Stabyhoun is generally a healthy breed which rarely has diseases affecting every-day life. The characteristics of its appearance have not been exaggerated in breeding, and therefore the breed does not have illnesses for example related to some peculiar conformation or the form of the skull. Nearly all diseases found in the breed are such that can be found in many breeds and which are commonly known.
The breed is part of the Finnish Kennel Club Program for the Prevention of Hereditary Diseases and Defects, PEVISA. At the moment, PEVISA contains the following requirements for stabyhoun: Dogs to be used for breeding must have a hip score, with the border value being C. In addition, the number of offspring has been limited (21 puppies at maximum; the last litter will be registered in whole). In addition to hips, stabyhoun owners often score elbows as well. Many also test their dog for the von Willebrand disease. In recent years, some stabyhouns have also been tested with official eye exams.
It is always good to have dogs tested even when there are no signs of any problems and when the dog will not be used for breeding. Hips, for example, can be completely symptom-free, but it is still helpful to know about a possible defect so that the dog is not asked to do activities that could worsen the situation. Having a dog tested also adds to the knowledge of the breed’s overall health and promotes its improvement by giving additional information for breeding decisions.
Regarding hip joints, a little over one third of stabyhouns born in 2000-2012 have been scored. Over half of the tested stabyhouns had healthy hips, with one third having slight changes. With the rest, the changes were clearer and they cannot be used for breeding according to the rules of PEVISA. Clear symptoms due to bad hips have been seen in only a couple of dogs. In addition tohereditary factors, the health of the hips is affected by feeding during the growth period and theamount and quality of exercise. The owner of a dog with a genetic predisposition can influence the progression and manifestation of the disease through their own activity. Regarding elbows, 27 % of puppies born during 2000-2012 have been scored. Of the scored dogs, three fourths had completely healthy elbows.
In Finland, testing for Von Willebrand’s disease (Type 1, the mildest form) started only a couple of years ago, but already one third of all dogs have been tested genetically. Of the tested dogs, over one third are free (healthy, not carriers) and over a half are carriers (healthy, carriers). The rest have the status of affected, but they are not known to have had any problems. The disease does not prevent from using a dog for breeding.
PDA, epilepsy and eye diseases have been reported in only a few dogs in Finland. More eye screenings should be done in order to get a picture of the breed’s situation. It should also be noted that one screening result only tells about the eyes’ current condition, and a clean result does not always mean that the dog will be always healthy.
Below you will find more information on diseases present in the breed.
Abnormal formation of the hip socket (hip dysplasia, HD) is a hereditary polygenic trait, and its severity is also affected by factors in the growth environment, such as feeding, amount of exercise and speed of growth. It is found in nearly all large breeds. The most critical phase in the development of hip dysplasia is the formation of the hip socket as it ossifies during the dog’s growth period. An abnormal form of the hip socket and looseness in the hip joint in young age lead to changes of different degrees in the hip joint and to development of arthritis later in the dog’s life. In the mildest case, there is mild looseness in the joint, the hip socket is slightly shallow and there is mild asymmetricity. The femur head does not fit the hip socket perfectly. Mild dysplasia can be nearly symptomless even in a working dog. If signs of osteoarthritis, i.e., degenerative joint disease, develop due to dysplasia, the dog can have significant pain, especially after exercise.
On the evaluation scale of the Finnish Kennel Club, the score value of A in official hip scores is completely healthy, B means mild looseness but is still classified as healthy, and C refers to mild changes in the hip joints that usually do not restrict hunting use, unless osteoarthritis develops. In the scores of D and E, arthritic changes can be seen in an x ray and they will cause problems, especially as the dog gets older. (Peltonen, M., 2004; Paatsama, S., 1991).
Elbow dysplasia is an umbrella term used for different developmental abnormalities in the elbow joint. According to current understanding, elbow joint dysplasia is inherited polygenically. One factor exposing to it is rapid bone growth and excessive feeding and exercise. The elbow joint is an important point in the forward movement of a dog’s leg where great strain is targeted during movement.
In official screening results, elbow joint dysplasia is classified according to the severity of the changes into three grades (1-3), while a normal healthy elbow will get a screening grade of zero (0).
The bleeding disorder, von Willebrand disease Type 1
Von Willebrand (vWD) disease is a hereditary bleeding disorder which can manifest itself in several different forms. Type 1 of the von Willebrand bleeding disorder is found in stabyhouns, which is the mildest type regarding symptoms. The disease is clearly hereditary and it can be verified with a DNA test. As a result of the test, the dog is either confirmed as free of the disease, a carrier of the disease or as ill.
Ill dogs produce too small amounts of a protein called the von Willebrand factor, which can cause problems in the case of surgeries. Even so, dogs that are ill with Type 1 rarely show physical symptoms.
Patent Ductus Arteriosus, PDA: PDA is one of the most common hereditary heart diseases in dogs. The inheritance mechanism is complicated; the probability of an inherited heart defect in offspring increases as a result of interaction between many different hereditary factors. Ductus arteriosus is a blood vessel connection which joins the aorta and the pulmonary artery in the fetal stage. Normally the ductus closes at birth. If this does not happen, the defective arrangement of blood vessels puts a strain on the pulmonary artery and the left side of the heart. In PDA, a murmur is very typical and very strong. A surgery where the blood vessel connection is closed is one possibility, and after a successful surgery, the dog can live a normal life without symptoms.
(Seppo Lamberg, Koiran sydänsairaudet,
PRA, i.e. progressive retinal atrophy, destroys the light-sensitive cells in the eye. This is a group of diseases which are caused by different genes. It can manifest in any breed. The age at which the symptoms appear and the disease progression vary according to the type of disease.
Hereditary grey cataract clouds the eye lens partially or completely. The age of onset varies greatly. The hereditary mechanism of most of the types is unknown. Cataract can be hereditary or non-hereditary, congenital or acquired.
(Vanhapelto & Lappalainen, Yleisimmät perinnölliset silmäsairaudet,
Epilepsy is a brain function disorder that is manifested by recurring seizures. The dog is completely healthy between seizures. The disease usually manifests itself the first time at the age of 1-3 years. Epilepsy has been found in many dog breeds and susceptibility to it is hereditary to some extent.
In the Netherlands, there have been five different litters where neurological disorders were found. It is not yet known whether the disease is the same in all cases. It is unknown what causes the symptoms, but at the moment it is presumed that the problem is hereditary. The diseased puppies show abnormal or compulsive behaviour, repeating the same movement, going around in circles or walking back and forth, among other symptoms. In addition, the symptoms cause problems with eating. The symptoms lead to clear weight loss and finally death.