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The Presa Canario

The Presa Canario is a molossoid dog native to the Canary Islands. These powerful dogs resulted from crossings of native perros de presa or presa de la tierra and dogs, especially mastiffs and bulldogs, brought to the islands by the  settlers. Also included into the original foundation of the dogs is the Bardino Majorero, a shepherding dog native to the island of Fuerteventura. It has always been used as a cattle dog and guardian.

Is the Presa Canario the right pet for me?

This depends on what you consider a good pet for you. The Presa Canario makes an exceptional pet for the right home. They are obedient, loyal and bond very strongly with their owners. They thrive on the attention of their human families. They are a dominant breed and do require that the owners be as assertive as they are. This does not mean that you must strong arm your dog into submission, but rather that you must be able to set firm limitations on your dogs and earn their respect. The Presa is NOT a good dog for a submissive family that will allow the dog to rule the household. Nor are they a good choice that expects a pack of dogs to live in total harmony in one home. Some of them to require supervision around other animals.

The Presa Canario makes an exceptional home guardian breed. They are naturally territorial, watchful of strangers, close bonding with their families and confident in themselves. A "watchdog" or "guardian" dog is very different from having "personal protection". This is a dog that is highly trained in protection of his owner(s). While most Presa Canario can successfully become personal protection dogs, they are not all born equally. If this is what you are expecting of your dog, the we highly suggest consulting a professional trainer in your area.

Is a Presa Canario Right for Me?

     Character + Temperament 

The Character of the Presa Canario


What all breeders and owners of Presa Canario agree on is the impressive character that it has. The standard of the breed states: "their aspect denotes power. Severe gaze. Especially gifted for the function of guard and defense and traditionally for the conduction of cattle. Impetuous temperament, skilled fighter (tendency that shows for atavism), low and deep bark. He is gentle and noble in family and distrustful with the strangers. In the past he was used especially as fighting dog."


Through this description of the character of the Presa, it could be arrived to the conclusion that he is a versatile dog, able to develop several jobs: conduction of livestock, guard, defense, companion. Now well, the dog of Presa Canario is a dog of guard and defense par excellence. It is enough with seeing their impressive physical appearance and their severe gaze, deep, almost human, in order to stop but bravest from trying to penetrate the property of the protected. However, the Presa Canario is not just external aspect: it is an incorruptible and very territorial guardian, their work consists of to look after their territory and the people and animals that constitute the family environment. Nothing prefixes to their work: he could be enjoying the happiest moment in company of his master, delighting with a great food, or playing with the rest of congener that live together with him, if he considers that somebody or something puts his territory in danger he leaves everything at once in order to defend that with the most forceful form and effectiveness. Although they try to bribe it with any trick, either food, threats, good words, and even, in the case of the males, with the presence of a female in heat, he won't allow anybody franks his territory, unless his owner orders to him to stop in the guard. Anyone that who meets the Presa Canario is aware that their courage doesn't have limits, being able to any thing as such defending that he consider as his, opposing great resistance despite many beats and threats received.


Upon speaking the standard of "impetuous temperament" we should not understand that it is an aggressive dog; on the contrary, one of the most noted characteristics of the Presa is the security that has in itself, of which leads it to not attack unless provoked.


Habitually is the expression "it has much character" applied to an aggressive dog; it is a generalized confusion to identify the character with the aggressiveness. In most of the cases the aggressiveness is not symptom of character, but of insecurity and of the existence of any unbalance psychological in the dog. The character shows in a balanced and sure dog.


Concerning their "ability in order to fight," tendency that exhibits for atavism, considers that this has been product of their use in the past as dog of fight. At the present time, and fortunately, these customs have disappeared, and with them the idea that the Presa is a dog quarreler, that could not cross down the street with another of the same species without rushing to attack it. The Presa, as consequence of their security, it doesn't need to prove their strength looking for fight with their equal; now then, this doesn't mean that if it is attacked or threatened it is going to leave fleeing; on the contrary, he in that moment will show with whole might that, unfortunately, what made him the dog of Spanish fight par excellence.


The coexistence of the Presa Canario with other dogs isn't only is possible, but rather, also, it is simple. The upbringing of the Presas, together with other dogs since is puppies, facilitates the coexistence between them, and, for example, in the case of the dogs shows, it will permit us to present with worth mentioning our specimen are not without the occasioned fights and scandals as could happen in other breeds.


"Serious bark and profound" The Presa is not a dog excessively barking. On the contrary: the same as you think of their ancestor the Perro de Ganado Majorero, only he barks in the case he could not attack, he is say, a Presa that this looking after you and you are considered threatened he attacks and doesn't mediate any bark, only bark if he could not attack, well because he is tied or separated by a wall from the aggressor. When it barks, the Presa also impresses, because their voice is hoarse and profound.


"It is gentle and noble in family" This tells little of the fidelity and passion that the Presa Canario shows with his. The Presa "is known" to very little people, family and close friends, but to which they know them to have all type of celebrations and demonstrations of affection every time that you lend your attention. Concerning the relationship of the Presa with the children, it is fascinating see the care with which the dog "supports" the childish games, he never shows aggressiveness with them and it reveals their younger face, enjoying in countless occasions of their company..

"Distrustful with the strangers" It's not he is just distrusted, but rather it doesn't remove them the eye of above. The distrust of the Presa should not be confused with the insecurity. The distrust means that inclination of all the movements that it takes place with the stranger so that stranger could not plunder him so that he could not plunder you unaware in a hypothetical attack. Also, the Presa is a dog very observant and curious; nothing passes him unnoticed.


