Dog trains man

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hovawarts and health


We all worry about our dog's health. What about Hovawarts? What conditions do they fight with as a breed?

The focus in breeder circles is on hip dysplasia, osteochondrosis, thyriod problems and livershunt. Breeders have been quite successful fighting these conditions and Hovawarts are in general very healthy dogs. Yet it is difficult to double-check what breeders say, as the database where all the information is kept cannot be accessed publically.

Lets look at what could harm your Hovie. It is not only what breeders are occupied with, you should worry about. As large, furry and deep-chested dogs, Hovawarts are also prone to bloat and - yet in a far less degree - to skin infections. Although they are not on a breeders short list, they pose a real risc you should know about.

Bloat

Bloat is a condition where the stomach is twisted around. The blood supply is cut off. Stomach contents and gas cannot leave. This is extremly painful for your dog. And if surgery is not performed immediately, it is fatal.

As a deep-chested and large breed, Hovawarts are prone to bloat and every responsible Hovawart owner should have it on the top of his list. As always prevention and proper detection are key.
  • Never eat and excercise within the same hour
  • Elevate food and water bowls
  • Make sure your dog doesn't eat to quickly
  • Limit water intake with meals
  • Feed smaller meals throughout the day instead of all in one meal
There is some doubt that elevating the food and water bowls and limiting the water intake actually helps. For the latest info see these articles of Roxanne Hawn on Champion Of My Heart blog: Prevention update, and on K9cuisine.com's blog: Risk Factors and Canine Bloat.

Symptoms to detect bloat are:
  • Stomach distending, even ending up the size of a football
  • Dribbling, as no saliva can be swallowed
  • Attempts to vomit but cannot bring anything up
  • In severe pain
  • Pale gums and tongue
If you see the above happening, you have only minutes - yes, minutes not hours - to get your dog into surgery.

Skin conditions

The thick coat of the Hovawart can make them prone to bacterial skin infections. It is important after a swim or a bath, to make sure their coat is dried properly with a hair dryer. Wet spots below their thick fur can start to smolder and can cause infections like staphylococcus.

It is easy to prevent. And would it happen, easy to cure. But it is painful and discomforting for your dog and something you want to prevent.

Back to breeding

As mentioned in the introduction, Hovawarts are not fighting fierce battles for health as some breeds do. Like syringomyelia with King Charles Cavaliers, hip dysplasia with German Shepherd Dogs, cancer with Swiss Mountain Dogs or bloat with Great Danes. Breeders have been quite successful to sustain Hovawarts as - in general - very healthy dogs.

Of course breeding "standards" in itself are no guarantee the odds are not against you. Viva, my Hovawart, has spondylosis (a form of osteoarthritis) and Shiloh had hip dysplasia already on a young age.

The obvious

If the above list is not enough, there are of course the obvious dangers - for any dog - in your direct environment. Rabies. Heartworm. Kennel cough. Parvo, etc. They can be taken care off with preventive medicine and vaccinations. Standard vet practice it seems, but I don't think so. You should investigate what riscs are involved in your area, and if the standard vaccination program is balanced correctly. Like I assess Leptospirisos is underestimated in the area we are living in Denmark, and vaccination is not standard. Lorie A. Huston wrote this article on the Pet Health Gazette that can help to make up your own mind: Canine Leptospirosis: Vaccination Pros and Cons.
A good vet updates you also about changes in the local conditions. Like last year we had an incident where the French heartworm (vasorum) was diagnosed with a dog in our area for the first time. Our vet was so responsible to send a letter to all her clients warning about this apparant risc. Kenzo was tested the following week, and had already been infected with the heartworm. Luckily we found it early on, and still had a chance to cure him. That was a scare.

Anything else?

Promise to take care of your Hovawart for me. Next to breed-specific, pay extra attention to bloat and skin conditions. And don't forget to look over your shoulder for everything else.
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26 comments

  1. Interesting post. Somehow I didn't think hovies were that big!

    Bloat :( I would add to that list that smaller meals throughout the day are better than 1 big one. The elevated bowls - We used to raise the food bowls but read somewhere that it was better on the floor. Sigh. Confusion!

    How very lucky that you have a good vet and that the heart worm was caught early in kenzo :)

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  2. Our dog is a mix breed of unknown origins, so we don't have any breed specific diseases to look out for. We did have our own health issues, including mild bloating and skin problems and we always went to the vet to have her cured.

