Despite the vizsla’s growing popularity, certain health problems occur more often in this pedigree than in other dogs. And this is something that all current owners and prospective owners will benefit from knowing sooner rather than later.
What Health Issues Are Vizslas Prone To?
There are 9 common health conditions Vizslas are prone to:
- Progressive retinal atrophy
- Atopic Dermatitis
- Hip Dysplasia
- Cerebellar ataxia
Let’s run through each of these conditions in detail, discussing the signs to watch out for and whether these diseases can be prevented.
1. Progressive retinal atrophy
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a degenerative disease of the eyes. Dogs who are affected will slowly, over time, become blind. You may find that they initially struggle to recognize people or objects when the light is fading in the evening. The eyes should not look abnormal or be painful.
As their vision gets worse, dogs may begin to bang into objects. However, dogs are experts at getting used to their home environment, so they should be able to navigate the furniture they are used to with ease.
All in all, it can take a year or two for vision to completely go. In this time, many adjust well to being blind. Sadly, there is no treatment available yet. Those affected may need special care and should not be allowed off lead when outside.
Importantly, this condition is inherited, so affected dogs should be neutered and removed from the breeding pool. Their relatives should also be tested as they may be carriers (though not affected themselves).
An underactive thyroid is a condition of middle-aged to older Vizslas and can cause a range of signs including sluggishness, weight gain, and chronic skin infections. It is usually easily diagnosed via a blood test. Thankfully, hypothyroidism can be well managed with medicine that is given to your dog each day.
Hypothyroidism will either be caused by lymphocytic thyroiditis or idiopathic thyroid gland atrophy. As this endocrine disorder can be passed on in genes, we mustn’t breed individuals who are affected.
A dog who suffers from epilepsy has seizures on and off for the duration of their lives. Epilepsy tends to develop before the age of 6 in the Vizsla. As seizures can be caused by other conditions (such as liver disease or a brain tumor), it is important that a definitive diagnosis is made.
Some forms of epilepsy are inherited, while others or not. While there is no cure for epilepsy, it can often be well managed with medicine.
When a dog is having a seizure, we should try to minimize stimulation. This means keeping the room dark and quiet. Never put your hand in their mouth, and try to ensure the area around them is padded. Your vet should be able to prescribe medicine (such as rectal Diazepam) that can be used to help end the fit.
The Vizsla is prone to several cancers, one of which is lymphoma. This is a cancer of the blood that can cause symptoms including enlarged lymph nodes and lethargy. We can diagnose this condition with a combination of blood tests and by taking a small sample (fine needle aspirate or biopsy) of the affected tissue.
While lymphoma can be treated by primary vets, referring the patient to an oncologist can offer a better prognosis. Treatment may include chemotherapy and supportive care. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent this cancer in your Vizsla, but it is sensible to ensure they are fed a balanced, quality diet. It is also important to see your vet as soon as you notice anything unusual, such as an enlarged lymph node or weight loss.
5. Atopic Dermatitis
Vizslas who have atopic dermatitis tend to be itchy, scratchy dogs. They can react to food as well as things in their environment like pollen and grass. This can be a frustrating condition to manage, and it cannot be cured. Affected Vizslas are likely to need several courses of anti-itch medicine and antibiotics over their lifetime. The aim is to minimize symptoms to the best ability.
Avoiding their trigger is important, which may mean feeding them a hypoallergenic diet or walking them on the pavement. Diets exist that promote skin health and strengthen the skin barrier. Ingredients such as omega 3 fatty acids, biotin, and probiotics can all work to strengthen the skin barrier and reduce the symptoms of atopy.
Popular read: Are Vizslas good for allergy sufferers?
6. Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is a progressive condition of the hip joints that can be debilitating. You may notice your Vizsla limps, walks with a shuffle, and has wasted muscles of the hind limbs. We can diagnose hip dysplasia with an x-ray which should be performed under an anesthetic.
Hip dysplasia is passed on, so we should Hip Score all breeding Vizslas. This means x-raying their hip joints and assigning them a score. Only those doggos with healthy hips should be used to breed puppies.
As well as being a genetic condition, environmental factors play a role in the development of hip dysplasia. Controlled exercise programs and nutritional supplements may help to reduce symptoms and strengthen joints. For those who are worst affected, surgical procedures such as a Total Hip Replacement (THR) may be advised.
7. Cerebellar ataxia
Thankfully, this is a rare disease. It can be inherited in the Vizsla. Signs tend to start at about 10 weeks of age and get progressively worse. We may see a very wobbly and uneven walk, which can look alarming.
A DNA test is available which can be used to screen breeding dogs. Using this test to eliminate genetic carriers from the population will ensure fewer Vizslas are born with Cerebellar Ataxia.
Of all the listed conditions, this is probably the least recognized. Affected pooches will have high uric acid. This can cause stone formation in the bladder and/or kidneys. Stones may result in more frequent urination and pain when urinating. They can also result in a urinary obstruction, which can be fatal if untreated. Taking measures like feeding a low purine diet and increasing water intake can help ensure your Vizsla does not form stones.
Accurate genetic testing is available, which enables responsible breeders to ensure those with hyperuricosuria are not given an opportunity to pass on the gene.
Large and deep-chested dogs are more prone than others to developing bloat. This is thought to be due to their anatomy rather than their genes. Symptoms can include a rapidly expanding abdomen that is tense like a balloon. In addition, dogs may retch, salivate and pace around the room. We can diagnose this condition with an x-ray. In some cases, the stomach will rotate on its axis (Gastric Dilatation Volvulus / GDV), which can lead to shock and even death. Prompt treatment is required if your Vizsla is to survive this devastating condition.
A lot of research has gone into the causes of bloat. It is thought that feeding from a height and exercising after eating is to be avoided. For those at high risk of a GDV, a surgery called a ‘gastropexy’ can be performed to ensure the stomach cannot rotate.
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The Importance of a Healthy Lifestyle and Vet Visits
Overall, vizslas are a healthy, strong breed, and despite their common health issues usually go on to live long happy lives.
Although certain conditions can’t be avoided, we as owners can do our best to ensure we are providing our V with everything they need.
The basics of a quality life:
- A high quality, well-rounded diet
- A diet that they actually get on well with and their body tolerates
- Sufficient physical exercise every single day
- Sufficient mental exercise in the form of training, socialization and interaction
- Avoiding as much stress and anxiety as possible!
- An overall active lifestyle where your Vizsla feels a prominent part of the family
- Constant vigilance on the owners part to know notice early signs or symptoms
- Frequent vet check ups (once or twice a year) to monitor ongoing health
Although the list seems long, it’s not actually that hard to achieve if we have the time to prioritize our Vizsla.
By doing what we can to keep our Vizsla happy, healthy, and stress-free, we might actually be able to prevent or at least reduce the chances of some of those conditions from happening. So it goes without saying, the effort is entirely worth it.
Related article: 9 Things you must know BEFORE getting a vizsla!
The Vizsla, on the whole, is a healthy and robust dog. However, there are certain conditions that we need to monitor for within the population. It is our responsibility to screen for genetic conditions where possible, breeding the healthiest Vizslas we can.
Thank you for reading!
Be sure to check out our other Vizsla articles!