You love your loyal, outgoing, and occasionally mischievous Siberian Husky. How could you not? With their gorgeous coat, stunning eyes, and heart of gold (mischief aside), a Siberian Husky is one of nature’s most beautiful animals. Bred to work in packs pulling light loads at moderate speeds across the snow and ice, Siberian Huskies have a thick coat and are medium-sized dogs with great physical endurance. They make good family dogs and love making friends with other pups. Huskies are very clean dogs and smell less than other dogs.
In this article, we’ll be discussing Siberian Husky health issues to keep a lookout for and ways to keep your husky at their healthy, happy, and playful best.
What is a Siberian Husky’s Life Expectancy?
A Siberian Husky’s life span is estimated to be between 12-14 years of age, according to the American Kennel Club. This is a very similar range compared to other dogs the size of huskies, including the Labrador, Golden Retriever, and German Shepherd. This is, of course, just the average age for a Siberian Husky. There are many factors under your control that can improve your husky’s life expectancy, which we’ll explore later in this article.
Husky Health Problems
Here are some of the potential issues a Siberian Husky might face in his lifetime. If you’re considering adopting a husky, knowing about the potential problems a husky might develop will allow you to make an informed decision. If you already own a husky, don’t worry. While none of these Husky health issues is a guarantee, it’s important to know what to look out for in case your dog starts developing symptoms. Additionally, the more knowledge you have allows you to start taking preventative measures now that can keep your Siberian Husky healthy and happy for a long time.
Unfortunately, huskies tend towards eye issues. One of the conditions that your husky might develop is called cataracts. Cataracts are a milky film that grows on the eye. It’s made from a build-up of protein. This film blocks light from entering the eye and can also deform the lens of the eye. It can affect one, or both eyes and lead to partial vision loss or full blindness.
There is a theory that huskies with blue eyes are more prone to cataracts, but there is no scientific research to back this theory up.
However, unlike other dogs, husky’s can be prone to hereditary or juvenile cataracts which develop when the husky is a puppy, between 3 and 12 months of age. Most dogs develop cataracts as they age and become elderly.
2. Progressive retinal atrophy
This is another of the eye issues that Siberian Huskies are prone to. Your dog’s retina is just like yours. It is a layer of light-sensitive cells located at the back of the eye. Atrophy means wasting away. Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a group of degenerative diseases that affects the light-sensitive cells of the eye. PRA causes these cells to weaken over time, which eventually leads to blindness. There are two types of PRA, one of which is early onset and is found in young puppies, and a late-onset that is found in adult dogs. The early onset is often called retinal dysplasia.
3. Corneal dystrophy
Let’s start with the good news first: most dogs with corneal dystrophy have good vision. Even though the name of this eye condition sounds scary, it generally has little to no impact on dogs. In some cases, ulceration, or tearing, might develop and require care from a vet, but that is rare. So, what is corneal dystrophy? Several conditions that cause the corneas of the eye to become cloudy fall under this term. There are three types of corneal dystrophy, and they are named after the part of the eye they affect. There is Epithelial corneal dystrophy which affects the top layer of the cornea. Stromal corneal dystrophy affects the middle layer of the cornea and Endothelial corneal dystrophy affects the deepest layer of the cornea.
4. Uveodermatologic syndrome
This is a disease with eye, skin, and nervous system symptoms. This condition causes eye problems like retinal separation. While the skin symptoms are merely cosmetic, blindness can develop. The cause of this disease is rooted in the immune system attacking cells concentrated in the eyes and the skin. This response may be triggered by a virus. It’s also thought that there is a genetic component to this condition, but this remains unknown. Signs of this disease include eye discomfort like painful, red eyes, constricting pupils, and a clouding of the eyes as well. About 90% of dogs with this condition will experience a premature whitening of their hair.
5. Hip dysplasia
This is a common skeletal condition most often seen in larger dog breeds like huskies and German Shepherds. Dogs that have hip dysplasia have hip joints that don’t fit together properly. The hip joint is a ball and socket joint, where the ball at the top of the leg bone inserts in the socket of the hip joint. In dogs with hip dysplasia, their ball and socket joints have developed improperly, leading to a poor fit. This poor fit makes the joint grind against itself, instead of gliding smoothly. This grinding wears out the protective joint cushion, or cartilage, in the joint leading to pain, inflammation, and eventual loss of function.
Genetics is the leading cause of this condition in dogs. Other factors impact the development of hip dysplasia, like a puppy growing too fast. Factors under your control include exercise, maintaining proper weight, and giving your dog the right nutrition. Too much exercise on a hard surface, as well as being overweight can all influence a dog’s development of hip dysplasia.
How to Improve Your Husky’s Health and Lifespan
Here are a few ways to help your husky live a long and healthy life. While there is a lot, like genetics, that is out of our control, there are plenty of lifestyle habits or changes you can implement that will support your dog’s overall health and wellness.
1. Responsible breeding
If you’re about to adopt a husky, choosing a responsible breeder gives you a better chance of adopting a healthy puppy. Here are a few tips for choosing a responsible breeder.
- Both parents should be OFA certified free of radiological evidence of hip dysplasia.
- Both parents need to have their eyes diagnosed as healthy and free from genetic disorders by a canine ophthalmologist.
- Both parents need to be generally healthy and a good example of their breed in height and shape.
- Puppies need to have an AKC registration form with a signed, correct pedigree. They should also have health records for immunizations and parasite control.
- The breeder should interview you and evaluate if you’ll be able to provide a good home for a puppy.
Not all dog food is created equal, and one of the best ways to support your husky’s overall health is with high-quality food. Yes, it is more expensive, but if it prevents health issues down the line, you’ll have saved money overall. Look for food with “meat” as the first ingredient and vitamins and minerals from real food sources like fruits and veggies. Your vet likely sells good dog foods or will have recommendations for you.
Huskies are working dogs and need regular exercise to stay healthy and keep their energy levels manageable. A well-exercised dog will have less energy for mischief. Here are four fun exercises you can do with your husky.
Your husky’s coat is very special, just like your dog. It requires regular care and maintenance to stay healthy. Huskies have a double coat and will shed their entire undercoat once a year. Try to thoroughly brush your husky at least once a week—more often will mean less vacuuming. Groomers recommend using a wide-toothed comb to untangle and then using a paddle brush to smooth the coat and capture loose hairs. Start with the undercoat and brush up away from the skin. Then brush the overcoat in the direction of the hair growth.
5. Veterinary care
Take your husky for her yearly check-ups with her veterinarian. These visits will allow your vet to check your husky’s eyes and other potential problem areas like the hips, and make sure they’re healthy and strong. And, if any health issues are developing, then catching them as soon as possible allows for treatment to begin sooner. Most health problems have a better chance of resolving positively if they are caught in the early stages of development. Take your dog to the vet as often as they recommend.
While you’re at the vet, ask them about good health supplements for your husky. Your husky might benefit from fish oil, hemp seed oil, magnesium, antioxidants, and glucosamine and chondroitin. These supplements might support her eyes, skin, teeth, and joints. Your vet likely has good recommendations about what to give your husky and what brands are a good choice.