"The Akita and Health Issues

"The Akita and Health Issues

Health & Safety

The Japanese Akita is a very proud dog that boasts a fascinating history. However, like other pure breeds, they are predisposed to quite a few health issues which all too often are genetically inherited and breed specific. Although some of these health disorders can be prevented to some degree or another, there is never really a guarantee that dogs won't develop a condition during the course of their lives. It's also worth noting that often when a health issue is caught early enough, the chance of it being treated successfully is that much greater.

With this said, the Akita is one of the breeds that’s extremely sensitive to all sorts of drugs and medicines with sedatives and tranquilizers being highest on the list. It goes without saying that this can make life very complicated for vets who may need to treat one of these lovely dogs using some sort of anaesthetic. An Akita could be in desperate need of undergoing surgery in order to treat a condition, but the challenge a vet faces is often extremely hard. The result is a catch 22 situation where vets have to be extra careful.

Why do Akitas Have such a Sensitivity to Drugs

Although there is no definite evidence to prove this, it is thought the breed has such sensitivity to drugs and many medicines because of a defect in their liver. In short, an Akita's liver is unable clear out any excess toxins found in medication that passes through it and as such, their systems are overwhelmed which sadly leads to a dog dying. However, the breed is known to suffer from quite a few genetically inherited health disorders as well as a few acquired ones. The result is they often need to be given certain medications and drugs to help treat and clear up a condition.

Conditions Commonly Seen in the Breed

The health disorders most commonly associated with the Japanese Akita include the following.


Mycrocytosis is a blood disorder that is sometimes seen in the breed which could be any of the following:

  • A dog's red blood cells are too small
  • Their red blood cells have too much potassium in them
  • Their red blood cells don't have enough potassium in them

Any of the above can trigger anaemia in an Akita which is something that needs to be monitored closely.

Gastric Torsion (bloat)

Akitas are also prone to suffer from bloat due to the shape of their chests. The condition is often referred to as Killer Bloat because it is one condition that should never be taken lightly. All too often Akitas succumb to this painful, fatal condition even when they are taken to the vet as early as possible to be treated. If you suspect your dog is suffering from gastric torsion, you need to get them to the vet as a matter of urgency.

Autoimmune Hypothyroidis

Sadly, research has shown that well over 50% of Akitas suffer from Autoimmune Hypothyroidis which is a condition that affects their thyroid glands and as a result their immune systems can be seriously and negatively impacted. The signs a dog is suffering from this health issue:

  • A severe drop in weight
  • Extreme weight gain
  • Hyperactivity
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Skin issues and disorders

The Importance of Contacting Reputable Breeders

If you are thinking about getting an Akita puppy, it's really important to contact a reputable and well established breeder who would never use dogs with thyroid health issues in a breeding programme and who always test the dogs before they do. This is the only way of reducing the chances of puppies being born with the same sort of disorders as their parents. One thing to bear in mind is that it is quite natural for Akitas to have higher thyroid levels than other breeds though so when results come back elevated, this is perfectly normal.

Luxating Patella and Hip Dysplasia

Luxating patella is a condition that affects a dog's kneecaps where they slip out of place. Hip Dysplasia affects the socket and hip joint where it slips out of place although dogs could also be born with this abnormality. A reputable breeder would have all their dogs tested before using them in a breeding programme because they are both hereditary health disorders. However, it's worth noting that any Akita may still get either or both of these conditions simply because they may have inherited the disorder from a distant relative which could even be as far back as 5 or more generations. Trauma could also be responsible for either of the conditions developing.

If you get an Akita puppy, you have to prevent them from jumping up and down off furniture or in and out of the car and they should not be allowed to go up and down stairs either. An overweight Akita would be more at risk of developing the conditions too.

Von Willebrand's Disease

Von Willebrand's Disease is another hereditary disorder that affects the blood. Again, sadly around 20% of the breed suffers from the condition. The disorder prevents blood from clotting normally which as a result means that the smallest of injuries can turn into something very serious and nasty. Dogs with the condition often show the following symptoms:

  • Blood both dried and fresh in urine or faeces
  • Nosebleeds
  • Gums tend to bleed and in female Akitas they tend to discharge more blood than usual when they are on heat.
  • Dogs bruise easily

A vet would need to carry out a full blood count to establish whether an Akita is suffering from the condition. If the results come back positive, dogs would need to be given fresh plasma and blood intravenously and the treatment may have to continue depending on the severity of the case.

Heat and Summer Stress

A lot of Akitas don’t cope very well with higher temperatures and it can seriously impact their internal thermostat if they spend too much time in a very hot environment which has to work that much harder to keep their vital organs functioning properly. It's really important to keep a close eye on an Akita during the hotter summer months and make sure they are kept nice and cool. In extremely hot weather, it's a good idea to add ice to their drinking water and to make sure you brush your dog more frequently to get rid of any dead and excess hair which also helps keep them cooler.

Vestibular Syndrome

It’s mainly older dogs that develop Vestibular Syndrome and it often has owners and vets confused because one minute an Akita is suffering from the condition which can last anything up to 3 weeks before all symptoms suddenly vanish. Signs there could be something wrong includes the following:

  • Dogs tilt their heads to one side
  • They tend to walk around in circles
  • They lose their balance

How to Keep Akitas as Healthy as Possible

There are certain things you can do which will help keep your Akita as healthy as possible throughout their lives which includes the following:

  • Always provide them with a good quality diet to suit their ages
  • Set yourself a routine you can keep to and check your dog over on a weekly basis, taking notes of their appearance and things that could be a worry
  • Set up routine health checks with the vet so that if any disorders start to develop it can be treated sooner rather than later
  • Make sure you provide a safe and stress-free environment for your dog
  • Make sure you keep your dog cool during the very hot summer months
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