The members of the Havanese Club of America (HCA) serve as the guardians of the breed. To fulfill that role, we take pride in proactive health testing to monitor and maintain the health of the breed.

The HCA participates in the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) program through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).  CHIC is a centralized canine health database which promotes health testing and reporting of results for all purebred dogs. In order for a dog to receive a CHIC number it must have breed specific health tests performed.  The HCA has decided that for a Havanese to receive a CHIC certificate, the owner must provide results for three distinct tests:  OFA  hips, patellas and an annual eye exam(CAER).

Since the original intent with the CHIC program was to simply encourage widespread testing and the open disclosure of results through the OFA database, dogs do not have to pass the required testing in order to obtain a CHIC number.

In 2007, the HCA Health Committee (HC) developed the Top Paw Health Awards in order to further encourage maintaining the health of the breed.  For the HCA Top Paw Health Awards, the club elected to set the bar higher, and require that dogs must pass all tests in order to qualify.  In addition, higher award  levels were added to the Top Paw Awards to recognize those breeders who went above and beyond the minimum health testing requirements recommended by the HCA.

A brief description of the history and current award levels

  • The TOP PAW Awards were first put in place in 2007 and serve to encourage health testing by HCA members. The awards are given to HCA members only.
  • The revision effective Jan 1, 2016 simplifies the structure while reinforcing the intention of the award.
  • Health test results must be submitted to the public OFA database.
  • The first level or GOLD Award is for those dogs that pass the HCA’s current CHIC requirements.
  • The three CHIC requirements are:  OFA-CAER, OFA-Hip, and OFA-Patella.  Originally, OFA-BAER was included as a 4th required test but this was removed in 2022 (see below).
  • The second, or Platinum level is for passing and recording one or more additional OFA supported health tests  beyond the current CHIC requirements, in the year of the award. Additional OFA testing for the Platinum award may include Cardiac, LCP, Elbows, CD, and Thyroid.
  • The third or Titanium award is for older dogs that have passed and recorded the CHIC required testing at age 7 years or older.
  • The fourth or Diamond Award is for older dogs who previously received the Titanium Award and have current Cardiac and CAER results submitted to OFA.
  • The original stud dog, brood bitch and breeder awards have been eliminated in the revision of 2016.
  • Paper certificates will be available at the HCA National Specialty for the HCA member/owner of each dog who has qualified and applied for the award. HCA members/owners will also be recognized as the annual awards will appear prominently on the HCA HC webpages.
  • In 2017 a clarification was made to the testing qualifications for the Platinum and Titanium awards.
  • In November 2019 the HCA Board approved the creation of an annual award (The Top Paw Recognition Award) to be given to the HCA member that applies for,  and subsequently receives the greatest number of TOP PAW awards (adding up the four TOP PAW categories) for a given year.
  • In May 2022 the HCA Board approved the removal of the OFA-BAER test requirement from the CHIC, owing to the small incidence of deafness in Havanese. The OFA implemented the change in early June 2022.
  • In November 2023, the HCA Board approved the creation of a fourth Top Paw Award (Diamond) on a two year provisional basis. The Diamond Award provides us a way of tracking the health of the older Havanese population.

