Siberian Husky FAQ

Origin and History of the Siberian Husky
The Siberian Husky arrived in North America in the fall of 1908 without fanfare. Most other dogs had taken the more conventional route to our shores across the Atlantic Ocean from countries where they had become well established breeds. This unknown breed of Northern dog, however, sneaked through a remote back door to America quietly and unobtrusively at a point where the peninsulas of Asia and America almost meet.

Imported to Nome, Alaska by the Russian fur trader William Goosak, the team of Siberians was to be entered in the 1909 All Alaska Sweepstakes race of 408 miles with its $10,000 first prize. No one was impressed with Goosak’s little dogs, weighing only 40 to 52 pounds, much smaller compared to their longer legged, heavier competitors. The people of Nome referred to the imports as “Siberian Rats.”

Siberian Huskies have taken top honors in many races in the ensuing years, but their first race run on American soil will always remain, by far, their most important. Goosak persuaded Louis Thurstrop, a Danish sailor, to drive his team. This team, even though the odds were 100 to 1 against it in the betting, made a tremendous showing and nearly won the race, placing third. Rumor ran rampant in Nome that gamblers had paid off the driver before he reached the finish in order to save them from ruin. It was said that had Thurstrop won, it would have broken the Bank of Nome.

On the strength of their showing of speed and, particularly, endurance under the most trying conditions, Fox Maule Ramsay, a young Scotsman then in Nome and a competitor himself in the 1909 race, went to Siberia in the summer of 1909. Travelling up the Anadyr River to the trading settlement of Markovo, Ramsay procured around 60 of the best specimens of the breed he could find. He entered three teams of Siberians in the 1910 All Alaska Sweepstakes race, one for each of his uncles and one he drove himself. The team entered in the name of Col. Charles Ramsay and driven by John “Iron Man” Johnson, a Swedish Finn, came in first with an elapsed time of 74 hours, 14 minutes, 37 seconds, the best ever time for the 408 mile race held annually through 1917. Fox Ramsay came in second. The third Siberian team, entered for Col. Stuart and driven by Charles Johnson, placed 4th. (The 75th anniversary All Alaska Sweepstakes race was held in 1983, following the same trail and rules as the original race. The winner was 5 time Iditarod champion Rick Swenson. His time was over 10 hours slower than Iron Man Johnson’s 1910 winning time.)

The Siberians attained enormous popularity as racing dogs and the amusement prior to the 1910 race turned to admiration. Although Ramsay’s dogs and their progeny went on to win many races through the years, it was Goosak’s team of stoic little aliens who set the stage for the importation of the greatest of northern racing breeds, the Siberian dog, later to be known as the Siberian Husky.

In 1913, Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian explorer who was the first man to reach the South Pole, began planning an expedition to the North Pole for 1914. His friend, Jafet Lindberg, also a Norwegian, and co-owner of the largest mining company in Nome, offered to buy and train the dogs for Amundsen. From all over the Seward Peninsula, the best Siberians were selected and purchased. This group of sled dogs was turned over to Leonhard Seppala, an employee of Lindberg’s and a fellow Norwegian, to be trained for the upcoming expedition. In 1914 Amundsen gave up his North Pole trek due to the start of World War I. Seppala, with the encouragement of the Pioneer Mining Company, continued to train the Siberians, entering them in the last four Sweepstakes races, winning the last three – 1915, 1916, and 1917. The United States entry in World War I ended the great race series.

In January 1925, Nome was gripped in a spreading diphtheria epidemic. The closest life-saving serum was over 600 miles away, so a dog team relay was formed to hasten its arrival. Seppala left Nome eastbound with 20 Siberians to meet the serum in Nulato, over 300 miles away on the Yukon River. Due to increased urgency for the medicine, the dog team relay continued west beyond Nulato and Seppala met a team carrying the serum package on the eastern shore of Norton Sound. In spite of already having run all day, and in the midst of a blizzard, Seppala turned his tired team around and, with his great leader Togo, made the perilous run back across the Sound to Golovin. A team led by Balto, and driven by Gunnar Kaasen, completed the last leg of the relay. A statue of Balto stands in New York’s Central Park, honoring all of the sled dogs of the Serum Run.

