Caring for Your Faithful Companion
Istrian Gonics: What a Unique Breed!
Your dog is special! She’s your best friend, companion, and a source of unconditional love. Chances are that you chose her because you like Istrian Hounds and you expected her to have certain traits that would fit your lifestyle:
- Excellent hunting dog
- Gentle-mannered and easy to get along with
- Great with kids and other dogs: a true family pet
- Lovable, playful companion
However, no dog is perfect! You may have also noticed these characteristics:
- May have a tendency to bark excessively
- Requires vigorous, frequent exercise and space to run
- Strong herding instinct can lead to chasing cars and small animals
- Willful and stubborn if you don’t show strong leadership
Is it all worth it? Of course! She’s full of personality, and you love her for it! She is an easy-going dog that requires close human companionship. Known to be quiet indoors, she does need soft bedding and ample space to stretch out.
The Istrian Gonic, commonly called the Istrian Hound in the United States, originated in Croatia and comes in two varieties. The Istrian Shorthaired Hound, or Istrian Pointer, is the older and more common variety, known for their persistent and sharp baying while hunting. The Istrian Coarse-haired Hound was bred from the shorthaired variety mixed with French Griffon Vendeen, and it has a tendency to be more independent and more versatile in outdoor activities due to its wiry double coat. The Istrian Gonic is a rare breed that is primarily used for hunting fox, rabbit, and boar. They are lively and enthusiastic when hunting but tend to be docile and calm in the home.
Your Istrian Gonic’s Health
We know that because you care so much about your dog, you want to take good care of her. That is why we have summarized the health concerns we will be discussing with you over the life of your Istrian Hound. By knowing about health concerns specific to Istrian Gonics, we can tailor a preventive health plan to watch for and hopefully prevent some predictable risks.
Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. That does not mean your dog will have these problems; it just means that she is more at risk than other dogs. We will describe the most common issues seen in Istrian Gonics to give you an idea of what may come up in her future. Of course, we can’t cover every possibility here, so always check with us if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.
This guide contains general health information important to all canines as well as the most important genetic predispositions for Istrian Gonics. This information helps you and us together plan for your pet’s unique medical needs. At the end of the booklet, we have also included a description of what you can do at home to keep your Istrian Hound looking and feeling her best. You will know what to watch for, and we will all feel better knowing that we’re taking the best possible care of your pal.
General Health Information for your Istrian Gonic
Dental disease is the most common chronic problem in pets, affecting 80% of all dogs by age two. And unfortunately, your Istrian Hound is more likely than other dogs to have problems with her teeth. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and progresses to infection of the gums and roots of the teeth. If we don’t prevent or treat dental disease, your buddy will lose her teeth and be in danger of damaging her kidneys, liver, heart, and joints. In fact, your Istrian Hound’s life span may be cut short by one to three years! We’ll clean your dog’s teeth regularly and let you know what you can do at home to keep those pearly whites clean.
Istrian Gonics are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections — the same ones that all dogs can get — such as parvo, rabies, and distemper. Many of these infections are preventable through vaccination, which we will recommend based on the diseases we see in our area, her age, and other factors.
Obesity can be a significant health problem in Istrian Gonics. It is a serious disease that may cause or worsen joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease. Though it’s tempting to give your pal food when she looks at you with those soulful eyes, you can “love her to death” with leftover people food and doggie treats. Instead, give her a hug, brush her fur or teeth, play a game with her, or perhaps take her for a walk. She’ll feel better, and so will you!
All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Istrian Hound’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest her skin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into her system in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your canine friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis. We’ll also recommend preventive medication as necessary to keep her healthy.
Spay or Neuter
One of the best things you can do for your Istrian Hound is to have her spayed (neutered for males). In females, this means we surgically remove the ovaries and usually the uterus, and in males, it means we surgically remove the testicles. Spaying or neutering decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted puppies. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your dog is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays or a puppy tooth extracted, this would be a good time. This is convenient for you and easy for your friend. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions for common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk. Don’t worry; we’ll discuss the specific problems we will be looking for when the time arrives.
