The following health conditions are seen in all six breeds, unless otherwise stated.
Hip & Elbow Dysplasia
Hip and elbow dysplasia are terms used to describe abnormal formations of the hip socket and elbow joint that, in its more severe form, can eventually cause crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the joints.
- Exercise intolerance
- Difficulty rising, sitting or lying
- Difficulty climbing stairs or getting in and out of the car
- Abnormal gait
- Lameness on one or both hind limbs (forelimbs for elbows)
- Protective of hip or elbow region during grooming or petting
The BVA recommends all dogs to be screened and tested for hip and elbow dysplasia, this is done via x-rays under general anaesthetic at your vets, where the x-rays’ are then sent off to the British Veterinary Association (BVA)* to be scored. Dogs that receive poor hip and elbow scores are not recommended to be bred from. Hip and elbow dysplasia can be managed by maintaining a good weight, medication (anti inflammatory pain relief), physiotherapy, and lifestyle changes. If severe enough, it can be treated surgically. Please note that surgically managing your dogs hip and elbow dysplasia may remove the problem, but will still not make them suitable to breed from as these conditions are genetic.
*Please note that other countries have their own methods of scoring. Please contact the relevant authorities in your country if you wish to learn more.
This is where the patella (knee cap) luxates (dislocates) out of its normal position within a groove that forms the front of the stifle (knee) joint. It is more common in smaller, bow-legged breeds, but is not limited to these breeds. The knee-cap dislocates from its normal position, causing lameness and pain, which results the dog being unable to extend its knee joint properly.
- A characteristic “skipping” lameness is often seen, where animals will limp for a few steps and then quickly return to normal
- First apparent in puppies or young dogs, but mature dogs can also show signs
- Some animals will continuously limp without gait returning to normal.
- Normally present after exercise
- Lameness is due to pain of the patella slipping out of place
- Can lead to arthritis in later life
Grading system for luxating patella:
- Grade 1: A knee cap that can be luxating with manual pressure but is otherwise is within the groove
- Grade 2: The knee cap spontaneously luxates, is typically associated with a skipping lameness when the knee cap moves
- Grade 3: The knee cap is permanently luxated but can be manually replaced in the groove
- Grade 4: The knee cap is permanently luxated and cannot be manually replaced in the groove
Luxating patella is commonly diagnosed by a clinical exam of the stifle joint by a veterinary surgeon, where they will manipulate the stifle joint in order to diagnose luxating patella. Your vet may want your dog to be xrayed under general anaeshetic to determine the severity of the condition, and grade it (from 1 being mild, to 4 being extremely severe). Grade 1 to 2 luxating patella are normally managed with pain relief, or just for owners to monitor at home. If it is graded 3-4, surgery is strongly advised as the severity of the luxation can lead to arthritis in later life; limb deformities, such as bowing of the femur (thigh bone); or severe cartilage loss in the knee joint. This will cause more pain and discomfort to your pet. Surgery for Grade 1 luxating patella is never advised.
Skin allergies are skin reactions due to environmental, or food allergens. Skin allergies in dogs is very complex, and expensive to diagnose and treat, as normally dogs are not allergic to just one thing. In white dogs its much easier to tell if your dog is itchy and licking, as you will get red/brown areas where the animal has licked (such as feet, groin, armpit ect). This is due to something called porphyrin staining, which is present after Epiphoria (excessive tear productions) or licking, and is thus a clear indication that your dog is licking.
- Chewing or licking feet/legs (and other parts of the body)
- Red skin
- Scaly skin
- Hair loss
- Tear staining
- Scratching at skin repeatedly
- Rubbing eyes and ears along floor
- Pawing at eyes and ears
- Skin infections
- Skin sores
- Sneezing can also occur
Treatment for skin allergies is very complex, expensive, and time consuming if you want to find the exact cause of the allergy. Contrary to popular belief, most dogs are allergic to protein sources, not grain. Vets may suggest diet trials (to find an exact component which your dog is allergic to), these need to be completed for a minimum of 8 weeks, and can be expensive. Medication can also be used to control the allergy, via tablets or injections every 4 weeks at the vets. If you choose this method of treatment, your dog will likely need medication or injections for the rest of its life. Blood tests can be done at your vets to find out the exact antigen your dog is allergic to. Skin allergies are very frustrating for both the owner and the dog affected. It is crucial that skin allergies are treated however, as if left untreated can cause skin infections, permanent hair loss, permanent skin scarring, blood poisoning (if infection is left untreated), or even death. Natural remedies for skin complaints don’t tend to work very well, as they often contain components that are not tested, or not dog friendly. We always recommend that you seek veterinary advice.
Cryptorchidism is observed in the Nihon Ken breeds. Cryptorchidism is where one, or both testicles do not descend form the body at around 2-4 months old. Cryptorchidism can be linked to male infertility, and the undescended testicle is up to 13 times more likely of becoming cancerous. The exact cause is not understood, however, it is genetic and male dogs who suffer from this condition are recommended to be neutered and not used for breeding. It is important to remember that males who have one testicle descended may still be able to mate, so it is recommended that they are kept away from bitches in heat until castration. Dogs with cryptorchidism are normally completely healthy otherwise, and lead happy, healthy lives.
Pacific Rimism is the name given to a condition that often affects dogs from the Pacific Rim (specifically Japanese Dogs, such as the Nihon Ken). It is a condition that causes the blood potassium levels to be very elevated. In these breeds of dog, this elevation can be completely normal and is seen commonly. Japanese breeds are still quite uncommon in the UK, meaning that Vets may not be well informed of this condition. High levels of potassium in the blood, are also found with Addisons Disease. These high levels are often found by accident, such as at routine blood tests during neutering, or when the pet is taken to the vets for being unwell. These high levels of potassium can be very confusing to not only owners, but also to vets. Before your vet diagnoses your Nihon Ken with Addisons disease, make sure they run an ACTH Stimulation test to prevent a misdiagnosis of Addisons Disease. Dogs that have a normal ACTH stimulation test result do NOT have Addisons disease. However if the result is abdormal in the ACTH stimulation test, your dog will test positive for Addisons Disease.
This condition is also called ‘Congenital Missing Teeth’ and is a genetic condition which causes dogs to have an insufficient number of teeth within the mouth. It can be mild, where only a few teeth will be missing, or severe where many teeth will be missing. It can lead to complications such as malocclusion (misalignment of the dogs teeth and bite), periodontal damage (damage to the gums, and other structures that hold teeth in place), reduced chewing ability, and other problems. Owners more commonly notice it when the adult teeth come through, however if the primary tooth is missing, the adult tooth is likely to be missing too. Dogs tend to cope well with missing teeth, and do not normally have difficulty eating. It is important to not feed your dog bones if they suffer from hypodontia, as the bones can cause damage to the gums, and underlying bone.