As a result of his heroism in the Serum Run, Leonhard Seppala was invited to tour several cities in the lower 48 in the fall of 1926. Leaving Nome with over 40 Siberian Huskies, including Togo, Seppala traveled from west to east, stopping in Seattle, Kansas City, Dayton, Detroit, and Providence, before finally visiting New York City. There, at Madison Square Garden, Togo was presented a medal by the explorer Roald Amundsen, for his role in the serum relay. After his tour, in December 1926, Seppala went to New England and was hosted by Arthur Walden of Wonalancet, New Hampshire. Walden, a former Klondike gold seeker, had been winning many of the races in the up and growing New England/Eastern Canada sled dog races with his line of sled dogs based on Chinook, his large, yellow, mixed breed dog.

Seppala entered his Siberians in a race at Poland Spring, Maine in January 1927. In a repeat of the breed’s introduction in Nome, the New Englanders looked upon the Siberians with pity. Once again, they were dwarfed by the huge New England dogs, and it came as a surprise to all except Seppala when the Siberians easily won their first race outside Alaska, beating Walden’s team by over seven minutes over the 25 mile course.

Two weeks later, Seppala won the more prestigious New England Point To Point 3 day race near Laconia. It was apparent that the Siberians were superior to the local racing dogs, and many mushers were anxious to acquire them. Seppala, in partnership with Elizabeth Ricker, a New England musher and afficionado of the Siberian, established a kennel at Poland Spring, Maine. Seppala came from Alaska each fall to New England and raced the Siberians, amassing more wins and records across the area than any other musher. His last year of racing in the lower 48, 1932, included the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York, where sled dog racing was staged as a demonstration sport.

The Seppala/Ricker kennel closed in 1931 after many mushers had acquired Siberians from it, and Seppala returned to Alaska for good in 1932, leaving his remaining Siberians with Harry Wheeler, owner of the Gray Rocks Inn in St. Jovite, Quebec. Wheeler established his famous kennel, with the suffix “of Seppala,” and provided many more fine Siberians to mushers and kennels during the 1930’s. Wheeler himself continued to race the Siberians and win several big races, including Laconia and Québec City. All the registered dogs of today can trace their ancestry to the dogs from the Seppala-Ricker kennel or Harry Wheeler’s kennel.

The dogs that Goosak brought to Nome in 1908 varied considerably in phenotype. Some were long and leggy, others shorter coupled and heavier boned, some marked symmetrically, some not. Indigenous Siberian breeders used performance as the only criterion-aesthetics did not enter the picture. Seppala, although obviously concerned with function, had already begun breeding with an eye to greater uniformity. The breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1930, and the first standard was published in the AKC Gazette in April 1932. The degree to which the basic tenets of the original 1930 Standard have survived five revisions indicates the kind of in-depth study that went into its composition.

Of the many early foundation kennels in New England, Eva “Short” Seeley’s Chinook Kennel and Lorna Demidoff’s Monadnock Kennel were the most successful in demonstrating the concept of a dual purpose Siberian, one who could win in the show ring as well as on the trail. Too often today, one hears the argument of show dogs versus sled dogs and forgets that not only did Chinook and Monadnock produce the foundation stock for almost every show kennel in the country after World War II, but they also fielded some of the top racing teams of their day and the teams they drove contained many bench show champions, many of them outstanding leaders. (Most Siberian sled dogs were used by the Army during World War II for arctic search and rescue. After a half decade hiatus for the War and the end of the depression, the breed became ever more popular and the interest in sled dog racing spread.)

There was no one actually breeding pure Siberians in Alaska in 1946 when Natalie Jubin arrived with two AKC registered Siberians bred by Eva “Short” Seeley of Chinook Kennels in New Hampshire. One of these, Chinook’s Alladin of Alyeska, became the foundation stud of today’s oldest Siberian kennel–Alaskan Kennels, owned by Earl and Natalie Norris. An Alladin grandson, Ch. Bonzo of Anadyr, CD, became the first Siberian Husky to win Best In Show at an AKC all breed show (1955). Bonzo was the Norris’s main leader from 1954 to 1960. Another Alladin grandson, Ch. Tyndrum’s Olso, CD led Kit MacInnes to both the Women’s Alaskan and the Women’s North American championships, and a 2nd at the open Rondy. Both dogs are prominently featured in Alaska and in sled dog books for their racing and leadership qualities more than their other achievements.

