Arjen, Jelske's pup from May 2015

Arjen, Jelske’s pup from May 2015

Overall the Stabyhoun is a healthy dog and great care is taken in managing the breeding population; with approval required from a panel of experts before any mating is allowed.

However, no amount of health testing and background checks can provide any guarantee that your dog will live a long and healthy life – free from illness. The same is the case for humans. We want to stress this, because the notion of ‘health testing’ very easily provides an unrealistic expectation from buyers. We can only test for the diseases where a known component or DNA marker has been identified, and where we know exactly how those genes manifest themselves. Much is still entirely a game of chance and nature. So please read this page with that in mind, and feel free to ask the UKSA about anyting at all relating to the health of the breed, before you apply for a puppy.

Attempting to breed healthy dogs

Here is what we CAN do. Extensive background checks are carried out on both parents with a view to preventing the combination of two potential carriers of known illnesses. However, it is a small breed too and with that comes its own challenges – not least in managing inbreeding and the loss of valuable genetic material. Therefore, the UK Stabyhoun Association follows a long-term and sustainable philosophy of encouraging as many healthy dogs as possible to be breed from at least once. This is how we believe we can preserve and promote genetic diversity.

It takes two to tango. We don’t pre-judge the health of any dog, and we are careful in excluding dogs that have not been proven to be suffering or passing on genetic diseases simply because a relative has been diagnosed with a condition. Often, the key to a healthy litter is in making the most sensible combination based on historical data of both dogs’ parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins. This is why each potential litter is carefully researched and planned with advice from a panel of Stabyhoun experts.

The UKSA works closely with the Dutch Stabyhoun Association (NVSW) and other foreign clubs to monitor, assess, predict and mitigate the risk of hereditary conditions. By getting a Stabyhoun puppy through the UK Stabyhoun Association you are helping to support and encourage sensible breeding and the preservation of these wonderful dogs. Equally important is your cooperation in providing details about your puppy as it grows up so that we can continue to record and improve the health of the Stabyhoun.

Openness about the health problems in the breed is crucial to our efforts to eliminate hereditary diseases and conditions. Below you can read more about the conditions we monitor, and the breeding rules attached to each of them.

Hip dysplasia (HD)

Hip dysplasia is a developmental disorder of the hip joints caused by both genetic factors and environmental factors. Symptoms include difficulty getting up and lameness in the hindquarters. HD can be determined by making radiographs of the hip joints. An HD-A (Excellent or Good) result is the best, HD-E (Severe) the worst. How often does it occur: radiographic HD D in a Stabyhoun is clinically observed in Holland about 3 to 4 times a year. However, these are rarely formally reported. Only a very few times is lameness seen that requires an operation.  HD-E has only been recorded once in Holland over the past 10 years. In the UK, breeding dogs are allowed a maximum score of 8 on each hip: a total of 16 which is the international equivalent of A and B. Special dispensation may be given to dogs that exceed those scores if they offer a valuable genetic contribution to the UK Stabyhoun population. You can read more about some of the latest research into the cause of hip dysplasia here.

Elbow dysplasia (ED)

Elbow dysplasia is a collective name for the three types of developmental elbow joints caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Sufferers exhibit lameness in the front legs. ED sufferers can be determined by x-ray, while carriers cannot. How often does it occur:  On average in recent years, ED is reported in a Stabyhoun 3 to 4 times a year, often recognised by a lame walk. Dogs often then need surgery and with early intervention, the prognosis is good. In the UK, all breeding dogs must present an elbow x-ray score of 0-0. Special dispensation may be given to dogs that exceed those scores if they offer a valuable genetic contribution to the UK Stabyhoun population. The immediate family members of a dog that suffers from ED may not be combined with dogs that also have sufferers in their direct family lineage.


In epilepsy, a fault in the brain suddenly occurs, and the dog loses control over a part of his body: he falls down and gets violent muscle spasms, foaming at the mouth can occur and he can lose control over his urine or feces. However, there are also milder forms of expression. Epilepsy can be hereditary but also can be caused by environmental factors. The hereditary form reveals itself in the Staby usually around two to three years of age, though can occur as late as 5 years. The BAC requires that a dog who has a full sibling or two half siblings diagnosed with Epilepsy wait until at least 3 years of age before breeding, whether male or female.

How often does this occur: on average, four cases per year are seen in the Netherlands, or roughly 1% of the population. Before today’s strict breeding regulations were established, epilepsy was more common. Dogs that are proven to suffer or pass on epilepsy (e.g. they have done so in two separate litters) should not be bred from. Dogs that are closely related to a sufferer cannot be combined with dogs that likewise present with cases of epilepsy in their direct family lineage.

