Common health problems with Alaskan Malamutes

June 13, 2024 - 3 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
Image of an Alaskan Malamute looking into the camera

Thanks to their sturdy build and thick coats, these resilient dogs are strong and durable, thanks to their Alaskan heritage.

Fiercely loyal and affectionate, they're popular dogs for good reason. Their gorgeous coats are just a bonus!

But like any purebred, they're prone to certain health issues. Below, we discuss the most common health conditions in Alaskan Malamutes, how they're diagnosed and how to care for them.

Most common health conditions in Alaskan Malamutes

A close-up of an Alaskan Malamute with a grey and white coat, dark eyes, and its tongue out, sitting against a light grey background and looking directly at the camera.

Orthopedic disease

Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition where your dog’s hip joint doesn't fit together properly, so bones rub on each other, leading to inflammation (swelling) and pain. Over time, arthritis develops.

This condition can affect your dog to different ways, some causing minimal discomfort and others causing severe disability and pain.

If diagnosed, your veterinary surgeon can identify an appropriate treatment plan involving:

Inherited cataracts

Inherited and passed on from parents, causing a ‘clouding’ of the eye lens. The condition is seen in young pups where both eyes are affected, leading to sight loss.

Breeders or new pet owners usually notice the eye clouding. But they'll also notice that their pup is less able to get around and bumps into things more.

Dogs are very adaptable and cope very well with vision loss, but vets will consider cataract surgery to remove or replace the diseased lens. It'll still need lifelong management with eyedrops.


This is a congenital issue and it comes from a nervous system abnormality. The condition presents in older puppies and young adults between six months and two years.

To see signs in your dog, both parents must have been carriers to pass on the gene.

Symptoms include:

  • Walking difficulties

  • Coordination and stability problems

  • Tremors

  • Exercise intolerance

  • Muscle loss

Sometimes loss of muscle tone can extend into the throat, causing a change in voice and problems in swallowing.

Cone Degeneration (CD)

Caused by a distinct mutation in gene CNGB3. It causes day blindness due to the degeneration of the retinal ‘cones’. Cones are cone-shaped cells in the retina that respond primarily to bright daylight.

If your dog is affected, the cones degenerate and cannot function by the time your pup reaches maturity. It leads to light sensitivity and blindness in the daytime, but it doesn't affect nighttime or dim light vision.

Diagnoses are between eight and 12 weeks of age.


Chondrodysplasia is a condition affecting the cartilage and bone during development. It leads to orthopaedic abnormalities and causes a dwarfism-type appearance.

Those affected show excessively shortened front limbs with varying degrees of deformity and bowing, especially in the long bones (radius and ulna).

How to care for an Alaskan Malamute

A seated Alaskan Malamute with distinctive black and white fur, showing a happy expression with its tongue out, against a solid light beige background.

Genetic screening

Screening for health issues is key to maintaining the breed's long-term health. For example, hip dysplasia screening is available. Those with lower hip scores are unlikely to produce offspring that are significantly affected by this condition.  

Careful breeding

Screening goes hand-in-hand with careful breeding. Those who positively screen for hereditary conditions shouldn't be bred.

Puppies can be screened by x-ray for chondrodysplasia between five and 12 weeks. There's currently no available DNA test for this condition.

Careful consideration should be given into breeding dogs that are affected. Both parents need to be affected to pass the condition to puppies.

Inherited cataracts can also be screened and tested for in adult breeding dogs from 12 months on, annually. A clear screening test is required in the previous 12 months before breeding that adult dog. Those affected should not be bred.

A DNA test performed via a cheek swab or blood test is available for polyneuropathy and day blindness. Those affected should not be bred.

It's why picking a responsible breeder is so important.

Routine health check-ups

Preventative care is key for all dog breeds, and it's important for Alaskan Malamutes too. It'll help spot any potential health issues, like orthopedic disease, earlier, which helps with treatment.

Careful exercise

Typically, you should avoid very strenuous exercise with dogs prone to orthopedic disease. It's to help reduce the volume of loads on the joints.

Of course, regular exercise is important to prevent issues like obesity. But this will vary on a dog-by-dog basis.

How dog insurance can help

Alaskan Malamute insurance has all you need to stay prepared for the unexpected and protect your pet. Learn more.

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A close-up of a concerned yellow Labrador Retriever with a gentle expression, receiving an examination by a veterinarian whose hands are shown holding a clipboard, in a clinical setting.