Hi Dr Ferox! Off the back of your post about breeds w bottlenecks mostly having issues, I'm very curious about the Shiba Inu! I've heard they were almost whiped out around one of the world wars, and then bred back from only three dogs? Do you see many issues with this breed? Q Tax: Came for the fantasy biology, stayed for the breed breakdowns! Overall, I'm learning a lot - Curious Anon.
Honestly Curious, I don’t see this breed often. There doesn’t seem to be many of them in Australia, but they are very pretty little dogs. Most of the individuals of this breed I’ve encountered have been puppies in the last twelve months, so most of them aren’t old enough for me to make meaningful statements about their health. I suspect they’re going to be an increasingly popular breed. But I will talk briefly about them anyway for you, after the usual disclaimer:
These posts are about the breed from a veterinary viewpoint as seen in clinical practice, i.e. the problems we are faced with. It’s not the be-all and end-all of the breed and is not to make a judgement about whether the breed is right for you. If you are asking for an opinion about these animals in a veterinary setting, that is what you will get. It’s not going to be all sunshine and cupcakes, and is not intended as a personal insult against your favorite breed. This is general advice for what is common, often with a scientific consensus but sometimes based on personal experiences, and is not a guarantee of what your dog is going to encounter in their life.
The breed is relatively well known for Medial Patella Luxation. Efforts are underway to screen potential breeding dogs for this condition, and it can be improved surgically, but it is a common condition affecting young adult Shibas.
Shiba Inu, and other Japanese breeds, for some reason are particularly prone to oxidative damage to red blood cells. Their red blood cells are particularly vulnerable to toxins like onions, garlic and zinc which typically cause lysis of the red bloods cells. Sometimes this has no consequence for the dog, especially if it can avoid being poisoned in its life. This weakness can also occasionally result in pseudohyperkalemia on blood tests. Basically, the red blood cells passing through a needle into a collection tube can be so delicate that passing through the metal causes them to burst and release their contents. This doesn’t necessarily affect the dog, but can confuse a diagnosis, especially if Addison’s Disease is suspected.
Entropion, the rolling in of an eyelid, occurs a little more commonly than average in this breed. It can be improved with surgery, but it’s important to select for breeding dogs that have neat eyelids.
The breed also has a spattering of assorted genetic diseases that are relatively rare, including lysosomal storage diseases and an unknown reason why these dogs seem more prone to otherwise extremely rare chylothorax. Dogs of this breed also get a range of conditions that may or may not have a genetic component, including allergies, epilepsy, hypothyroidism, lymphoma and Addison’s. The breed is not common enough down here, and the individuals that are here are not yet old enough for me to have enough evidence as to whether I think they genuinely are more common or not.
They are very pretty though, you have to admit. I expect they’ll become a lot more popular over the next decade or two, though whether that’s a benefit or detriment to the breed will remain to be seen.