    Thanks for sharing this, not only as information for Hovawart owners, but also as an advice for pet owners to take responsible care of their pets.

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  3. Enjoyed your post--it was very informative! Our older dog (he's 11+) was recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which was found after he was slow to respond to treatment for demodectic mange. I think this was more a function of the aging process rather than a breed specific problem. Toby is truly a mutt, but a lovable one!

    t's always good to have a vet that stays on top of the latest treatments and outbreaks--Kenzo was very fortunate!

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  4. I got Riley from a reputable breeder that tested all her breeding dogs for hip scores and Riley still ended up with hip dysplasia. Very informative post! Thanks!

    Elyse and Riley

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  5. @Georgia
    Good tip about taking multiple small meals, I updated the post with your recommendation.
    We were truly lucky with Kenzo. The French heartworm can be fatal and can lead to internal organ damage before you start seeing the symptoms. He is a dog with 9 lives :)

    @Lavi
    Dogs from unknown origins are both stronger due to their larger gen-pool, yet it is always a question what gens they actually took with them and could come back to hunt them. Glad to hear you take so good care of your dog. As a dog owner we should be prepared for anything no matter the breed, and you are doing just that. Kudos.

    @sagechronicles
    You are absultely right. Some breeds are more prone to specific diseases, no breeds (or mutts) are immune for any disease.
    We were lucky with the vet indeed. I have added it on my shortlist of questions might we need another vet (or move): "do you follow/update on local outbreaks and treatments?"

    @Elyse
    Love all that you have done for Riley helping him with his hip dysplasia. Anybody that doesn't know your blog (I shouldn't brag, just found you through the recent pet blogger challenge) have a look and follow Riley in his life and his fight against hip dysplasia.

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  6. Oh, such a key topic - thanks for the post! It's so important for people to educate themselves on what their dog's breed is susceptible to so they can be prepared! As you pointed out, it can be the difference between life and death.

    I recently found a breed encyclopedia on PetMD and was very excited because the entries include potential health problems.
    Well, Kenzo is my first Hovawart friend but I thought that's just because I'm not all the that cosmopolitan so I went to the site (http://www.petmd.com/dog/breeds) to read up on Hovawarts and they aren't listed! Not fair. Do you have any recommendations for a breed encyclopedia?

    -Chandra at Daley's Dog Years

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  7. I didn't know that about Kenzo and heartworm. I am so glad he emerged from it okay! When we adopted Shiva she had kennel cough, not uncommon for a shelter dog. Fortunately, she had gotten through the worst of it and after a few more weeks of medication she was okay. But it is something that goes around our city so we try to be careful.

    Bloat is another major concern. Shiva eats very very fast. We have elevated her food bowl on a home-made stand but I am not positive this is enough either. Since we tend to feed most of her meals through training sessions, on walks, and in her Kong, I try not to worry too much about this but it is on my mind. One can't do too much to prevent such a scary situation. I just don't even want to think about it happening.

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  8. Wow, those are some scary conditions! We really hope we stay healthy and we hope your doggies stay healthy too!

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  9. @Chandra
    Thanks for your nice words and er are glad to be your first Hovawart friend!

    You touched the core of this blog. Information about Hovawarts, other than breeder promotion and diary's of owners, is very difficult to find online. That is why I started this blog. Being a place where people can find unviased information about Hovawarts. There are good site in Dutch and German, because the Hovawart is more popular in those countries. That you don't see the Hovawart in a lot of the online encyclopedia's has a lot to do with the fact the AKC has not recognized them as a breed. Which makes you wonder as they have been around sinch medieval times.

    @Kristine
    Glad Shiva was cured from the kennel cough. I understand you worry about bloat. It is really scary. The best way to prevent is to not eat and excercise with the same hour I think. You are already giving her food in a lot of smaller meals during the day so that is good.

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  10. @Trixie
    LOL I was thinking the same when the blog was finished: "This is depressing". When you see it all listed out it is like you feel sick in all kinds of places :)

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  11. Bloat is our biggest worry! We keep a chart on the fridge so anyone in our house can identify the signs:)
    Thanks for a great post!

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  12. @Jen
    Like that. Great idea, we will do that too.

    @Pup Fan
    Thanks for stopping by!

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  13. Heartworms are completely scary, and the treatment is no picnic and can be deadly (if the worms are many and big). I'm so glad to hear your experience went so well.

