Common health problems with Chow Chows

1 July 2024 - 4 min read
Chow chow dog

Cute, distinct and with a lion-like mane, these blue-tongued beauties are popular for more than just their looks.

They're loyal, protective dogs with a working background, but despite their defensiveness, they have sweet, outgoing personalities to match their teddy bear looks.

But like any pedigree, there are common Chow Chow health issues. Here, we discuss the most common health conditions in Chow Chows, how vets diagnose them and how to care for one.

Most common Chow Chow health conditions

A Chow Chow with a thick, fluffy red coat, sitting against a light beige background and looking directly at the camera with its mouth slightly open.

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common conditions in dogs. It happens when the soft tissues that stabilise the hip joint loosen, damaging the 'ball and socket' joint it sits in. Dogs with this condition almost always get arthritis.

Symptoms begin at around six months to a year old and usually include:

  • Hindlimb lameness

  • Stiffness

  • Problems with jumping

  • Movement issues, like struggling to get up the stairs

Obesity and too much exercise can worsen things. Vets will usually prescribe anti-inflammatories, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy to manage the condition. Sometimes, they'll recommend surgery and hip replacement for severe cases.

Elbow dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is similar to its hip variant and is almost as common. It means there's an issue in the elbow joint's development.  

The condition has a genetic component, meaning it gets passed on. But obesity and too much exercise contribute significantly to the problem.

Vets usually diagnose the problem before a dog is two. Like other forms of dysplasia, it usually leads to arthritis and pain.  

Vets will prescribe anti-inflammatories to treat the condition while managing it with hydrotherapy and physiotherapy. Severe cases rely on surgery.


You've probably heard of hypothyroidism - it's where the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone, which helps control metabolism and other major processes.

Symptoms are often very vague and develop slowly over time. The most common signs are:

It’s diagnosed by blood testing and can be well managed with lifelong medication to control the symptoms.


Entropion refers to when an eyelid rolls inwards. It causes the eyelashes to rub on the eye's surface, leading to:

  • Irritation

  • Pain

  • Inflammation

  • Corneal ulcers

  • Secondary infection

It’s common in breeds with short noses and excess skin around the face, like Chow Chows. You can normally spot this if your dog's eyes look red, are often held closed, and are weeping.

Vets usually recommend surgery to help the eyelid roll out into its correct position. Some dogs, however, will need more than one procedure to prevent reoccurrence.

Cruciate disease

Cruciate disease occurs when the cranial cruciate ligament in the knee joint ruptures. This is usually caused by long-term wear and tear, as the fibres in the ligament weaken as a dog ages.

Genetics can predispose dogs to this condition, as can their conformation, obesity, and some inflammatory conditions. Some dogs can acutely rupture their cruciate ligament through activity, like overexercise or trauma.

The most common sign is limping, which leads to arthritis. Most dogs eventually require surgery to repair the knee, although it can also be managed with:

  • Anti-inflammatories

  • Physiotherapy

  • Hydrotherapy

  • Rest

How to care for a Chow Chow

Chow chow dog

Careful breeding

As mentioned, careful breeding and testing is essential. For example, hypothyroidism can be ruled out with a clinical examination and blood testing, and any dogs affected by this condition should not be bred.

The same applies to conditions like dysplasia, entropion and other genetic illnesses.

Picking a responsible breeder

Several conditions that affect Chow Chows are inherited and can be screened for. There are specific screening schemes for the breed such as the Kennel Club and BVA Hip and Elbow Scoring schemes.

These assess the hips and elbows on x-rays of any breeding adult to assess their risk of passing problems on to their young.

Registered breeders must comply with schemes like this. Look out for responsible registered breeders and get puppies from those who have complied with these important checks.

It's why choosing a responsible breeder is one way to keep the breed healthy.


It’s sensible to give all large-breed dogs a joint supplement to support their joint function and slow the progression of osteoarthritis.

Careful exercise when young

You should also be very careful when your Chow Chow puppy is growing - they shouldn't climb stairs or jump into the car when their bones develop, and walks should be kept short.

It’s also important to keep your dog at a healthy weight as carrying extra weight puts pressure on the joints and can make them more likely to develop cruciate disease.

Correct exercise, building up fitness gradually and limiting jumping and chasing can reduce the risk. 

How dog insurance helps

Chow Chow insurance has all you need to stay prepared for the unexpected and protect your pet.

Dog insurance helps with up to £15,000 vet fee cover, unlimited 24/7 vet calls with FirstVet and a host of other perks.


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After graduating from the University of Nottingham, Holly spent two years as a farm animal vet. She then travelled and volunteered in India, working at neutering clinics and with injured street dogs. Holly now works in small animal practice, balancing this with writing and volunteering with the comms team at Vet Sustain. She's also a marine mammal medic!