The Perro de Presa Canario is a calm dog, he don't enjoy the trouble. This lying or sitting down observing everything in their environment, and while nobody disturbs to you is observing everything the once that happens, it peacefully doesn't escape detail of what happens to their surroundings.

Concerning their attitude in front of the owner, I am supposed to tell that the Presa is not a dog shepherd, although it could carry out functions driving livestock, and this means that he will not follow their owner where he wants that it goes, the tell, it is not a dog dependent of their master. If I have to define to the Presa with a single word, in their relationship with the owner, it would tell that the dog is "hanging" of their master, he constantly observes you without missing detail of your movements, but he doesn't need a command in order to make the decisions that he considers necessary in order to solve an accidental situation.


It is not true that the Presa Canario is not adapted in order to live together in a flat (and I tell from my own experience). He doesn't only adapt perfectly to the housing, but rather he makes it enchanted, now then, like all the dogs, he needs a minimum time of exercise and daily amusement and once arrived back at home one will be in his place, to be near their owners, lying without bothering at all.


The magnified character of the Perro de Presa Canario is supposed to be inside a physical structure that completes the parameters of the standard radial, is tell, a Presa Canario is not serious if only has the single qualification a stupendous guardian character, but lack of typical, of the external morphology that is described in the canaria pattern of the breed elaborated by the Espanol Club of the Presa, of the same form that, in my opinion, neither is a Presa Canario that which it has a pretty physical appearance, but that demonstrates a total lack of character and an apathy or shyness that are not characteristic of the breed. It is necessary to look after, therefore, both aspects in order to could breed Presas Canarios. This work is in the hands of all the breeders of the breed. That we owe, selecting the crossings that we accomplished carefully in order to obtain a dog with the balanced but very pronounced character and with some physical qualities that conform to the racial pattern and that it will be the that we hope to be this year with the official recognition on the part of the Federation Cynological International- it triumphs internationally in the shows of beauty and it leads to our molosoids to get the international projection that deserves.


I don't want to finish without making a mention to the aptitude of the Perro de Presa Canario in order to overcome tests of work, civil training, RCI, Ahi etc. has dogs like "Volcán" property of Senor Escabar, that approximately comes to the degree 3 of RCI and that until now have achieved some excellent results.


It is evident that the Presa Canario is my passion, and it is because, although I also have another breed, I consider that he has all that I could request in a dog. I invite you to that you discover all the excellences of the Perro de Presa Canario.


Maria Paloma Iglesias Sanz

Character + Temperment


General Disorders
This is just a short list and description of some of the genetic disorders that have been reported in the Dogo Canario. The frequency of each disease is not known, and more research needs to be compiled, but these are some diseases that have been confirmed in the breed. This list is compiled for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment options.

Demodectic Mange

Demodectic mange is a parasitic skin condition caused by microscopic mites (Demodex Canis). This is one of 2 forms of mange diagnosed in dogs. The demodex mites are cigar shaped mites that live on the hair follicles of affected dogs. Most dogs have small numbers of these mites on their skin. It is not a contagious disease as normal healthy dogs are able to tolerate these small numbers. The known method of transmission is not completely understood, but affected dogs generally have an immune system deficiency. The immune system is under genetic control, thus susceptibility to demodex is widely accepted to be an inherited trait. Most affected are immature dogs under 18 months of age.

Demodex can be either localized or generalized. Localized symptoms include hair loss or thinning of hair in small patches commonly on the head especially around the eyes. The dog may appear to look “moth eaten” on the coat. Localized mange is generally easily treated with topical ointments, shampoos and occasionally oral medications.

If the hair loss is found throughout the body, the disease is then termed generalized. This is a much more serious and difficult case to treat. Generalized may have begun as a localized case, or can be sudden onset. Stress induced factors and poor diet can be contributors to an outbreak in a susceptible dog, but not the cause. Treatments may include shampoos, dips and oral medications and antibiotics to combat secondary infections. The treatment can be costly and prolonged. Occasionally a dog with a very severe immunodeficiency is not able to recover from demodex.
Because tendencies to be affected with demodex are considered genetic, affected animals should be sterilized, owners of littermates notified to watch their pups, and parents that produce such animals should not be rebred.

Canine Epilepsy

Idiopathic epilepsy literally means “seizure of unknown origins”. Seizures can occur in dogs for a number of reasons for which a medical condition is known to be the cause. IF no medical reasoning can be found, the dog is then considered to be an epileptic.

A seizure has 3 distinct parts. First the aura. The dog may experience a behavioral change. Become restless, nervous, whine, salivate or many other behaviors. The next part is the Ictis, or the actual seizure. The dog may fall to his side and will have involuntary muscular movements such as kicking or paddling. He will salivate excessively and may loose bladder and bowel control. He is totally unaware of his surroundings and the owner should NEVER interfere with the dog. Only remove any items that the dog is in danger of injuring himself on. This stage generally lasts 1-3 minutes. The final phase is the postictis this is characterized by confusion, lethargy, disorientation and often unresponsiveness. Depending on the dog the postictal stage may last from an hour to many days. A seizure that lasts 5 minutes or more or the dog has two or more in a short time span or is remaining unresponsive between seizures, immediate emergency treatment is required.

Dogs that experience seizures infrequently, of very short duration and non-violent in nature can live normally without anticonvulsant medications. But those that experience them more frequently, longer in duration and of a violent nature are best controlled by medications. There are several medications to choose from. Your veterinarian will advise you best on both type and dosages as well as require frequent monitoring of the dog while on the medications.

