Alaskan Malamute Health Concerns

The Alaskan Malamute breed has a wider gene pool than many others leaving the breed relatively free of many inherited medical disorders. However, there are a few genetic problems which are of great concern for the breed and these are briefly outlined here.

Note: This section is intended as a source of information only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional care. Always consult with your Veterinarian about health related matters. The information provided here is a brief outline of some of the health issues which may be of concern for the Alaskan Malamute and should in no way to be considered as a complete listing.

Bloat

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) is a condition caused by a twisting of the stomach and thus trapping the stomach contents and gases resulting in a rapid swelling of the abdomen accompanied by pain and eventual death if untreated. It is an emergency, requiring immediate veterinary action. This condition is most often found in large, deep chested dog breeds. Anyone owning a deep chested breed, susceptible to Bloat should be prepared to handle the emergency procedures necessary, including having readily available the name and phone number of emergency clinics and/or after-hours Veterinarians.

For additional information see:

Cataracts

A cataract which occurs in the posterior part of the lens is pravelent in the Alaskan Malamute breed. Generally present by the age of one to two years, this form of cataract is loosely identified as a "juvenile" cataract. Although it rarely progresses to blindness, affected dogs should never be used for breeding.

For more information on this and other eye diseases, see the Canada's Guide to Dogs website Health and Nutrition section.

Chondrodysplasia (CHD)

Chondrodysplasia, commonly referred to as "dwarfism" is a genetic disorder which manifests itself in puppies born with crippling deformities, eventually evident in the abnormal shape and length of their limbs.

It has been conclusively proven that CHD is genetically inherited through a simple recessive mode, meaning the sire and dam must both have this gene in order to produce an affected puppy. The Alaskan Malamute Club of America (AMCA) maintains a CHD certification program based on the dog's pedigree, thus determining a percentage of probability.

The AMCA issues certificates for dogs with little probability of producing affected puppies. Through stringent and selective breeding strategies, it is possible to eliminate the disorder in the breed and only certified dogs should be bred to prevent the resurfacing of the disorder.

Hip Dysplasia

Like most large breeds, the Alaskan Malmute can suffer from Canine Hip Dysplasia. Canine Hip Dysplasia afflicts millions of dogs each year and can result in debilitating orthopaedic disease of the hip. It is caused when the femoral head does not fit properly in the hip socket, causing instability of the joint. Over time, this malformation can cause degenerative joint disease which causes increased pain and immobility.

Through selective breeding strategies, veterinarians and breeders are attempting to eliminate Canine Hip Dysplasia. All breeding dogs should be x-rayed and certified clear by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and/or by the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP).

For more information on Canine Hip Dysplasia, see the Canada's Guide to Dogs website Health and Nutrition section.

Hypothyroidism

Canine Hypothyroidism is the most commonly diagnosed hormonal disease found in dogs. The term hypothyroidism simply means the underproduction of thyroxin, the hormone produced by the thyroid gland.

The thyroid gland is located on the trachea (wind pipe) of the dog, just below the voice box. It exerts its influence on the dog's body by producing and releasing thyroxin into the blood stream. This hormone, and thus, the thyroid gland itself, is very important in controlling growth and development and maintaining normal protein, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism of the dog.

Hypothyroidism usually occurs between the ages of two to six years. The most common sign is an increase in body weight. Lethargy and some form of skin disease (i.e., thin coat, loss of hair, dandruff, oily skin, increased scratching) are also common signs of Hypothyroidism.

The treatment is through thyroid hormone supplementation given orally once or twice a day. Usually thyroid supplementation improves the clinical signs associated with the disease within four to six weeks. All the clinical signs of hypothyroidism are reversible, once treatment is started.

Additional information is available under the Health and Nutrition section.

Genetic Research

The Alaskan Malamute Club of America is investigating genetic disorders through the The Alaskan Malamute Research Foundation. The purpose of the foundation is to raise funds and coordinate efforts to further utilize DNA testing in identifying genetic disorders in the Alaskan Malamute.