WHY HEALTH TEST
One of the goals here at Mi Casa is to breed healthy, happy havanese. My love and passion for these wonderful dogs keeps me on course. Our dogs are extensively health tested for known health problems in our breed. The results, good or bad, are sent to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and I believe we all need to be 100% open and honest about the results. Why would we release the results if we donít pass a test you might ask? Because we know what the alternative is if we donít.
Several breeders, including myself, have purchased havanese that wound up with major health problems. So we know how it feels to discover a serious problem with your dog; it knocks your breath away. It is possible that some of these problems might have been prevented if health testing was done and/or if the knowledge was shared as openly as it should be.
In the not so distant past, breeders were shunned if word got out that they produced a dog with a problem. Instead of working together to help find the cause and possibly eliminate the problem, breeders either didnít test or if they did, they didnít tell, this is known as the Breeders Code of Silence. Because of the silence many breeders didnít know what health issues they were breeding into their lines.
Many times people will choose a dog for breeding because they are winning in the show ring or performance ring. They take the awards they've received or the ribbons and trophies they've accumulated to mean that these dogs are "top quality dogs". And the breeders must be exceptional breeders, right? Just look at all the champions they are producing. If these dogs are not fully health tested before they are used for breeding, they could be introducing something dangerous into the gene pool.
Breeders canít see defective genes but that does not mean they arenít there. Not all dogs are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. Unfortunately some breeders place more importance on the outside beauty of the dogs they breed because it is something that is ďrealĒ, it can be seen and rewarded. And financially it is much easier as well. You donít need to have x-rays taken or pay for special testing. You donít have the inconvenience of packing up your dogs, or a litter of 8 week old pups, and driving several hours to see that special veterinarian. You can use your eye to evaluate your dog to know how they compare to the AKC breed standard but your eyes can't see what is inside.
There are breeders who really care about this wonderful breed. But what can and sometimes does happen to those breeders that openly discuss the problems in their lines? They can be looked at and labeled as ďpoor breedersĒ with defective dogs. They are talked about and looked down on by some other breeders.... especially those who are not concerned, too cheap, or donít really care enough about the future of this breed to even test their dogs. So the breeder who has the courage to honestly discuss their dogs becomes the black sheep. Instead of being applauded for choosing to share this information, they are made to look as though they are not good breeders. Because it is human nature to want to be liked and part of the group, there are some breeders who will maintain the code of silence. And so the cycle begins again.
Refusing to test for genetic defects does not make them go away. In fact it has the opposite effect; it helps the defective gene take hold in the breed.
The cost of health testing may be high, but look at the cost if we donít test.....dogs that will not have the quality of life that we want them to have.
Granted, we are dealing with living, breathing creatures, and testing for these health disorders wonít give us a guarantee that we wonít produce a dog with a problem. But testing will sure stack the deck in our favor, and reduce the chances of producing a problem. And that is a great place to start.
Being an ethical breeder is hard work, physically, emotionally and financially, especially to develop a breeding program that incorporates health testing. But it is the passion and love of this breed that drives us, that and the hope of a better future for the dogs. It is our respect and commitment to each other as breeders, and to the dog, that we will not keep the silence and will work towards breeding the best havanese that we can, in conformation, temperament, and health.