Akita Inu

The Akita Inu is a breed of large dog originating in Japan, named for Akita Prefecture, where it is thought to have originated. Akita Inu is sometimes called the Akita-ken based on the Sino-Japanese reading of the same kanji. It is a separate breed from the American Akita, and is quite uncommon in many countries.

Akita Inu Appearance

The Akita inu dog breed stands anywhere from 60–66 cm (24–26 in) at the withers. Females weigh anywhere from 30–45 kg (70–100 lb) and males are 35–54 kg (75–119). The Akita Inu comes in only five colors: Red, Fawn, Sesame, Brindle, and Pure White, brown. All except white must have whitish hair on the sides of the muzzle, on the cheeks, the neck, chest, body and tail. Black masks, as seen in the American Akita, are not permitted in the Japanese Akita Inu.

All colors are accepted in the American Akita. The Pinto color is not accepted as a Japanese Akita color, but is as an American Akita color. In the U.S., some breeders interbreed the original Japanese type with the heavier American type, which is larger, and allows more colors. It is felt by some that combining the two types leads to improved appearance and genetic health by increasing genetic diversity. There is only a single Akita breed registered by the American Kennel Club; in all other countries besides Canada the breed has been separated into two breeds: the Akita Inu and the American Akita.

Akita Inu Temperament

Akitas are renowned as loyal dogs and also intelligent and because of their intelligence are easily bored. As a result, they often become destructive if not given anything to do. Akitas can live happily in apartments as long as they are given plenty of exercise. They need to be socialized as puppies so they are friendly dogs. Although they love human companionship, they are quite happy to be outside dogs as well, but should still be taken out for walks to prevent destruction of the yard. Akitas often become excitable when seeing their owners, often wiggling around and making happy grunts.

Akita inu are very good with children, and are often quite playful, although they should be watched around small children as they could knock them over during play and can get a bit snappy when excited.

The Akita Inu have a reputation for sometimes being aggressive towards strangers, smaller animals or other dogs, particularly those of the same sex. Akitas would rather live in a home with no other pets present, unless they have been raised with them during puppyhood. Before deciding if an Akita is the right dog for your house, first make sure of the breed at which you are looking; the American Akita or the Japanese Akita Inu. Further research is always advisable before deciding on a breed.

Akita Inu Mortality

Akita Inu in UK and USA/Canada surveys had a median lifespan of about 10 years, which is similar to other breeds of their size.

In a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey, the most common causes of death were cancer (32%), cardiac (14%), and gastrointestinal, including bloat/torsion (14%). In a 2000-2001 USA/Canada Health Survey, the most common causes of death were cancer (21%), GDV (=bloat/torsion, 21%), musculoskeletal (15.5%), and autoimmune (7%).

Akita Inu Grooming

Akita Inu possess a double coat, with a dense straight undercoat, and a thick outer coat. This coat makes the dog waterproof, as well as being well-equipped for the fierce winters in northern Japan. Due to the thickness of their coat, the breed requires daily grooming, and also an awareness of the dog's heavy shedding, especially during warm weather.

Akita Inu Morbidity

Some of the health conditions known to affect this breed include:

  • Canine herpesvirus, a strain of the Herpes virus that affects canines
  • Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), a condition associated with bloat
  • Pemphigus, which causes the immune system to attack the dog's skin (leading to pustules)
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), an adult-onset condition which causes gradual degeneration in the eye cells (i.e. rods & cones)
  • UveoDermatological Syndrome (UDS)
  • Sebaceous adenitis, an autoimmune condition which attacks and destroys the dog's sebaceous glands
  • Canine hip dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hyperkalaemia, as a breed, Akitas have abnormally high blood potassium concentrations compared to other breeds.
  • Heart size, as a breed, Akitas have an unusually small heart for their size. A number of Akitas have died while being operated on under the normal dose of general anaesthetic for a canine of that size, a dose which ultimately proved excessive and fatal to the Akita. For that reason, to avoid anaesthetic-induced death, only the bare minimum dose of general anaesthetic sufficient to produce anaesthesia should be used when an Akita requires general anaesthesia.

Gastric dilatation volvulus

Akita owners should take special note of the high incidence of GDV (gastric dilatation volvulus) in this breed. Excess gas trapped in the dog's stomach causes "bloat." Twisting of the stomach (volvulus or "torsion") causes or is caused by that excess gas. GDV is an emergency condition requiring immediate veterinary treatment. Akita owners should be alert to the symptoms of GDV and know the location of the nearest emergency veterinary facility. Dogs with any symptoms of GDV (esp. unsuccessful attempts at vomiting) should be regarded as having GDV until proven otherwise by a veterinarian.

Symptoms of GDV include:

  • Gagging or retching with unsuccessful attempts at vomiting (frothy foam may come up instead)
  • Distended abdomen (may or may not be noticeable)
  • Discomfort and pain esp. around the abdomen for no apparent reason-- this may be observed as frequent pacing, an inability to find a comfortable position, whimpering, or wincing when pressure is applied to the abdomen
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Hypersalivation and panting
  • Possible cardiac problems such as arrhythmias
  • Cyanosis (blue gums or skin) in severe cases from a lack of oxygen

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