If you bring the ancient Japanese breed called the Akita into your life, find a veterinarian who's strongly familiar with the breed. The Akita's known health problems include various autoimmune disorders, skin problems and eye issues. Akitas are quite sensitive to anesthesia and other drugs, so it's important that veterinary personnel are aware of potential complications from medications that might not affect other breeds.
Akitas are prone to progressive retinal atrophy, an eye disease appearing within the first years of life that eventually renders affected dogs completely blind. Uveo-dermatological syndrome affects both eyes and skin. Retinas detach, sores occur, and the skin loses hair and pigment . Although retinal dysplasia occurs in the breed, it doesn't necessarily affect vision. Akitas are also prone to cataracts, glaucoma and microphthalmia, a congenital condition in which the eyes are exceptionally small and recessed in the eye socket.
Akitas are prone to various skin disorders, some of an autoimmune nature, such as sebaceous adenitis. This disease causes hair loss resulting in permanent bald spots, along with lesions from secondary infections and a bad odor. Your vet will biopsy your dog's skin for a definite diagnosis. Another autoimmune disorder, pemphigus, results in lesions and pustules. Although hypothyroidism isn't a skin disease per se, it is an autoimmune disease with hair loss and skin lesions among its initial symptoms. Fortunately, this disease usually responds well to daily administration of a thyroid pill.
Acquired Myasthenia Gravis
While the autoimmune disorder called acquired myasthenia gravis is relatively rare, Akitas are at the highest risk of all dog breeds for getting it. Symptoms include muscle weakness, sleeping with the eyelids open, regurgitation, heavy drooling and difficulty swallowing food. Aspiration pneumonia can result from food going into the lungs. Affected dogs might lose the ability to bark or any barking sounds high-pitched. With supportive care, and barring aspiration pneumonia, most dogs will spontaneously recover, although that might not occur for months.
Gastric volvulous, also known as gastric torsion and often called bloat, affects many large breeds. The Akita is no exception. The stomach actually twists in affected dogs, and only emergency surgery can save their lives. Symptoms include restlessness, attempts to vomit with no results, abdominal pain, excessive salivation, whining and obvious discomfort.
Von Willenbrad's Disease
The inherited blood-clotting disorder known as von Willebrand's disease results in excessive bleeding, and affected dogs might suffer frequent nosebleeds or gum bleeding. Severely affected dogs might also experience internal bleeding or joint bleeding. However, most dogs with von Willebrand's disease are only mildly affected. It's something your vet will take into consideration if your dog requires surgery.
- Akita Rescue Society of America: Diseases and Disorders in the Akita
- Vetstreet: What You Need to Know About Akita Health
- Veterinary Pet Insurance: Akita Dogs
- Akita Club of America: Sebaceous Adenitis
- Canada's Guide to Dogs: Akita Health Issues
- Akita Association: Health and the Akita
- Mar Vista Animal Medical Center: Myasthenia Gravis
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.