Hokkaido Ken
Image © Toboetsuki Inuits & Hokkaido Ken

Heart Murmurs

Heart murmurs are detected by your vet (normally at first or second vaccination) when the vet hears a whooshing sound in the heart. In dogs, common causes include heart valve problems, heart defects, tumours, or weakening of the heart muscle. It isn’t always a cause for concern, but it can be. Vets will grade this heart murmur from 1 to 6; with Grade 1 is incredibly mild, Grade 6 is severe. Mild heart murmurs which are detected in young puppies are something that may be ‘grown out of’, and should be re-evaluated after a few months to check for improvement.


  • Coughing
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Collapse
  • • Blue or pale mucous membranes (gums and inside of lips)


Depending on the severity of the condition, your very will use x-rays, ultrasound, and an ECG to diagnose the severity of the murmur, and also to full out any other heart conditions. Most heart murmurs can be managed with monitoring, or with life-long medication. If the murmur is severe, or genetic, surgery may be an option.

Choroidal Hypoplasia / Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA)

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) is the biggest issue within the Hokkaido Ken. It is estimated that around 2/3rd of the population are carriers of the condition, and 1/3rd are affected. Carriers will never develop the disease, but can pass it onto offspring. It is unknown how the condition got into the Hokkaido, as its nickname suggests, mainly affects collie breeds. It is not generally progressive; however in severe cases, it can lead to secondary complications which may cause vision loss. There is no treatment for CEA.
Dogs that are affected with this condition are recommended to not be bred from, however, carriers of this condition, may breed, but breeding should be incredibly selected, and preferably with another dog who is completely clear and not affected at all by this condition. Regular check ups and eye exams at the vets is recommended to document the progression of the disease.


The most common cause of seizures in dogs is idiopathic epilepsy. It is genetic and the cause is unknown. Seizures are when the brain has uncontrolled episodes of electrical activity. It can cause dogs to fall to the floor, have behaviour changes (become aggressive or disorientated), and can last up to several minutes. There are a number of reasons your dog can develop a seizure such as diagnosed epilepsy; ingesting poison; low or high blood sugar; kidney disease; head injury; brain cancer; and brain swelling. The most common kind is the generalized seizure, also called a grand mal, where a dog can lose consciousness and start to convulse violently. The abnormal electrical activity happens throughout the brain. Generalised seizures usually last from a few seconds to a few minutes. With a focal seizure, abnormal electrical activity happens in only part of the brain. Focal seizures can cause unusual movements in one limb or one side of the body. Sometimes they last only a couple of seconds.


  • Vacant stare
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions (such as paddling or shaking, these can be mild or very violent)
  • Aggression
  • Being disorientated
  • Vocalization, such as barking or whining
  • Unconsciousness
  • Urinating or defecating uncontrollable
  • Temporary blindness
  • Tongue biting


Depending on the cause of the seizure, treatment will vary massively. For epilepsy, the most common treatment is medication for life. Always follow your vets advise with seizures. If your dog has a seizure, stay calm, time it from start to finish, and move out of your dog’s way enough so you are at a safe distance, but can monitor your dog. It is important you do not touch your dog whilst they are having a seizure as stimulation can make it worse. Turn off the lights and keep the room quiet. Move things away from them that they could hurt themselves on such as furniture. It is important to remember your dog cannot choke on his tongue. Your dog may urinate and defecate whilst having the seizure. Always ring your vet practice once the seizure is over to let them know what to do next. If your dog continuously seizes for more than 5 minutes, or comes out of a seizure and straight into another one (called cluster seizures), ring your veterinary surgeon and take them to the practice right away, as this is now a medical emergency, as your dog could over heat.


Pica is a condition in which dogs crave and eat non-food items. Some dogs may only eat one type of object, while others will eat a wide variety of items. Pica can endanger a dog’s health because what they swallow may be toxic; disrupt normal digestive process; or get lodged in their intestinal tract. It is unknown what causes Pica, but it has been linked to separation anxiety, and stress. Most dogs will crave items that carry their owners’ scent, with socks, underwear, or children’s toys being the most common. There is not exact treatment for pica, although vets will try to identify if there is an underlying health or behavioural condition causing it. If there is no specific cause, then you must prevent the pica itself: this normally will involve the dog permanently wearing a basket muzzle on walks and keeping them on lead (if they eat items outside); or removing toys/clothing/items that they are craving (when inside the house) and storing them in a locked cabinet/wardrobe that the dog cannot access.