Health & Testing Guide

More than 25 years after AKC recognition, the Havanese is generally considered a healthy breed with relatively few serious health concerns identified. The most common issues that arise are described in the sections below.

The Havanese Club of America, Inc. (HCA), as the AKC Parent Club for Havanese, serves as caretaker and protector of the breed. To fulfill that role, we take pride in a proactive health program led by an active Health Committee functioning in an advisory role to the Board of Directors (BOD) and the membership, on matters related to the health and welfare of the Havanese. The Health Committee also makes recommendations to the BOD about investments in research studies sponsored by the Canine Health Foundation.

The HCA participates in the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) program to promote testing and reporting of health test results for the Havanese breed. CHIC is a centralized canine health database jointly sponsored by the AKC/Canine Health Foundation (AKC/CHF) and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).

Testing required for a Havanese to receive a CHIC certificate is determined by the HCA. It currently includes OFA Hips, OFA Patellas and annual CAER exams. It is not necessary for the Havanese to pass those tests as the intent of the CHIC program is to simply encourage widespread testing and the open disclosure of results through the OFA database.

HCA encourages Havanese breeders to use the OFA database to research the health pedigree of dogs prior to breeding. This provides an outstanding research tool for performing searches on individual dogs and also links health testing results of the dog’s related pedigree information (Parent, Offspring, and Sibling) , when those related dogs have been health tested.

For potential Havanese owners, using the OFA database to explore the health of a puppy’s parents and ancestors can be instructive. The HCA requires its members to have CHIC certificates for the parents of puppies listed on the HCA Breeder’s Directory.

To further encourage testing and the recording of results with the OFA, the Health Committee sponsors several award programs for its members. These are the annual TOP PAW Awards and TOP PAW RECOGNITION Awards. (add hyperlink to the TOP PAW tab). Perspective puppy owners can easily check whether an HCA Breeder has acquired one of these awards for the sire and dame of the litter. While the CHIC is required, HCA Breeders are not mandated to participate in the TOP PAW program, but do so for the added recognition.

It is fair to assume the vast majority if not all breeders have good intentions, as no one sets out to breed unhealthy dogs. Each breeder faces similar challenges as they work to translate good intentions into producing healthy puppies. Appropriate utilization of available information along with a continued commitment to health testing and research will ensure that we meet our common goal ‘to encourage and promote quality in the breeding of purebred Havanese’.
Please contact the Health Committee if you have questions or concerns about Havanese health.

Index to Common Health Issues, Testing, and Prevention

OFA Companion Animal Eye Registry (CAER)

  • OFA certification of the eyes  is one of the three tests required for the Havanese to get their CHIC number.  It is required to be repeated annually.
  • The OFA CAER exam is designed to screen dogs for diseases of the eye that have been proven or are suspected to have a heritable- genetic component. This is an exam that should be performed yearly on every Havanese before it is bred.  This exam must be performed by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist; a general practice veterinarian cannot perform the examination.
  • Albeit at low incidence, Ophthalmic diseases that can been seen in the Havanese breed include cataracts, prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid (cherry eye), retinal atrophy, retinal folds, distichia, persistent pupillary membranes, and vitreous degeneration.
  • More information on the OFA CAER exam can be found at
  • To find a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist in your area, please go to


  • OFA-BAER test is no longer required for CHIC because its incidence is so low. It is now one of the recommended additional tests for younger dogs and counts in the TOP PAW Awards program.
  • OFA certification of hearing is only performed once at age 6 weeks or older.
  • The only way to test hearing is with a BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) test.  A veterinary neurologist using special equipment administers the test.  The test is quick, and is performed in each ear separately. Most often the test can be administered without sedation, even in young puppies.
  • Hearing problems in Havanese are generally seen to be very rare.
  • To learn more about deafness in dogs and to find a veterinary neurologist in your area, please go to:


