Cold Facts: Common Health Concerns Among Siberian Huskies

Siberian Huskie

It is no wonder why the popularity of Siberian Huskies has grown exponentially over recent years; they are just so hard to resist. There aren’t many other breeds that are quite as strikingly gorgeous as the Siberian husky, what with those piercing blue eyes, that thick coat of fur and those disarming wolf-like looks. But it isn’t just their appearance that makes them such amazing pets. It is their joyful demeanour, their buoyant energy, their loyalty and friendliness. But the fact they make the best furry friends imaginable is also what makes it so hard to cope with when they get sick. There is an emotional bond that can crush your soul like nothing else.

Yes, Siberian Huskies tend to be incredibly healthy compared to a lot of other breeds, but that doesn’t mean they are free of all health concerns. Quite the contrary, in fact. Of course, the best medicine in your arsenal is knowledge and prevention, which is why we are going to highlight the main health problems of this very special breed:

Huskie in the snow

Corneal Dystrophy
Unfortunately, Siberian Huskies are known for suffering autoimmune disorders that affect the eyes and one, in particular, is to do with the cornea. Unfortunately, this tends to be a hereditary disease and one that your local veterinarian will probably tell you has no known cure, whether medicinal or therapeutic. What it looks like is tiny white spots in the cornea, with the condition affecting your pups vision. It’s not nice, but the good news is it isn’t painful.

Zinc Deficiency
Another autoimmune disorder your husky is susceptible to is a low level of zinc in their body, which tends to cause hair loss. The most common areas of hair loss are on the face – lips, chin and eyelids – but it can also occur at their elbows, hocks and feet. The obvious thing to do is add a zinc supplement to their diet. However, before you do this we would strongly recommend you speak to your vet first.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Yeah, Huskies tend to get it pretty rough with their eyes, and this is another hereditary example of this. This is a condition whereby your dog’s retina slowly disintegrates over time. The best way to ensure that this condition doesn’t affect your puppy is to have your Husky screened at an early age and let it undergo the necessary examination. While this won’t cure them, it will allow you to make lifestyle adjustments to ensure any progression is put off for as long as possible.

Hip Dysplasia
Ask any vet and they will tell you that a lot of big dogs are prone to hip dysplasia and Siberian Huskies fall into the category. To give you a little more information on it, hip dysplasia is where the joint doesn’t quite fit together properly, making later life a lot harder for them. There are certain things you can do to help your dog if they suffer from this. However, we would also recommend you ask the breeder whether the pups parents have been screened for hip dysplasia. It is hereditary, so those parents who were fine on this front tend to produce a litter that is unaffected too.

Wrestling cows and a popping eye…

Vet Student Ruminants practical on the farm

Waking up this morning it was white out with thick fog, however I had a coach to catch to the farm at 8am for a practical class in ruminants. Making it to the bus on time we were told that the heaters were not working. Basically it was warmer outside than in.

Practical class today was scheduled to be on hoof correction as part of our training in cow orthopaedics, however after the first 2 patients this was interrupted with a request for us to go to a downed cow. Now a downed cow just means that the cow cannot stand up – whether it is because of broken bones, nerve damage, neurological problems or electrolyte problems within the body.

The first step therefore was for diagnosis of the problem, the cow had given birth the day before and apparently had been down around 18 hours before we were called. Because of the length of time spent laying there is the potential for major nerve damage and muscle problems. These then compound what could have been a simple problem. As a group we managed to turn the cow to the other side to examine both sides and the neurological responses.

The problem with cows is that they are very big, messy and heavy. I struggled to restrain the head whilst we tried to give the fluids, a man vs a 500Kg animal generally indicates that the animal will win unless specific techniques are used. So to nurse a cow that is down it needs to be turned every 3-4 hours, and requires special equipment for lifting and also for milking. This is something that just doesn’t exist on most farms – and then the manpower doesn’t exist either.

Unfortunately this cow had a very bad prognosis however we tried to give intravenous fluids with glucose and then some calcium. After this the cow managed to stand on her own for a few minutes before collapsing again. We gave it more fluids, and left instructions with the farm workers to watch her for the next few hours before if necessary going for emergency slaughter.

Coming back to the university around lunchtime I somehow ended up getting called to surgery to run anaesthesia on a dog that had prolapsed its eye. This was a high risk patient as it was a brachycephalic breed where the face is squashed flat like with pugs and was also a small dog with a low bodyweight. This causes compromise in the respiratory system so I wanted to run this anaesthesia using a ventilator in case there was problems with the breathing.

This was a very interesting patient as the globe part of the eye was outside of the socket with all the muscles that normally hold it in place torn from it. The eye was so far forward that we also suspected that the optic nerve had been torn as well. The only treatment in this case as the eye is dead is for enucleation. This is where the eye globe is removed from the socket and then the skin closed over the socket.

The patient here recovered from the anaesthesia well, and I was very happy with how it went.

Trying to save a horses eye…

Inspecting the equine eye

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Chart Stables

So this morning at around 6am I got a sms for emergency surgery in the equine clinic, as always there was no indication of just what the surgery was going to be. Jumping out of bed I did an hours reading before then heading down to clinic so that I could be in on the pre-op. Heading into stables i found our equine surgeon talking with our ophthalmologist so realized it was eye related. I then found the patient, a foal that had sustained trauma to its right eye hiding in a stable behind mom.

Now i am not sure if i have written about foals before so I will include a few notes here. When working with foals you tend to also have to deal with mom, this can make it interesting as sometimes mom is not so keen on you touching her baby. Also adding another horse into a procedure just automatically doubles the danger. However to get the foal to go somewhere normally if you take mom the foal will follow, downside here though is that if mum gets nervous or scared then the foal will as well.

Because of this it is sometimes chosen to also sedate mom. So after mom leading the foal onto the scales to get the weight, and then the preparation of drugs it was time for the surgery. Now mom led the foal into the operating theatre, and the foal was positioned so that she would be able to have a controlled fall on the operating table. She was then given anesthetic drugs and carefully positioned onto the surgery table. Careful attention was given to mom during this time to ensure that mom did not freak out when her foal fell onto the table. Mom was then moved back to the stables whilst surgical prep started.

The area around the eye was cleaned and shaved whilst the anesthetic team monitored the foal and the ophthalmologist scrubbed and then prepared her instrument tray for the surgery. Something really important is balanced anesthetic and in this case it was also decided to use local nerve blocks around the eye to reduce the amount of general anesthetic needed. At this point it was uncertain whether the surgery would be to repair the eyeball or to remove it. The first thing the ophthalmologist did was to clean and examine the eye, unfortunately in this case the damaged was too severe and so the decision was taken to remove the eye.

Now this is a relatively simple procedure with several different techniques possible to achieve the goal of removing the eye. In this case because of the trauma what is called a transconjunctival approach was selected. This is where the conjunctive tissue (this is the tissue inside the eyelids) that surrounds the eyeball is cut to release the eyeball from the socket before the nerve and blood vessels are then cut. On this occasion the vessels were not ligated but compression used to achieve hemostasis by filling the empty socket with gauze to apply pressure until the bleeding stopped. A surgical drain was then placed to allow any fluid to drain from the wound. The eyelids were then trimmed to remove the eyelashes before these were sutured shut.

The foal was then taken to recovery. Now this is also different as we do not leave a foal to recover alone but support the recovery with the foal being restrained on the ground until the drugs wear off. Once the foal is reasonably awake we then help the foal to stand and support them until they can stand alone. After this mom is then brought back to be with the foal as this helps reduces stress in the foal.