The Havana Silk Dog is an exceptionally healthy breed, on average living well into the teen years. The Havana Silk Dog Association is very proud of the fact that it is one of the few registries in the world that has established a certification process for registration that requires all breeding dogs to pass designated health clearances in order to register a litter. This is not because we have a large number of health problems in the breed, but rather because we desire to AVOID any health issues from becoming a problem in the future. Being pro-active and screening all breeding dogs for potential health issues will go a long way toward preserving the health of this wonderful breed.
Pro-active health starts at the litter level, with all 8 week old puppies being screened for congenital patella and cardiac function. Later on, after 12 months of age, breeding dogs are also screened for hips, patellas, cardiac, and eyes and submit soaped photos. They also have a DNA profile recorded and submit DNA to the CHIC DNA Repository for research purposes and must also have an OFA BAER# to prove normal hearing. Below is a description of each health screening that is performed in order to help prevent problems from developing in the breed.
Patella – screening for luxation due to poorly formed joints. All puppies are screened prior to sale for congenital patella luxation. Breeding dogs must have patellas rechecked after a year and submit the results to OFA.
Cardiac – all puppies are screened prior to sale in order to assure there is no evidence of congenital heart defects. Congenital heart defects are extremely rare and no Silk has ever required heart surgery for a congenital heart defect. Breeding dogs must have a cardiac screening after one year of age, with results submitted to OFA. Annual screening is strongly recommended for ALL dogs. There has been some evidence of mitral valve disease in older, neutered dogs. OFA statistics report 100% normal cardiac screenings as of 5/2011.
BAER – most, if not all, breeders screen their puppies for hearing prior to their leaving for their new homes and all certified (breeding) dogs are screened. The incidence of unilateral hearing is extremely low and there is no incidence of bilateral deafness in the breed. OFA statistics report 99.7% normal hearing as of 5/2011.
CERF- all breeding dogs are screened for vision. There is no evidence of vision impairing disease in the breed.
Hip Dysplasia – poorly formed hip joint that may lead to osteoarthritis in older age. No evidence of osteoarthritis has been observed in the breed. Radiographs of older dogs’ hip joints have shown no significant osteoarthritic changes. OFA statistics report 88.7% normal hip screenings as of 5/2011. Consultation with OFA has revealed that we are seeing looseness in the hip joint but no degenerative joint disease (true hip dysplasia). Looseness can be caused by hormones, sedatives used during radiographs and also by improper radiographic technique, thereby actually forcing the joint out of place. There have been no reported cases of arthritic hips even in old age; rather, the breed has proven to be active and mobile into the teen years.
Soaped Photos – It is impossible to evaluate the structure of a dog through a long coat, therefore it is critical to look at the dogs structure, which requires taking pictures of the dog when wet with the hair slicked to the body. Doing this allows for the evaluation of straight legs, proper proportions, shoulders, structure and angulation of the dog. All certified dogs are required to provide soaped photos.