Tuesday, 8 March 2011
Shiba Inu - scratching the surface
I was recently contacted by pet owner Delia Mills whose Shiba Inu puppy, Bracken, started to itch a few days after bringing her home. Delia called the breeder who suggested she give the pup Piriton. It worked temporarily. But the itch was soon back - and with a vengeance. Over the coming weeks and months, Bracken tore herself to bits - very distressing for both dog and her owner.
Atopy is incurable but unless incredibly severe can usually be managed - commonly with steroids - to give a dog a reasonable quality of life. Bracken's condition is, thankfully, mostly now under control.
However, worried that there could be an inherited component to the condition and that it may be under-reported in Shibas in the UK, Delia contacted me to ask for help in trying to find other Shibas who may be suffering..
The scientific literature contains several references to Shibas suffering from atopic dermatitis and there are known cases in the US and Japan. However, Bracken's breeder, Karen Jones, has reassured Delia that she has never bred another Shiba that has suffered from CAD and the health rep for the UK Breed Club told Delia she has never heard of a UK dog with the condition.
Just to double-check, I emailed breeder Karen Jones who put me on to the breed health rep, Belinda Roskell.
Here is her reply - posted here in full.
answer to your questions
Q1) is Bracken the first dog you have heard of in the UK that has been
affected with this condition?
A1) there is no evidence bracken has this condition Mrs Mills refused to
have the test offered by Mr Hutt !
Q2) are allergies/immune disorders a recognised problem in the breed in the
UK? (I note one case of dermatitis in the BVA/KC health survey and another
of vaccine reaction but of course this is just two dogs and may not be at
A)one dog recorded with dermatitis and one to a reaction to a booster,
against the thousands that have been registered?
Q3) is there anything else you would like to say?
A3) Yes the shiba club take all health problem very seriously, we have now
had a committee meeting regarding this matter. And we have contacted
various vets with multiple shiba clients on their books, and they have all
come back saying that the shiba skin is healthy and not a problem.
And until Delia has the test offered to poor bracken, there is little we can
We also have written conformation that to date these tests have not been
carried out on bracken.
I contacted Bracken's consultant dermatologist, John Hutt, to ask if Bracken had, indeed, really been diagnosed with the condition. His reply:
"Canine Atopic Dermatitis is a clinical diagnosis made by exclusion. There is no “test” for the disease and I have never offered Mrs Mills a “test” for atopic dermatitis because there isn’t one. Bracken’s diagnosis has been robustly established according to internationally recognised principles."
So, a plea to Belinda Roskell: I can understand you feeling a bit defensive about my contacting you but this is not the right way to respond and it is certainly not the right way to treat pet owners like Delia Mills who are too often dismissed by breeders as being over-emotional irritants - or, as cavalier campaigner Carol Fowler was famously dubbed by breeders trying to downplay SM in the breed: a raving loony with Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy.
Delia and other pet owners deserve sympathy and support and a much more grown-up response that this. It might well be that Bracken is the first Shiba in the UK to suffer from this condition. But let's at least make an effort to find out - and by means other than phoning round a few general practice vets. After all, it might just afford the opportunity to either prevent, or help treat, other suffering Shibas.
Ironically, the Shiba Club's health page, has this message on it:
"DON'T LET THEM MAKE A DOCUMENTARY ON OUR BREED SAYING WE IGNORED THE PROBLEMS!"
If you have, or know of, a Shiba either diagnosed or suspected to have canine atopic dermatitis, Delia would love to hear from you. Please contact Delia direct: shibachow[AT]ntlworld.com.
Please also fill in a health survey form, available from the Shiba Club HERE.