By Dr. Beth Engelbert, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
The Havanese is a dog breed of contradictions. It is an old breed but newer to the American Kennel Club. Though unknown to many, it was the U.S.’ 23rd most popular breed in 2016. From the tropical island of Cuba, they are enshrouded in a long double coat. Originally owned by aristocrats, this is a playful, spritely family dog.
It is believed bichon-like dogs were brought to Cuba shortly after Christopher Columbus discovered it. Due to limited trading, the Havanese developed in the tropical climate without the influence of other dogs. With soft, silky fur, this dog soon became a favorite with Spanish aristocrats. Eventually, the Havanese entered the homes of the working class.
With the Cuban Revolution, however, many people fled the country. Only select members of the upper class were able to leave with their dogs. Most of the Havanese of today stem from the 11 who escaped. Since then this breed has flourished.
Known once as the Havana silk dog or the Spanish silk poodle, it is obvious that the coat of the dog is one of its treasured features. Both the under and outer coats are light and silky to the touch. This thick coat actually insulates and keeps the dogs cool in warm climates. While most Havanese are seen with soft, flowing coats, it is permissible to allow the coat to develop into cords. Both coats need regular grooming.
The “springy” gait in the Havanese is due to a short upper arm in contrast to the angle of the rear legs. The legs, however, are straight viewed from any angle. Havanese are actually active dogs with free movement. In recent years, some breeders are trying for slightly longer legs, including the forearm. Considered a separate breed, these are referred to by the old name of Havanese silk dogs.
The Havanese is a relatively healthy, long-lived breed as some live more than 15 years. While breed-specific diseases are uncommon, the Havanese Club of America recommends health monitoring to track any problems in the breed. Eye testing, hearing testing, and heart monitoring are recommended. Havanese should also have their thyroid function monitored.
The Havanese may develop orthopedic conditions seen in other toy breed dogs. Luxating patellas, hip dysplasia, and Legg-Calves-Perthes Disease are a concern. Chondrodysplasia — or dwarfism — is abnormal in this breed despite the short legs.
Havanese may develop a disorder with the oil glands called sebaceous adenitis. Severity varies, and lifelong management is often needed.
While Havanese are healthy, little dogs, it is still important to look for breeders that are conscious of health and temperament. Once you found that perfect breeder, get ready for your next happy, fun new friend.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.