The Breed History
Dwarf or toy spaniels of Italy and Spain were the likely breed progenitors. The origins of the word Spaniel derive from the presumed origin country, Spain. Since the 16th century the Papillon (French for butterfly) has been depicted in paintings. The early breed characteristic of the drooping ears was gradually replaced by the popular modern day "butterfly ears" (erect, feathered and obliquely set). Both types of ears are still found, even within a single litter. The drop eared variety is termed Phalene. Much of the Continental Toy Spaniel (syn. Phalene) breed development occurred in France and Belgium. The AKC accepted the breed in 1935.
Breeding for Function
Though not bred specifically as ratters, they characteristically perform this function well. Primarily companion dogs, they are also more recently being adapted for work as therapy dogs.
Height at Withers: 8-11" (20-28 cm)
Weight: 9-10 lb (4-4.5 kg), though weights down to 3 lb (1.5 kg) are not uncommon.
Coat: White is the dominant color in the coat and patches may include any color, but these patches must conform to a specific distribution on the head. The coat is single, flat, profuse, long, straight and silky in texture.
Longevity: 13-15 years.
Points of Conformation: Fine boned, and almost square in conformation, the skull is medium in width, slightly rounded, stop is well defined, muzzle is thin and tapering, black nose is small, and lips are also black. Eyes are dark, round, medium in size, and palpebral margins are black. Ears are large with rounded tips. Those with erect ears must have them stay up, and in the Phalene strain dogs, ears must be consistently folded. The topline is level, neck is medium in length, thorax is moderate in depth and the ribs are well sprung. The abdomen is moderately tucked up, limbs slender and straight, and dewclaws may be removed (fronts), and in America only, the rear dewclaws are removed. The long tail is high set and sits over the body, with prominent plume. Toes are fine, and feet are hare-like. Action is described as light, quick and dainty.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Descriptions of the breed traits include: Good in rural or urban environments, tolerate temperature extremes well, friendly and likes to be a lapdog, playful.
Likes other dogs and children, intelligent, trainable, requires daily brushing, low barking tendency, active in the home, some may be possessive of owner. Low exercise needs, low odor, moderate shedder. Needs gentle handling by children to prevent injury. Noted for their steady stable temperament.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Reported 8.4x odds ratio versus other breeds. OFA reports 3.9% affected. Reported at a frequency of 18% in the 2002 PCA Health Survey.
von Willebrand's Disease (vWD) Type 1: Autosomal recessive genetic disorder causing a mild bleeding syndrome in this breed. Reported at a high frequency in the 2002 PCA Health Survey. A genetic test is available, showing a high gene frequency in the breed.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): More than one non-prcd autosomal recessive forms of PRA exist in the breed, with an onset of 7-8 years of age. A reliable age for diagnosis using electroretinogram is considered to be 1.5 years. PRA is reported at a frequency of 2% in the 2002 PCA Health Survey. Identified in 0.84% of Papillons CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. A direct genetic test for one form of PRA in the breed is available.
Hip Dysplasia and Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: Polygenically inherited traits causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. Too few Papillions have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Too few Papillions have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Cryptorchidism (Retained Testicles): Can be unilateral or bilateral. Reported at a frequency of 14% in the 2002 PCA Health Survey.
Idiopathic Epilepsy: Inherited seizures can be generalized or partial seizures. First seizure usually occurs between 1-2 years of age. Must differentiate from seizures due to portosystemic shunts, hydrocephalus, and other causes. Control with anticonvulsant medication. Reported at a high frequency in the 2002 PCA Health Survey.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 4.5% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Portosystemic Shunt (PSS, Liver Shunt): Abnormal blood vessels connecting the systemic and portal blood flow. Vessels can be intrahepatic or extrahepatic. Causes stunting, abnormal behavior, possible seizures, and secondary ammonium urate urinary calculi. Test with fasted and post-feeding bile acids and blood ammonia, and abdominal ultrasound. Reported at a frequency of 3% in the 2002 PCA Health Survey. Undetermined mode of inheritance.
Vitreous Degeneration: A liquefaction of the vitreous gel which may predispose to retinal detachment resulting in blindness. Identified in 2.93% of Papillions CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 2.70% of Papillions CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cataracts: Anterior cortex intermediate and punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. Age of onset 1.5-3 years. Identified in 2.17% of Papillons CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Papillion with a cataract.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 1.67% of Papillions CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Deafness: Congenital deafness can be unilateral or bilateral. Diagnosed by BAER testing. Reported to occur in the breed by Strain, possibly associated with the piebald gene. Reported at a frequency of 1% in the 2002 PCA Health Survey.
Birth Defects: Open Fontanels, Hydrocephalus, and Cleft Palate are reported as birth defects in the breed, according to the 2002 PCA Health Survey.
Neuroaxonal Dystrophy: Affected dogs present with pelvic limb ataxia, hypermetria and depressed postural reflexes affecting all four limbs. Affected dogs show clinical signs by 14 weeks of age, with deterioration to euthanasia by 5 months of age. Pathological examination revealed changes include widespread changes in the dorsolateral white matter of the spinal cord, characterized by axonal swellings typical of neuroaxonal dystrophy.
Black Hair Follicular Dysplasia, Inguinal Hernia, and Retained Primary Teeth are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Cerebellar Cortical Abiotrophy (CCA): Reported in a 6 month old male Papillion with broad-based stance, pelvic limb ataia, truncal ataxia, head tremor, intension tremor, and loss of menace response. Pathology showed loss of Purkinji cells and thinning of the granular cell layer of the cerebellum, but also had other CNS changes more consistent with Neuroaxonal Dystrophy.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for vWD is available from VetGen. Direct tests for coat color are available from VetGen.
Direct test for one form of PRA is available from Genoscoper: genoscoper.com.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes CERF eye examination, patella evaluation, and congenital cardiac screening. (See CHIC website; caninehealthinfo.org). Recommend hip and elbow radiographs, and thyroid profile including autoantibodies.
- Breed name synonyms: Pap, Continental Toy Spaniel, Phalene, Epagneul Nain Continental, Dwarf Spaniel (historical)
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 37 (4,396 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Papillon Club of America: papillonclub.org
Papillion Canada: papilloncanada.org
Papillion (Buterfly Dog) Club UK: papillonclub.co.uk/
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