Akita Rescue Society of America


Diseases & Disorders

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Diseases and Disorders in the Akita
Most parent breed clubs do not mandate participation in genetic testing. It is recommended, but ultimately the decision rests with each individual breeder. The Akita Club of America's Breeder Referral List, sent out to the public on request, does not require that breeders conduct genetic screenings--they simply pay a fee for the listing. Therefore, when interviewing breeders before selecting a puppy, you should be aware of the health problems in your chosen breed.

Since 1976, the Akita Rescue Society of America (ARSA) has worked with Akitas, giving ARSA volunteers a good background in breed specific disorders, congenital problems, familial and heritable diseases. Rescue organizations can be a useful resource for anyone interested in the breed. Nearly all rescues keep pedigrees sent to us from owners who have lost Akitas to diseases known to occur with some frequency in the breed and invariably, we eventually rescue an Akita with some disorder that makes us aware of an existing problem. To help Akitas enjoy good health and longevity, we must begin an honest, open discussion of these diseases seeking ways to control, treat and halt the increasing number of fatal or crippling ailments.

In addition to the usual reproductive disorders like monorchidism, cryptorchidism, and pyometra, the following disorders have been seen in the Akita, listed in order of frequency:

...Akitas are sensitive to many drugs, especially those used for anesthesia. Remind your veterinarian each time a drug is prescribed for your Akita and prior to any surgical procedure. These adverse reactions are often fatal.

... Autoimmune hypothyroiditis: During the years rescue has been working with the breed, our veterinarians have conducted tests and estimate the incidence is now at over 70%. We have seen symptoms ranging from extreme hyperactivity and emaciation, to lethargy and obesity. Aberrant or sudden onset aggressive behavior, seizures, have also been linked to this disease in the Akita. The thyroid gland is part of the immune system and like any machine, it cannot function well when a part doesn't work.  Poor immune responses due to hypothyroid disease prevent the immune system from protecting the body leaving the dog vulnerable to viral and bacterial infections.  We recommend full thyroid studies before breeding or for any chronic skin problem. A young Akita should be in the UPPER RANGE of normal. 

...The occurrence of sebaceous adenitis with concurrent thyroiditis is escalating.   Pemphigus foliaceus with concurrent thyroiditis is becoming a condition of major concern; lupus erythematosus and systemic lupus appear to respond to immune suppressive drugs in many Akitas; demodectic and sarcoptic mange, atopic dermatitis and vitiligo are seen. Allergic (food and inhalant) or idiopathic skin diseases are a severe problem in this breed, but we have seen good response to treatment with Keflex and medicated baths for these conditions.

...Bloat or gastric torsion has become a very serious problem in Akitas. Please see the article on bloat at this website.

...Hip and elbow dysplasia are again on the rise and all Akitas should be x-rayed for these problems BEFORE breeding. Cruciate ligament ruptures occur with some frequency in Akitas lacking rear angulation and/or suffering from obesity; patella luxation and spondylosis (appears to be degenerative) are problems of concern. Degenerative myelopathy of slow progression has been documented in this breed. DM appears in dogs aged 7 and up. Joint degeneration caused by an immune response is often seen in Akitas in their prime and has been seen in puppies. Arthritis appears in most Akitas in the latter stages of life and both Adequan and Rimadyl have been used with good results.  If using Rimadyl or Etogesic do quarterly liver function tests and try not to mix with other drugs.  

...Not quite widespread but appearing in this breed with alarming increases are myasthenia gravis, epilepsy, diabetes, Cushings disease and acute immunological reactions to vaccines, pesticides used in combination, some drugs and heartworm preventatives.  

...Immune-mediated blood disorders are on the increase. Autoimmune hemolytic anemia, thrombocytopenia, von Willebrand's disease (21%), and platelet disorders. The rate of occurrence of liver dysfunction associated with an autoimmune response has been increasing. Please refer to the work by Dr. Jean Dodds for further information on all blood and immune-mediated diseases.

...Eye disorders are another serious problem seen with increasing frequency in the Akita. Uveitis with dermatologic syndrome (similar to VKH in humans) is increasing; microphthalmia with multiple ocular defects is also increasing, and PRA has been seen with some frequency in the Akita. Ectropion, glaucoma and cataracts can occur in this breed. We recommend CERF exams annually for all breeding Akitas.

...Senior Akitas can suffer a sudden onset vestibular syndrome recognized by tilting to one side, walking in circles, bracing of front legs.  It is a sudden loss of balance that usually corrects itself within a few weeks.  It happens in many breeds but the cause is unknown.

...It is important to note that unique to some (not all) Akitas is pseudohyperkalemia without further symptoms. Immediate separation of plasma from red cells is important when conducting any blood work on Akitas.

1999 Barbara Bouyet