Chow Chows are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they can be prone to certain health conditions. It is important to be aware of the following diseases if you're considering this breed.
The following problems aren't common in the breed, but they may occur:
- Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can be caused by or worsened by environmental factors such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors. Health testing can be done on both the sire and the dam but this does not guarantee your puppy will still not susceptible to Dysplasia.
- Entropion causes the eyelid to roll inward, irritating or injuring the eyeball. One or both eyes can be affected with either of or both the upper and lower eyelids rolling in. If your Chow Chow has entropion, you may notice him rubbing at his eyes and extra tear stains. The condition can be corrected surgically. This condition is inherent in the breed and can appear over night. A dog/puppy can be vet checked and cleared one day and have entropion the next. This is due to the deep set eye and structure of the the chows head, not because of "bad breeding".
Surgery may be suggested and should be done by a vet familiar with chows, again consult your breeder as to the best vet to use for this procedure. please see diagram for a general illustration of the procedure required to correct entropion
- Elbow Dysplasia Canine elbow dysplasia (ED) is a disease of the elbows of dogs caused by growth disturbances in the elbow joint. There are a number of theories as to the exact cause of the disease that include defects in cartilage growth, trauma, genetics, exercise, diet and so on. It is likely that a combination of these factors leads to a mismatch of growth between the two bones in the fore leg located between the elbow and the wrist (radius and ulna). If the radius grows more slowly than the ulna it becomes shorter leading to increased pressure on the medial coronoid process of the ulna This in turn can cause damage to the cartilage in joint and even fracture of the tip of the coronoid process, which damages the medial compartment (side closest to the body) of the joint. Less commonly, if the ulna grows too slowly then the radius pushes the upper arm bone (humerus) against the anconeal process, which can then lead to failure of the anconeal process to attach to the ulna at maturity. It is believed that the mismatch in growth between the radius and ulna may sometimes only occur during a puppy’s growth, but it may also persist when the pup has finished growing.
- Thyroid problems The thyroid gland is an essential gland in the body, producing a number of hormones, including T3 (liothyronine) and T4 (levothyroxine), both of which are required for normal metabolism in the body.
Hypothyroidism is a clinical condition resulting from a lowered production and release of T4 and T3 hormones by the thyroid gland. It is common in medium to large-sized dogs, with some being more predisposed than others. It is also more commonly diagnosed in middle-aged dogs between the ages of 4-10 years. Neutered male dogs and spayed females are found to be at higher risk than intact dogs.
Symptoms and Types
- Generalized weakness
- Mental dullness
- Unexplained weight gain
- Hair loss (alopecia)
- Excessive hair shedding
- Poor hair growth
- Dry or lusterless haircoat
- Excessive scaling
- Recurring skin infections
- Intolerance to cold
- Tilting of head to one side (uncommon)
- Seizures (uncommon)
- Infertility (uncommon)
- Unknown etiology (origin)
- Congenital disease
- Iodine deficiency
- After-effect of medical treatment, including surgery
Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your dog, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition. You will need to provide your veterinarian with a thorough history of your dog's health leading up to the onset of symptoms.
- Hot Spots are probably the most common and frustrating temporary health problems in Chow Chows. They can appear overnight, growing from a tiny spot into a huge, hot, angry, oozing sore. Chows are their own worst enemies when it comes to hot spots. The sores hurt and itch and the Chow tries to relieve the pain by chewing at himself which only makes the hot spot worse! What exactly causes hot spots isn't known for sure but many things contribute to them. Soap left in the coat after the bath is a leading culprit along with a damp coat that is not dried to the skin, flea infestations, wounds, allergies and hormone disorders. If your Chow breaks out shortly after a bath, you can suspect either coat dampness or you didn't rinse him well enough. Another bath with a more thorough rinsing will be necessary. A Chow that's allergic to fleas will fly into a coat‐chewing frenzy over just one flea bite. Minor skin irritations and insect bites are high on the hot spot list, too. Chows are funny creatures ‐ they ignore big hurts to the point of not letting you know when they don't feel well but they are easily upset by small hurts like insect bites. Allergies usually appear after puppyhood and are more prevalent in the summer months. Hormone disorders, like thyroid deficiency, also usually appear after puppyhood. These are year‐round conditions. The key to controlling and clearing up a hot spot is to relieve the itching and restraining the Chow from chewing on himself. Medication applied to the skin is very helpful. There are several ointments you can get by prescription from your veterinarian such as Neocort ointment. Over the counter medications are also available at pet supply stores. In severe cases, the veterinarian may choose to give an injection of anti‐inflammatory steroids to reduce the irritation and the dog's sensitivity to allergens. Most Chows get at least a couple of hot spots at some point in their lives. If your Chow is having chronic problems with hot spots, hair loss or other skin troubles, you should suspect a deeper cause such as allergies, hormone disorders or an immune deficiency. See your veterinarian for an examination and treatment or again consult your breeder.
(The bulk of this article is one originally published by The Chow Chow Club, Inc.'s Welfare Committee (USA) and is reprinted here with permission. Some additions have been made to include information for Australian Chowists. Provided by the Chow Chow Club of Victoria (Australia). )