OFA Patella Luxation

  • OFA certification of patellas (or knee caps) is one of the three tests required for the Havanese to get their CHIC number.  It is performed after 1 yr of age.
  • The test is easy and quick and can be done by a regular veterinarian.
  • The  patella normally moves up and down in a groove in the lower femur bone as a dog moves his leg.   Sometimes the groove is shallow, and the patella does not seat deeply enough allowing it to slip in and out of the groove.  When this happens the dog is said to have luxating patellas.  The dislocation inhibits movement, and depending on severity, may cause pain and lameness.  Typical visible indications may be “skipping,” or unwillingness to put weight on the leg.
  • Lateral luxation is generally the result of an injury or trauma (environmental), while medial luxation is generally thought to be inherited.
  • Reputable breeders will test both parents and only breed those dogs passing the OFA test.
  • For more information on patella luxation see

OFA Hip Dysplasia

  • OFA certification of hips  is one of the three tests required for a Havanese to get their CHIC number. The test is performed after 2 yrs of age.
  • Hip Dysplasia is a genetically heritable disease that leads to various degrees of arthritis (also called degenerative joint disease, arthrosis, osteoarthrosis).   The only way to diagnose hip dysplasia is with an X-rays of the hips.
  • The OFA evaluates the x-ray submitted by the radiologist and grades the hips as excellent, good, fair, borderline, mild, moderate or severe.  Ratings of excellent, good and fair are considered normal for Havanese.
  • OFA-Elbow can be performed at the same time as the hip examination at 2 years of age.
  • While orthopedic problems can be exacerbated by environmental components, reputable breeders will test both parents and only breed those dogs passing the OFA test.
  • For more information on hip dysplasia, see

LCPD—Legg Calve Perthes Disease

  • Other diseases of the hip include Legg Calve Perthes Disease (LCPD).  Testing for LCPD is not explicitly required by the HCA to obtain a CHIC number, however LCPD would be detected when X-rays are taken for the HCA required hip certification after age 2. The hip X-ray for a dog with LCPD will not be normal.
  • Legg Calve Perthes Disease is caused by lack of blood flow to the hip. LCPD is mostly seen in the young dog, usually between 4 months and 1 year of age – usually before any other health testing has been done.
  • There are many grades of LCPD from mild to severe.  Treatment depends on the severity of the disease and can range from rest and anti-inflammatory medication to surgery.  Early intervention is important.
  • LCP is believed to be inherited, but the mode of inheritance is not known. Accordingly, reputable breeders will test both parents and only breed those dogs free of LCPD.
  • For more information on LCPD see:

CD or Chondrodysplasia

  • Chondrodysplasia or CD is most recognized as “dwarfism”.  Many people think smaller dogs are dwarf versions of their larger  brothers, but they are not.  A true miniature breed keeps all the characteristics and body proportions of the larger dog.
  • For some breeds that man has changed through selective breeding, such as the Dachshund or Basset Hound, CD is correct for their breed standard.
  • With dwarfism, the physical structure of the dogs has been changed to produce shortened limbs while the body remains the same.
  • The growth plates of the CD dogs close prematurely and sometimes unevenly.  This can cause short straight legs, bowed legs or one straight leg and one bowed leg.
  • The Havanese breed standard mandates straight legs and that feet point forward.  As CD is considered hereditary, dogs with CD should not be used for breeding.
  • For more information on CD see for example:

OFA – Congenital and Adult Onset Cardiovascular Testing

  • OFA Cardiovascular testing is not required by the HCA for a CHIC number but congenital and adult-onset testing are recommended tests in the TOP PAW AWARDS program.
  • The Health Committee strongly recommends annual testing by a professional (auscultation), especially after the age of 5 or 6 years to catch the onset of any cardiovascular problems that may develop as a result of natural aging, and allow pre-emptive treatment that will result in the best possible quality of life.
  • Cardiovascular disease is any condition of the heart or blood vessels that disrupts the normal function of the heart and vasculature to deliver oxygenated blood to the body. Heart diseases can be congenital (exist at birth) or acquired (appear later in life). Many are found to be heritable and these can be both congenital or acquired, however the exact modes of inheritance has not been precisely determined for all forms of heart disease.
  • The OFA has recently expanded the cardiac database to include testing for adult-onset cardiac disease. Testing for the new database can only be performed by a  board certified veterinary cardiologist (ACVIM/Cardiology Diplomates). As before, the congenital test is performed once at 1 year of age, while the adult-onset testing must be performed annually, thereafter. See detailed OFA examination information at
  • While the two health surveys conducted by the HCA suggest that incidence of congenital and acquired cardiac disease in Havanese is relatively small,  the Health Committee has continued to investigate a means of better ascertaining the origin of and degree to which it exists in the breed.
  • An excellent description of heart disease in dogs can be found at:
  • More detailed description of cardiovascular issues can be found at:

