Like all purebred dogs, the Akita comes from an artificially small gene pool to preserve its purity. Although this does maintain breed type, it can also lead to problems. Many health concerns that plague this breed are genetic, and with the limited gene diversity, these problems can crop up without warning. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to understand genetics when breeding purebred dogs. One goal of breeding should be to try and eliminate genetic problems. Of course, we will probably never be able to eliminate these problems, but with work perhaps we can lessen them to a great degree while maintaining breed integrity.
Akita Bones Issues
One of the problems that face Akitas specifically is hip dysplasia, which exists among many large breeds. This is when the hip joint fits together incorrectly, which leads to wearing down of the joint and can cripple a dog. Ethical breeders have their breeding stock checked and certified free of hip dysplasia by sending in x-rays to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (or OFA). Most also have OFA check elbows and knees.
Akita Immune Issues
Akitas are also prone to auto-immune conditions, including pemphigus foliaceus, sebaceous adenitis and atopic dermatitis, which manifest themselves as skin problems. Another serious auto-immune disease is Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada’s Disease, more commonly known as VKH. Dogs who have these conditions should not be bred, but sometimes are, which propagates the problems. These conditions can sometimes show up later in a dog’s life, and frequently there is no test to determine which dogs may be affected, which makes screening difficult.
Akita Stomach Problems
Bloat is another problem common to large, deep-chested breeds like the Akita. The stomach fills with gas and twists, causing great pain and death within hours of onset. Some warning signs of bloat include heavy panting, pacing, and general restlessness, especially after eating or drinking after exercise. If your dog seems to exhibit any of these symptoms, you must get him to a vet immediately. No genetic link has been definitively determined, but many breeders report seeing bloat more commonly in some lines.
Akita Other Health Diseases
Other diseases and conditions found in Akitas include progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), for which dogs can be certified clear every year with Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). Again, dogs with this condition should not be used as breeding animals. Thyroid problems also crop up quite frequently with this breed, causing a multitude of symptoms, including loss of appetite, hair loss, inappropriate aggression, and many others. It is a very good idea to have your Akita’s thyroid level checked if he is having problems which nothing seems to explain. Sometimes this can be overlooked by vets.
Akita Nutrition Facts
Nutrition is also very important to an Akita. They are a breed intolerant of many ingredients found in grocery store kibble, including corn and soy and are frequently allergic. They need a diet high in protein, not grain, and most high quality kibble still needs to be supplemented with a variety of things, including cottage cheese, eggs, yogurt and fresh processed leafy greens. Dogs are omnivorous and need a balanced diet. Many breeders advocate the BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet, in which their dogs are fed all natural fresh bones and raw meat and fish, fresh processed vegetables (dogs cannot digest cellulose, so vegetable matter must be broken down), raw eggs, cheese, etc. Although the thought of feeding raw can be intimidating or seem expensive, it is often cheaper to feed raw than to feed high quality kibble and more nutritional for the dog.