Caring For Your Chow Chow

All breeds of dogs are prone to an array of health problems, and so too with Chow Chows.

Of them, hip dysplasia, luxating patella and entropion are the commonest. But the chances of your pup not being dysplastic or having a mild problem with it are minimized if you buy him from a registered breeder who X-rays the hips of animals and examines them for dysplasia before they can be bred. But on the whole, we now know that about 50 percent of all Chows suffer from hip dysplasia.

1. Hip dysplasia: This is caused due to a malformed hip joint that results in the head of the femur bone not fitting perfectly into the hip socket in which the femoral head lies. Often, it leads to pain, lameness and arthritis. However, the good news is that this condition, though congenital, can be treated by surgery.

Again being congenital, a dysplastic dog will often and invariably produce dysplastic puppies. Therefore, to ensure you’re taking home a healthy pup, it is imperative you ask to see the sire and the dam, and inquire if they are diagnosed with this condition. If not, ask to see a certificate granted by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or by Penn HIP, stating this.

Do not believe what you hear, but wait to see the certificate proving they are healthy and clear of this condition. Ask for a copy of the same so you can show it to your vet. Also, ask him if he will guarantee a puppy against hip dysplasia for at least two years.

2. Entropion: Another medical condition they suffer from is entropion. Check if your Chow Chow has runny eyes. If he does, he may well suffer from entropion, a condition caused by eyelid abnormality in which the dog’s eyelids are turned inwards rather than outwards. This irritates the eye and, if you as an owner turn a blind eye to this, it can lead to your pet turning blind. If detected in time, it can be corrected with surgery.

Usually congenital, entropion can also be acquired in later life due to an eye injury or infection. However, since this isn’t always apparent in pups, you should take care to check this out when selecting your pup. Look out for clear, dry and sparkling eyes of the parents of your prospective pup. But if you see inflamed or runny eyes or crusty eyelids, you must know immediately that your pup is suffering from an eye infection and should be treated by a vet without delay.

3. Luxating patella: If the small, flat and mobile bone in the front of your Chow Chow’s knee is dislocated, don’t panic, as this is a knee problem that is yet again a hereditary one, often due to overweight. But this too can be corrected surgically.

4. Intolerance to anesthesia: Chow owners are often worried about their pets being intolerant to anesthesia, resulting in complications from surgery and death during surgery. This happens because this breed is said to have small hearts, in comparison with their body weight, and since anesthesia is given according to body weight, often they have been given a much larger dose than their bodies can take, causing their hearts to stop functioning.

5. Ruptured or torn ligaments: Your Chow Chow has such straight rear legs that the angulation isn’t enough, resulting in torn cruciate ligaments. He may rupture his ligaments when exercising strenuously. Or he may chase a ball, stop and start abruptly and cry in pain and turn lame. When he stays lame for some time, you realize that he needs immediate medical attention.

6. Diabetes: One of the commonest hormonal disorders in dogs, diabetes is a problem of the pancreas. It is caused due to the body producing insufficient amounts of insulin, thereby affecting the endocrine system.

The highest occurrences of diabetes are found in dogs aged five to seven years, of which female dogs are more prone to it. If your dog is obese, he stands a greater chance of being affected by it. It is the most common hormonal disorder in dogs.

If your Chow Chow suffers with diabetes, you’ll notice that he drinks more water than usual, urinates more frequently and may even do so within the house, and will lose a lot of weight.

In order to prevent diabetes, have your dog examined by the vet every year, with urine and blood examinations as part of the routine checkup. The earlier you detect diabetes, the higher the chances of treating it in time. While there is no cure for diabetes, it can certainly be controlled.

Treatment: Treatment usually consists of daily injections of insulin. Learn from your vet how best to administer these shots and adopt a time schedule. Monitor your dog’s response to the insulin shots and their dosage. Testing his urine with test strips that you can get from a nearby drug store or pet shop does this. This strip will denote the level of sugar in his system-if it is too much, you reduce the insulin level and if it is low, you scale up the insulin dosage.

If you maintain a record of the results of these test strips, the dosage of insulin given and your dog’s eating patterns and attitude, it will help you in understanding his condition, besides also helping your vet predict any future problems.

Feeding your diabetic dog: Give your dog a fiber and protein-rich diet with restricted fats and carbohydrates. Be sure to feed him at the same time every day, besides also giving him the same food, as this will have an effect on his sugar levels.

Take care to see that you feed him a third of his total daily amount of food about ½ hour before you give him his insulin shot. The remaining two-thirds can be given about eight to 10 hours later. But if he likes a snack before bed, give it out of his two-thirds amount of food.

Put him on an exercise regimen and see that he sticks to it. If you decide to walk your dog, or play with him for about 20 minutes a day. Exercise will help keep his sugar levels constant. If he is obese, you will have to put him on a diet to lose weight. If you have a female dog, have her spayed as this has an effect on the female hormones and will stabilize her insulin levels. And don’t forget to give her all your love and understanding, since she sure doesn’t understand her condition.

7. Glaucoma: Diagnosed as a painful and serious optic condition, here as pressure within the eye increases, it leads to blindness, if undetected or if not checked in time. In dogs, this is a leading cause of blindness and is caused due to increased fluid pressure within the eye.

If the pressure is not reduced, permanent damage to the retina and optic nerve end in permanent blindness. Blindness can set in within 24 hours if the fluid pressure is very high or slowly over weeks and months if mild, but in all cases, it is extremely painful.

Glaucoma may either be primary or inherited or secondary due to a variety of eye disorders such as luxation of the lens, tumors of the eye, and uveitis or an inflammation of the eye.

You may detect your dog rubbing away at his red eyes or the eyes may look cloudy due to a swollen cornea and he may prove to be sensitive to light. It may seem larger or bulge outwards and your dog may consequently lose his appetite and be depressed.

An emergency called Glaucoma: In such a situation, the vet must begin treatment immediately to save the dog’s vision or it may result in irreversible damage to the retina and optic nerve within just a few hours of the fluid pressure being significantly increased.

Treating glaucoma: In order to save his sight, immediate surgery is necessary. Initially, your vet may render emergency medical therapy but then refer him to a large and more specialized veterinary center.

8. Skin, hormonal problems and allergies: Your Chow Chow can also suffer from skin and hormonal problems. Often congenital, these problems are hardly ever obvious to the naked eye in pups. Once again, therefore, you will have to ask the breeder about the parents of the pup and if you don’t find that he is healthy or has an issue with his appearance or temperament, refrain from buying him. Skin and hormone problems include hot-spots and allergies. If your pet scratches himself a bit too much or has irritated skin that looks red and infected, show him to the vet immediately.

9. Heat prostration: If you leave your pet in a hot area with no ventilation, or out in the sun, he will be very uncomfortable and suffer from heat prostration. He reacts to extremely high humidity, particularly if the temperature rises above 80º To avoid such a situation, keep him cool in a shady area or room, with provision for rest and peace. If he is still uncomfortable, call in your vet, but meanwhile wet him with cold water or towels soaked with cold water.

10. Bloat: If he eats too much, he is bound to suffer from bloat or gastric torsion— life-threatening and sudden illness caused due to the stomach filling with air and twisting. 

Please note: This article is part of a collection of dog-related content that we purchased the rights to. Opinions expressed may or may not agree with those espoused by Master Dog Trainer Adam G. Katz. When in doubt, please refer to the advice given in Adam’s dog training book.  This article is provided for your enjoyment, only. It’s relevance to real world working dog training may be limited.