Danti Akitas and Japanses Shiba Inus

Akita Info

Health  |  Grooming



Below are just a few health problems that affect the Akita breed.

Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) kills many hundreds and even thousands of dogs a year. No one knows exactly what causes GDV to occur despite much research into the matter. Current evidence does show a very clear predilection amongst broad, deep-chested dogs, that an easily stressed temperament contributes to the likelihood of bloat, and that most GDVs are the result of a multi-factorial cascade of events rather than any one cause. Regardless of the precise underlying cause, there are two things in common -- the stomach distends tremendously with gas and then the stomach twists or rotates (torsion). This twisting causes the veins and arteries that supply the stomach to become occluded resulting in tissue damage and tissue death very, very quickly. Time is of the absolute essence with GDV as mere hours are 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. There is lots of anecdotal recommendations but none to date that is based in fact. Given the link to body conformation there is an absolute genetic link. This link may be a direct "GDV" gene or may be indirect in conformation and temperament genes. Empirical findings and recent research strongly suggests that experiencing GDV at an early age (i.e. not an episode cause by some other health problem like cancer) should be at a minimum evidence to consider removing that animal from the breeding population.

Elbow Dysplasia- A collection of 4 conditions all of which are characterized by abnormal development of the elbow joint which leads to joint instability, inflammation, and degenerative changes (aka 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 cartilage on the joint surface of the humerus becomes unattached presumably 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) fails to join with the rest of the ulna and (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 in addition to causing mechanical irritation of the joint (such as via an unattached cartilage flap in OCD). The result of which is arthritis typically very severe and progresses very rapidly to degenerative joint disease. If caught early, surgical correction can retard or halt the progression of elbow dysplasia to severe osteoarthritis in the elbow. Elbow dysplasia has a very high heritability and affected animals should never be bred. Radiographic clearances should be performed on all breeding animals prior to breeding to insure that sub clinical animals are not unknowingly bred.

Hip Dysplasia- Is a developmental disease in which the Cox femoral (hip) joint i.e. the acetabulum and/or the head of the femur is inappropriately shaped leading to joint laxity (looseness) and subsequent 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 as follow: genetic predisposition to subluxation (i.e. 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, slick surfaces to walk on, 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). These abnormal forces interfere with normal development of the acetabulum and femoral head further exacerbating the irregular shape and subluxation which leads to great degree of abnormal forces which leads to and so the cycle continues. Finally the body tries to stabilize the joint by laying new bone down in places bone is not supposed to go and remodeling the entire joint which causes degeneration of the entire joint and subsequent severe even crippling arthritis. Clinical signs in most cases begin 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) to inability to stand or walk. Since environment can ameliorate as well as exacerbate clinical signs MANY SUBCLINCAL HIP DYSPLASTIC DOGS EXIST. Therefore, it is absolutely imperative to screen ALL breeding stock radio graphically for any signs of abnormal hips prior to breeding. Simply noting no clinical signs of hip dysplasia is NOT enough as these animals may be subclincially affected. Treatment for hip dysplasia involves surgery to cure (an anatomic problem can only be corrected with surgery) and exercise, weight control and anti-inflammatories to treat palliatively.

G.P.R.A. - Why have you Akita eye tested?
The Akita is currently under investigation by the BVA/KC/ISDS for the eye condition "Generalised Progressive Retinal Atrophy".

Generalised progressive retinal atrophy is an inherited disease which affects many breeds of dog. There are two main types of generalised progressive retinal atrophy - rod/cone dysplasia and rod/cone degeneration. The clinical and ophthalmoscopic signs for the two types are similar. In a breed such as the Irish setter, with rod/cone dysplasia, the photoreceptors are abnormally formed and begin to degenerate before they are mature. The disease, therefore, affects these dogs at a relatively young age. A DNA-based test for the gene mutation is available and enables accurate identification of clear, carrier and affected animals, but the Irish setter is the only breed for which this test is currently available. The age of onset is later in, for example , the rod/cone degeneration of the miniature and toy poodle, as the photoreceptors degenerate after reaching maturity.

