DietAgain it is important to think about your dog’s origins. The Japanese dogs were primarily fed on fish based diets, so it is important to include this. Fish is a good form of low fat protein with essential oils such as omega-3, 6 and 9 which play a crucial role in keeping joints supple and flexible (essential considering Akita’s are prone to arthritis in later years). As well as keeping the heart healthy and coat in good condition. (Mackerel, herring and salmon are a good source of these essential oils).The quantity of food needed changes with the dogs age and activity levels. Always get advice from your vet, re-homing centre or breeder so a feeding programme can be tailored to your dog’s needs. Also remember – Just like us , dogs are partial to extra little treats! Canine obesity in on the increase in all breeds, Akita’s with their broad build and thick coats can hide additional pounds easily ! Treats , should be just that... occasional tasty extras. Take this into account when using food reward based training.
Coat careAkita’s have a gorgeous thick double coat, with a very dense soft undercoat for insulation in the cold, and a longer coarse waterproofing coat, ideal for the snowy mountains of Japan. Although they don’t constantly shed - a weekly brush through should keep their coat in good condition, they do completely lose their under coat twice a year –usually in spring then at the end of the summerand it will make a mess !!!
The fur will start to lift away from the body and loosen leaving deposits wherever they sit or brush against, daily grooming to get rid of this loose fur is crucial to keep your dog comfortable and your home tidy. It generally only lasts a couple weeks after which a new soft coat grows in. However a good way to manage this is; as the fur starts to lift, book them in to a recommended professional groomer to get rid of the bulk of the loose fur in one go. If this is an option for you get your dog used to being groomed by yourself or a professional groomer as a puppy.
Illness’sIf your dog is lucky it will have a long happy life of between 10 and 12 years. But it is wise to consider the possibility of health issues. Like many pedigrees, the Akita has a number of potential health concerns. Below are some common conditions, this is not to say that every Akita will suffer from these, it is just worth being aware that some do.Thyroid diseasesThe thyroid gland is responsible for producing the hormone “Thyroxin”, needed to control the bodies metabolic rate (the rate at which various functions are carried out within the body). Hy“PO”thyroidism or low thyroid activity occurs when there is a problem with the gland resulting in a reduced secretion of thyroxin. Hy”PER”thyroidism, which is an increased production of the Thyroxin hormone. If correctly diagnosed through blood tests, treatment is available in most cases. BloatMany large and deep chested breeds are prone to bloat; this is a build-up of gas produced in the stomach from food digestion causing the stomach to “Swell or Bloat”. Occasionally a build-up of gas can cause the stomach to twist on itself cutting off the openings and trapping the gas further. This becomes extremely painful and will usually need the gas venting from the stomach. - This condition can be critical and requires immediate veterinary care. ArthitisArthritis is a condition which causes pain and inflammation within one or more joints. Although it is common amongst many breeds and is generally (though not always) associated with ageing dogs due to wear and tear of the joints. Larger breeds like the Akita have a tendency to develop it. The symptoms are varied, but generally the pain and inflammation causes stiffness in the joints resulting in restricted movement and lameness, often seen after periods of rest. This will also have an impact on their behaviour, such as showing reluctance to partake in their usual activities and increased irritability and lethargy.
PRAProgressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a condition whereby the cells within the eye retina degrade progressively, eventually causing blindness. If affected, the dog will show signs around the ages of 5-6 years. As this is thought to be a hereditary trait in the Akita there is no cure for this condition.Sebaseous Adenitis Sebaceous glands are found all over the body secreting sebum - fatty oils which keep the skin from drying out and the coat in good condition. Sebaceous Adenitis is a condition where these glands become inflamed and destroyed causing a loss of sebum production in the areas affected. The skin dries out becoming scaly and prone to infection as well as causing fur loss. Various bathing oils to remove scaly deposits, and fatty oil dietary supplements may help to manage the condition. Sadly little is known about this condition and a cure is not yet available.
ExerciseOn lead activity is good exercise if you dont have a safe area to run your dog, schedule in 2-3 long walks and make these more stimulating by allowing your Akita to sniff out things as they go utilising their natural hunting skills, and burning additional calories by concentrating along the way. Nothing beats a good run around. Make sure the area you use is safe - and ensure good socialising, training and recall before letting any dog play off lead.
NB:Invest in some good winter clothes - once their in the snow you cant get them out of it!
Hydrotherapy may be recommended as a non weight bearing activity for dogs with arthritis.It can help maintain joint strength and has the added bonus of providing a less painful type of exercise which can help to keep your dog at a healthy weight.Your Veterinary Surgeon can refer you to a specialised centre if deemed suitable. I can personally recommend :http://www.albaphysiotherapy.co.uk