All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on her puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
The Siberian is generally healthy as a breed, but there are some concerns to be aware of. Possible inherited diseases include hip dysplasia, an orthopedic condition in which the head of the thigh bone doesn’t fit properly into the hip socket. Mild cases result in arthritis that may be manageable with medications and other therapies. More severe cases require surgery. Hip dysplasia is a terrible situation for a dog who loves to run and pull sleds.
Siberians can also be affected by eye problems including juvenile cataracts, corneal dystrophy, and progressive retinal atrophy. Juvenile cataracts typically start forming before the dog is 2 years old. Cataracts are an opacity that forms in the lens and either clouds or blocks vision. Surgery can correct the problem. However, if the cataract isn’t causing pain or other medical issues, understand that most dogs, including Siberians, get around just fine when they’re blind. Corneal dystrophy involves a difference type of opacity, this time one that clouds the cornea, as opposed to cataracts that cloud the lens. Typically both eyes are affected. A Siberian can become blind depending on how much of the cornea is clouded. Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an inherited disease of the retina that eventually leads to blindness.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it can be hard to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for these defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
The Siberian Husky Club of America participates in the Canine Health Information Center, a health database. To obtain a CHIC number for a Siberian, the breeder must submit hip evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) or Universityof Pennsylvania (PennHIP), and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) or the Siberian Husky Ophthalmic Registry.
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease, but all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents.
If the breeder tells you she doesn’t need to do those tests because she’s never had problems in her lines, her dogs have been vet checked, or any of the other excuses bad breeders have for skimping on the genetic testing of their dogs, walk away immediately.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live good lives. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Remember, when you first adopt a Husky, take him for his first vet visit within 30 days. This will provide you with a good baseline to measure your future visits against. Your vet should do the basic physical exam but also put your dog on a heartworm preventative. Also, you have the power to protect your Husky from one of the more common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Siberian at an appropriate weight is one of the easier ways to extend his life. Make the most of diet and exercise to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
- Siberian Husky Club of America Inc, retrieved from the web on September 29th, 2018
- Siberian Husky Health by vetstreet retrieved from the web on September 29th, 2018.