The good news about Shiba Inus is that they are not prone to health problems. This is due in large part to the fact that they have not been over bred. You can do your part by only buying from quality breeders who breed to advance the breed. Breeding to make money will always lead to the development of health problems due to excessive inbreeding and breeding dogs that are not up to standard, passing along bad genes and making the problems even more dominant.
The only real health problem you are going to have to worry about is Parvo virus, which is a type of flu dogs can get from other dogs. Parvo can be caught by having contact with other dogs, their poo, or even being on the same land that another dog with Parvo was on. Parvo is very deadly, even when caught early and if caught late is almost always lethal. For this reason, you need to make sure that your puppy is vaccinated against it.
This leads us to puppy shots. Your puppy should get a series of 4 shots over about a 10 week period. Your puppy will not be immune to Parvo until about a week after the last shot is given. For this reason we recommend that you give puppy shots yourself. They are available at most farmer and tractor supply stores and the personnel there are typically very knowledgeable about puppy shots. The shot is given by simply taking the puppy by the scruff of the neck and inserting the shot in the fold of skin in your hand. The shot does not go into a vein and is very simple and safe to administer. Your breeder can advise you further on this if you choose to go this route. In 15 years of raising Shibas, we have never had a dog get sick. Out of all the puppies we’ve sold, we have only ever had 2 get sick and both of them got Parvo from the vet’s office. Sick dogs go to the vet and chances are that is the only place your dog will ever be exposed to Parvo. If you’re taking a puppy to get puppy shots at the vet, then that means you are taking a healthy puppy with no immunity yet into the one place where it is a guarantee that dogs with the very thing your immunizing against have been. It would have been like taking a baby into the Polio wing to give it the Polio vaccine. Luckily both instances where the puppy got sick the owners caught it in time. One of the owner’s noticed her puppy acting funny a week after taking her to the vet and when she took her to the vet they told her nothing was wrong! She insisted they do testing and sure enough she had Parvo. The vet admitted to her that the puppy got Parvo from his office (it has a one week incubation period) and explained to her that puppies aren’t immune until a week after their last shot! Needless to say, she was very upset. Even with her catching it so early, her puppy only had a 50/50 chance for survival. Luckily she was a fighter and pulled through.
So when should you take your puppy to the vet? If your dog is acting funny, has had a sudden change in energy level, is being weird with their food (eating less, eating other things, having loose stool or throwing up), has been bit by another animal, is walking or moving funny, or if there is a change in their coat that is not related to blowing. No one is going to know your dog better than you. If you feel something is wrong, take them to the vet! Insist on blood testing if the vet tries to blow you off. Early detection is key in making sure your dog makes it through a sickness alright. Honestly, very few things besides Parvo are life threatening to a dog, but better safe than sorry.
What should you do at a vet visit and what should you expect? Your dog will be nervous at the vet and the vet is used to this. Do not let you dog out of their crate except to see the vet or vet technician. Do not let your dog lick the floor or table, chances are a dog did their business or threw up there before you came in. Again, you want to keep your dog’s exposure to sickness to a minimum. The vet’s office is not the place to socialize your dog unless you want a sick dog. It’s great that the lady who’s coming in to have her dog put down from Parvo thinks your puppy is cute, but that doesn’t mean you should let her play with the puppy or even get too close. If you are taking your puppy in for a shot you can expect them to be a little off for the next 24 hours. However, if they act funny or off for longer than that you need to call your vet.
Bottom line is: take your puppy to the vet when it’s sick, not healthy. Find a long standing vet in your community that specializes in dogs. Chances are they will never have seen a Shiba Inu because they are a less common breed. It’s fine if your vet doesn’t have much experience with the breed, but you should insist that your vet do some research on them in order to keep your business. When you go in again you’ll want to hear about how the vet learned more about your breed. (Our vet did research the night after he first saw one of our dogs for a travel certificate years ago. We didn’t ask him to, he is just truly interested in dogs and in giving them the best care.) Good vets can be hard to find, but when you find a good one they can be worth their weight in gold. You want a vet that became a veterinarian to assist animals and make their lives with their owners better. A vet who is in it all for the money is going to over vaccinate your dog, & run tests that are not important to your dogs health, draining your wallet and causing health problems for your dog. You want a vet who is going to help you make the best choices for your dog, not for their vet practice. Make sure your vet is someone you feel comfortable asking questions of and who you feel is giving you and your dog the attention you deserve.
If a veterinarian must run a test for heart worm on a 12 week old puppy before putting it on prevention, he is only running the test to make money. Sure the puppy could have been bitten by a mosquito carrying heart worm in larval form but there would be no threat in just giving a healthy puppy the prevention treatment which kills and prevents heart worm. My vet explained all of the shots and why they are given. He explained that Kennel Cough Vaccine is only recommended if you plan to board your dog because boarding facilities require the shot. He let us know that the shot is more dangerous to your puppy than a dog getting kennel cough which is certainly contagious like a common cold is to a human but not life threatening by any means. A veterinarian that will pass up generating money in the best interest of your pet is an amazing find.
When you get your new puppy they will have been wormed so you need to wait a month to start them on worming prevention routine. Worms are transmitted or picked up in many ways and from a variety of places. A clean and fecal free environment is important in keeping risk of infestation low. Heart worm is transmitted through a mosquito bite and is in a larval state for months before it becomes an infestation of heart worm. Most veterinarians will not prescribe treatment for heart worm until after they have tested the puppy for possible infestation. While this is standard protocol it is primarily the procedure because treating a badly infected dog can cause serious illness or death. The primary reason is because heart worm treatment kills the worms so quickly and those that die putrefy in the dog and cause sickness while the body tries to eliminate the waste.
Flea and tick treatment is easy to find and we recommend going with something natural. Do your own personal research and make choices based on your findings. Most natural topical drops work fine and the period in which they work varies by body chemistry, and environmental conditions. If you have a flea or tick problem you need to stay on top of it! If you don’t you will be overrun in a short period of time. If you don’t have fleas or ticks, then you don’t need to worry about getting treatment, but keep an eye out so you can nip any potential problem in the bud.
Conclusion: When in doubt, talk to the vet or drop by to be safe, but don’t take your healthy dog anywhere sick dogs go if they aren’t fully immunized, unless you’re willing to risk them getting sick. Keep your dog free of fleas, ticks, and wormed and you’ll have a long healthy life with your dog!
Also, check out our article about dog food for more info about keeping your dog healthy.