Common health problems with Shiba Inus

10 May 2024 - 3 min read
Shiba Inu image

Shiba Inus have become a household name thanks to their adorable looks, unique personality and internet popularity. 

Descended from the Akita, these loyal and alert dogs are suitable for experienced owners. They're an active dog that needs strong mental stimulation.

Here, we discuss common health issues you should know before committing to a Shiba Inu and how to keep them happy and healthy. 

Common Shiba Inu health issues

Shiba Inu image

Allergies and skin diseases

Shiba Inus can suffer from allergies and skin diseases. Prevalent skin problems include: 

  • food allergies

  • flea allergic dermatitis (FAD) - when a dog's immune system overreacts to flea saliva

  • atopy - a lifelong condition characterised by itching in response to environmental allergens

Allergies affect the feet, tummy, skin folds and ears, making them itch often. Itching causes chronic irritation and makes them prone to infections. Treatment is usually lifelong and involves tablets, injections, shampoos, and supplements. Sometimes, vets prescribe specific diets. 

Working closely with your vet would be best, as allergies aren't curable - they're manageable.


It's a condition frequently seen in Shibas. The condition causes a build-up of fluid, which causes raised pressure within the eye. This pressure leads to pain and inflammation. 

Vets grade the severity of symptoms on a scale of zero to three: 

  • Zero and one - unlikely to develop significant disease and fit for breeding 

  • Two - moderately affected and need careful consideration before breeding

  • Three - severely affected and unfit for breeding

Luxating patella (LP)

This condition is caused by the kneecap slipping out of its normal position. This is known as patellar luxation. There are four grades of severity, with higher grades demonstrating more severe symptoms. Half of LP cases will experience LP affecting both hind legs. 

Typical symptoms include limping or a “skipping” gait when they walk or run. If your dog has a low grade it may not need treatment. Higher-grade or more severely affected dogs may require surgical correction.


This is an inherited lysosomal storage disorder which affects Shiba Inus. It means affected dogs can't break down specific carbohydrates in cells. This results in an accumulation of carbohydrates, especially in the brain and nervous system, causing damage. Symptoms include: 

  • vision loss

  • difficulty walking

  • loss of balance

  • head tremors

  • lethargy

  • weight loss

Affected dogs show signs at around five or six months old. The condition is progressive, with the average lifespan being 15 months of age. Adults with this condition should not breed.

Hip dysplasia

An inherited condition where your dog’s hip joint doesn't fit together properly. It leads to bones rubbing on each other leading to inflammation (swelling) and pain. Over time, arthritis develops.

Dysplasia can affect dogs differently. Some dogs only have minimal discomfort, while others can have severe disabilities and pain. If diagnosed, your veterinary surgeon can identify an appropriate treatment plan. This can involve diet, exercise, physiotherapy, and pain relief to manage symptoms.

How to care for a Shiba Inu

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Rely on your vet

Allergies and skin diseases are hard to manage, often involving maintenance therapy with treatment for flare-ups. These can be seasonal or triggered by an external source. First, a vet should find a proper diagnosis. This can rule out issues like: 

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Diabetes

  • Cushing’s disease

  • Organ dysfunction 

Once the diagnosis is reached, you and your vet should form a treatment plan to manage the condition. You should prepare to manage flare-ups too. 

Genetic screening

For some conditions, like glaucoma, screening and grading should be undertaken for adults expecting to breed. As mentioned, those with grades two and three should not breed to prevent puppies from inheriting primary glaucoma. 

Similarly, DNA tests are available to screen for Gangliosidosis via a cheek swab, which will be analysed. Those carrying the trait should not breed with another also carrying the trait (two faulty genes, one from each parent, are required for the disease to present). 

Genetic screening essentially helps prevent genetic Shiba Inu problems from passing on.

X-rays and exams

Adult dogs should undertake hip dysplasia and luxating patella screening through X-rays and orthopaedic exams. Those with lower hip scores are less likely to produce offspring that would be significantly affected by hip dysplasia.

Regular grooming, a balanced diet and exercise

Some Shiba Inu issues are preventable with long-term management. No matter what dog breed you have, regular grooming and exercise are important. It keeps your dog's coat healthy, while exercise is essential in preventing obesity

Knowing some basic pet nutrition and making sure they have a balanced diet will help keep them healthy in the long term.

Plus, Shiba Inus love exercise.

How dog insurance can help

Shiba Inu insurance can help you prepare for unforeseen health issues.

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