Health Surveys

Since the breed was recognized in 1996, the Health Committee of the Havanese Club of America, Inc. has sponsored two large general health surveys (one in 2004 and a second one in 2012). In 2017, a third more focused survey was conducted to precisely evaluate the longevity of the breed and in 2018-2019 a fourth survey was conducted to better understand the leading causes of early mortality in the breed, whose existence was suggested by the 2017 Longevity Survey results.

Another survey (The Search for the Oldest Havanese) was conducted in 2022 to understand with better statistics the extreme upper end of the breed’s longevity curve.

In 2023 and 2024 data was accumulated on HCA membership’s thoughts and practices in vaccinating for Leptospirosis. This was conducted in part to address concerns associated with adverse reactions from the very early versions of the vaccine. The data has been analyzed and a report from the committee is available below.

Now spanning two decades, these surveys suggest that the Havanese breed has remained healthy overall, with a natural lifespan of about 15 years. As with any breed, there are inherited diseases that affect Havanese, but we are fortunate that most of those problems are non-life-threatening. Our most recent surveys however point out the need for watchfulness, especially as dogs progress through their middle years, to proactively address issues which may impact quality of life in old age. Through diligent health testing protocols that are guided by these regular surveys, Havanese breeders hope to continue maintaining the health of the breed.

The reports from the 2004 and 2012 General Health Surveys, the 2017 Longevity Survey, the 2018-2019 Rainbow Bridge Survey, the 2022 Search for the Oldest Havanese) and the 2023-2024 Leptospirosis Survey are given below.

The 2023/2024 Leptospirosis Survey

A short survey was conducted in 2023 and early 2024 to reveal the HCA membership’s current understanding of and practice regarding the use of the Leptospirosis vaccine on Havanese, and to compare it with our current knowledge of the disease and vaccination protocols, their efficacy and the potential for adverse reactions. Valid knowledge of the nature of the infection, the risk of exposure, and the consequences of vaccination are key to making the correct decision for your dog. This is especially true because a recent report suggests we should expect a continuing rise in the infection rate in the United States in coming years. The two-page Executive Summary contains a brief synopsis of the quantitative findings and conclusions presented in the full report but does not contain the underlying references and sources of information. Link to Executive SummaryThe full report provides a more complete overview of the bacteria-borne disease – Leptospirosis – and the history of the development of its vaccines. It describes the mechanism(s) for primary exposure, and the post-symptomatic mechanisms of transmission (renal and GI) following treatment and it discusses the 2022 AAHA and 2023 ACVIM recommendations for vaccination.  The overview is followed by a synopsis of three modern (through 2015) veterinary studies (containing about 1.4 million dogs), that measure both the types and the rates of adverse reactions to the vaccine.  A recent (2022) study on the effectiveness of marketed vaccines is presented, as well as another recent study on the duration of immunity.  Finally, the report contains the breakdown of the responses to the Leptospirosis survey itself, conducted in 2023/2024 to evaluate the membership’s knowledge of and practice with respect to addressing the disease.

Link to Full Report

The 2022 Search for the Oldest Havanese


Who is the Oldest Havanese ?   The Health Committee of the Havanese Club of America, Inc. conducted an informal survey to get a better sense of the actual upper end of the lifespan of Havanese.  Click on the following link to view the results of the survey: HCA Survey to Find Oldest Havanese PDF

2018-2019 Rainbow Bridge Survey

The 2018-2019 Rainbow Bridge Survey is a new and more detailed follow-on survey that is distinct from the 2017 Longevity Survey.  One of the surprising results of the 2017 Longevity Survey was that while most Havanese will typically live to 15 years or older, about 20% of males and females appear to die much earlier than the rest of the population – closer to about 9½ years of age.

The new 2018-2019 Rainbow Bridge Survey compiled information about the deaths of 156 dogs provided by the members of the Havanese Club of America, Inc. and the broader community of Havanese owners. The new survey has been able to isolate the most frequent causes of death as a function of age and sex within the Havanese population and also explores correlations with the canine’s lifestyle and spay/neuter age.

Indeed, it provides a detailed picture of all the most commonly occurring health issues in the breed and their individual contributions to the lifetime distribution of males and females. This information allows us to define what we call the “natural lifespan” of Havanese.

Evidence is presented for distinct differences between males and females, both in the frequency and age of occurrence of certain categories of diseases. These differences explain the observations of the 2017 Longevity Survey: namely, that one or more health issues are sufficiently prevalent to lead to a lifetime distribution wherein a modest portion of the population succumbs at an age well below the natural lifespan of Havanese.

The Health Committee would like to recognize the owners of all the dogs that have been included in this survey, for taking the time to participate in and to provide detailed information about the health and lifestyle of their Havanese. For while they have passed over the Rainbow Bridge, their legacy is now being preserved. The information compiled in this report, will no-doubt prove invaluable for developing more effective testing protocols which may result in the improved quality of life for many dogs.

You can read the Executive Summary of the 2018-2019 Rainbow Bridge Survey Report at the following link:  Executive Summary

You can view the full Rainbow Bridge Survey Report at:  Rainbow Bridge Survey Full Report

For questions about the survey results, please feel free to contact one of the authors:

Dr. Rafe H. Schindler:
Sara Dellorto:

2017 Longevity Study

The Health Committee of the Havanese Club of America gathered data in the last quarter of 2017 to estimate the longevity of today’s Havanese and the age distribution of older-living Havanese. The survey includes data on 512 Havanese, largely from HCA members. The results of the survey have been analyzed and can be found by clicking on the link below. For your convenience, a brief summary has been included at the beginning of the report.

Link to 2017 Longevity Survey Report

If you have comments or questions, feel free to send them to Rafe Schindler, (Chair of the Health Committee)

2012 General Health Survey

The 2012 Survey To download and review the document… click here.
1721 Dogs
68% Owner and 32%  Breeder
44% Male and 56% Female

2004 General Health Survey

The 2004 Survey Part 1    Overview and Results
719 Dogs Part 2    Results (cont)
46% Male and 54% Female Part 3    Results (cont)
Part 4    Appendices
Part 5    The Survey