Vizsla Health, Care & Health Problems

Vizslas are medium- to high-maintenance dogs that require a lot of attention, exercise, and mental stimulation. A misbehaving Vizsla is invariably a bored and/or inactive Vizsla. A Vizsla's need for human companionship is strong; thus your Vizsla's emotional well being would be best served by housing it indoors. Vizslas are robust hunting dogs, but there are a number of hereditary illnesses for which a given Vizsla and its sire and dam should be tested before you assume ownership of it. If healthy and properly cared for, your Vizsla should enjoy a lifespan of anywhere from 10 to 15 years.

Health Problems

Vizslas are generally healthy and long-lived, and possess an energy level that will more than match your own. However, there are several health conditions of varying seriousness that are known to afflict the Vizsla breed. Before you purchase an adult or puppy, you may wish to have tests conducted and/or certificates provided for the following Vizsla health problems (in cases where certification is not available, a Vizsla breeder may provide a guarantee against inherited conditions):

Hip Dysplasia

According to hip dysplasia statistics from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), the Vizsla ranks 108th among breeds that have had at least 100 evaluations between January 1974 and December 2008. Just over 11,600 Vizslas have been evaluated in that time, and 7.2% of them were found to be dysplastic. The high number of evaluations is one proof of how seriously Vizsla breeders have taken this problem. An OFA certification of the parents of your Vizsla puppy means that their hips were x-rayed and evaluated for abnormal results and found to be in excellent, good, or fair condition.

Epilepsy

Epileptic seizures are another Vizsla health problem. No certification is available for this condition. However, if a Vizsla has epilepsy, it's often evident by the time it's about two or three years old, and sometimes not until its fourth or fifth year. Responsible Vizsla breeders will provide guarantees against inherited epilepsy. Even if your Vizsla is diagnosed with epilepsy, it can be treated and controlled with appropriate medication.

Hypothyroidism

An underactive thyroid reduces a Vizsla's metabolism level, resulting in a wide variety of possible symptoms. This condition may be caused by allergies, air pollution, or an improper diet. Thyroid problems can be diagnosed via full thyroid testing, including FT4, cTSH, and TgAA.

Sebaceous Adenitis

Sebaceous adenitis is a skin disease in which the sebaceous glands become inflamed. A Vizsla with this condition will display mild scaling and a moth-eaten appearance. SA is usually found in young adult dogs. It can be diagnosed via a skin-punch biopsy.

Eye Conditions

Entropion and retinal atrophy are two eye conditions that can affect Vizslas. Eye health can be certified annually through the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF).

Other medical conditions to which Vizslas may be susceptible include hemophilia, heart defects, von Willebrand disease, and cancer. Vizsla dogs are sometimes allergic or sensitive to vaccines, chemicals, and common anesthetics. Food or skin allergies may also occur.

The Vizsla Club of America's (VCA) code of ethics regarding breeding states the following: "VCA members shall breed only those dogs who have a DNA number and are free of serious hereditary defects (including epilepsy, progressive retinal atrophy, Von Willebrands, entropion and cranial muscular atrophy), and are over two years of age and have been x-rayed and OFA-certified as free from hip dysplasia."

Living Conditions

A Vizsla's greatest needs are exercise and human contact. Vizslas will often literally follow their owner(s) from one place to another within the house. While it's important to have access to a fenced yard or other area where your Vizsla can go for off-leash running, your dog's mental and emotional health will tend to suffer if he or she is required to sleep outdoors. A Vizsla can tolerate living in an apartment or smaller home, but only if you provide a lot of running and walking as compensation. Do not take on the responsibility of owning a Vizsla if you're not prepared to give it the ample attention and physical activity it requires.

With adult Vizsla dogs, try to replicate the sleeping conditions they had before moving into your home. A soft bed with exposure to the sun may be preferred. With Vizsla puppies, you may wish to create a partitioned area where they can play and sleep. Allow your puppy some time to explore its new home, and give it plenty of love and attention-along with a few treats. Vizsla puppies are known for being somewhat difficult to housetrain, and crate training is often recommended. Vizsla puppies also like to chew on things, so keep your puppy in certain areas of the house or make sure that any potentially dangerous snacks (e.g. electrical cords) are inaccessible.

If your Vizsla absolutely must sleep outdoors, then it's best to provide a shelter that is comfortable and well insulated. The Vizsla's thin coat offers little protection against cold weather. The shelter should offer enough room for your dog to move around, but don't make it too big. A smaller shelter will help your Vizsla to feel secure, and will also offer greater warmth.

A large yard and plenty of indoor and outdoor space is the best living situation for a Vizsla. Ideally, a Vizsla should not be left alone during the day. If necessary, employing a dog walker to exercise your Vizsla would help it to cope with daily absences.

Exercise

It's difficult to overstate the need that a Vizsla dog has for exercise. The Vizsla is very athletic and is one of the oldest hunting breeds in the world. This is not a dog that will be content with sedentary apartment living and a short daily walk. Jogging, running, swimming (Vizslas are typically excellent swimmers), hunting, hiking, roller blading, and extensive walking are all activities that a Vizsla would enjoy. A long walk twice a day might be adequate, but a Vizsla would be happiest if it can run-preferably off-leash-for at least 30 minutes, and preferably an hour or more, every day. If you're a jogging addict or part of a family that loves being outdoors or going to the lake or the farm on the weekends, then a Vizsla would be an ideal companion.

If a Vizsla is not getting enough exercise, behavioral problems are very likely to ensue. These are often compounded by the fact that Vizslas need a lot of mental stimulation as well. Destructive behaviors caused by a lack of exercise include hyperactivity, chewing, and digging huge holes in the yard. Vizsla puppies will tend to jump on or at people.

Life Expectancy

A healthy, well-cared for Vizsla will typically live from 12 to 15 years. However, that range may vary by two years or more either way (10 years to 17 years).

Grooming

The Vizsla breed's exercise needs may be high, but in the grooming department it's a blessedly low-maintenance dog. Viszlas are naturally clean with little to no smell-unless they've been mucking about in swamps during a hunting excursion. But even then, their short, close-lying coats help keep them from getting too muddy or smelly. They may shed more than you'd expect for dogs with such short coats, but their twice-annual shedding can be minimized with regular brushing (it's best to brush outside if anyone in your household is allergic). Vizslas also lack an undercoat, which makes them an acceptable choice for some people with allergies. Bathing your Vizsla is seldom necessary. A weekly nail clipping, teeth cleaning, and brushing is about as complicated as a Vizsla's grooming needs get.

Bathing your Vizsla too often will cause its coat to lose color, and will remove natural oils that keep its skin from drying out. Bathe only as necessary, and use a natural or dry shampoo. It's not unusual for a Vizsla to be bathed just twice a year. More frequent spot washing of your dog's face is fine, and will help to keep up its appearance. Regular use of a bristle brush would also help to keep your Vizsla's coat and skin healthy. Check your Vizsla's paws and eyes daily and ears weekly for signs of infection, and gently remove debris.