Shiba Inus are one of the oldest dog breeds known to man. First bred as hunting dogs for the indigenous people of Japan, the Shiba Inu is a hardy, agile dog known for its independent spirit and stubborn demeanor. Since the Shiba is one of few ancient breeds still in existence, there is higher impetus for breeders to maintain the health of this majestic breed. As such, Shiba Inus are relatively healthy, with an average lifespan of 12-15 years, yet are prone to sometimes serious health problems.
Due to the Shiba Inu’s characteristically slanted eyes, they tend to suffer from a number of serious eye problems. The most common eye disease is cataracts, which can lead to blindness if it appears before two years of age. Shibas also are at high-risk for progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), which can cause slow degradation of vision throughout the dog’s life. Recently, veterinarians have observed a correlation between Shiba Inus and glaucoma, a disease that is caused by abnormal pressure levels triggered by fluid build up behind the ocular tissue. Entropian is another common problem, in which the eyelid points inward, causing the eyelashes to rub the eye’s surface. This can cause corneal ulcers or erosion. Having a veterinarian regularly monitor your Shiba Inu’s eye health and vision is highly recommended. Should your Shiba have an incurable eye disorder, rest assured that many dogs can lead a high-quality life, even if blind.
Bone and Joint Disorders
An alarmingly common disorder in Shiba Inus is patellar luxation (dislocation of the knee cap), which can affect up to 10% of the breed. They are also prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, which is caused by small deformities in the joints. This condition can be painful and lead to arthritis. Typically, Shiba Inus that reach two years of age without any indication of bone or joint issues are considered low-risk. Keeping your Shiba active and at a healthy weight can mitigate the effects of both patellar luxation and joint dysplasias.
Occasionally, genetic defects can cause serious problems in Shiba Inus. Common gland disorders include hyperadrenalism and Addison’s disease. These ailments affect the adrenal gland, causing either too much, or too little, production of important hormones. Another common glandular disease is hypothyroidism, in which the thyroid gland under-produces the thyroid hormone. Symptoms to look for include change of appetite, a drastic increase or decrease in weight, loss of hair, lethargy, and gastrointestinal distress. Glandular disorders can typically be controlled with medication and exercise.
Less Serious Disorders
Minor problems Shiba Inus encounter are skin and food allergies. Common triggers for allergies include pollen, dust, and dander from other pets. These allergies manifest as itchy skin, increased shedding, bacterial skin infections (pyoderma), and “hot spots.” Dietary allergies can be more serious and difficult to diagnose, and typically result as a reaction to wheat or grain ingredients found in dry dog foods. Diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite are all common symptoms of food allergies.