Notes on Top Paw Awards

  • The GOLD award now consists of passing of the three tests required for CHIC (CAER, Hips and Patella). Passing of CHIC by both parents at the time of breeding is required for listing in the HCA Breeder Referral List.
  • The Gold, Platinum, and Diamond awards may be earned annually.  The Titanium Award is a one-time non-recurring award for each recipient.
  • The Health Committee will review and confirm the information on the Top Paw Application forms.
  • Before testing, check with your veterinarian to determine the correct age for testing and for any special requirements.  In general:
    • Cardiac — Dogs must be 12 months or older to the day, at the time of examination.  Cardiac tests performed are only valid for 1 year.
    • BAER test can be performed as early as 6 weeks.
    • Patellas – Dogs must be 12 months of age or older.
    • Hips, Elbows, LCP — Dogs must be 24 months of age or older at the time of the radiography.
    • Thyroid testing  is typically performed annually after one year of age, and every 2 yrs after 4 to 5 yrs.
    • Dogs over age 7, the CAER exam must be performed once on or after their 7th birthday.
  • All tests must be submitted to OFA and be available as part of their public database and in particular the CAER number must be current (exam must be performed in the award year).
  • Passing results are required on all tests (ie: a dog is issued an OFA certificate for each test) except the Diamond Award.
  • Havanese must be owned or co-owned by HCA members in good standing during the award year. The HCA member must complete the award submission form if the co-owner is not an HCA member. It is not necessary to be an HCA member when testing is performed.
  • Additional Tests:
    • OFA BAER: Deafness in Havanese has been shown to be very rare.  It is associated with the piebald gene.The BAER test was a fourth requirement of the CHIC until 2022 when deafness was shown to be very rare.  It is however, not uncommon for dogs to lose hearing with age as the natural progression of their tissue development. The Health Committee encourages the testing of young dogs once for BAER and submitting the results to the OFA. Because hearing is genetic, the Health Committee believes that one should not breed dogs that do not pass BAER.
    • OFA Cardiac:  The Health Committee (HC) recognizes that cardiac is relatively rare in the breed;  we wish nevertheless to monitor the incidence  by encouraging the broadest base of knowledge through testing and reporting to the OFA. Tests now include both  Basic Cardiac and Advanced Cardiac. The former is performed after a dog has reached one yr. of age.  Advanced (formally called Adult Onset)  has been added in 2016. Both are performed annually. OFA Basic Cardiac currently may be performed by a veterinary cardiologist, other specialist or general practitioner. OFA  Advanced Cardiac must be performed by a ACVIM/ECVIM Cardiology Diplomate.
    • OFA Orthopedic testing: The occurrence of Elbow Dysplasia and OFA Legg-Calve-Perthes (LCP)  are both  fairly rare in the breed but testing and reporting will provide a useful means of monitoring.   OFA Elbow can be performed at the same time as OFA Hips, required for the CHIC.  OFA-LCP certification is available at no cost if a dog has received a passing hip grade and the owner sends in the appropriate form to OFA after receiving that passing hip certificate.
    • OFA Thyroid:  while non-life threatening, auto-immune hypothyroidism is believed to be a heritable condition and the HC encourages its monitoring through periodic testing and submission of results to the OFA.
  • The Platinum award is given to dogs passing CHIC who have also passed and had recorded any of the additional approved health tests conducted in the same year for which the CHIC is awarded. For the first time Platinum award applicants, in addition to CHIC, we will accept any of the additional approved health tests conducted in previous years, that have been passed and recorded, to qualify for a first Platinum Award.
  • The Titanium Award is a one-time non-recurring award for each living recipient.  It may be applied for in any year following the dog’s 7th birthday when it has passed CHIC.  To qualify for the Titanium award we will accept additional testing conducted in any previous years after the recipients 7th birthday, provided it has been passed and recorded.
  • The Diamond Award is an annual award for dogs that previously received the Titanium Award and have current CAER (eye) and Cardiac (performed by cardiologist) results uploaded to the OFA database. For the Diamond Award, the dog does not have to pass the eye or cardiac exams, but simply make the results public. We are aware that some conditions are simply indicative of the aging process and will not exclude these dogs after age 7, if they were clear to receive the Titanium Award.

The Top Paw Recognition Award

Beginning with the TOP PAW 2019 cycle, an annual award is to be given to the HCA member that applies for, and subsequently receives the greatest number of TOP PAW awards (adding up the three TOP PAW categories) for a given year.  The award will be designated “The Top Paw Recognition Award.”  The award given to the HCA member who submits the application(s) shall be a $100 credit towards the purchase of one or more tickets to any HCA sponsored events at the National Specialty Show held in the year that follows the year in which the Top Paw Awards were earned.

  • HCA ticketed events include the pre-ordered receptions, dinners and banquets, pre-ordered breakfasts and lunches, and any seminars and classes, as are available at the National Specialty Show held in the year that follows the year in which the Top Paw Awards were earned.
  • In the event of a “tie” in a given year, the total award value will increase by $50 for each additional winner, then be divided equally amongst the winners.