As there are occurrences within related dogs, dogs of specific bloodlines and certain breeds, it is believed that Epilepsy is an inherited disorder. Epileptic dogs should not be bred. However at this time there is no available method to test potential carriers.


Entropion is a condition of the eye in which there is an inward rolling of the eyelids, most commonly the lowers, and usually occurs in both eyes. The diagnosis is generally very easily made, as the inward lid rolling is readily apparent.

The lids continually rub on the eyes causing increased tearing and squinting, corneal irritation and can eventually lead to visual impairment if severe enough to cause ulceration. The treatment for entropion evolves surgical correction. A dog with corrective surgery is not eligible for competition in the show ring.

Entropion is a result of breeding for exaggerated facial features and is common in breeds such as the mastiff, bullmastiff, shar pei and chow chow. Reduction of this disorder is accomplished by selective breeding for a more normal head conformation.


Hypothyroidism is a disorder of the thyroid gland. In dogs with this condition the gland secretes insufficient amounts of the thyroid hormone. This condition is not life threatening, but can diminish a dog’s quality of life.

Over 50% of dogs with hypothyroidism experience weight gain, without an increase in food intake. About 33% develop lethargy and mental dullness. Also about 33% develop hair coat and skin abnormalities including, hair thinning or loss, wrinkling of the skin and seborrhea. Behavioral problems are also believed to be symptoms of hypothyroidism. Sudden increase in aggression is most commonly reported. Also anxiety and compulsive behaviors such as chronic licking. It can also affect reproductive capabilities of the dog by reducing sperm count and interest of mating of a male and cause irregular heat cycles or anestrus. It is generally not recommended to breed a dog diagnosed with hypothyroidism due to the possibility of hereditary factors.

Hypothyroidism is diagnosed by blood tests. Simply measuring the thyroid level of the dog however is not accurate. This value can be invalid due to other factors such as Cushing’s Disease, overactive adrenal glands and cortisone medications. The most accurate test is the free thyroxine or fT4. Other tests that measure the fT4, T4 and TSH, thyroid stimulation hormone are available. A dog with a high TDH and low T4 and fT4, this dog is very likely hypothyroid.

Once hypothyroid is diagnosed it is easily controlled with daily medications. The dog will need monitoring of thyroid levels throughout its life, but the prognosis is excellent for a normal life.


A problem with male dogs that is both a breed standard disqualification and medical hazard. In newborn pups, the testes are inside the body. They descend down the inguinal canal and “relocate” to the scrotum by the time the dog is 6-8 weeks of age. Some dogs may take a bit longer, but generally if both are not present by the time the dog is 12 weeks, he is considered a cryptorchid, or said to have a “retained teste”.

A cryptorchid male can be one of 2 forms. Unilateral, in which one has descended into it’s proper place, while one stays somewhere within the inguinal canal. This male has all the normal male drives and is fertile, but most believe he shouldn’t be bred. A bilateral cryptorchid is one with neither teste descended into the scrotum. He also has the normal male drives, but is sterile and cannot be bred.

The treatment of choice for a cryptorchid is castration, as the retained testicle has a much higher risk of developing tumors, especially cancers.
This condition is known to have genetic transmission, though the exact link is unknown. Most cryptorchid are produced by “normal males” as cryptorchid generally are not bred, which would indicate this condition is also passed down on the female side. Close monitoring of male pups produced from parents who have been known to produce this condition should be done, so that the dog showing to be the link can be removed from breeding.


Skeletal Disorders

Canine Hip Dysplasia

Information on this subject in the Dogo Canario can be found at it’s own page. FAQs About Canine Hip Dysplasia.

For a listing of Dogo Canario Dogs that have been certified free of CHD by the OFA, please visit



Panosteoitis, also called “pano” is a common cause of limping in dogs. It is also commonly referred to as “growing pains” as it affects young growing large and giant dogs breeds, usually puppies from 5 to 12 months of age. Also called “wandering lameness” as its symptoms include an intermittent limping that switches from one leg to another, often accompanied by fever. Males are affected four times more often than females. Panosteoitis can be caused by a number of factors including diet, disease, genetic influence and vascular problems.

Diagnosis of pano is generally made through radiographs. Treatment includes the use of anti-inflammatory medications, pain relievers and rest. There are generally no long term affects from a diagnosis of pano during puppy hood and most dogs outgrow the condition by their 2nd birthday.


Osteochondritis Dessicans

Osteochondritis Dessicans, or OCD, is a problem with the cartilage in a young dog. Cartilage attached to the bone breaks and can become dislodged and become an irritant to the joint. This break can be caused by a number of factors including diet, genetic influence, body size and weight and trauma. OCD by definition can occur in almost any joint but is found most prevalently in the shoulder, elbow and ankle. OCD can be seen as early as 4 months or as late as 18.

When a section of cartilage has broken away from the bone it irritates the surrounding tissue causing pain and discomfort in the dog. Dogs with OCD present with limping as the main symptom. This flap can also become lodged between the bones of the joint causing chronic pain to the dog. As the body attempts to heal, extra joint fluid builds up causing swelling. Nerve endings are irritated and scar tissue and calcium deposits may build in the joint. If left untreated, permanent lameness may occur.

Veterinary examination, palpation of the joint and radiographs make diagnosis. MRI’s are also commonly used where available. Once the diagnosis is made, there are usually 2 treatment options. The first is a conservative regiment of complete rest and limited activities. No medications are advised as they will mask the pain and make the dog more active. . If after 4-6 weeks the dog is unable to heal on his own the second treatment option is surgical removal of the flap. Most OCD surgeries have excellent outcomes.