Owners usually notice a loss of night vision, especially when the dog is in unfamiliar surroundings. The condition progresses to produce loss of vision under all lighting conditions and there is a poor papillary light reflex with dilated pupils. In time, secondary cataract formation is common. Ophthalmoscopic examination indicates a generalised, bilaterally symmetrical increase in tapetal reflectivity (a consequence of retinal atrophy). There is narrowing of the retinal vessels, especially the small peripapillary arterioles, which may become barely visible (ghost vessels) or disappear completely. In dogs with a poorly developed tapetum or an atapetal fundus, the attenuation of the retinal vessels may be the only obvious opththalmoscopic sign of early generalised progressive retinal atrophy, necessitating careful observation. Later in the course of the disease the optic disc becomes paler due to atrophy of its capillaries and nerve fibres. The non-tapetal fundus also shows extensive areas of depigmentation as the condition progresses. The cataracts which form late on in the condition may manifest as opacities in the posterior cortex or as radial opacities, before progressing to total cataract.

There is no cure and the condition is one, which progresses to total blindness. In all the breeds that have been investigated in sufficient detail the mode of inheritance appears to be a simple autosomal recessive.
(Article written by: Dr Sheila Crispin)

Nothing has been proven regarding the Akita and Generalised progressive retinal atrophy, but concern must be high for the breed to be under investigation. It is advisable when purchasing an Akita puppy to ask if the parents have been eye tested.

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.

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. Signs This is a primarily ocular and dermalogical disease and various signs can be observed, they are not always 'text book' cases. 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.

Ocular - 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.

Skin - 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.

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Whether you own a show or pet Akita the bathing and grooming schedule should still be the same. The first step is to get your Akita in the house bath, or lucky owners may have a separate bathing/grooming room for their dogs. Although it is not wise to allow a puppy Akita to climb stairs, I would also state that it is wise for them not be frightened of them. Allow them to occasionally climb up them but not to climb down. This way they will not be frightened of climbing them when they are older. It makes the whole ordeal of bathing so stressful for you and the dog if they will not climb stairs. Put a collar/lead on your dog. If there is only one of you bathing then this will help prevent them jumping out and bolting around your bedrooms. Also make sure you cover the bathroom floor, so your dog does not slip when he jumps out the bath.

Once you have your Akita in the bath wet the coat to the skin. You need to touch the coat while wetting. Leave the neck and head area until the end, because you will be sure to become as wet as the dog. We use two types of shampoo, both from Professional Choice (available on links page). The first is a Blue Whitening Shampoo and the second is Texture Coat Shampoo. Although the first is named Blue Whitening it is for all colours of Akita's. Use it neat on the hock and any stained areas first. Leave in the coat while you shampoo the rest of the body. For the body we dilute the shampoo about 5 to 1. Shampoo all over, not forgetting the stomach area.

Once the shampooing is complete you need to rinse thoroughly. Start from the top and work downwards. It is important to remove all traces of the shampoo. Then onto the second shampoo, Texture Coat. This puts back any oils you have taken out the coat while shampooing. We do not dilute this, although you can. We use a small amount on the hand and rub into the back and sides of the dog. While rinsing the shampoo falls onto the rest of the body and legs. Again you must rinse to remove all traces. Then comes the neck and head area. Cover the ears and shower the face area, only use a small amount of shampoo on this area, and again rinse clear. To dry we use a different method to most people. We get our puppies used to the sound of a vacuum, so they will allow us to use an aqua vac on them. This reduces our drying time by half. Not all of Akita's allow this method so we towel dry as much as we can, paying more attention to the face and neck area, our Akita's will not tolerate blow drying around the face area.

Then onto the drying, for the pet owner with only one Akita a household hairdryer is fine. We use a Power Pac Tornado Blaster, which is like a very powerful hairdryer but the smaller models do not generate heat unless used for a long period of time. The leg coat should be brushed upwards, and the body coat up and forward. The idea of this is to have a coat that stands outwards from the body except for the two inch wide strip along it's back which when dry should be brushed from head to tail. Use a double bristled brush when drying is nearly complete and brush with the dryer. If you have used a blaster finish off with a heat controlled hairdryer and brush again at the same time. We then groom with a coarse rake. You should be able to run the rake through the coat without lugging in all directions. There are lots of finishing sprays on the market now and not much between them. They smell lovely and do not make the coat sticky. Only a small amount is required. Lightly cover the coat and fluff with the double bristled brush. (Our grooming equipment is purchased from Simpsons of Langley , available on links page). You should then have an Akita ready for any occasion. If you have any further question please do not hesitate to e-mail me. We certainly do not claim to know everything, but the above has always worked for us. If you have any points or advise that you think would be useful please let me know!