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Are Havanese Healthy Dogs? What Veterinarians Say

If you are the lucky pet parent of a Havanese, you may be wondering if there are any health risks you should be aware of. This article will explain everything you need to know.

While Havanese are generally healthy pups that live long and happy lives, there are a few medical conditions they are prone to developing like luxating patellas and cataracts.


Are Havanese Healthy Dogs?

Havanese dogs are generally healthy, but they may be at a higher risk for certain medical conditions due to their small size and genetics.

While not all Havanese will develop the conditions discussed in this article, it is important for owners to be aware of the potential risks associated with the breed.

Being aware of these potential risks can help you stay on top of their overall health and stop developing illness in its tracks.

Another way to ensure your pup’s health is by choosing a reputable breeder when adopting or purchasing your pup and keeping up with annual veterinary exams. 

Recommended read: When do Havanese go into heat? Full guide

8 Health Issues Havanese Are Prone To

Just as some humans can develop inherited diseases, our Havanese friends can as well. Hopefully, your pup will be free of any medical complications, but to be safe, let’s introduce you to the health issues your Havanese pup can develop. 

1. Luxating Patellas

Patellar luxation is extremely common in Havanese dogs, as well as other small breed pups. This condition refers to the abnormal alignment of the knee joint, causing the knee itself to dislocate with certain actions. 

When the knee falls out of place, this will lead to discomfort and lameness in severe cases. A Havanese with patellar luxation may skip when they walk, limp on the leg, and even hold the leg up to avoid using it. 

If your Havanese is experiencing discomfort from their condition, there is a corrective surgery that can resolve the issue. Mild cases can be managed with approved pain control, but every case will vary. 

2. Juvenile Cataracts

In a healthy canine eye, the lens is transparent and allows light to reach the retina with ease. When a dog develops juvenile cataracts, the lens becomes cloudy, interfering with normal vision as the condition worsens. 

Most dogs can develop cataracts as they get older, but Havanese are at risk of developing juvenile cataracts. This is an early-onset case of cataracts, often requiring corrective surgery to preserve their eyesight. 

3. Liver Shunts

Congenital portosystemic shunts (liver shunts) are a serious medical condition that is somewhat common in Havanese and other small breed dogs. A liver shunt refers to the abnormal development of the blood vessels that transfer blood through the liver, causing the blood to bypass the liver and enter systemic circulation. 

The liver acts as a filtration system for the body, helping to remove chemicals and other wastes from the bloodstream. When the liver does not function as it should, this can lead to a toxin buildup within the body. The liver also helps the body absorb nutrients properly, leading to stunted growth in many pups with liver shunts. 

Severe liver shunts can cause toxins in the bloodstream to reach the brain, resulting in seizures and other abnormal neurological symptoms. Havanese puppies with a liver shunt may appear disoriented, frequently stumble, head press, and even seize. 

A liver shunt will need to be diagnosed at your vet’s office through specific blood work. Many cases of liver shunts can be managed with diet changes and medication that manages the development of toxic bacteria within the intestines. 

While some cases can be managed with a proper diet and daily medications, the most curative option is corrective surgery to close the shunt. This is an intricate surgery, often requiring your Havanese to see a specialist. 

4. Cherry Eyes

Cherry eye is a condition that refers to the prolapse of the gland within the third eyelid. This causes a red lump to protrude from the eye, giving it the condition its signature name. Cherry eyes will vary in severity, ranging from a small red mass in the corner of the eye to a large lump that blocks their vision. 

Not only can cherry eyes affect your Havanese dog’s vision, but they can impact their normal tear production. This makes it a serious threat to their ocular health, making it so important to seek immediate care when they develop. 

Cherry eyes can be resolved with two forms of corrective surgery, with some dogs requiring daily eye drops to prevent dry eye after their surgery. Once your Havanese is diagnosed with the condition, your vet will determine the best plan of action. 

5. Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

Legg-Perthes disease is a condition that refers to the deformity of the hip ball joint. Havanese pups with this condition will experience decreased blood flow to the femoral head of the femur, causing the bone to die off and become deformed. 

This process leads to severe arthritis in the hip joint, eventually leading to pain and lameness. This condition can be passed down from dog to dog or can occur as a result of injury. 

Corrective surgery to remove the femoral head of the femur (FHO) is the best way to resolve the dog’s pain and help them live as normal of a life as possible. 

6. Hypothyroidism

The thyroid in dogs is responsible for regulating the body’s metabolic rate. When a Havanese has hypothyroidism, the body’s metabolism will slow down. This can cause a slew of health complications, ranging from weight gain to skin infections. 

Hypothyroidism can be diagnosed with bloodwork at your vet’s office and can be managed with daily medication. When managed properly, this condition can be kept at bay for the remainder of your dog’s life. 

7. Cardiac Disease

Cardiac disease can come in many forms. Each form of cardiac disease can impact blood flow and function of the heart muscle, resulting in an array of serious medical complications. 

Cardiac disease in Havanese dogs can cause a heart murmur, respiratory difficulties, lethargy, decreased stamina, fluid in the lungs, fluid in the abdomen, and more. The best way to diagnose this in your Havanese is by visiting your veterinarian, where they can perform a series of diagnostics. 

Cardiac disease cannot be treated but can be managed with daily medication. Following your vet’s guidance can offer your Havanese additional time, as well as added comfort. 

8. Deafness

Congenital deafness or early-onset deafness is relatively common in Havanese pups. While this is undoubtedly life-altering for a dog, most tend to adapt well with hand signals and proper training. 

Deafness can be diagnosed by your dog’s veterinarian, as well as tips for offering them as normal a life as possible. 

Recommended Read: Can Havanese Live In Hot Weather? 8 Tips To Keep Cool

Preventing Health Complications In Your Havanese

If you have the pleasure of loving a Havanese, you may wonder how to prevent the medical complications we discussed above. While there is no set way to prevent the development of these issues, there are ways to lessen the possibility. 

Some of the best ways to prevent medical complications in your Havanese include:

  • Purchasing or adopting your Havanese from a reputable breeder that screens their breeding adults for the conditions listed above. 
  • Staying up to date on annual exams and preventative care
  • Keeping an eye out for any abnormal symptoms and having them checked as soon as they develop. 
  • Offering them a quality diet that is approved by your veterinarian
  • Keeping them at a healthy weight

Recommended Read: Why Is My Havanese Limping? Causes & What To Do: Vet Tips

Life Expectancy Of Havanese

When keeping up with your Havanese’s health, most can live a long and happy life of 12 to 15 years of age. Even if your Havanese develops any of the conditions we mentioned above, many can be managed long-term with proper care and guidance from a veterinarian. 

Final Thoughts

Not every Havanese will develop these potential complications, but it’s always best to be aware of them. Be sure to review the information we discussed above, and you can offer your Havanese pup the healthiest future possible!

Be sure to check out many of our other Havanese Articles on The Puppy Mag!


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.