There is evidence that OCD is genetically influenced, as there are higher instances of OCD in some breeds. But because this condition is often spontaneous and unpredictable, it is not certain. Other factors such as excessive weight during growth periods, rapid growth, excessive impact on bones (aggressive exercise and being quartered on hard surfaces), over supplementation of calcium and trauma are also noted causes.


Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a degenerative disease of the elbow joint. It is found to occur in medium and large breed dogs, with males seeming to be more affected than females.

The elbow joint consists of 3 bones. The distal humorous and the proximal radius and ulna. It is one of the most complex of all the body’s joints. Current theories suggest that ED is caused by asynchronized (uneven) bone growth.

There are 3 main aspects of ED, OCD (as described above), ununited anconeal process (UAP) and fragmented coronoid process (FCP). The head of the ulna has a curved notch that allows it to fit into the humorous to form the joint. The top lip of this notch is the anconeal process and the bottom is the coronoid process. This piece of bone begins as cartilage in a young dog and becomes bone when it attaches to the ulna around 4-54 months of age. In some dogs this process never unites and becomes an irritation in the joint similar to OCD. UAP was once considered to be a form of this condition. Causes and treatments to both are similar. If the coronoid process fails to unite to the bone, similar results happen causing a fragmented process and leads to degenerative disease.

Symptoms of ED are generally intermittent lameness of one or both front limbs, lameness that continues for more than a few days, soreness after rest periods but improving with exercise, but then to worsen again with over exercise, a reluctance to land hard on that limb (i.e. Jumping or trotting) and pain upon overextension to the limb. A dog with ED may have all or none of these symptoms, so lack of any does not guarantee an ED free dog. Definite diagnosis can only be made with radiographs.

Treatment options for a dog with ED can be medical or surgical. Medical treatments would depend on the condition diagnoses as causing the ED. Treatments can include moderation of exercise, dietary changes, glucosamine sulfates and sometimes anti0inflamitory medications. If medical management is not successful, surgical treatment is the next option. Surgical techniques involve removing the damaged bone fragments. Surgical techniques have been shown to show marked improvement in some dogs but only minimal relief in others. Most dogs however will generally have some degree of DJD despite treatment.

ED is known to have a genetic disposition and some veterinarians believe it is even more so than canine hip dysplasia. But to date, it is not very predictable as to which dogs will develop this condition. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals does have an elbow registry at this time and will certify dogs free of ED after 2 years of age. Additionally they will read and report on dogs of younger ages.

Nutrition also plays a role in development of ED. Feeding high protein and fat foods to large breed dogs is not recommended. Watch excessive levels of calcium and phosphorus. Rapid growth in large breeds should be avoided. Trauma will certainly occur beyond control, but limiting the actives that cause high impact to growing bones should be avoided. As well the dog should be kept in optimal condition.


Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation is the dislocation (or slipping) of the patella's (kneecaps. The patella of a dog is a small bone fitting into a grove in the femur and connected by tendons and ligaments. It is similar in structure to the kneecap of humans.

Luxation can be either medial (to the inside) 0r lateral (to the outside). Patellar luxation has been shown to have a genetic base but can also be trauma induced.

Medial luxation occurs most frequently in toy dogs, but occurs in large dogs as well. It can often been detected in severe cases in young pups, but most often in older and young adult dogs that are very active. Symptoms include difficult gait, straightening of the knee, stifle pain and limping. Lateral luxation is more common in larger and giant breeds and is generally found in young pups from 4-6 months. The most common symptom is a knock-kneed stance.

Conditions that predispose to patellar luxation are: a shallow groove; weak ligaments; and mal-alignment of the tendons and muscles that straighten the joint. The patella may slip inward or outward. Diagnosis is confirmed by veterinary manipulation of the kneecap and radiographs may be taken to confirm the condition.

Depending on the severity of the condition surgical correction of the luxating knee may be required. It is not uncommon for patellar luxation to be found in conjunction with other knee injures such as anterior cruciate ligament tears.


Ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament

Ruptured ACL’s are not necessarily genetically influenced, however they are quite common in this breed. They can occur due to other genetic knee conditions, but are commonly caused by trauma to the joint.

The patella (knee cap) fits into the joint that joins the femur to the tibia and fibula. This bone is held in place and the joint stabilized by two ligaments (the anterior and posterior) cruciate. The ligaments cross over the patella like an X. Rupture of the ACL is one of the most common causes of rear limb lameness. It is common to large breeds, especially those that are overweight. It is also common in this and other breeds of dogs that have a conformation with hyperextension of the stifle which expose the joint to more stress.

The rupture can be either partial or complete. It is important to recognize and treat the injury as soon as possible before permanent arthritic damage is done to the joint. An acute injury caused by trauma such as automobile accidents or in breeds of this weight, simply by jumping and landing very hard on the joint. Acute tears are symptomized by lack of weight bearing, pain and swelling in the knee and joint instability. Chronic causes may be more subtle. Intermittent lameness and muscular atrophy are usually present, as well as joint instability. Diagnosis should be made quickly and is done so by veterinary manipulation of the joint instability. Often a distinct clicking sound can be heard when the joint is moved. This indicates a tearing of the meniscus, the pad of cartilage that cushions the knee joint.

Surgical repair of the injured leg is necessary. Other conditions such as patellar luxation can be corrected at the same time. Post-operative recovery generally takes 3 to 6 months. Depending on other medical conditions and the amount of time between tear and surgery, ACL ruptures that have been repaired have a very good outlook for full recovery. Most dogs continue to lead normal lives.


