin infections, weight gain even though food consumption has been reduced, lethargy and fatigue, irregular heat cycles, infertility, inconsistent bowel movements, heat and cold sensitivity and excessive skin pigmentation. A blood test will determine if there is a deficiency and thyroid replacement therapy will be required for the remainder of the dog’s life.