Genetic Predispositions for Istrian Gonics
Suspected Disease Risks
If you have a common dog breed, there’s probably a lot of genetic research and clinical epidemiological data that have been collected and analyzed over the years, and this large amount of data means that we can confidently predict higher than average risk of certain diseases for these breeds. When the dog breed is more rare, or has not been studied because of geographic or other isolation, we have no stockpile of documented history to draw upon when making preventive healthcare recommendations. We can however, make some educated guesses based on disease risks for dog breeds that share conformational or genetic links with your Istrian Gonic. Based on these similarities, the following disease risks may carry higher risk, although supportive research has not been identified.
There are three types of seizures in dogs: reactive, secondary, and primary. Reactive seizures are caused by the brain’s reaction to a metabolic problem like low blood sugar, organ failure, or a toxin. Secondary seizures are the result of a brain tumor, stroke, or trauma. If no other cause can be found, the disease is called primary, or idiopathic epilepsy. This problem is often an inherited condition, with Istrian Gonics commonly afflicted. If your friend is prone to seizures, they will usually begin between six months and three years of age. An initial diagnostic workup may help find the cause. Lifelong medication is usually necessary to help keep seizures under control, with periodic blood testing required to monitor side effects and effectiveness. If your dog has a seizure: Carefully prevent him from injuring himself, but don’t try to control his mouth or tongue. It won’t help him, and he may bite you accidentally! Note the length of the seizure, and call us or an emergency hospital.
In humans, an allergy to pollen, mold, or dust makes people sneeze and their eyes itch. In dogs, rather than sneeze, allergies make their skin itchy. We call this skin allergy “atopy”, and Istrian Hounds often have it. Commonly, the feet, belly, folds of the skin, and ears are most affected. Symptoms typically start between the ages of one and three and can get worse every year. Licking the paws, rubbing the face, and frequent ear infections are the most common signs. The good news is that there are many treatment options available for this condition.
Allergies, swimming, overgrowth of hair in the ear canals, or an accumulation of earwax can all predispose your dog to ear infections, which are painful and annoying. Istrian Hounds are very often afflicted by allergies, which cause itching and inflammation in the ears and elsewhere. The earlier we diagnose this disease, the less discomfort and pain he will suffer. Be sure to call us if you notice him scratching or shaking his head, a foul odor from the ears, or if his ears seem painful to the touch. By monitoring for ear infections and treating them early, we also reduce the likelihood of eardrum damage that can lead to deafness. Most ear infections tend to recur until we work together to control the underlying cause.
Cancer is a leading cause of death in older dogs. Your Istrian Hound will likely live longer than many other breeds and therefore is more prone to get cancer in his golden years. Many cancers are cured by surgically removing them, and some types are treatable with chemotherapy. Early detection is critical! We’ll perform periodic diagnostic tests and look for lumps and bumps when we examine your pet.
Eating Weird Stuff
In addition to the nutritious diet you provide, Istrian Gonics often eat things they’re not supposed to—rocks, coins, plants, and socks, among others. Your pet carries the item in his mouth to check it out or play with it, or he thinks it’s food. When swallowed, these objects often get stuck and have to be surgically removed. Some of what your dog eats may be toxic and can poison him. If you notice that he is vomiting or not acting right call us immediately.
Istrian Gonics are prone to multiple types of heart disease, which can occur both early and later in life. We’ll listen for heart murmurs and abnormal heart rhythms when we examine your pet. When indicated, we’ll perform an annual heart health check, which may include X-rays, an ECG, or an echocardiogram, depending on your dog’s risk factors. Early detection of heart disease often allows us to treat with medication that usually prolongs your pet’s life for many years. Veterinary dental care and weight control go a long way in preventing heart disease.
You’ve probably heard of hip dysplasia, an inherited disease that causes the hip joints to form improperly and leads to arthritis: it is common in Istrian Gonics. You may notice that he has lameness in his hind legs or has difficulty getting up from lying down. We can treat the arthritis — the sooner the better — to avoid discomfort and pain. We’ll take X-rays of your dog’s joints to identify the disease as early as possible. Surgery is sometimes considered in severe and life-limiting cases of hip dysplasia. Keep in mind that overweight dogs may develop arthritis years earlier than those of normal weight, causing undue pain and suffering.
