Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pomeranian Health Concerns

Pomeranian Health Problems
Geneva Coats, R.N.
The APC recently launched a Pomeranian health survey on the OFA website. All current and former owners of Pomeranians are encouraged to take the survey. Participation is essential to develop an accurate assessment of the health problems in our breed. You can access the survey here:
Please complete the survey for each Pom, living or deceased, that you have owned. Also, on the first page of the survey, you are asked for your opinion on the most important health issues in the breed.  
Here are some of the health issues commonly noted in the breed:
Luxating patellas-a condition where the kneecaps slip out of place. This results in lameness of the hind legs. Symptoms may include limb-lifting and a hopping gait. OFA screening at an early age is recommended for an accurate picture, because as a dog ages environmental factors such as trauma, stress and diet can negatively influence the condition of the knee joint. In the worst cases, surgery to repair the knee is necessary.
OFA patella certification is one of the CHIC required exams for Pomeranians. CHIC database information should help us to to breed away from this problem.
Heart problems-Pomeranians are known to be a breed that is often affected by heart problems. Heart problems can be congenital (present at birth, such as PDA) or acquired later in life (resulting from bacterial infection of heart valves, chronic breathing problems etc). The best time to screen for congenital heart problems is at 6 to 8 weeks of age. A veterinarian listens for murmurs with a stethoscope over the four valve areas.  Murmurs heard at this age may sometimes be considered normal, and may disappear as the pup matures. If the murmur is still present at 16 weeks, however, the puppy's heart should be further assessed using cardiac ultrasound. 
OFA maintains a cardiac registry to gather data on congenital heart defects. Some congenital heart problems may not be evident until the puppy is several months old. Therefore, the OFA screen is completed at 12 months of age or later. Ideally, this should be done by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist. The OFA cardiac exam is one of the designated screens for Pomeranians in order to participate in CHIC.
Hypothyroidism is one of the most common problems in dogs, including Pomeranians. Lack of thyroid hormone can adversely affect every body organ and system. The thyroid gland my be underactive due to the effects of illness or some medications. A major cause of hypothyroidism, however, is autoimmune thyroiditis.  This is considered to be an hereditary problem. Similar autoimmune problems (such as hemolytic anemia, diabetes and Addison's disease) may occur in members of the same family.
A blood panel is used to screen for thyroiditis. For OFA thyroid certification, a complete thyroid blood panel is required to be done by specific laboratories. OFA thyroid certification is highly recommended for Pomeranians, but is not required for CHIC certification.
Alopecia is a loss of coat that may occur due to other illnesses. In Pomeranians, there is a generalized coat loss condition for which no underlying disease can be found. This condition is known as "Alopecia X". A genetic factor is suspected. Research is ongoing, but there is no blood test for this condition at this time. Conscientious breeders remove affected dogs from their breeding programs.
Collapsing trachea can occur with most small breeds and Pomeranians are no exception. In this condition, the main breathing airways are not strong enough to remain open on their own. Difficulty is noted when breathing. Your veterinarian can assist you with medical management of this condition. Sometimes surgery is indicated. This is a serious and potentially fatal problem, and affected dogs should not be bred.
Hypoglycemia sometimes happens with small puppies who are very active and not taking in enough calories to meet their energy requirements. The pup may develop weakness and pale gums. Untreated, this can lead to seizures and death. If  you suspect hypoglycemia, rub some Nutracal or corn syrup on the gums and consult your veterinarian immediately.
Hypoglycemia in adults may be a symptom of other health problems. Your veterinarian should be consulted for further diagnostic testing if your dog becomes hypoglycemic.
Seizures are usually a symptom of various other conditions but some cases are felt to be hereditary. Your veterinarian can diagnose the cause and prescribe appropriate treatment for this problem.
Dental problems are common in Pomeranian and all toy breeds. Deciduous teeth ("baby teeth") may require veterinary extraction if they are retained beyond the age of four months. Excessive plaque formation and gum disease can be kept in check with periodic professional veterinary dental care. Untreated tooth and gum disease can progress quickly to bone infection and teeth can be lost. Such infection often travels to the heart where it can cause damage to the heart valves, leading eventually to heart failure, so please remember to make regular dental care a priority for your Pomeranian.
Although more common in larger, heavier dogs, hip dysplasia is known to sometimes occur in Pomeranians. A specific type of hip dysplasia known as Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is not umcommon in smaller breeds. This problems is believed to probably be inherited. Symptoms usually begin at a fairly young age, usually between 4 months and a year old. Pain and lameness can occur, and the most severe cases require surgical intervention. OFA hip screening for LCP is recommended (but not required) for Pomeranians who participate in the CHIC program. This involves an xray of the hips, usually done under sedation, after the age of 12 months. The films are submitted to OFA for evaluation. Xrays normal for hip dysplasia are also considered normal for LCP. The same films can be used for both certifications.
Pomeranians, like all breeds, may suffer from hereditary eye problems. Pomeranians are known to sometimes be affected by several eye conditions including entropion (eyelids that roll inward) or distichiasis (eyelashes growing inward toward the eye). Both these conditions can cause traumatic damage to the surface of the eye, and if untreated can result in blindness.  An eye health assessment should be done by a veterinary ophthalmologist and then submitted to the Canine Eye Registration Foundation or "CERF". CERF certification is a requirement for Pomeranians to participate in the CHIC program.
For further information on CERF, please see:
For  more information on the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), please see:
For details of the CHIC program, please see this webpage:
And don't forget to take the survey! The APC Health and Genetics committee thanks you!

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