This dual purpose concept was successfully continued into the 1960s and 1970s by Charlie and Carolyn Posey’s Yeso Pac Kennel. Earl and Natalie continue to field an all-Siberian team for the Iditarod, as they have done in almost every Iditarod Trail sled dog race since its inception in 1973. Earl himself raced in 1985 and 1986 and Martin Buser ran Anadyr dogs in 1980 and 1981.

Excerpts: The Siberian Husky, ISHC, Brief History of the Siberian Husky in Alaska, Natalie and Earl Norris, and The Complete Siberian Husky, Lorna Demidoff and Michael Jennings, Revised 1998 by Robert H. Thomas .

The Standard for Siberian Huskies

Approved by the American Kennel Club, October 8, 1990
Effective November 28, 1990
General Appearance

The Siberian Husky is a medium-sized working dog, quick and light on his feet and free and graceful in action. His moderately compact and well furred body, erect ears and brush tail suggest his Northern heritage. His characteristic gait is smooth and seemingly effortless. He performs his original function in harness most capably, carrying a light load at a moderate speed over great distances. His body proportions and form reflect this basic balance of power, speed and endurance. The males of the Siberian Husky breed are masculine but never coarse; the bitches are feminine but without weakness of structure. In proper condition, with muscle firm and well developed, the Siberian Husky does not carry excess weight.

Size, Proportion, Substance

Height–Dogs, 21 to 23½ inches at the withers. Bitches, 20 to 22 inches at the withers. Weight–Dogs, 45 to 60 pounds. Bitches, 35 to 50 pounds. Weight is in proportion to height. The measurements mentioned above represent the extreme height and weight limits with no preference given to either extreme. Any appearance of excessive bone or weight should be penalized. In profile, the length of the body from the point of the shoulder to the rear point of the croup is slightly longer than the height of the body from the ground to the top of the withers. Disqualification–Dogs over 23½ inches and bitches over 22 inches.

Head

Expression is keen, but friendly; interested and even mischievous. Eyes almond shaped, moderately spaced and set a trifle obliquely. Eyes may be brown or blue in color; one of each or parti-colored are acceptable. Faults–Eyes set too obliquely; set too close together. Ears of medium size, triangular in shape, close fitting and set high on the head. They are thick, well furred, slightly arched at the back, and strongly erect, with slightly rounded tips pointing straight up. Faults–Ears too large in proportion to the head; too wide set; not strongly erect. Skull of medium size and in proportion to the body; slightly rounded on top and tapering from the widest point to the eyes. Faults–Head clumsy or heavy; head too finely chiseled. Stop–The stop is well-defined and the bridge of the nose is straight from the stop to the tip. Fault–Insufficient stop. Muzzle of medium length; that is, the distance from the tip of the nose to the stop is equal to the distance from the stop to the occiput. The muzzle is of medium width, tapering gradually to the nose, with the tip neither pointed nor square. Faults Muzzle either too snipy or too coarse; muzzle too short or too long. Nose black in gray, tan or black dogs; liver in copper dogs; may be flesh-colored in pure white dogs. The pink-streaked “snow nose” is acceptable. Lips are well pigmented and close fitting. Teeth closing in a scissors bite. Fault–Any bite other than scissors.

Neck, Topline, Body

Neck medium in length, arched and carried proudly erect when dog is standing. When moving at a trot, the neck is extended so that the head is carried slightly forward. Faults–Neck too short and thick; neck too long. Chest deep and strong, but not too broad, with the deepest point being just behind and level with the elbows. The ribs are well sprung from the spine but flattened on the sides to allow for freedom of action. Faults–Chest too broad; “barrel ribs”; ribs too flat or weak. Back–The back is straight and strong, with a level topline from withers to croup. It is of medium length, neither cobby nor slack from excessive length. The loin is taut and lean, narrower than the rib cage, and with a slight tuck-up. The croup slopes away from the spine at an angle, but never so steeply as to restrict the rearward thrust of the hind legs. Faults–Weak or slack back; roached back; sloping topline.

Tail

The well furred tail of fox-brush shape is set on just below the level of the topline, and is usually carried over the back in a graceful sickle curve when the dog is at attention. When carried up, the tail does not curl to either side of the body, nor does it snap flat against the back. A trailing tail is normal for the dog when in repose. Hair on the tail is of medium length and approximately the same length on top, sides and bottom, giving the appearance of a round brush. Faults–A snapped or tightly curled tail; highly plumed tail; tail set too low or too high.

