The Northern Inuit was purported to be a generally healthy breed with few known problems up until recent years. However, recently a few issues have come to light which have resulted in our own breeder introducing new genetic tests on breeding dogs and an outcrossing program in an effort to preserve the Inuits temperament and type whilst hopefully resulting in the eradication of these issues. Also due to being a large breed there are some things that you should be aware of before choosing your breeder and your puppy. Outlined on this page are some of the more common health problems that potential new owners should be aware of so that they know what questions they may need to raise with their breeder and what tests they should expect their breeder to have done before mating.
All large breed dogs are prone to diseases such as hip and elbow dysplasia and we would recommend that before agreeing to purchase a puppy you check that both parents have been hip and elbow scored (always ask to see certificates when you visit your breeder). Hip and elbow scoring are both schemes run by the British Veterinary Association who keep records of average scores for each breed: a radiograph (x-ray) is taken of the hips and elbows once the dog is over one year of age, which are then sent to a panel of experts and given a score - the lowest being 0 and the highest being 106. It is recommended that only dogs with scores below the breed average be used for breeding in order to keep the scores low. However, dogs with slightly higher than breed average hip scores can still be used to ensure a wide gene pool remains in the breed as long as the other dog in the mating has a suitably low score. Although these measures doesn't guarantee that your puppy wont suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia (sadly these things do still crop up from time to time, even with two perfectly healthy non-dysplastic parents) it gives puppies the best chance possible as hip and elbow dysplasia are both thought to be hereditary.
It is important to be aware that environmental factors can also affect a puppy's joint and bone development. During the first year of life the Northern Inuit does a large amount of their growing. It is important that a puppy should be prevented from excessive jumping, unnecessary stair climbing and be given an appropriate diet during the first year of life to ensure there is no damage to the joints in this crucial period of development.
Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive and incurable disease of the spinal cord. The disease starts off as a weakness and lack of co-ordination in the rear legs and will, over time, result in paralysis. A test has been developed which looks for a mutated gene however it is not thought to be 100% accurate. Results of this test will come back as either normal, carrier or affected.
The governing body for Northern Inuits does not currently require breeders to test for degenerative myelopathy, however it is with great sadness that there has recently been diagnosis of Degenerative Myelopathy within the breed and we would advise that potential new owners insist on this test being conducted either on the parents or on the puppies as this is a debilitating disease to live with. If one dog has been tested clear then there is no need for the other parent to be tested, if one dog is a carrier then the other prospective parent should also be tested before the mating takes place. If two 'clear' dogs have a litter then the puppies can be assumed 'clear by parentage'. A 'clear' to 'carrier' mating will result in approximately 50% of the litter being clear and 50% being carriers.
Male Northern Inuits can be prone to cryptorchidism which is more commonly known as retained testicles - a condition where one or both testes do not drop down into the scrotum. This condition seems especially prevalent in white dogs. Although the incidence of cryptorchidism is slowly decreasing it is worth mentioning that a dog suffering from this condition will require castration, which, due to the complicated nature of the procedure can cost a large amount of money. As owners who have had two cryptorchid dogs (one bilateral and one unilateral) we would recommend all new owners to take out insurance with Petplan for at least the first 2 years of life as they will cover the castration costs for this condition. Please note that if you have a dog with cryptorchidism it is still recommended that you wait until the dog is at least a year old before having him castrated as testes may be late to drop and the dog should be allowed to mature physically and mentally before being castrated.
We are sadly intimately familiar with Epilepsy as one of our own Northern Inuits suffers with this condition. Idiopathic Epilepsy can onset at any age but most commonly between 6 months and 6 years of age. There is currently no genetic link for epilepsy to determine whether it is an inherited condition. Idiopathic Epilepsy is characterised by seizures which occur in two types.
'Focal' or Partial seizures are where a particular part of the brain is triggered and thus tends to affect one specific area of the body. They can be characterised by things such as head shaking, chewing movements, rapid eye blinking or repeated muscle contractions in one extremity.
'Generalised' or Grand Mal seizures are where the dog loses consciousness and movement affects both sides of the body and are characterised by the classic jerking or paddling movements most people would associate with a seizure. A Grand Mal seizure lasting more than 5 minutes is called 'status epilepticus' and is classed as a medical emergency requiring immediate veterinary treatment. Continued status epilepticus can result in permanent and irreversible brain damage.
Idiopathic Epilepsy is an incurable condition and the emphasis is on controlling the frequency of the seizures through use of Anti-Epileptic Drugs which many dogs respond well to when the right combination is found, however, as with all medication this does result in various side effects.
For more information on hip, elbow and eye testing and to see the latest breed average scores please visit the British Veterinary Association website.