Shiba Inus were bred to hunt through the forests and brush of ancient Japan, but now most members of the breed enjoy quiet, domestic lifestyles. Shibas are known for their inquisitive, intelligent minds and high energy levels. Unfortunately, they are prone to some genetic weaknesses and health problems.
The Shiba's naturally slanted eyes are one of the breed's unique physical traits, so it may trouble some owners to know that these dogs are predisposed to eye problems. They are prone to glaucoma, which is a deformity of the eyeball caused by pressure from a buildup of fluid behind the ocular tissue. Glaucoma is a recently recognized problem with the breed, and some veterinarians believe hereditary deformities are to blame. Shibas are at high risk of developing progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), which causes a slow-paced degradation of their vision over the course of years. Ask your veterinarian to take a look at your dog's peepers when you take him in for a checkup. If your Shiba has an incurable ailment, like PRA, talk to your vet about ways to play and interact with him after his sight is gone. The vet can help you come up with ideas to keep him alert, playful and safe despite his loss of vision.
It's no secret that your dog can cause allergic reactions in people, but did you know he can suffer from allergies himself? In fact, allergies may increase the rate at which he sheds, in turn making him release more allergens into his environment. There are two main categories of allergies: skin and dietary. Pollen, dust and powdery excretions from pet birds are just a few of the irritants that can make your dog's skin itchy and inflamed. Dietary allergies are a bit more serious, because they can disrupt your dog's digestive system and cause diarrhea, vomiting and loss of appetite.
Bone and Joint Problems
Shibas are mischievous, possibly to the point of being pesky; they get a lot of joy out of exploring and playing -- so bone problems can foul a Shiba Inu's quality of life. Patella luxation, which is the displacement of your dog's kneecap, is a common problem for Shiba Inus. Roughly 7 percent of the breed has this disorder, according to The National Shiba Club of America. Shibas are also prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, which are minor deformities in the bone around the joint. These growths can keep your dog from fully extending his legs, causing him to limp or become unwilling to exercise. Surgery is necessary to remove the deformed growth.
While most of the Shiba's health issues are very manageable, especially if they are caught early, a few genetic flaws can lead to more serious and permanent problems. Shibas are also vulnerable to glandular problems, including hypothyroidism, hyperadrenalism and Addison's disease. Both hyperadrenalism and Addison's involve a disorder of the adrenal glands, resulting in excessive or insufficient production of key hormones. Glandular problems have a wide array of symptoms, so they are difficult to diagnose without running laboratory tests. Some common symptoms are severe change in appetite, weight gain or loss, hair loss, lethargy and digestive irregularity.
Identification and Management
You may feel a little overwhelmed knowing all the things that could affect your Shiba, but don't be too concerned. Your first priority should be keeping your dog as happy and healthy as you can. Play with him whenever you get the chance and keep him fed and watered; he won't ask for much else. Take your Shiba to the vet for regular checkups and listen to what she recommends for his long-term health. There are a few health problems that can't be treated or prevented, so there's no point in worrying about them. Enjoy the time you spend with your dog and help him enjoy it as well.
- Akita Inu image by Callalloo Twisty from Fotolia.com