Cervical Spondylolithesis

Also known as Wobbler’s syndrome, is a neurological disorder caused by a narrowing of the cervical (neck) vertebra. The spinal canal is the tunnel n the vertebra that the spinal cord lays. In dogs affected with spondylolithesis, this canal is much narrower than normal putting pressure on the cord. The pressure affects normal nerve impulse transmission from the brain to the rest of the body.

The cause of Wobbler’s syndrome is not clear, but a genetic link and accelerated growth are probable causes.

Wobbler’s has been reported in many breeds of dogs, but Great Danes and Doberman Pinschers make up the large majority of its victims. In Danes, the typical age for symptoms to appear is 3-12 months, while in Dobermans it seems to affect middle aged to older dogs, generally 3-9 years. The Dogos diagnosed with wobblers have been under 1 year of age, more typical to the pattern of the Danes. First symptoms usually include a mild incoordination of the rear gait, often appearing to be “clumsy” or “wobbling” and the dog often sway the rear legs. Front leg involvement is usually minimal at first, but slowly progresses to them also. Severe cases will progress to paralysis. An overly clumsy puppy should have a thorough neurological examination to rule out Wobbler’s Syndrome.

Diagnosis is made by cervical radiographs and myelogram. This is a procedure that injects a dye into the spinal cord Because this procedure is dangerous and expensive, it is not always used to detect an affected dog. Often x-rays and physical examination is enough for the veterinarian to “highly suspect” wobblers. The dog also generally has instability in the cervical vertebra and may have a reluctance to bend his neck and/or severe pain when the neck is forcefully moved.

Treatment for Wobbler’s depends on the severity of the condition and at what stage it has been diagnosed. Steroids and other anti-inflammatory medications, diet changes and changes in life style of the dog (feeding dishes raised, elimination of exercises that call for rapid head moving, etc…) can help a dog to live a more normal life. Another option is spinal surgery to stabilize the neck and relieve the pressure on the cord. Surgery is very expensive and not all dogs make a full recovery. Some dogs do not respond to treatments of any kind well, and are best euthanized.


For additional information on these health issues and others, we have provided these links to excellent websites.

This page is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to be an alternative for a diagnosis from your veterinarian. Always consult your veterinarian first regarding any questions about your dog's health.



Facts About Canine Hip Dysplasia

The Hip Joint

The hip joint of the dog is made up of two parts- the femoral head (thigh bone) and the acetabulum (the socket of the pelvic bone). The acetabulum and the femoral head form a "ball and socket" joint. The femoral head surface is covered with a smooth articular cartilage. There is a thin layer of fluid (synovial fluid), which serves as a lubricant for the joint and nourishment for the articular cartilage, separating these opposing surfaces. Muscles encase the entire hip, stabilizing and allowing movement. The head of the femur is held in the acetabulum by the pelvic muscles, joint capsule, surface tension and the round ligament. Proper development of the joint still depends on the head of the femur being held firmly within the acetabulum until all parts are mature.


Dysplasia literally means "bad development". Sometime after birth, something initiates a bad fit or function of one or more parts. What this (or these) initiating factors might be is still not known. It is likely that there are multiple causing factors and they may fodder between genetic lines. CHD is caused by the interaction of many genes (polygenic). Any attempt to define the process in exact sequence is speculative.

In normal dogs there is a smooth and even fit between the femoral head and the acetabulum. In dogs with CHD there is a poor fit of the joint due to abnormal laxity (space between the bone) and/or remodeling of the femoral head and/or acetabulum (changes in bone structure).

The current concept is that CHD is an inherited trait and controlled by the genetic makeup (genotype) of each dog. Genotype is controlled by the genes received from each parent, one half from each the sire and dam. The concept that it is polygenic has been supported by research since the 1960's. Regardless of any changes in theories as to how or why these genes interact with each other as to the mode of inheritance, one thing remains constant. Scientists have repeatedly demonstrated that CHD is controllable with selective breeding.

Signs and Symptoms of CHD

Many dysplastic dogs show observable signs between 3 and 15 months of age, while some can take up to 36 months. This is generally the severest form, characterized by marked pain and lameness. In others, a more chronic form with gradual onset increasingly becoming more affected in advanced age. In some cases the chronic form dog may be asymptomatic. Some of the signs are

  • reluctance or inability to go up or down steps

  • difficulty in rising from a sitting or prone position

  • stiffness early in the day that improves as the dog "warms up"

  • changes in disposition due to pain

  • lameness after exercise

  • wobbly gait or bunny hopping gait when running (moving rear legs together)

  • painful reaction to extension of the rear legs

Because the hip joint is weakened in a dog with CHD, it is more subject to injury with normal activity such as jumping off the couch or playing with another dog. Often times this results in acute lameness that the owner thinks was caused by the injury, when in fact it is the underlying CHD that has made the joint more susceptible to injury.

Canine Hip Dysplasia cannot be diagnosed by observing how the dog moves, acts, lies down, etc.... The clinic signs may or may not be present and only an orthopedic and radiographic examination can conclude the diagnosis.

Diagnosis of CHD

Radiographic evidence of CHD

The only way to determine the conformation of CHD free or affected is by radiographic examination of the hips. Radiographic criteria of subluxation, shallow acetabulum, remodeling and/or secondary degenerative joint disease (DJD) are well documented. DJD of the hip is characterized by one or more of the following: cartilage damage, joint effusion, synovitis and bony remodeling. DJD is synonymous with osteoarthritis and its radiographic evidence is considered a diagnosis of CHD.

