Akita Dogs - Health

Unfortunatley not all Akitas will live in perfect health, here are some common diseases that can affect our Akitas.


Progressive Retinal Atrophy eventually results in blindness and is caused by a gradual degeneration in the cells (both rods and cones) that line the back of the eye. Because dogs do not rely on vision as a primary sense, owners may not immediately recognize that the dog has problems with vision.

Often night blindness is the first symptom. Perhaps the dog hesitates entering a dark room or hallway or is reluctant to go outside at night. Onset in Akitas is usually in adulthood, although it has been detected in adolescent dogs. Whether this is because of better screening techniques or because of actual earlier onset isn't clear.


Unfortunately there is no treatment, we as owners just have to make some allowances and changes for when their dog is experiencing difficulties.


PRA is believed to be inherited as a simple autosomal recessive, which means that both parents of an affected dog are carriers. Because onset can be later in life, annual eye exams and certification with the Canine Eye Registry Foundation should be done on all breeding stock. Affected dogs should not be bred. Please see the links page for more information.


Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) kills thousands of dogs a year. No one knows exactly what causes GDV to occur despite much research. Current evidence does show a very clear predilection amongst broad, deep-chested dogs, that an easily stressed temperament contributes to the likelihood of bloat

Regardless of the precise underlying cause, there are two things in common -- the stomach distends largely with gas and then the stomach twists). This twisting causes the veins and arteries that supply the stomach to become occluded resulting in tissue damage and tissue death very quickly.

Time is of the absolute essence with GDV as little as one hour is sufficient time for death of the stomach and then death of the animal to occur. Surgical correction of the twist and removal of the gas is the only therapy option available to remove the occlusion of the blood vessels. Frustratingly, the untwisting of the stomach leads to new perils as the toxins that built up in the damaged stomach and spleen rush to the heart where they can cause fatal heart arrhythmia's for days.

Given the severity of this disease as well as the extremely rapid progression to death, much has been done to try and determine how to prevent this from occurring.


Volt-Koyanagi-Harada's Disease, better known as VKH-Like Syndrome This (VKH) is an Auto-Immune Disease, It is auto-immune related, with hereditary implications. It is felt that any type of stress can trigger the disease. Symptoms are depigmentation, hair loss, and blindness. Sometimes there are no warnings, sometimes there are, like the depigmentation and conjunctivitis (whites of the eye, and rimgo red).

Conjunctivitis will often be followed by a detached retina,which shows as a milky blue surface on the eye ball. This IS a medical emergency. Without treatment, blindness will follow. The dog suffers great pain. The disease affects mucous membrane areas such as the eyelids, mouth, anus, vulva and sometime the pads of the dog's feet. There is a definite visible loss of pigmentation in these areas, often started by crustiness or blisters.

The severity of the symptoms vary from dog to dog. An interesting point to note is that many dogs are often stricken at 18 to 20 months. There is no cure, and there are no methods to test breeding stock for VKH.


Sadly we have had a first hand experience with VKH in one of our young boys. Ziggy had not turned two years old when he was diagnosed with VKH, following a skin biopsy. Ziggy suffered with severe headaches which were so painful we could not touch his head. He also very quickly lost his sight and didn't cope with this very well. He began to bleed from skin lesions in his nose and looked so miserable prior to starting treatment that may have helped to control the symptoms, but we knew would not cure this horrible disease.

With lots of love and care and a huge transformation of his living style we tried our hardest to keep Ziggy free from pain, keep his symptoms minimal and give him a happy life with us. However, the disease was beating us and sadly became very aggressive and uncontrollable which left us with no choice other than to allow him to go to rainbow bridge with some dignity.

This is a very nasty disease, and I hope and pray that with honest breeders who are dedicated to breeding the very best of health in their lines that we can stand united and eradicate this disease.

Run free our darling Ziggy xx


Uveodermatological Syndrome (UDS) / VKH

This is a most distressing disease seen mainly in Akitas and it is sadly becoming more common, if you keep and breed Akitas you are likely at some stage to meet it. There is no breed or sex predilection with this disease; it can strike at any time with no obvious trigger. It is a genetic problem and as such certain 'lines' will carry it whereas others won't.

That is not to say if you own an Akita from an affected line you are guaranteed to get this disease. It can be a sudden onset with multiple signs or a more insidious onset with various presentations. UDS causes the body to attack itself and is therefore known as an autoimmune disease (much like rheumatoid arthritis) and as a result attacks the melanin producing cells in the body. Therefore you will see the various signs of ocular discomfort and bleaching out of the dark pigmented skin.


