Siberian Huskies are among the oldest and most resilient dog breeds in the world. Masterful athletes with science-defying metabolic make-up, a properly cared for Siberian Husky is also among the healthiest of dog breeds. With an average lifespan of 12 – 14 years, their longevity (especially for a medium-to-large dog) is superb. However, as with all purebreds, there are a few common health problems to watch for.
Like many of the Spitz breeds, Siberian Huskies are prone to certain eye diseases. One of the most common, and serious, conditions is Juvenile Cataracts, which affects dogs as young as three months old. As with age-related cataracts common in senior dogs, a puppy’s eyes will appear clouded. Cataracts in juveniles are a serious problem, as this disorder can quickly progress to blindness. Huskies also are at high-risk for corneal dystrophy, which results in the appearance of crystalline deposits on the dog’s cornea. Corneal dystrophy rarely affects eyesight, and there is no reliable treatment at this time. A third common eye disorder is a variant of Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), called XLPRA (X chromosome-linked PRA). Siberian Huskies and humans are the only two mammals known to suffer from this type of PRA, which is characterized by defects in rods and cones in the eye that eventually results in blindness. Each of these ocular disorders listed is genetic and hereditary, and can be tested for, both in the puppy and in the parents, to determine if they are carriers. If purchasing a Siberian Husky from a breeder, be sure to inquire about the health of the parents, and ask to see Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certificates if available.
Siberian Huskies can suffer from a number of skin allergies or disorders. Commonly, Huskies can develop skin rashes and extreme itchiness caused by their food or environment. Extreme allergies and scratching can lead to Pyoderma, which is a bacterial infection of the skin that forms as a result of excessive scratching. Occasionally, Siberian Huskies are diagnoses with Canine Discoid Lupus, which affects the dog’s skin, particularly that on his nose. What may appear to be sunburn (scaly, dry skin and discoloration) can actually be the beginning signs of tissue damage that can affect the dog’s gums, lips, and sinuses if left untreated. However, if your dog merely loses pigment in his or her nose during the winter, this is a harmless condition called “snow nose,” which affects a large number of the breed. A rare skin and eye disease sometimes found in Huskies is Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada (VKH) Syndrome, which can lead to blindness, as well as skin and coat whitening. This syndrome is an auto-immune disorder and caused by the body inappropriately attacking its own cells. When caught early, VKH Syndrome is treatable, and in some instances, reversible.
An alarmingly common health problem for Siberian Huskies is epilepsy, which describes a condition where dogs suffer from seizures for no known reason. Epilepsy can be extremely frustrating for dog-owners, because the severity or frequency is never consistent. One possible cause of epilepsy is zinc deficiency and malabsorption. Commonly, Huskies suffer from the inability to properly absorb zinc from their diet. Research has suggested that a lack of zinc in the brain can lead to seizure activity. Administering a zinc supplement can improve the health of your dog, however, discuss this option with your veterinarian beforehand.