Traits, Personality and Behavior
The Vizsla is a sleek, copper-colored dog with long ears framing his chiseled face and eyes of the same rich tone as his coat. He sheds a bit, but his grooming needs are pretty simple: A weekly brushing, occasional nail trims, and care to make sure his ears are clean.
Smaller in size than the similar Weimaraner, female Vizslas weigh between 40-55 pounds, while males weigh up to around 65 pounds. This makes them a better choice for families looking for a dog that is big, but not too big. And speaking of families, while the Vizsla originated in Hungary as a hunting dog, they are most often found as family pets. They love and are great with children, although they can be untrustworthy with the family cat.
The Vizsla needs a great deal of exercise to avoid becoming bored and destructive. He also needs gentle, consistent training from an early age to develop good habits and avoid bad ones, such as digging and escaping from the yard. His worst fear is being cut off from his family, which means he absolutely cannot live in the yard or the garage. If you bring a Vizsla into your home, be prepared to give him the guidance and attention he needs to be a part of your family, because that is where and how he needs to live.
Health Issues Common to Vizslas
The Vizsla is a relatively healthy breed, but like all dogs, can suffer from a number of health problems, some of them genetic. In the hopes of controlling the genetic diseases that already affect the breed and preventing any new ones from emerging, the Vizsla Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in a program operated by the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC). It requires that breeders test all their breeding dogs for hip, eye and thyroid disorders that occur in the breed, and recommends a number of other genetic screening tests.
The VCA additionally requires its member breeders to obtain a DNA number for all their dogs, and only breed those that are "free of serious hereditary defects (including epilepsy, progressive retinal atrophy, Von Willebrands, entropian and cranial muscular atrophy), and are over two years of age and have been x-rayed and OFA-certified as free from hip dysplasia."
Your puppy's breeder must have written documentation from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) that her dogs are free of eye problems; this certification must be renewed annually. She should also have clearance from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) that your puppy's parents' hips are free of dysplasia, a genetic hip deformity that requires costly surgery to repair and can lead to arthritis later in life. University of Pennsylvania (PennHip) hip certification is also accepted.
Optional but very desirable clearances include OFA certification of heart and elbow health, an evaluation for a skin condition known as sebaceous adenitis, and freedom from the bleeding disorder known as von Willebrand's disease.
Because temperament is so important in family dogs, a breeder who has American Temperament Test Society (TT) certification on her dogs is to be preferred over one who does not.
Vizslas can also suffer from bloat and torsion, a condition in which the stomach twists on itself, cutting off blood flow. Bloat strikes very suddenly, and a dog who was fine one minute can be dead a few hours later. Watch for symptoms like restlessness and pacing, drooling, pale gums and lip licking, trying to throw up but without bringing anything up, and signs of pain. Bloat requires immediate veterinary surgery, and most dogs that have bloated once will bloat again. That means it's wise to opt for the procedure known as "stomach tacking," which will keep the stomach from twisting in the future. This procedure can also be done as a preventive measure.
There are three muscle diseases that can affect some Vizlas. Masticatory muscle myositis is an autoimmune disease that causes jaw pain with an inability to open the jaw and swelling and wasting of the facial muscles. It can be treatable if caught in the early stages.
Myasthenia gravis is another autoimmune disease that is often first noticed when the dog has difficulty swallowing or shows signs of gagging and regurgitation. Untreated it can lead to collapse, but it's also treatable if caught early on.
The third muscle disease that can affect the Vizsla is polymyositis. It, too, causes difficulty in swallowing and regurgitation, but progresses to cause atrophy of all muscles. While all of these conditions can appear similar, it's important that Vizsla owners and their veterinarians be aware of the differences in diagnosis and treatment.
A good breeder will be able to discuss how prevalent all health problems, those with and those without genetic screening tests, are in her dogs' lines, and help puppy buyers make an informed decision regarding health risks to their dog.
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6 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Vizsla Puppy
Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You're more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
Find a good breeder who will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. Start your search on the website of the Vizsla Club of America, which offers a breeder referral service; choose one who is a member in good standing and has agreed to be bound by the club's Code of Ethics.
Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing, and any breeder who says her lines are free of all these problems, or that they're not a concern, is either lying or knows almost nothing about Vizslas. Look for your puppy elsewhere.
Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Vizslas aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out.
Puppy or adult, take your Vizsla to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Pet Insurance for Vizlas
Pet insurance for Vizslas costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Vizslas are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.
Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Vizslas are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Vizsla is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.