Healthy Shibas

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From Jacey Holden, President of the NSCA (National Shiba Club of America)

Shibas are often described as sturdy, healthy little dogs, able to withstand the rigors of outdoor life as well as enjoying the comfort of living indoors. Theyíre fairly easy to take care of - they donít need special food, can run for miles or just chase a ball around the back yard. They do shed, more like a molt, twice a year. Their fur comes out in big chunks, which most dog brushes canít handle. Most Shiba owners find it easier to pull the molting fur off, then brush them. But some Shibas do have health worries that potential owners and breeders should be aware of.

The most serious is patellar luxation - when the patella (kneecap) is/can be moved from its normal position in the femoral trochlea. This can range from Grade 1, where the patella can be displaced manually but returns to normal when released, to Grade 4, where the patella is luxated all the time and the dog exhibits lameness and/or bowed legs. There are many causes for patellar luxation, from skeletal abnormalities to soft tissue changes and diagnosis canít be made from X-rays alone; usually palpation is sufficient.

Hip dysplasia is another consideration - a report by the OFA found the following (through December 31, 1997):

Number of Shibas evaluated - 889

15.0% excellent
63.8% good
13.2% fair
3.5% mildly dysplastic
3.5% moderately dysplastic
0.6% severely dysplastic

In another study, performed by CERF from 1991-1997, 553 Shibas were examined. Of those, 454 dogs, or 82.10% were considered normal, while 99 dogs, or 17.90% were afflicted with one or more problems. Only 14.52% of the males examined were afflicted, while 20.51% of the females had a problem. (The majority of dogs examined were between the ages of six months and five years)

However, the most common problem of Shibas is surprising - allergies, mostly due to FAD (Flea Allergy Dermatitis). Shibas suffering from FAD scratch and claw at themselves (especially at the base of the tail, stomach area and between their hind legs), even though topical products are used; sometimes the only solution is a series of cortisone injections. Other allergies Shibas suffer from include food and inhalants, causing runny eyes, loss of facial hair and itchy muzzles, ears and/or between toes; pollen and dust mites also cause some problems (there are no firm figures on how many Shibas do have allergies), but it comes down to tracking down the allergan and removing it.

The best thing to do when looking for a Shiba is make sure itís healthy before you bring it home, then take care of it the best you can - just like you do yourself and your children!


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