Common health problems with Siberian Huskies

17 June 2024 - 4 min read
Siberian Husky looking down and to the side on a beige background

Huskies are a well-recognised breed thanks to their unique looks, size, strength and agility - they're playful and fun-loving pets that thrive when they're always on the go.

But like any pedigree, they're prone to some health issues more than others. Here, we discuss the most common health problems in Huskies, how vets diagnose conditions and how to care for a Husky.

Most common health conditions in Siberian Huskies

Image of a Siberian Husky with brown eyes on a beige background

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is the most common orthopaedic condition in dogs. It's present across most dog breeds, and currently, it's thought that over a hundred genes code for hip dysplasia.

During hip dysplasia, the soft tissues that stabilise the hip joint loosen in the first few weeks of life, causing changes to the ‘ball and socket’ joint. Obesity and overexercise in puppyhood exacerbate these changes.

Dogs with hip dysplasia always develop osteoarthritis. Symptoms start between six to 12 months of age and include:

  • Hindlimb lameness

  • Stiffness

  • Problems jumping

  • Difficulty climbing stairs

Hip dysplasia can be managed with anti-inflammatories, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. In severe cases, dogs require a total hip replacement.

Idiopathic epilepsy

Idiopathic epilepsy, or epilepsy of no known cause, commonly occurs in Huskies between the ages of six months to six years. Seizures are caused by abnormal activity in the brain and are characterised by symptoms including:

  • Collapse

  • Tremors

  • Rigid or paddling limbs

  • Excessive salivation

  • Passing urine or faeces

The seizure may last seconds to several minutes. Usually, dogs behave normally between seizures. The diagnosis is made by excluding other causes of seizures like intracranial disorders, toxicity and metabolic disorders.

Treatment is always lifelong and can involve one or more medications depending on the severity of a dog’s symptoms.


Hypothyroidism is where an underactive thyroid gland leads to insufficient circulating thyroid hormone. It plays numerous roles in the body but is particularly important in metabolism. Symptoms of hypothyroidism 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.

Eye problems

There are two common eye problems with Huskies: hereditary cataracts and glaucoma.

Hereditary cataracts cause the eye to appear cloudy and are usually spotted in puppies. Cataracts prevent light from penetrating the eye, causing vision problems and blindness. Many dogs manage well, but cataracts can be removed surgically.  

Glaucoma is a hereditary condition that causes increased pressure in the eye due to incorrect fluid drainage. It can be painful and may result in blindness within 12 months.

It’s usually diagnosed when a dog is young by measuring the intraocular pressure. The eye may appear painful, red, cloudy or bulging. Regular eye drops are needed to manage the disease.

Zinc responsive dermatosis

Zinc is an essential mineral in metabolism, regulating keratinisation, reproductive function, wound healing, and immune function. Type 1 zinc-responsive dermatosis occurs in Huskies, often because they eat a low-zinc diet.

They may get skin lesions such as crusting and scaling around the mouth, eyes, lips and genitals. They may also excessively itch and have a dull coat.

Vets usually make a diagnosis after clinical examination and nutritional history. Treatment involves feeding an appropriate diet and adding zinc supplements.

Skin conditions respond quickly to treatment and are prevented with ongoing zinc supplementation.

How to care for a Siberian Husky

Image of a Siberian Husky with blue eyes looking into the camera on a beige background


Several conditions that affect Siberian Huskies are inherited and can be screened for. There are specific screening schemes for the breed such as the Kennel Club and BVA Hip Scoring scheme. These assess the hips of any breeding adult to consider their risk of passing on problems to their young. Registered breeders must comply with this scheme.

Look out for responsible registered breeders and get puppies from those who have complied with these important checks. Adult dogs who suffer from hip dysplasia shouldn't be bred.

Hypothyroidism can only be ruled out with a clinical examination and blood testing. Any dogs affected by this condition should not be bred.

Epilepsy can also only be diagnosed by exclusion after a clinical examination, blood tests and sometimes advanced imaging such as MRI/CT. Affected dogs should not be used for breeding as they can pass on the condition.

Hereditary glaucoma can be screened for using gonioscopy - a type of eye test that looks for symptoms of the condition. It’s important not to breed from affected individuals as it’s passed on genetically to puppies. The Kennel Club has a compulsory eye screening test for registered Husky breeders.

There are also genetic tests available for hereditary cataracts. All responsible breeders will want to make sure their animals are healthy, so always check if the parents have had their eyes tested.

Zinc-responsive dermatosis is diagnosed by taking biopsies of the affected skin, so it’s important to get any skin concerns checked by a vet as soon as possible. Always ask breeders about the health of their dogs, including their skin.

Picking a responsible breeder

As above, you need to pick a responsible breeder. They should carry out all the necessary tests and screenings.

The most important first step you can take as a new Husky owner is to make sure you're buying from a responsible breeder.


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 Husky puppy is growing - they should not climb stairs or jump into the car when their bones are developing, and walks should be kept short.

How dog insurance helps

Siberian Husky 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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Get £15,000 lifetime vet fee cover with our Complete policy.

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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!