This is the important part of the illness, which leads to most of the morbidity and mortality in this disease. The iris is the main point of attack and as a result the dog suffers a very painful uveitis, which is basically inflammation of the iris and shows itself as a very small pupil with a swollen iris and mainly conjunctivitis, which is often the point of misdiagnosis because it looks like conjunctivitis pure and simple. But if looked at in detail it is not and this can lead to the diagnosis being delayed and treatment failure later on.

The scleral blood vessels around the eye become engorged and so the white part goes 'bloodshot' and the dog will show signs of ocular pain and will shut his eyes tight in bright light also watery discharge may be noticed. The eyes will be very painful and uveitis will be the biggest problem of the disease, the retina will be affected and often-retinal detachment can occur. Whether it be a large full detachment and hence blindness and haemorrhage (bleeding) which is irreversible and often leads to euthanasia, or smaller retinal detachments which are less obvious (these cause gray streaks on the retina) and these can be retrospective signs of UDS. Uveitis can lead to glaucoma and a blind eye.

The uveitis is painful and retinal detachment can cause blindness both of these will lead to euthanasia on welfare grounds if left untreated. Diagnosis is so important at an early stage as treatment is useless if left until the signs are obvious, the damage cannot be reversed. If the dog is suffering from continuous uvietis, which is unresponsive to treatment then the only real option is euthanasia as it is incredibly painful for the dog and distressing for the owners to watch.


This is a more obvious sign but it is not the cause of death and morbidity normally. The black and pigmented skin and hair, particularly around the muzzle and eyelids start to get 'washed out' and go brown; skin biopsies will give a diagnosis of UDS/VKH especially if accompanied by ocular signs. UDS is mainly an ocular disease but the skin lesions are more obvious, coming on late in the disease course or early on. The eye signs are the most worrying but often misread.

With decent treatment life can be maintained pain free and symptom free but rarely for more than 18 months, some can succumb earlier as the uveitis and subsequent damage becomes irreversible, which means it MUST be caught early. There are various other drugs, which can be used including Vitamin E, Oxytetracyclin and Niacinamide, the efficacy of these drugs are debatable.


Elbow Dysplasia is a group of 4 conditions all of which are characterized by abnormal development of the elbow joint which leads to the instability of the joint, inflammation, and degenerative changes (the most coomonly know as arthritis). The four conditions are:

(1) ununited anconeal process (UAP) in which the very top part of the ulna (small bone of the forearm) fails to join with the rest of the ulna.

(2) osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) in which the cartilage on the joint surface of the humerus becomes away from a failure of proper bone formation at the nearby growth plate.

(3) fragmented coronoid process (FCP) in which the coronoid process (a small "bump" on the inside part of the ulna) can not join with the rest of the ulna.

(4) joint incongruity in which the humerus, radius, and/or ulna develop in such a fashion (most often asynchronous growth rates) that the normal position and functioning of the elbow joint is disrupted. All of these conditions lead to excessive and abnormal stress on the structures of the elbow joint thus causing irritation to the joint . The result of which is arthritis,which becomes very severe and progresses very rapidly to degenerative joint disease. If caught early, surgical correction can slow the progression of elbow dysplasia to severe osteoarthritis in the elbow.

Hip Displasia

Is a developmental disease in which the hip joint is inappropriately shaped leading to loose joints and subsequently arthritis and degenerative changes. The cause of hip dysplasia is multifactorial with a genetic predisposition mandatory and environmental risks exacerbating clinical signs.

The basic scenario of hip dysplasia is looseness in the joint leading to the femur moving partially out of the acetabulum, in the immature hip joint exacerbated by rapid growth, overweight body condition, , etc leads to abnormal force dispersal along the acetabulum (pelvic part of the hip joint) and the head of the femur (femoral part of the hip joint).

Finally the body tries to stabilize the joint by laying new bone down in places bone is not supposed to go and remodelling the entire joint which causes degeneration of the entire joint and subsequently severe arthritis. Signs in most cases start between 6 and 18 months and range from mild stiffness especially upon rising to reluctance to jump/climb stairs to pain along the pelvis to abnormal gait ("bunny-hopping" movement) and also the loss of ability to stand or walk.


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