The German Spitz is a very healthy breed of dog and so far, careful breeding has ensured that no obvious hereditary problems have developed. The average life expectancy of a German Spitz is 15 years, and the known conditions of our breed are listed below. We like to note that although they are quite uncommon, anything is possible just like with humans - we are not able to guarantee our puppies will be 100% free from health conditions, but we will do everything possible to mitigate the likelihood of them from occurring and can happily provide full evidence of this upon request.
We have worked with a leading Veterinary surgeon based in Melbourne to agree on appropriate screening for our breeding dogs, and a defect prevention strategy for each of those conditions.
Luxating Patella is a condition in which the kneecap dislocates or moves out of its normal location. Patellar luxation is a common condition in dogs, particularly small and miniature breeds. The condition usually becomes evident between the ages of 4 to 6 months and can occur genetically or from trauma / injury such as falling or jumping excessively. When selecting a breeding pair, we ensure that both the mother and father (Dam and Sire) are checked and cleared for genetic Patella issues as this significantly minimises the risk to the offspring. This test is performed using a physical examination from our Vet as this condition is a very dynamic issues and therefore a scan is not as accurate. All puppies are physically checked at 6-8 weeks by our vet and results are logged in our records. We strongly discourage any puppies to jump or climb stairs excessively up to the age of 18 months as this can damage (cause trauma) to the patellas.
Hip Dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the hip socket that, in its more severe form, can eventually cause crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the joints. It is a genetic condition that may also be affected by environmental factors. When selecting a breeding pair, we ensure that both the mother and father (Dam and Sire) are screened for HD, and we also screen elbows for good measure. This is performed by a radiology scan which is then submitted to a registered hip assessor for scoring. We will publish hip scores on our dogs profiles upon completion of screening. Unfortunately our puppies are unable to be tested for HD as it requires for them to be over the age of 16 weeks and put under sedation or General Anesthetic. In addition to this there is not sufficient bone development to obtain a useful scan, and finally the testing procedure is a little harsh on their little bodies. If one of our puppies is found to have HD later on in life, we need to be informed so this can be logged and investigated into further.
PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) and RD (Retinal Dysplasia) are hereditary eye conditions which can both cause premature blindness. Thankfully, genetic tests are available to screen for these diseases and they are simple and painless. We use All Animal Eye Services to conduct an ACES test to screen our dogs. The screening will be repeated every 12 months for our breeding dogs to ensure there is no development of eye conditions later on in life.
Epilepsy is characterized by recurrent, unprovoked seizures. Canine epilepsy is often genetic, however unfortunately at this point in time, there is no genetic test available to screen for this condition. If any of our dogs are diagnosed with epilepsy at any time in their life, they will be de-sexed immediately, and any owners with progeny will be notified. We hope that a test can be developed in the near future for better screening of this condition. Further information can be found our HERE - Should we ever own a dog with epilepsy we will fully participate in the research schemes as to date there are no German Spitz participants.
Teeth. Although not defined as a medical problem, it is a specification of the breed that all German Spitz should have a 'scissor bite'. This basically means that when the dogs jaw is closed, their upper incisors overlap their lower incisors, and the lower canine fits between the upper third incisor and the upper canine. In addition to this, interdigitation of upper and lower premolar teeth is visible and there will be a visible zig-zag gap between the side view of the teeth. Further information and photographs can be found HERE. We use the services of Dr Clarke for any concerns or queries we have regarding teeth. Anything other than a full scissor bite is considered a breed fault, and therefore we will not breed with any such dogs. Screening the Dam and Sire unfortunately does not guarantee a full scissor bite for the puppies however it greatly reduces the chances. An incomplete scissor bite means no harm to the dogs, it simply means we cannot show or breed from them.
It must also be noted that Spitz breeds have a tendency to retain their baby teeth (typically K9's). A retained or persistent deciduous (baby) tooth is one that is still present despite the eruption of the permanent tooth (between three to seven months of age). This is not considered a fault in the breeding, however retained teeth can cause the permanent (adult) teeth to erupt in abnormal positions, resulting in an incorrect bite pattern. Retained deciduous teeth may also cause overcrowding of teeth, accidental bites into the palate, or an abnormal jaw position. By the age of 6 months when the puppy is due to be desexed, any retained teeth can be removed at the same time for a minimal charge of around $30 per tooth (the cost will be up to the individual vet clinic) on top of the desexing costs. An interesting fact is that in some Australian clinics, desexing fees are subsidised, and therefore it is cheaper to have a dog desexed as well as having any retained teeth out than it is to just have its teeth out! Of course, if signs of incorrect placement occur sooner than 6 months it might be necessary to have a veterinarian check if early extraction is necessary.
Our dogs are currently fed on Meals for Mutts Premium Dried Food Salmon and Sardine (Grain Free) in addition to human grade raw meat. It has a relatively high protein value and a reasonable fat content which is what we look for in the nutritional table. Diet is always going to be trial and error and will be ever changing as we are always watching the market, but as a rule, we would always recommend feeding your German Spitz dog a premium food with high protein content which will support a lovely shiny coat and nice skin. The supermarket brands in our opinion are poison to dogs and to name a few issues, the food can affect coat development, amount of shedding, general health as well as bowel motions. A healthy dog will have a longer and happier life, so we always suggest feeding the best possible food you can afford in your budget.
We are very conscious of the food that goes into our dogs bodies (more than the food that goes into our own bodies!), so we make our own range of treats using human grade meat. This was fostered firstly by sensitive stomachs, but secondarily due to finding out the amount of chemicals and preservatives added into commercial dog treats. Its very simple to do, and if you wish to try our treats please visit Dapper Dog Treats to place an order.
Remember, what goes in - comes out! You will notice the better the food, the smaller the quantity you are feeding, which in turn means less waste at the other end.
Sources: Pet MD (retained teeth explanation)