Joint Laxity

Joint laxity (looseness of the joint) is a dynamic state that cannot be determined by routine radiography. The joint may appear radiographically normal but in actuality be loose.

Laxity is considered to be one of the earliest pathologic findings in CHD. Therefore, demonstration of laxity in young dogs from 3-6 months of age could be a diagnosis of CHD or possibly a predictor of dysplasia. Palpation of the hips is not accepted as a single method of diagnosing CHD. The use of a wedge or fulcrum (placed between the thighs to force the head of the femur out of the acetabulum) is used to determine the degree of radiographic subluxation. Some type of measurement criteria must be employed (Norberg, millimeters, distraction index, etc.) to demonstrate the amount of displacement of the femoral head when compared to a fixed anatomical structure or to a standard radiograph taken without a wedge or fulcrum. The use of the fulcrum has shown that some laxity is expected in a normal joint and that many dogs with laxity beyond a certain point later show characteristic radiographic evidence of CHD.

OFA and PennHIP


The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) is a not-for-profit foundation established in 1966. They maintain a dysplasia control registry as a voluntary service to register hip status for Breed club affiliation is an important part of the OFA-By-Laws, as OFA cannot control the frequency of CHD, as they have no control over breeding. Only breeders who wish to use them as a tool can reduce the instance of CHD in a breed.

Radiographs may be submitted to OFA at any age but only dogs 24 months of age or older at the time of the x-ray can qualify for an OFA registration number. Hip status of younger dogs will be evaluated on a consultation report only.

Independent evaluations are done by three veterinary radiologists. These radiologists are concerned with deviations in these structures from the breed normal. Consistency and convergence of the hip joint are considered as well as

  • 1-subluxation

  • 2-cranial acetabular margin

  • 3-dorsal acetabular margin

  • 4-craniolateral acetabular margin

  • 5-acetabular notch

  • 6-caudal acetabular margin

  • 7-size, shape and architecture of the femoral head and neck

  • 8-presence of exostosis or osteophytes (bone spurs)

  • 9-subchondral bone eburnation

Each evaluation is independent- meaning that no radiologist knows the interpretation given by the others. These are then compiled into the final consensus.

The consensus report can be one of the following. Excellent, Good or Fair, these are considered within normal range and assigned an OFA number. Borderline is a grade of marginal hips, undeterminable with respect to CHD at this time. Normally repeat films are requested in 6-8 months. Mild, Moderate and Severe are all reports of CHD affected.
It is important to have the radiographs taken by an experienced veterinarian as proper positioning and radiographic technique are essential to accurate diagnosis.


To learn more about OFA, please visit their website at:



PennHIP stands for University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program. In 1983, Dr. Gail Smith a veterinary orthopedic surgeon and bioengineer began to actively research a method for early diagnosis of CHD. The PennHIP was founded as an extension of his laboratory research.
PennHIP is the scientific method to evaluate a dog for it's susceptibility to develop CHD. The radiographic procedure involves using a special positioning to measure a dogs "passive hip laxity". It uses Distraction Index (DI) to measure the maximal passive hip laxity. DI is a unitless number between 0 and 1. A smaller DI means less laxity (tighter hips). The DI has been shown to correlate strongly with a dog's possibility to develop CHD. A DI of .5 is interpreted to mean that the femoral head is 50% displaced from the acetabulum.


The PennHIP method uses 3 different views

  • Hip-extended Position- this is also known as the standard OFA view. The purpose of this view is to evaluate the hips for existing DJD.

  • Compression View- during compression the femoral head is pushed fully into the acetabulum. The purpose of this view is to accurately indicate the hips landmarks and to demonstrate well the hip fits.

  • Distraction View- A special "distraction device" is placed between the dogs legs to act as a fulcrum to apply lateral distractive force to the hips. The femoral heads are pushed from the acetabulum to view the passive laxity. This amount is measured using the distraction index (DI).

PennHIP requires a certified PennHIP veterinarian to take the radiographs, and it must be done under heavy sedation or general anesthesia. It is policy that all radiographs taken be submitted to PennHIP for evaluation. This ensures that prescreening of radiographs and only sending the best for evaluation does not occur, resulting in an unbiased data base for the given breed.


To learn more about PennHIP, visit their website at

Occurrence of CHD in the Presa Canario

There are currently no firm statistics on the occurrence of CHD in the Presa Canario. The original Island breeders did not x-ray their dogs, but relied on the functionality of the dog to determine it's health. Many lines of the breed were established before the necessity of radiographs to determine if CHD was present was well understood. The Club Español del Presa Canario has conducted a survey of 300 Island dogs to determine the percentage of CHD in the breed. Approximately 12% of the dogs fell into the Excellent to Good (A) category with 22% affected with various degrees.

The majority of the breed fell into the Fair to Borderline (B) rating. They are working towards requiring radiographs on all breeding dogs. In the USA, The Presa Canario Club of America is working towards that same goal on stock used by American breeders. The Presa Canario has a typical hip confirmation of a molosser dog with little angluation. At this time the breed averages more subluxation than is typically allowed by OFA examination, resulting in mild ratings on dogs that are otherwise normal. Dogs scoring OFA mild should be evaluated under the PennHip method to get a true reading of their subluxation. Dogs scoring at or under the current breed median, with no DJD, can be considered fit for breeding.