Forequarters

Shoulders–The shoulder blade is well laid back. The upper arm angles slightly backward from point of shoulder to elbow, and is never perpendicular to the ground. The muscles and ligaments holding the shoulder to the rib cage are firm and well developed. Faults–Straight shoulders; loose shoulders. Forelegs–When standing and viewed from the front, the legs are moderately spaced, parallel and straight, with the elbows close to the body and turned neither in nor out. Viewed from the side, pasterns are slightly slanted, with the pastern joint strong, but flexible. Bone is substantial but never heavy. Length of the leg from elbow to ground is slightly more than the distance from the elbow to the top of withers. Dewclaws on forelegs may be removed. Faults–Weak pasterns; too heavy bone; too narrow or too wide in the front; out at the elbows. Feet oval in shape but not long. The paws are medium in size, compact and well furred between the toes and pads. The pads are tough and thickly cushioned. The paws neither turn in nor out when the dog is in natural stance. Faults–Soft or splayed toes; paws too large and clumsy; paws too small and delicate; toeing in or out.

Hindquarters

When standing and viewed from the rear, the hind legs are moderately spaced and parallel. The upper thighs are well muscled and powerful, the stifles well bent, the hock joint well-defined and set low to the ground. Dewclaws, if any, are to be removed. Faults–Straight stifles, cow-hocks, too narrow or too wide in the rear.

Coat

The coat of the Siberian Husky is double and medium in length, giving a well furred appearance, but is never so long as to obscure the clean-cut outline of the dog. The undercoat is soft and dense and of sufficient length to support the outer coat. The guard hairs of the outer coat are straight and somewhat smooth lying, never harsh nor standing straight off from the body. It should be noted that the absence of the undercoat during the shedding season is normal. Trimming of whiskers and fur between the toes and around the feet to present a neater appearance is permissible. Trimming the fur on any other part of the dog is not to be condoned and should be severely penalized. Faults–Long, rough, or shaggy coat; texture too harsh or too silky; trimming of the coat, except as permitted above.

Color

All colors from black to pure white are allowed. A variety of markings on the head is common, including many striking patterns not found in other breeds.

Gait

The Siberian Husky’s characteristic gait is smooth and seemingly effortless. He is quick and light on his feet, and when in the show ring should be gaited on a loose lead at a moderately fast trot, exhibiting good reach in the forequarters and good drive in the hindquarters. When viewed from the front to rear while moving at a walk the Siberian Husky does not single-track, but as the speed increases the legs gradually angle inward until the pads are falling on a line directly under the longitudinal center of the body. As the pad marks converge, the forelegs and hind legs are carried straightforward, with neither elbows nor stifles turned in or out. Each hind leg moves in the path of the foreleg on the same side. While the dog is gaiting, the topline remains firm and level. Faults–Short, prancing or choppy gait, lumbering or rolling gait; crossing or crabbing.

Temperament

The characteristic temperament of the Siberian Husky is friendly and gentle, but also alert and outgoing. He does not display the possessive qualities of the guard dog, nor is he overly suspicious of strangers or aggressive with other dogs. Some measure of reserve and dignity may be expected in the mature dog. His intelligence, tractability, and eager disposition make him an agreeable companion and willing worker.

Summary

The most important breed characteristics of the Siberian Husky are medium size, moderate bone, well balanced proportions, ease and freedom of movement, proper coat, pleasing head and ears, correct tail, and good disposition. Any appearance of excessive bone or weight, constricted or clumsy gait, or long, rough coat should be penalized. The Siberian Husky never appears so heavy or coarse as to suggest a freighting animal; nor is he so light and fragile as to suggest a sprint-racing animal. In both sexes the Siberian Husky gives the appearance of being capable of great endurance. In addition to the faults already noted, the obvious structural faults common to all breeds are as undesirable in the Siberian Husky as in any other breed, even though they are not specifically mentioned herein.

DISQUALIFICATION

Dogs over 23½ inches and bitches over 22 inches.

Characteristics and Temperament
Coat and Grooming

The Siberian Husky is a comparatively easy dog to care for. He is by nature fastidiously clean and is typically free from body odor and parasites. Siberian s clean themselves like cats. In fact, a Siberian that becomes soiled with mud will clean himself up. Therefore, bathing requirements are minimal. In fact, most owners bathe their dogs once per year or less.

