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OFA and Health Testing

We do health test our dogs and register the results with the OFA. We test for Eyes, Cardio, and Patella luxation .


All dogs must have excellent temperaments and pass these tests in order to be used in our breeding program.


As a breed, Shiba can rightfully be described as sturdy, healthy little dogs, able to withstand the rigors of outdoor life as well as enjoying the comfort of apartment life. They are easy keepers, requiring no special diet other than good commercial dog food, and they can run for miles with an athletic companion, or take their exercise chasing a tennis ball around the back yard. Their catlike agility and resilience provide a good resistance to injury, and the "natural" size and symmetrical proportions lessen susceptibility to conditions caused by structural imbalance. Despite all these assets, Shiba have some surprising hereditary defects of which all potential owners and breeders should be aware.


Patella Luxation


Of the serious conditions common to the breed, patella luxation is the most prevalent and potentially devastating. "Luxating" is a fancy word for dislocating. Patella is your dog's "knee", the joint on the front of her/his hind leg. So a luxating patella is a dislocating knee or as some have nick named it; trick knee, a knee that keeps slipping out of its socket. This can happen in Boston Terriers and certain toy breeds with weak ligaments, tendons, and/or muscles. It can also happen other breeds in pups whose kneecap groove is too narrow or shallow. The knee usually slips inwardly, toward the body, and locks so that your dog can't bend her/his leg.


Does My Dog Have a Luxating Patella?

You might suspect a luxating patella if your Shiba Inu sometimes lifts one hind leg while running, or if she/he often moves both rear legs at the same time, like a hopping bunny. Sometimes the knee slips only for a few moments and then slides back into place. Sometimes the knee slips out and stays out, and your Shiba will hold her/his leg off the ground and limp, perhaps tucking the thigh into her/his body.


Is luxation serious?

There are four degrees (grades) of luxation:


Grade I. The knee only slips out when the vet manipulates it.


Grade II. The knee luxates occasionally when the dog is walking or running. He/she may not seem to mind much, or they may shriek, but it usually slides back by itself as they continues moving. Or you can slip it back manually (ask the vet to show you how).


Grade III. The knee luxates frequently and causes chronic lameness. Even when you put it back manually, it doesn't seem to last long.


Grade IV. The knee luxates, stays that way, and you can't put it back into its socket. This grade is very rare but happens.


How is luxation treated?


•The first treatment should be to crate or keep the dog in a small area for a week or two and supervise all activity - no jumping or running.


• Most veterinarians will prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatories . However, these will only hide the symptoms and may reduce some of the inflammation, but do absolutely nothing to strengthen or correct the condition.


• Some veterinarians will prescribe Steroidal anti-inflammatories. These have proven to be extremely damaging to the immune system, have awful side effects (short and long term), and in my opinion, should never be used.


•Surgery is seldom the answer and if needed, should only be done by an orthopedic surgeon as regular vets usually lack the skill needed to repair a slipping patella properly and again only if the dog is in chronic pain.


If you decide on surgery, please call the American College of Veterinary Surgeons at (301) 718-6504 and ask for a referral to an orthopedic specialist or college of veterinary medicine in your state.


If surgery is your choice, be aware that the dog may very likely have problems down the road with arthritis from the surgery. In the opinion of most veterinarians, surgery is overkill for Grade I or II luxating patella. I personally would only go with surgery on a Grade IV luxation, or on a Grade III that did not respond to natural treatment and the dog was in constant pain. Surgery costs around a thousand dollars per patella, it is uncomfortable for your dog, and there is a 50% chance that some degree of luxation will return at some point in time.


Natural ways to treat Luxating Patellas:


•Feed fresh foods. (home cooked with no grains and little to no vegetables or preferably a raw meat and bone diet)


•Keep your dog lean. (Fat dogs have to carry more weight on their weak leg joint).


•Moderate exercise, walking up slight inclines (gentle hills), will strengthen the muscle groups around the patella.


•Vitamin C is one of the building blocks of strong ligaments and connective tissue.


•Glucosamine supplements or Glyco-Flex are nutritional products packed with minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and lubricating agents. They build cartilage and cushioning fluid in injured joints, and help heal damaged connective tissue.


•Acupuncture, Homeopathy and even the application of *therapeutic grade essential oils have also been very effective in correcting luxating patellas and strengthening the joints and tendons while easing the pain.



What causes luxating patella in the first place?


Occasionally it's caused by an injury, but in the absence of such proof, it is almost always weak tendons and/or a shallow kneecap groove. Luxating patella(s) is considered hereditary.


Never, Ever, breed a Shiba Inu with any degree of luxation, whether it has been repaired or not. Fixing the knee doesn't fix the genes that caused the problem.


