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Health and Life-span: Leos are subject to the short life span
and various health problems that plague most giant breeds. However, Leos
tend to be healthier overall than the other giant breeds. This is true
because Leo breeders in all countries have been health conscious. Stringent
breeding regulations are adhered to on a voluntary basis in every country
where the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI)
issues papers. Dogs in Germany are registered with the FCI through the
German Kennel Club, Verband für das Deutsche Hundewesen
(VDH) , which has designated the National Breed club, the Deutsche
Club für Leonberger Hunde to keep the stud book and supervise
registrations. Therefore, breeding is closely supervised and breeders
must adhere to the Deutsche Club für Leonberger Hunde breeding regulations
for a puppy to be registered.
In Great Britain, all official breed clubs are governed by the Kennel
Club. The KC has a reciprocal agreement with the FCI, which allows for
example dogs born here and registered with the KC to be later exported
and registered abroad with another kennel club. Leonberger breeding requirements
are those set down by the KC.
In America, because the Leonberger Club of America
maintains the stud book and issues all legitimate registrations, no American-born
dog can be registered with the LCA unless the very strict breeding regulations
have been followed for both the sire and the dam of the litter. The American breeding regulations can be found
in their entirety on the LeoWorld Web site or obtained by writing the
If you are considering getting a dog, health should be one of your top
considerations. For Leonbergers, you must be very sure that you obtain
your dog from a breeder and not from a commercial dog trading establishment
. Make sure that the breeder is a member of their country's Leonberger Club and is on the
current list of approved breeders. That is your only assurance that the
strict breeding standards imposed by most countries have been followed.
The FCI does not require any more than the AKC in the way of breeding
standards, but most of the national clubs are diligent in requiring adherence
to very precise guidelines developed to minimize genetic flaws and diseases.
If the price quoted for a Leo is out of line, either much lower or higher
than the typical price for your country, that is a cue to be careful and
visit several breeders. Leos are expensive (in the $1,000 range, regardless
of country), but Leonberger breeders have been diligent about not letting
prices get driven up to the level that greed interferes with good breeding
practices. The current prices allow most breeders to recoup the costs
of breeding healthy litters and also help keep frivolous buyers from purchasing
Leos on a whim.
The International Union für Leonberger Hunde, in concert with the
FCI, has adopted the following statement regarding the sale of Leonbergers
through the auspices of dog traders:
All member countries of the IU prohibit the sale and purchase of leonberger
dogs to and from professional dealers for the purpose of resale. They
will not tolerate any commercial trade of Leonberger dogs.
Special Medical Problems Associated With The Breed:The very strict
breeding guidelines and the diligent oversight of the national Leonberger
Clubs have been successful to date in preserving the general health of
the breed. However, there are special medical problems, most of which
are associated with giant breeds in general, that every breeder, owner,
and potential owner should be aware of.
Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is unfortunately found in almost
all breeds, especially the larger ones. The Leonberger is no exception.
Hip dysplasia (HD) is an hereditary developmental disease. HD is a result
of abnormal development of the "ball-and socket" joints of the hips.
Severity covers a wide range from slight abnormality to very severe
dislocation. Dysplastic dogs are born with normal hip joints which undergo
changes as the dogs mature. Although the cause is hereditary, the disease
can be made worse by environmental factors such as rapid growth, overfeeding
and excessive exercise. Keeping the incidence of the disease to a minimum
depends on accurate X-ray diagnosis, accurate breeding records and strict
breeding regulatins that allow only the best proven sires and dams to
The Breeding Committees of the various national Leonberger clubs have
been extremely diligent in education and enforcement of breeding regulations
designed to minimize dysplasia in Leos. Leonbergers are not allowed
to be bred in most countries, without certification that the parents
are HD free and, in some instances, proof of HD-free ancestors and/or
siblings The severity of the problem fits a graded series from normal
through mildly affected to severely affected dogs. Different countries
have different scales for reporting the results of veterinary examination
of X-rays. The Leonberger Union has compiled a chart comparing several nation's scoring schemes.
OCD: Most Breeding Committees are controlling for OCD (osteochondritis
dessicans) and other joint diseases by requiring not only clear hips,
but also clear elbow x-rays before dogs can be bred. OCD is found in
all large breeds that experience rapid growth, and is therefore seen
in the Leonberger. OCD is a condition where an area of cartilage dies
and falls into the associated joint. It sometimes revives and grows
to form a loose lump called a "joint mouse." This rubs on
the joint, causing swelling, pain and limping. It is treatable with
surgery. There are a variety of causes for the condition.
Eosinophilic Panosteitis:"Pano" is a disease with no known cause
that resolves without, or in spite of, treatment! It is a generalized
inflammation of the bones that is commonly referred to as growing pains.
A healthy puppy suddenly develops an acute and painful lameness with
no known history of trauma. The lameness often shifts from one limb
to another. It is easily diagnosed by veterinarians. Anti-inflammatory
drugs may be prescribed, and attempts to slow the rate of growth of
the puppy are usually recommended. The good news is that pano is self-limiting
and does not seem to result in any long-term damage.
Addison's Disease: Addison's disease is a rare hormonal disorder
of the adrenal glands. It has been diagnosed in both European and American
Leonbergers. It is serious and can lead to death if undiagnosed. However,
if diagnosed correctly, it can be very successfully managed with medication.
Affected dogs often have periodic vomiting and diarrhea, lethargy, exercise
intolerance, and weight loss. Symptoms come on gradually and become
worse with time. It is typically a disease of young to middle-aged female
dogs. It can be definitively diagnosed with blood tests. The bloodlines
that have shown evidence of Addison's disease are being carefully monitored
in the United States by the LCA's Heath Committee.
Entropion and Ectropion Eyes: Some Leonberger lines are known
to carry the genes for ectropionism and entropionism (inverted eyelids).
These can be corrected with a relatively minor surgical procedure. This
condition is considered a major fault, however, and dogs known to carry
the gene are not allowed to breed.
Osteosarcoma: Bone cancer is a frequent cause of death in giant
breeds, and Leonbergers are no exception. However, it usually does not
strike until dogs have passed their seventh year and frequently much
later. Osteosarcoma is a a highly destructive tumor state which spreads
rapidly to other organs, particularly the lungs. Treatment often requires
amputation of the affected limb combined with chemotherapy.
Bloat: Also known as gastric dilation, bloat can occur in any
breed. In deep-chested breeds, like the Leonberger, the stomach can
fill with gas and twist trapping the gas inside. This is a life-threatening
event which must be treated immediately. As a preventative measure,
Leos should be fed from raised bowls and should not be vigorously exercised
or stressed for at least one hour after feeding.
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