Do not believe any breeder that tells you that CHD is NOT a problem in the Presa Canario, based on "old history" or "functionality of the dog". It is being reported with more frequency, but usually only when the disease is severe enough to be crippling. Due to the muscle mass and higher pain tolerance of these dogs, they are often asymptomatic until the disease is well advanced, or of the severest form. Investigate the breeders before you purchase. Purchase only from breeders who x-ray their stock and are willing to guarantee your new dog. Ask where the x-rays were taken and who evaluated them? Although many veterinarians are capable of diagnosing an obviously dysplastic dog, not all are as skilled in radiography as a board certified specialist. Ask for written proof of the x-ray results. When your dog is old enough have him/her x-rayed. To date there are only a handful of Presa Canario dogs even examined by the OFA and recorded into the PennHip database.

Selective breeding is at this time the only tool a breeder has to reduce the frequency in the breed. By breeding normals to normals you increase the chances that a higher percentage of offspring will also be normal. Normal dogs should have normal parents and over 75% normal siblings. But until there is a large enough data base of x-rayed stock breeders can only select those dogs known to be normal.

Possible Treatment Options

Canine hip dysplasia is an inherited genetic disease with a minor environmental roll in its expression in some circumstances. Some environmental factors can influence the expression of the disease and mask or exacerbate the symptoms. Some common factors are:

  • rough play, jumping, climbing stairs or slick floors

  • excessive caloric intake during rapid growth phase

  • calcium supplementation

  • forced running for distances, especially on tarmac, asphalt or other hard surfaces

  • nutrition, illness, trauma, exposure to chemicals

Non surgical methods of treatment for pain management may include, aspirin, phenylbutazone, non steroidal anti-inflamitories, steroids and Rimadyl (Pfzier). All of these drugs should be used under direct supervision of your veterinarian and all but aspirin are by prescription only.


Another product that is showing great promise in alleviation of symptoms is glucosamine. Adequan, Cosequin, Glycoflex are some brand name products which contain this homeopathic substance. Vitamin C is controversial but has been shown to help reduce inflammation.

Reduction in the weight of the dog and a modified exercise program helps to lessen the stress on the dog's weakened joints. An ideal exercise for a CHD affected dog is swimming, which doesn't stress the joints. Keeping the dog mainly indoors and with softer surfaces to lie on will also help to make his life more comfortable.

Surgical treatments are generally reserved for animals for when other treatments offer no relief. There are many surgical options that must be discussed with the advise of your veterinarian. He or she will recommend the best option for your dog.

If your dog is diagnosed with CHD you should notify your breeder so they can evaluate their breeding stock. Without your notification they will be unaware of the problem.



  • CHD is an inherited disease. It is resulting from the action of many genes, but how many and how they interact is not yet known.

  • No environmental factors have been shown to cause CHD. They can affect the outcome of expression and/or symptoms, but they in themselves are not the cause.

  • While it is unrealistic to expect to eliminate CHD in the breed, with careful selective breeding it is proven to reduce the amount of affected dogs. PennHip method has proven to reduce subluxation in some breeds.

  • CHD cannot be accurately diagnosed by observation or physical examination, nor can a dog be "cleared" by these methods. The only conformation of hip status is radiographic examination.

  • All dogs have a degree of normal laxity, but increased laxity may be a predictor of CHD development.

  • OFA and PennHIP are 2 methods of radiographic examination and recording of status that are available to breeders in the USA.

  • CHD is proven to exist in the Dogo Canario breed, but firm statistics are not yet available.

  • Choose your breeder carefully and require they are doing the best they can to reduce the frequency of CHD in the breed.

  • If your dog is diagnosed with CHD, inform the breeder. Treatment options are best discussed with your veterinarian.

  • Too frequently information on CHD is misleading and may be hazardous. Always check with your veterinarian or nearest veterinary college for the best advise.


Breed Standard

FCI STANDARD #346 Dogo Canario, Canarian Dog

ORIGIN: Spain.


UTILIZATION: Guard dog used for protection of cattle.

FCI-CLASSIFICATION: Group 2 Pinscher and Schnauzer – 
Molossoid Breeds – 
Swiss Mountain and 
Cattle dogs. 
Section 2.1 Molossoid Mastiff type.
Without working trial.

BRIEF HISTORICAL SUMMARY: A molossoid type dog, originating from Tenerife and Gran Canaria (Canary Islands). It is believed to be the result of mating between the “majorero”, a prehispanic dog indigenous to these islands, and other molossoids introduced to the Canary Islands.
These matings produced an ethnical group of mastiff-type dogs, of moderately large size, brindle or fawn with white marking, with a specific molossoid morphology but yet agile and powerful, having a strong temperament, robust and lively, loyal character. 
During the XVI and XVII centuries, the number of these dogs increased considerably and numerous references to them in pre-Conquest historical texts, especially in the “Cedularios del Cabildo” (municipal registers), which explain their duties essentially as guard dogs and protectors of cattle.

GENERAL APPEARANCE: A moderately large sized molossoid, with a rectilinear profile and black mask. Robust and well-proportioned. 

IMPORTANT PROPORTIONS: The body is longer than the height at the withers; this characteristic is more noticeable in the female. 
Skull-foreface proportion is 60-40%. The width of the skull is 3/5 of the total length of the head. The distance from elbow to ground should be 50% of the height at the withers for males and a little less for females. 

BEHAVIOUR/TEMPERAMENT: Calm appearance; attentive expression. Especially suited to guarding and traditionally used for herding cattle. Balanced temperament and very self-confident. Low and deep bark. Obedient and docile with family members, very devoted to its master, but can be suspicious of strangers. Confident attitude, noble and a little distant. When alert, the stance is firm with a vigilant attitude.