OFA Certification


The Orthopedic Foundation of America will issue registration numbers to dogs whose patellas have been examined by a veterinarian, forwarded to the OFA, and found to be normal.


Posted with permission of the author,  Dr. Jeannie (Jeanette) Thomason

Copyright 2006 - 2016  Dr. Jeannie Thomason,, thewholistiicdog.  All rights reserved.

No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the Author/Publisher





Occasionally, a Shiba puppy may exhibit a heart murmur (an unusual sound to the heartbeat). Usually these go away without treatment, and there is no cause for alarm. If an adult has a heart murmur, it should not be used for breeding. Good breeders will take their puppies to the veterinarian before selling them for a well-puppy check up.



Inherited Eye Defects


Hereditary eye defects are widespread among the canine population. It is a personal feeling that no breed is completely free of eye problems, and a breed that claims to have no eye problems is probably just not checking for them. The Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) which has now been taken over by the OFA, presents a very clear picture of the incidence of eye problems in a breed. Any dog that is examined by a certified veterinary ophthalmologist has the results of his examination sent to CERF/OFA. These results remain confidential with CERF, but their information is used for statistical evaluation of certain eye conditions.


The only conditions discovered prior to the age of one year were persistent pupillary membranes, distichiasis (inwardly growing eyelashes), and entropion, (inwardly rolled eyelids) Sometimes entropion occurs in younger puppies. As the eyeball grows and the problem disappears.


It is obvious the most common eye defect is cataracts. This was formerly called juvenile cataracts to distinguish it from the cloudiness occurring at old age and is normal in most dogs. "Juvenile" cataracts most commonly occur around two years of age and are potentially blinding. This condition is potentially blinding and no dog with cataracts should be used for breeding. Diagnosis of eye defects are usually definitive, and accurate. The statistics are alarming enough to warrant examination of all breeding Shiba.


Juvenile Cataracts:


The term “cataract” refers to any opacity of the lens of the eye. Dogs of either gender can develop cataracts, and some breeds are especially at risk. Cataracts are more common in older animals but can be present at birth or develop very early in life. Cataracts affect a dog’s vision and can be progressive, in some cases leading to blindness.


Causes of Cataracts in Dogs.


In dogs, cataracts typically have a strong hereditary component. Other contributing causes include nutritional deficiencies, low blood calcium levels, exposure to toxins, diabetes mellitus, radiation, electric shock and blunt or penetrating trauma. Cataracts can occur spontaneously for no known reason. The actual biological cause of cataracts is a change in the protein composition or arrangement of the fibers of the lens of the affected eye.


While cataracts always affect a dog’s vision, they do not affect its health. Most dogs adjust to their vision deficiencies extremely well. Surgical treatment for cataracts is highly successful, and the prognosis for dogs with cataracts is excellent if the condition is identified and treated early. Owners should know that not all cataracts are progressive, and not all affected dogs need surgical correction.


Testing does not show dogs who are carriers of the recessive gene for Juvenile Cataracts. If a carrier dog is bred with another carrier dog, they will produce a certain number of pups who will get cataracts or Corneal Dystrophy. There is no way to tell if your dog is a carrier.






Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) Probably the most common health problem of the Shiba frustrates many owners across the country. Allergies such as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). In the warm, moist areas of the country, where fleas can only be controlled but never eradicated, dogs suffering from FAD are scratching and chewing their way through life causing distress to themselves and all others around them. When the myriad of topical products are exhausted, often the only solution is a sustained regime of cortisone injections. FAD sufferers react to a single flea bite that causes intense itching at the nerve ends, especially at the base of the tail, on the stomach and between the hind legs. This sets up a chain reaction where fleas are attracted to these irritated areas and the dog licks and chews until the skin becomes discolored and hair loss occurs.



Food and inhalant allergies also occur causing runny eyes, Hair loss on the face and intense itching around the muzzle, ears and between the toes. On casual observation, it may be mistaken for demodectic mange mites, but the reaction stops when the allergen is removed.

Discovering the cause of food and inhalant allergies is often a random process and frequently needs the assistance of a specialist.



Pollen is a common cause and can be detected by its seasonal occurrence.


Dust mites are also an allergen and keeping the dog in an outdoor environment will quickly reverse the symptoms.



A variety of other health problems have been reported in the breed, but not on a widespread basis. Kidney failure, liver disease, double-jointed (popping) hocks, leg perthes disease, thyroid disease and other autoimmune disorders. The outlook for the Shiba is not grim, but the breeds genetic makeup contains many of the problems common to other breeds. After all, they are dogs.


The best remedy for the public is to deal with reputable, recognized breeders, and ask informed questions of these breeders regarding health issues to insure a happy and healthy pet.

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