These dogs were first bred in Japan (Akita is a region on the island of Honshu) to hunt large animals such as bears and deer. The American variety was later derived from the Japanese breed after being introduced to the US by the renowned deaf blind activist and author Helen Keller in the 1930s. Akitas are large dogs, weighing around 75 to 125 pounds (34 to 57 kg), and because they are highly territorial and stubborn they are recommended only for experienced dog owners who can give them the attention and exercise they need.
Should You Purchase Insurance for Your Akita?
Akitas have a reasonably long average lifespan of 11 to 15 years, but they are prone to a variety of breed-specific and more common health problems:
- Bloat (gastric dilation volvulus, stomach torsion): the stomachs of these dogs may become distended and actually twist within their bodies as a consequence of excess intestinal gas; symptoms include a bloated abdomen, drooling and unproductive vomiting. Without immediate treatment, usually surgery, a dog stands a good chance of dying.
- Cardiomyopathy: this congenital disease occurs when a dog’s heart fails to pump properly, causing one side of the heart to become enlarged. If left untreated, the result may be congestive heart failure. Symptoms include lethargy and weakness; diagnosis is confirmed by electro- and echocardiography; treatment involves administration of drugs that control the heart’s rhythm. A genetic test is now available, but it has not proved entirely reliable.
- Dysplasia of the hip and/or elbow: these dogs may inherit a condition where the hipbone fails to fit correctly into the pelvis, or where the bones of the legs connect poorly. Over time, wear and tear can cause these joints to become inflamed, resulting in pain and restricted movement. The condition can often be reversed with surgery.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): as the name suggests, this disease occurs when the cells of a dog’s retinas degenerate. A single gene mutation is responsible for the problem, though as yet no genetic test has been developed. It is therefore imperative to know the breeding history before acquiring a puppy in order to ensure that none of its ancestors has gone blind. There is no treatment for PRA, though affected dogs can almost always live full lives if kept indoors.
- Pseudohyperkalemia: this condition is specific to breeds of East Asian origin; it is characterized by abnormally high concentrations of potassium in the blood that is not linked to kidney disease (hence the prefix “pseudo-“). Symptoms may include lethargy, stiffness, diarrhea and/or vomiting. Diagnosis is based on analysis of blood and urine and electrocardiography (ECG). Treatment involves intravenous administration of saline and, in extreme cases, dialysis to lower potassium levels.
- Von Willebrand’s Disease: affected dogs have abnormal clotting proteins in the blood that causes them to have difficulty recovering from cuts, scrapes and bruises. Symptoms include unhealed wounds and blood in the feces. Diagnosis is confirmed by blood and urinalysis, and blood transfusions can be necessary to maintain a dog’s health.
Akitas are a special breed that requires a special kind of owner, one who can not only provide the rigorous training necessary for socialization but also come up with the $1000 or more for a puppy. Knowing that their dogs are at risk for a variety of illnesses, many owners make the decision to purchase pet health insurance as a way to protect their investment and peace of mind when it comes to providing veterinary care.