Health Issues in the Nihon Ken

Here at the Association of Nihon Ken, the health of the breeds we love is of the utmost importance. Here we will briefly go through some of the health conditions known to affect the Nihon Ken breeds, however for more in-depth information regarding these and other pertinent health issues, please refer to our sister site, the Nihon Ken Network.

It is very important when contacting a breeder of any of the six Nihon Ken breeds, to ask for information regarding the health testing that they perform on their breeding dogs. Always ask to see certificates for the dam and sire of any litter before agreeing to take on a puppy. Most breeders are very proud of their breeding programs and will be happy to talk you through any health issues they have seen.

Common Health Conditions

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Hip and elbow dysplasia are terms used to describe abnormal formations of the hip socket and elbow joint that, in its more severe form, can eventually cause crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the joints. The British Veterinary Association (BVA) recommends that all breeding dogs are tested for hip and elbow dysplasia - this is done by taking x-rays (usually under general anaesthetic) which are then sent off to a specialist panel to be reviewed and scored. Please note that if you are importing a dog from outside of the UK, the scoring system can differ. Always check what scores are considered 'acceptable' in the country of origin.

Luxating Patella

This is where the knee cap dislocates from its normal position within the groove that forms the front of the knee joint. It is more common in smaller, bow-legged breeds, but is not limited to these breeds. When the knee-cap dislocates it can cause lameness and pain, which results the dog being unable to extend its knee joint properly and is often characterised by a skipping motion when moving. Luxating patella can be diagnosed and the severity assessed either manually by your veterinary practice or via x-rays under general anaesthetic.

Skin Allergies

Skin allergies are skin reactions due to environmental, or food allergens. Skin allergies in dogs is very complex, and expensive to diagnose and treat, as normally dogs are not allergic to just one thing. Symptoms can include chewing or licking the agitated area; changes in skin colouration and texture (red or scaly skin) and hair loss.


This is when one or both of the testicles fail to drop. Cryptorchidism can be linked to male infertility, however it is possible for a cryptorchid dog to produce a litter (although this is extremely inadvisable due to cryptorchidism being hereditary). It is recommended that cryptorchid dogs are castrated once they have reached maturity due to the increased risk of testicular cancer if the testicle remains undescended.

Pacific Rimism

Pacific Rimism is the name given to a condition that often affects dogs from the Pacific Rim (specifically Japanese Dogs, such as the Nihon Ken). It is a condition that causes the blood potassium levels to be very elevated. In these breeds of dog, this elevation can be completely normal and is seen commonly however it can be mistaken for the onset of Addison's Disease.


Hypodontia is when one or more adult teeth are missing from the mouth. It is quite commonly seen in the Nihon Ken breeds. Dogs tend to cope well with missing teeth, and do not normally have difficulty eating unless the case is severe with multiple missing teeth.

Breed-Specific Health Conditions

Here is a list of breed-specific health condition for each of the Nihon Ken. For more information and further reading, please visit our sister site, the Nihon Ken Network.

Shiba Inu

~ Glaucoma
~ Bladder Stones
~ Lysomal Storage Disease

Akita Inu

~ Entropion
~ Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
~ Myasthenia Gravis
~ Pemphigus Foliaceous
~ Uveodermatologic Syndrome
~ Sebaceous Adenitis
~ Von Willebrand Disease
~ Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV)

Hokkaido Ken

~ Heart Murmurs
~ Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) / Choroidal Hypoplasia
~ Seizures
~ Pica

Kai Ken

~ Seizures
~ Hemangiosarcoma
~ PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy)

Kishu Ken

~ Entropion
~ Hypothyroidism
~ Gastrointestinal Issues
~ Persistent Pupillary Membrane (PPM)
~ Addison's Disease

Shikoku Ken

~ Lysomal Storage Disease
~ Entropion
~ Seizures
~ Panosteitis