Havanese Health Information

While there are several health issues in the breed, from the research done by Texas A&M Univeristy for the Havanese breed, Chondrodysplasia appears to be linked to other serious health issues, such as 1. Heart anomalies and premature aging of the heart valves 2. Liver problems and 3. cataracts. Because of this, I have chosen to provide information about Chondrodysplasia, because I believe that MOST of the health issues in the breed, are associated with Chrondrodysplasia. My background in nursing has helped me understand and realize that the information about Chondrodysplasia is just the tip of the iceberg in most of the health concerns in the breed. What we have discovered, is that there is lots of chondrodysplasia in the Havanese breed. From an HCA study done in '05 it was shown that 1 out of 3 Havanese may have CD. Many breeders continue to breed this disease which is only going to make the statistics higher yet. CD is characterized by the premature and/or uneven closure of the growth plates, causing a front leg or both legs to grow crooked or bowed. This is not a good thing and it is NOT part of the Havanese AKC standard. Chondrodysplasia or 'CD' is seen in many breeds of dogs, and interestingly enough is the fact that those same breeds share eye problems, liver problems and heart problems much like the Havanese do.

The gene was found and it is a DOMINANT gene, NOT an autosomal recessive. This means if one parent has the gene, he/she can and will pass it on to some of the offspring. Both parents do not have to carry the gene, just one!

*To read the research findings of Dr. Keith Murphy from TAMU,
published in the Journal of Heredity, regarding the Havanese,
please Click Here.

Being one of the breeders that has been actively breeding away from CD for many years now, by NEVER breeding a Havanese that displays CD, I and others have learned that it appears to act like some sort of AR gene, but not quite as simply. Even being 3 generations out on both sides of the pedigree, has proven to occasionally produce a puppy with CD. It's frustrating and discouraging, but I feel very hopeful for a brighter future now with the Havana Silk Dog Association of America bringing to the table for HSD dogs, a very strict criteria through their unique registry which requires an evaluation process by certified HSD evaluators, to rule out any CD, before being allowed in a breeding program.

Not surprisingly, since breeding away from the bowed, heavier boned (CD) Havanese, we are not seeing cataracts, liver problems or premature aging of the hearts in our Silk Dogs!

These pages are not intended to give breeding advice to anyone. I have provided
this info because I felt it was important to share what is known so far about CD. No one has
all the answers; certainly not me. This is meant as an educational tool only.

Over the years, I've had many people call me or email who did not buy their Havanese from me but were worried and shocked, when they bathed their young dog, to realize one of both front legs was bowed. As I mention below, all CD is not a death sentence and many CD dogs can live a pretty healthy normal life, but it appears that many of their life expentences are shortened somewhat. Still, the years that you do love and own them can be good ones, so don't panic.

If you are a person who is looking into buying a Havanese (or an Havana Silk Dog) in the future please do your homework and ask even demand to see soaped picture of the parents forelegs before you put any money down on a puppy or consider purchasing it. Even this is not a 100% guarantee, but it sure ups your odds of getting a healthier pup.

While some of this information (below) may seem foreign and confusing at best to many people,
I have provided what is known about this disease for those who care to learn about it. If you are
lost by it's contents, I apologize, but I hope you'll at least try to read thru it and at the very
least, click on the link at the bottom of this page to see the pictures of CD that I have provided,
as those are a valuable learning tool also. Perhaps after seeing the pictures, some of the content
on CD (below) will be easier to understand.
And please visit the Havana Silk Dog Association of America's webpage and
and read about the Arizona Conundrum, as that will help explain the two types seen in the breed.
Thank you.

Canine Chondrodysplasia

Chondrodysplasia punctata (often referred to as CD) is the name given to a group of
multisystem, metabolic disorders of skeletal development, primarily characterized by
mild to moderate growth deficiency, short stature, and bilateral or asymmetric shortening
and/or bowing of the legs. (Chondrodysplasia means, literally, faulty cartilage,
and punctata refers to the punctate calcifications seen in the epiphyseal cartilage.)

Chondrodysplasia is generally considered to have a genetic basis.

There are many symptoms associated with chondrodysplasia- the skeletal/orthopedic
problems that characterize it, ocular problems (cataracts, retinal abnormalities,
lens luxation (detached lens), microphthalmia (small eyes), nystagmus (involuntary,
rhythmical, repeated oscillations of one or both eyes) and glaucoma. Other symptoms
are various skin problems including patchy alopecia (hair loss), abnormalities
of the skull and trachea, short necks, hearing loss, and patellar (knee) luxation are
all known to be associated with the disease. Some forms of CD are also associated with
various organ abnormalities, primarily the heart, liver and kidneys.

Chondrodysplasia is usually part of a syndrome; in other words, all dogs may not have all the
associated symptoms, but will probably have more than one symptom.
Symptoms range from very mild (slight asymmetry or bowing of the legs)
to severe, which is pretty easily recognizable, and is often associated with multiple health
problems. Severely affected dogs may require extensive (and expensive) orthopedic surgery to correct various
skeletal problems, usually before a year of age.

What causes chondrodysplasia?

Very simply, all forms of CD have one thing in common: an error in the biosynthesis of
cholesterol in the liver. (Most of the cholesterol necessary for normal body function is produced
in the liver.) How can this cause problems in bone? Our pilot study revealed that the CD
Havanese tested had abnormal blood levels of several sterols in the cholesterol chain that are
critical to the synthesis of Vitamin D, while the straight-legged Havs did not. Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium in the body. Bile acids produced by the liver as the end product of normal cholesterol biosynthesis are necessary for the absorption of all four fat-soluble vitamins- A,D,E, and K- and fatty acids. These vitamins are critical to both normal bone development and eye health. Although a dietary excess of cholesterol is unhealthy, too little cholesterol is life-threatening. Insufficient cholesterol in a developing fetus is responsible
for multiple congenital defects, including CD.

The important thing to remember is that Chondrodysplasia, with few exceptions is a symptom of a genetic disease. It is a metabolic disorder, much like Type I diabetes - a faulty gene causes a disruption in a metabolic pathway necessary for normal health.

Chondrodysplasia has been identified by veterinarians and orthopedic specialists in many
Havanese, in fact, it is all too common in this breed, whose Breed Standard has ALWAYS
called for straight legs. (In fact, the earliest HCA Standard specifically faulted bowlegs.)

In many breeds, chondrodysplasia is part of their standard, and is critical to Breed Type.
Dachshunds, Corgis, and Bassett hounds are some examples of CD breeds,
but this is not true of the Havanese. The earliest HCA Standard written for the
Havanese breed in this country ( January, 1982) described a dog that was slightly longer
than tall, with straight forelegs, standing no more than 10 1/2 inches at the shoulder, and
weighing no more than 13 lbs. Compare that to the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, whose standard
calls for a curved forearm, a height range from 10 1/2 to 12 1/2 inches at the shoulder,
and a weight range from 25 to 38 pounds. The Corgi is a CD breed; the Havanese is not.

Of concern to Havanese breeders and potential owners should be the fact that, to date, all of the
early-onset blinding cataracts, and nearly all of the other serious health problems reported
in Havanese within the past few years, have been in dogs that also exhibit the symptoms of CD.

Because of the apparent connection between cataracts and chondrodysplasia, HEART, in
association with Dr Keith Murphy and his team at Texas A&M, has supported
research into this disease. Page 2 on Chondrodysplasia

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