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The Akita Information Center
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Akita Health

Every dog breed is prone, due to genetics, to certain health problems.  Here we will discuss the issues that every owner should be aware of.  One must remember that some can be prevented completely…And others have a much greater chance of successful treatment when caught early.

Sensitivity to Medications


This breed, unfortunately, is very sensitive to medications, with tranquilizing drugs the worst trigger. The most common and severe reaction is that to the compounds typically used in anesthesia. This of course, makes surgical procedures which are often needed to resolve health issues, now themselves a major concern. It is a vicious cycle.

There is a theory that this health concern is due to a liver defect, whereby the liver is not able to detoxify the medication and this can overwhelm the body, leading to fatality.
Akita health problems
Microcytosis

This is a blood disorder that affects some Akita dogs.  When one has this 1 of 3 odd elements will be at play:

  • Red blood cells are abnormally small
  • Red blood cells contain too high a level of potassium
  • Red blood cells contain too low a level of potassium

Any of the 3 issues mentioned are thought to possibly cause anemia.

Autoimmune Hypothyroidtis

Some studies show that as many as 65% of Akitas have been diagnosed with this.  This affects the thyroid gland which is a vital part of the dog’s immune system.   This can bring about a range of symptoms which include:

•    Hyperactivity
•    Severe weight loss
•    Weakness
•    Severe weight gain
•    Sudden aggressive behavior
•    Seizures
•    Skin disorders  You can read more about this in our Akita Thyroid section. 

Those with this condition should never be breed.  Testing should be done before any breeding. Thyroid levels, for this breed, will be on the higher range of what is considered normal.

Bloat

The Akita  (and the Boxer) are the 2 breeds most prone to bloat. It is also known as Killer Bloat, due to its serious nature.   This is a painful, twisting of the stomach.  While some elements are still unknown, food and exercise play a huge role in this…You can read more about this in our Akita Bloat section.

Hip Dysplasia and Luxating Patella

Hip dysplasia refers to when the hip joint and socket (normally fitting nicely together giving the dog ease of movement) slips out of place or is abnormally formed from birth.

Luxating patella is similar, in the way that it refers to when a dog’s kneecap slips out of place.

Both are heredity conditions and this is one reason why health testing before breeding must be done.  With this said,  an Akita can still develop this health problem since genetics go back at least 5 generations and more in most cases.  Also, injury to the body can cause either to happen.

When it occurs due to injury, it can happen to any age, puppy through senior.  Jumping off of too high of an elevation is one common way to cause the slip.

When it is a progressive illness, it will often begin to be very noticeable by the age of 7 years.   Being overweight can cause this to come on.

Signs will be:

•    Limping, favoring other legs
•    Yelping out in pain, sometimes only when they make a certain motion… Often it hurts when it slips, but as it is floating out of place the dog can handle the discomfort
•    Yelping when being picked up in a certain way
•    Running with an odd “hop”

X-rays can diagnose this. Sometimes, simply bed rest can help quite a bit…and is often part of the first line of treatment…. The leg is readjusted and then the dog is made to stay as still as possible. This can be tricky since the Akita is very sensitive to any sedation medication.  Also, one of the traits of this breed is to be slightly claustrophobic… Making crating nearly impossible. 

Owners are instructed to encourage as still movement as possible, bringing food to the dog, etc. And to eliminate exercise until the dog is reevaluated for progress in the right direction.

Localized swelling is common with this issue, and for this reason anti-inflammatory medications may be given. If the dog appears to be in great discomfort (and this breed does have a very high tolerance for pain), pain medication can be given.

Arthritis often sets in with a senior that is suffering from this and medication will be given for that issue as well.

Owners can help their dog be more comfortable in a few different ways:

Remove the need to walk up steps when at all possible – Installing a ramp is best if there are more than 2 steps that need to be maneuvered from door to outside.

Obtaining a quality orthopedic bed can help a great deal. 

Providing a pillow or blanket to rest on during the day can ease the discomfort of rising and lying down. Something portable is best, as he will still have the urge to follow you around, but should not be sitting or lying on hard surfaced floors.

Von Willebrand’s Disease

This is a hereditary blood disorder and studies show up to 20% of Akitas are affected by this.  Von Willebrand factor (vWF) is the term used to describe a particular element that allows for normal clotting.  Dogs with this illness lack enough of the element which makes clotting very difficult. Therefore any small injuries can quickly become serious.

Signs that an owner may notice at home are:

•    Nosebleeds
•    Fresh or dried blood (red or black) in the bowel movements and/or the urine
•    Bleeding from the gums – and with females, from the vagina, much more so than normal heat discharge
•    Easy bruising

Once suspected, testing can be done to confirm or disprove. With is done with a CBC (complete blood count).

If confirmed, treatment will begin with an IV of fresh blood and plasma. This may need to be done more than once.  Many Akitas live long lives with this, particularly those with mild to moderate cases. With a close eye on the dog, issues can be caught early before and treatment works well.




Summer Stress

Many Akita dogs have trouble coping with hot temperatures.  Their internal thermostat has to work double time to regulate body temperature and keep vital organs functioning. The very thick, double coat of fur acts as an insulator Akita health problemsagainst heat as well as the cold, but you should remember that a dark coat will absorb the sun’s rays.  No Akita likes direct summer sun and too much will burn that coat, turning it rusty.

It is important to help keep an Akita cool. There are several things that you can do:

•    Have air-conditioning in the home
•    Allow him to have freedom to move around the house, being confined is not only emotionally draining on this breed, but if put in 1 room with AC, if the power goes out and the Akita cannot move to another room, this can be fatal.
•    If the house is not cool enough and you do not have AC or if the power goes out… Provide access to the garage or basement
•    Add some ice to their drinking water
•    Provide regular brushings and grooming to rid the coat of the extra weight and thickness of dead hairs.

Note: While wetting your Akita down to cool him off may seem like a good idea, it is not advisable. It is a good emergency method should he be overcome with heat stroke…Better for a very hot day is to gently spray him with a garden hose in a playful way…Most enjoy that.

Never allow a pair to mate on a hot day.

Do not allow him to drink excessively after exercising or after a big meal.  Offer ice cubes instead.

If you are walking outside, take breaks to rest in the shade and bring a collapsible bowl to fill with water.

Vestibular Syndrome

Only senior Akitas can develop this and it  is an odd temporary illness. It involves a strange set of symptoms that come on spontaneously, last approximately 3 weeks and then suddenly go away as mysteriously as they arrived.  The dog will:
  • Tilt to one side
  • Walk in circles
  • Brace down is or her front legs
  • Have moderate to severe loss of balance
Keeping Your Akita Healthy

The best things that you can do to ensure a long life span and quality of life for this breed is:

  • Provide the best diet possible, giving him what this particular breed requires. See Feeding
  • Do not allow anyone to smoke in the home. Family members and visitors should only smoke outside.
  • Prepare a weekly check list so that each week, you can take 3-5 minutes to quickly look over your pup or dog for anything that may seem out of place. Take note of the eyes, look for any ear discharge, any sores on the body...Anything that you feel may be out of the ordinary.
  • Make and keep veterinary appointments.  Catching health issues early so important for success in treatment.
  • Try to keep life stress free, for both you. If you are stressed, he will pick up on it. And an environment of tension will take its toll on this breed.  This dog deserves to live in peace and harmony.
  • This breed needs sunlight. However, direct, hot light will cause him to overheat.  Keeping this in mind, sunlight and fresh air is good for the Akita.  Opening curtains in the home or allowing access to a covered patio are just some of the things you can do.



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