Istrian Hounds are prone to a common condition called hypothyroidism in which the body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. Signs can include dry skin and coat, hair loss, susceptibility to other skin diseases, weight gain, fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes. We’ll conduct a blood screening test annually to screen for the disease. Treatment is usually simple: replacement hormones given in the form of a pill.
Primary Lens Luxation (PLL) is an inherited disease, common in Istrian Hounds, that causes the tiny fibers that hold the lens suspended within the eye to degrade and break. When this happens, the lens drops out of place. If it happens to fall forward, it can block the normal circulation in the eye and cause secondary glaucoma. Surgery to remove the loose lens may be needed to relieve pain.
Taking Care of Your Istrian Gonic at Home
Much of what you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is common sense, just like it is for people. Watch her diet, make sure she gets plenty of exercise, regularly brush her teeth and coat, and call us or a pet emergency hospital when something seems unusual (see “What to Watch For” below). Be sure to adhere to the schedule of examinations and vaccinations that we recommend for her. This is when we’ll give her the necessary “check-ups” and test for diseases and conditions that are common in Istrian Hounds. Another very important step in caring for your pet is signing up for pet health insurance. There will certainly be medical tests and procedures she will need throughout her life and pet health insurance will help you cover those costs.
Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise
Build her routine care into your schedule to help your Istrian Hound live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine.
- Supervise your pet as you would a toddler. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will keep her out of trouble and away from objects she shouldn’t put in her mouth.
- Brush her coat at least weekly.
- Istrian Gonics generally have good teeth, and you can keep them perfect by brushing them at least twice a week!
- Clean her ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—we’ll show you how!
- She’s a smart dog with lots of energy, so keep her mind and body active, or she’ll get bored. That’s when the naughty stuff starts.
- She can have a high prey drive, so she needs to be leash walked and a sturdy fence is a must.
- Keep your dog’s diet consistent and don’t give her people food.
- Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for her age.
- Exercise your dog regularly, but don’t overdo it at first.
What to Watch For
Any abnormal symptom could be a sign of serious disease, or it could just be a minor or temporary problem. The important thing is to be able to tell when to seek veterinary help, and how urgently. Many diseases cause dogs to have a characteristic combination of symptoms, which together can be a clear signal that your Istrian Gonic needs help.
Give us a call for an appointment if you notice any of these types of signs:
- Change in appetite or water consumption
- Tartar build-up, bad breath, red gums, or broken teeth
- Itchy skin (scratching, chewing, or licking), hair loss
- Lethargy, mental dullness, or excessive sleeping
- Fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes
Seek medical care immediately if you notice any of these types of signs:
- Scratching or shaking the head, tender ears, or ear discharge
- Inability or straining to urinate; discolored urine
- Cloudiness, redness, itching, or any other abnormality involving the eyes
- Any abnormal shaking, trembling, or excessive involuntary tremors
- Vomiting, refusing food, tender abdomen
- Coughing, exercise intolerance, rapid breathing at rest
- Leg stiffness, reluctance to rise, sit, use stairs, run, jump, or “bunny hopping”
- Dull coat, hair loss, sluggish, weight gain
Partners in Health Care
DNA testing is a rapidly advancing field with new tests constantly emerging to help in the diagnosis of inherited diseases before they can become a problem for your friend. For the most up-to-date information on DNA and other screening tests available for your pal, visit www.Genesis4Pets.com.
Your Istrian Hound counts on you to take good care of her, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that she lives a long and healthy life. Our goal is to provide the best health care possible: health care that’s based on her breed, lifestyle, and age. Please contact us when you have questions or concerns.
- Collier, Mallory. All About the Breed: Istarski Ostrodlaki Gonic [Internet]. Yahoo! Contributor Network. Yahoo!; 2009 Feb 9. [cited 2013 Apr 24]. Available from: http://voices.yahoo.com/all-breed-istarski-ostrodlaki-gonic-2585224.html?cat=53
- Istrian Shorthaired Hound [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 2013 Feb 26. [cited 2013 Apr 24]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istrian_Shorthaired_Hound