German spitz dog hereditary health problems

German spitz dog hereditary health problems

Health & Safety

The German spitz dog is also sometimes known as the American Eskimo dog, and whilst they’re not a hugely common breed within the UK they do have a large following in both Germany and the USA, and are very versatile dogs that suit a wide variety of different types of homes.

German spitz dogs come in three distinct size variants, but only two of these are recognised by the UK Kennel Club, being called mittel and klein respectively. Both of these variants are small dogs, with the smaller klein weighing between 5-8kg and the slightly larger mittel falling between 7-11kg, which means that both variants are small but not tiny.

German spitz dogs tend to be robust, healthy dogs with high exercise requirements, and they’re lively, outgoing and very active. However, like most pedigree dog breeds there are a number of hereditary health conditions that can affect dogs of German spitz lineage, and which anyone who might be considering buying a dog of the breed should be aware of.

In this article we will look at some of the most common hereditary health problems that can be found in the German spitz dog breed, and explain them in more detail. Read on to learn more.

Patellar luxation

Patellar luxation affects the kneecaps of dogs, and means that their kneecaps dislocate or “luxate” and may pop out of place, which is both painful for the dog and has a significant impact on their ability to walk and move normally.

The condition occurs when the patellar ridges that secure the kneecap in place and permit a normal range of movement within it aren’t properly developed, which enables the kneecaps to dislocate or slip without warning, often quite suddenly. A slipped kneecap might simply pop back into place on its own fairly quickly, but will be prone to slipping again – or it may not return to its normal position on its own at all.

All of this means that surgery may be necessary for affected dogs, and this is something that German spitz owners should be aware of, contacting your vet immediately if you spot any problems.

Progressive retinal atrophy and other eye problems

Progressive retinal atrophy is a painless but progressive eye condition that is found in many dog breeds as well as the German spitz, and which ultimately results in total blindness that cannot be cured or reversed. The condition tends to develop later in life, and whilst it does result in blindness, the slow, painless and gradual progression of the condition means that many affected dogs adjust well to the change and live with a good quality of life even when blind.

There is a Kennel Club/BVA health test for progressive retinal atrophy that can be performed prior to breeding, so ask the breeder of any German spitz you might be considering if they had this health test performed.

As well as progressive retinal atrophy, the German spitz also has elevated risk factors for a range of other eye conditions too, including retinal dysplasia, persistent pupillary membranes, and multifocal retinal dysplasia. Again, these conditions can be screened for under the BVA eye scheme.


Epilepsy can be a confusing and frightening condition for owners of affected dogs, and it does require some special care and management in order to manage and control the frequency and severity of attacks, and to keep the dog safe during a fit. There is not a pre breeding health test available for epilepsy in dogs, but if one of the dog’s close relatives suffers from the condition it does increase the likelihood that other members of their family will be affected too.

This means that it’s important to ask the dog’s breeder lots of questions before committing to a purchase, to ensure that you will know if your pup is at higher risk of being epileptic too.

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common hereditary health issues that can be found in populations of dogs across a wide range of different breeds, but it is more common in large and giant breeds than smaller dogs. However, despite the German spitz’s small size, they too are prone to developing hip dysplasia, which occurs when the conformation of the dog’s hips is poor and causes the hip’s ball and socket joint to become detached or not fit together snugly to allow normal movement.

However, because of the reasonably small number of dogs of the breed within the UK and the lack of conclusive data on the population’s health, The Kennel Club has not placed the German spitz on the list of breeds for which hip dysplasia health testing is advised for breeders. This screening protocol is, however, common in countries where the breed itself is most prevalent.

If you are considering buying a German spitz dog, ask the breeder if their parent stock were hip scored – but don’t be surprised if they were not. Ask about the dog’s parents and other ancestors too, to determine if there have been any cases of hip dysplasia within the breed line.



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