HEAD: Massive, brachycephalic and compact in appearance, covered with thick skin. The shape tends towards a slightly elongated cube. The cranial-facial lines are parallel or slightly converging. 

Skull: Slightly convex in ante posterior and transversal direction. Frontal bone tends to be flat. The width is almost identical to the length. Pronounced zygomatic arch, with well developed cheek and jaw muscles, but not prominent, covered with loose skin. The occipital protuberance is only slightly marked.
Stop: The stop is pronounced, but not abrupt. The furrow between the frontal lobes is well defined and is about two thirds the size of the skull.

Nose: Wide, strong black pigmentation. In line with the muzzle. The nostrils are large to facilitate breathing.
Muzzle: Shorter than the skull, normally about 40% of the total length of the head. The width is 2/3 of that of the skull. Very wide base, narrowing slightly towards the nose. Bridge of the nose is flat and straight, without ridges.

Lips: The upper lip is pendulous, although not excessively. Seen from the front, the upper and lower lips come together to form an inverted V. The flews are slightly divergent. The inside of the lips is a dark color.
Jaws/Teeth: Scissor bite or slightly undershot bite, max 2 mms. Pincer bite is admitted but not desirable due to the dental erosion produced. The dental arch is wide at the canines. The teeth are wide and solidly set. Large molars, small incisors, well developed canines.
Eyes: Slightly oval in shape, from medium to large in size. Set well apart, but neither sunken nor protruding. Eyelids are black and tight-fitting, never sagging. The colour varies from dark to medium brown, depending on the color of the coat. They should never be light.
Ears: Medium sized, set well apart, with short and fine hair. They fall naturally on each side of the head. If folded, they are in the shape of a rose. They are set on slightly above eye level. Ears set too high and very close on the head are considered unusual. In countries were cropping is allowed, they must stand erect.

NECK: Shorter than the length of the head. Skin on the underside is loose, forming a slight dewlap. Solid and straight, it tends to be cylindrical and muscular.

BODY: Long, broad and deep. 
Top line: Straight, without deformations and sustained by well developed but barely visible muscles. Rising slightly from the withers to the croup. The height at the croup is 1 – 2 cms more than the height at the withers. 
Croup: Medium length, broad and rounded. Should not be long as this would limit movement. The female is usually broader.
Chest: With great capacity and well defined pectoral muscles. Seen from both the front and the side, it should be well let down to at least the elbow. Thoracic perimeter is usually equal to the height at the withers plus 45%. Well sprung ribcage.

Underline and belly: Slightly tucked up, never sagging. The flanks are only slightly pronounced. 

TAIL: Thick base, tapering to the tip, down to the hock but no longer. Medium set on. In action it rises like a sabre, but without curling nor leaning towards the back. At rest it hangs straight with a slight curve at the tip.


Shoulder: Well laid back.
Upper arm: Well angulated, oblique. 
Forearm: Well balanced, straight. Strong boned and well muscled.
Elbow: Must be neither too close to the ribs nor sticking out. 
Metacarpus (Pastern): Very solid and slightly sloping.
Forefeet: Cat feet with rounded toes, not too close together. Well developed and black pads. Nails are dark, white nails should be avoided, although they can occur in function of coat color.

General appearance: Seen from behind, strong and parallel, without deviation. 
Thigh: Long and well muscled thighs. 
Stifle (Knee): Angulation not very pronounced but should not be insufficient. 
Metatarsus (Rear pastern): Always well let down. 
Hind feet: Slightly longer than the front feet, otherwise identical.

GAIT / MOVEMENT: On the move, the Dogo Canario is agile and supple and should cover a lot of ground. Long reach. The tail is carried low and the head is carried only a little above the level of the back. When alert, the head and tail are carried high.

SKIN: Thick and elastic. More loose on and around the neck. When alert, the skin on the head forms symmetrical wrinkles which fan out from the furrow between the front lobes.


Hair: Short, coarse, flat with no undercoat (it can appear on neck and on back of the thighs). Rather coarse to the touch. Very short and fine on the ears; slightly longer on the withers and on the back of thighs.

Color: All shades of brindle, from warm dark brown to pale grey or blond. All shades of fawn to sandy. White marks are acceptable on the chest, at the base of the neck or throat, forefeet and toes of hind feet, but these should be kept to a minimum. The mask is always black, and should not spread above eye level.

Height at the withers: Males : 60 - 66 cms.
Females: 56 - 62 cms.
For very typical specimens, a tolerance of 2 cm. over or under these limits is accepted.

Minimum: Males: 50 kgs. 
Females: 40 kgs. 
Maximum: Males: 65 kgs.
Females: 55 kgs.

Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog. 
· Pincer bite.

· Any fault is considered severe when affecting the expression and limiting the type of the dog.
· Incorrect head proportions.
· Extremely convergent facial-cranial lines (over pronounced stop)
· Loins and withers of the same height.
· Incorrect position of limbs.
· Square profile. 
· Triangular head, narrow (not cube shape).
· Thin, curled or deformed tail. Set on high.
· Saddle or roach back. 
· Light eyes (yellow), very close together or oblique, sunken or protruding.
· Excessive undershot mouth.
· Insufficient mask.
· Missing teeth (except P1).

· Aggressive or overly shy dogs.
· Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioral abnormalities shall be disqualified.
· Total depigmented nose. 
· Unacceptable white marks.
· Overshot mouth.
· Croup lower than withers. Sloping topline.
· Blue eyes or unmatched in color.
· Cropped tail.

N.B: Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

Breed Standard

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