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)

This is a heart condition and one of the main health problems in the Stabyhoun – caused when a major blood vessel fails to close properly close shortly after birth. A veterinarian can hear this condition on the left side of the heart at the age of 6 to 7 weeks. It sounds like a loud engine noise. The occurrence may be spontaneous and an isolated case, but it is also genetically determined.  If not treated, the patient eventually dies from heart failure. With timely surgery, the prognosis is excellent. Currently, PDA is found in 2 to 3 litters a year in the Netherlands, and through careful breeding management, this is decreasing. Extensive research is currently being done in collaboration with the University of Utrecht with the hope that we may find a reliable DNA test for this condition. Proven sufferers and carriers should not be bred from, and dogs where PDA is present in their immediate family should not be combined.

Neurological disorder

This is a rare genetic mutation that causes a neurological problem in puppies – discovered first in the Stabyhoun in 2009 and identified in only a handful of litters in the past five years. It manifests itself around the age of 6 weeks when the puppies begin deviant and compulsive behaviours: repeating the same movement, circling, backwards or walking back and forth. Sufferers have an excessive urge to move, eat poorly, become emaciated and die within a few months. Cerebral Dysfunction is an autosomal recessive inherited disorder. This means that puppies only get symptoms when both the father and the mother have the mutation. With such a limited gene pool, this test means that we no longer have to exclude dogs with valuable genetic properties that are simply carriers because we are able to mate them with certified non-carriers. Over time we can hopefully eliminate the condition entirely from our breed.

In April 2015, the genetic markers for this condition were discovered and it is now possible to test parent to prevent sufferers from being born again. This test is now mandatory for all breeding dogs in the UK.

Steroid Responsive Meningitis Arteritis (SRMA)

SRMA is a disease that occurs more often in the Bernese Mountain Dog, Beagle, Boxer and also the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever than in other breeds. Stabyhouns have also been diagnosed with the disease a number of times, so it is important to be able to recognise the disease (not all vets recognise the symptoms) and report it. Cases appear to often cluster in a litter, so littermates of any affected dogs are required to wait until at least 3 years of age until breeding, whether male or female.

As the name implies, it is not a “regular” meningitis, but this condition falls under the autoimmune diseases. In an autoimmune disease, the body’s immune system reacts to healthy body cells; “it’s running wild”. In the case of SRMA, the immune system then reacts against the meninges, stimulating them and causing inflammation. SRMA generally presents in young adult dog between the ages of 8 months – 2 years. Experts consider a dog to be ‘safe’ after 3 years of age from developing the condition.

Symptoms are a high temperature and acute pain generalised to the spine. Affected dogs will be reluctant to move and show general sign of pain including vocalising, inappetence and lethargy. It is managed by a course of steroids to control the inflammation, and often needs no further treatment once the symptoms are under control. The prognosis is generally excellent, and relapses are rare but treatable. This disease is not contagious to other dogs or people.

Paw Pad Disorders

A number of Stabyhoun have been found to suffer from sensitive paws or disorders in one form or another. Some dogs lick their paws until they become raw, some seem to struggle in wet weather only and so on, so at this point, it is hard to say whether there is a diagnosable issue in the breed, or if it’s a mix of things triggered by behaviour, skin sensitivity and actual paw diseases. A quick search on Google will show you a number of reasons why a dog may have sensitive paws. In 2019, the first dog in the UK was given an actual medical diagnosis of ‘probably idiopathic split pad disease‘. We will continue to monitor the problem and encourage openness about what may be an issue in our breed. Therefore, it is also important to mention it here.

Von Willebrand, Type I (vWD)

Von Willebrand is a bleeding disorder that occurs in 3 types. Type I is the mildest form and this has been detected in the Stabyhoun. The result is a reduced production of a specific coagulation factor causing dogs to bleed for an extended time. It is an autosomal dominant trait with incomplete penetrance, which means that a number of factors must be present for a dog to be clinically affected, beyond the genetic test itself. Carriers have little to no risk, but sufferers can have problems if they are severely wounded or run into problems during surgery. It is estimated that roughly a quarter of the Stabyhoun population is free of vWD, half are carriers and a quarter are at risk. Clinical symptoms are rarely reported. The breeding policy in the UK Stabyhoun Association for vWD is that, where possible, dogs who carry both variants of the gene linked with vWB should be mated with a dog who carries either 1 or no copies of the gene. This however is secondary to other health and temperament concerns known to affect the breed.

Health Reporting

The key to gathering data about Stabyhoun health and behaviour is through owners reporting any issues. We have a unique international database which documents all known breed issues, and this transparency enables us to make an honest assessment of the status of the breed as a whole, and to help tackle health or behaviour problems that form a pattern.

If you have experienced any issues with your dog, in health or behaviour, or if you dog has recently passed away, please take a few minutes to complete the form below:

Report an Issue

Thank you for your time and contribution.

Some extra reading!

Click to read the article: Three key strategies to reduce genetic disorders in dogs

You might also be interested in reading more about diet, vaccinations and neutering.

Diet: what to feed your Stabyhoun