    We actually DO vaccinate for lepto here, since we have water on our property where both wildlife and our dogs drink, etc.

    Thanks for mentioning our bloat research and ideas. Because my big boy Ginko is physically so prone, it freaks me out.

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  14. Wow, you are so dedicated to this breed. Love it!! Love your blog too. =)

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  15. Very interesting information. I had never heard of this breed before I met you, so I find it fascinating. Your right Cavaliers are having to deal with syringomyelia and more so, heart disease. I am a firm, solid supporter of ethical and responsible breeding. I also support ethical rescue groups that look to find the right home not any home to best meet the dogs needs. As well I have known my share of mixed breed dogs who have the most unique personalities and lived long lives. At the end of the day, I am for respecting peoples choices. Oneday society might even agree with me :)

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  16. @Roxanne
    Bloat freaks me out too. I hope people read these articles you wrote and also follow all the links in them. They are some great resources about bloat.

    @Sew
    Thanks for your kind words!

    @MissKodee
    Hear, hear. Respecting peoples choice is very well said!

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  17. Kenzo, great article, thank you for helping with my mission :-)

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  18. @jana
    Thanks! glad you can appreciate this. Coming from you as a dog health guru means a lot to me.

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  19. My almost 10 year old hovi Khaya has DLE, it became clear after a zillion tests and various antibiotics that did not work. I've contacted the breeder. He told me that he has heards of more health issues with offspring of my dog's father, but so far no similar cases.
    DLE (Discoïde lupus erythematosus) is non systemic lupus, an auto immune disease or relatively benign skin condition which almost always starts with lacerations of the nose. The sun is an aggressor, so tips for a good sunscreen for dogs are welcome! My vet preferred not to start with corticosteroids, so she has now 500mg tetracycline antibiotics, vit B3 and amino acids twice a day (started on 3x daily). For Dutch readers more info: www.de-em.nl/PDF/Hondenhuiden%20deel%202.pdf

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  20. @mina_mlvb
    Hi Mina! Thanks for weighing in! DLE is one of those that definitely can have genetic roots. Glad that Khaya doesn't have the systemic version though!. Jana Rade also wrote an article on DLE in English (also see the comments of Lorie A. Huston, DVM): Collie Nose: Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE) In Dogs

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  21. Hovawarts is the new breed of dogs which i came to know from this post. thanks a lot for helping me.

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  22. Thank-you for this very informative article. We own a Leonberger - a breed with more than it's fair share of health issues. I wish I had found something like this to read prior to making our breed choice, but obviously wouldn't change our big hairy beastie for the world now. Hovawarts are a breed I will be keeping an eye on - hopefully for the very distant future.

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  23. Hi @anonymous!
    We love the Leonberger, such awesome dogs and big gentle giants. I dont know why but Kenzo & Viva also prefer them for playtime, although they are a little surprised there are dogs bigger than them. Sorry to hear they have so many health issues. Some of the Hovawart lines have Leonberger blood, see my post here http://kenzothehovawart.blogspot.com/2011/12/once-upon-time-there-was-mutt.html. What is troubling your Leonberger(s)?

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  24. My Hovawart has developed some health issues - the main symptom is excessive panting. Her bloodwork was normal as were her x rays (abdominal and chest). Also ruled out Lyme disease. We are left with pain as the probable cause, but are unable to locate any painful areas on her body. She just wasn't herself, lost her appetite and seemed lethargic at times, besides the panting. She is better now on pain medicine but still pants a lot even while in air conditioning lying under a ceiling fan! She is getting her joie de vive back but is not quite back to her old self. Has anyone experienced this with their dog?

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    Replies
    1. Panting can come from a wide range of things; yes, pain could be one of them. I would imagine that the source of the pain should be discernible, though.

      Depending on the pain medication, it can also have sedative effect, so it might be helping for that reason.

      Good that bloodwork was normal (full blood panel?) and glad to hear x-rays were clean also.

      I think my next step would be to check for hormonal issues - Cushing's, Addison's (two sides of one coin), thyroid ... What about chronic pancreatitis? Did you check for that? There is a specific test.

      How are the stools and urination? All normal? (consistency, frequency) How is drinking?

      Jasmine has something similar, comes and goes particularly with weather changes. Nothing one could put their finger on it wasn't found either :-( Her symptoms don't include loss of appetite and lethargy, though, just panting, pacing and general restlessness.

      Acupuncture is helpful for her, except cannot get a session every time she gets an episode.

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