OFA – Thyroid

  • OFA Thyroid testing is not required by the HCA for CHIC but is a recommended additional test in the TOP PAW AWARDS program.
  • The thyroid gland produces hormones from stimulation by the pituitary gland. These include T3 (thyronine) and T4 (thyroxine) which are  both are required for a normal metabolism. Hyperthyroidism is caused by overproduction of thyroxine, which increases metabolism.  It is rare in dogs, and most commonly a result of carcinoma of the thyroid. Hypothyroidism results from a lowered production and release of T3 and T4.  Autoimmune thyroiditis, the most common cause of hypothyroidism, clinically manifests itself at ~ 2 to 5 years of age.
  • Symptoms of hypothyroidism are described in:
  • Autoantibodies production is most likely an indication of a genetic form of the disease.  The marker for autoimmune thyroiditis, thyroglobulin autoantibody formation, usually appears prior to the occurrence of clinical signs. The variable onset of the presence of autoantibodies, requires periodic testing. Since the majority of affected dogs will have autoantibodies by 4 yrs of age, annual testing for the first 4 years is recommended and testing every other year thereafter is sufficient. A blood draw by a regular veterinarian is required, and analysis performed  by one of the OFA approved laboratories: The OFA classification is as follows:
  • While treatable and usually  not a life threatening condition, regular testing of both parents can reduce the incidence in the offspring.
  • For more information on OFA – Thyroid  see:

SA – Sebaceous Adenitis

  • The sebaceous glands are responsible for supporting and hydrating the skin and hair follicles. Sebaceous Adenitis (SA) is a disease in which a dog’s body attacks its sebaceous glands causing inflammation and ultimately their destruction.
  • While the severity may vary, the most common symptoms of SA include repeated scratching of the back, sides, or neck, and the onset of hair thinning and loss in that area. SA may however be largely asymptomatic. It is important to remember that there are many more common conditions leading to similar symptoms: these  include food and flea allergies, atopic dermatitis (“hay-fever”), and demodectic mange (mites). Onset of SA symptoms have been documented at as early as 1 year and as late as twelve years of age.
  • SA is a heritable disease occurring frequently in Standard Poodles, Samoyed, Hungarian Vizsla, Belgian Sheep Dogs, German Shepherds and Akitas. Some other breeds including Havanese are also believed to possess a genetic predisposition leading to a low incidence rate (0.8+/-0.2% in the 2014 Health Survey).  Studies indicate that the mode of inheritance in Standard Poodles and Akitas is likely autosomal recessive, affecting both sexes equally. It is not yet known if the same mode of heritability applies to Havanese.  If your Havanese is exhibiting symptoms it should be investigated by your vet. Educating your vet that SA can occur in Havanese may help expedite the diagnosis.
  • As no DNA test is yet available, SA is diagnosed with the help of a histological reference laboratory (typically at a major veterinary school). Given its rarity, your vet will likely first rule out more common skin disorders and allergies by performing tests such as skin cytology, skin scrapes, and food trials. Once these are ruled out, or no longer suspected, your vet will perform a skin biopsy, which will be sent out to be evaluated at a lab. The test itself is described in the OFA link below. The variable onset of SA requires annual testing if this emerges as a concern for breeding particular bloodlines
  • SA symptoms can be treated but the disease itself is not curable;  no specific treatment plan has been systematically demonstrated or proven to be any better than another. It is best managed on an individual basis, working closely with your vet. It may take quite a number of trials and errors to best manage the disease
  • For more information on Sebaceous Adenitis, including the test protocol, click on the following link:
  • For more information and examples of treatment see link below and the Zoetis PDF file.