Twice a year, Siberians “blow” their undercoats, that is, they shed their undercoats completely. It is a very intense shedding period that can last three weeks or more from start to finish. The good news is that this only happens twice a year. The remainder of the time, Siberians are relatively shed free. Some people feel that this periodic problem is easier to cope with than the constant shedding and renewal of many smooth-coated breeds. The bad news is that the shedding period can be rather messy. The hair comes out in large and small clumps. Lots of vacuuming and brushing are in order. It should be noted, however, that this shedding “schedule” is climate dependent. Some owners that live in very warm climes, ones that lack clearly defined “seasonal changes,” report some shedding year round in the breed.

Other than during coat-blowing season, the Siberian needs very little grooming. No trimming or shaving of hair is required or recommended. Just occasional brushing to remove dead hair and keep the coat fresh and shiny is required. Their nails should be checked and clipped periodically, and their feet should be checked regularly to ensure good health, particularly in actively working dogs.

Temperament

The Siberian Husky has a delightful temperament, affectionate but not fawning. This gentle and friendly disposition may be a heritage from the past, since the Chukchi people held their dogs in great esteem, housed them in the family shelters, and encouraged their children to play with them. The Siberian Husky is alert, eager to please, and adaptable. An aggressive dog is not a team dog, and therefore a lousy sled dog. Siberians are an extremely intelligent and independent breed. They can be very stubborn, owing to their original purpose, and they are easily bored. This independent and stubborn nature may at times challenge your ingenuity. His versatility makes him an agreeable companion to people of all ages and varying interests. However, this is not a breed that is typically recommended for first-time dog owners, as mistakes are easy to make and sometimes difficult to fix with this remarkably intelligent and opportunistic breed. While capable of showing strong affection for his family, the Siberian Husky is not usually a one-man dog. He exhibits no fear or suspicion of strangers and is as likely to greet a would be thief as warmly as a trusted family member. This is not the temperament of a watch-dog, although a Siberian Husky may unwittingly act as a deterrent to those ignorant of his true hospitable nature, simply due to his intense personality and appearance.

Barking, Talking, and Howling

Siberian Huskies are rather quiet dogs. They do not typically bark. They do talk, however, in a soft “woo woo woo” sound. They can also howl quite well. Owners of multiple Huskies report frequent howling, starting and stopping simultaneously. Since the Siberian, like other northern breeds, is a very pack oriented animal, this behavior is typical.

Care and Training

Feeding

When you collect your puppy, your breeder should tell you what the puppy’s diet has been to date, as well as recommendation as to the best food and feeding frequency in the future, both for while the dog is still a puppy as well as when the dog is an adult. You should try and follow the puppy’s diet at the time you collect him from the breeder as best you can, until the puppy is settled in to its new environment. Then you can gradually change the diet to suit your preferences. Remember that sudden changes in diet can severely disrupt the puppy’s digestive system and cause gastric distress. The Siberian requires a relatively small amount of food for his size. This trait may be traced to the origins of the breed, as the Chukchis developed their dogs to pull a light load at a fast pace over great distances in low temperatures on the smallest possible intake of food. As for the type and “brand” of dog food, basically any reputable dog food manufacturer provides a dog food that is sufficient to keep a dog healthy. However, the premium brands of dog food have the advantage that one can feed the dog less and still get very good nourishment. In addition, stool size and amount is generally less with the premium dog foods. Keep in mind that feeding dogs is partly art, and partly science. The dog food manufacturers have done the science part. The rest is up to you. Some people feed their dogs a mix of canned and dry food twice a day. Others feed only dry and allow free feeding, and so on. Be sure and pick a frequency of feeding, brand, and type of food to suit your dogs needs. For working Siberians, a “performance” formula is in order. For Siberians that go for walks and hikes, a “maintenance” formula is usually best. Consult your breeder and veterinarian for advice.

One other thing worth mentioning here is how long to feed puppy food. Some research indicates that feeding puppy food for too long can increase the incidence of hip dysplasia in dogs that are susceptible to it. Some breeders start feeding adult food very soon. Even though the Siberian is not fully mature until 18 months, most people gradually switch to adult dog food at the 8-10 month time frame. Again, this is something to discuss with your breeder and veterinarian.

Housing

Siberian Huskies are happiest when they can share in family activities. The best arrangement is one in which the dog can come in and out of the house of its own free-will, through a dog door. If a dog door is not possible, then training the dog to go to an outside door to be let out is also very easy to do. Outside, the dog should have a large, fenced yard. The fence should be strong and at least 6 feet tall. It is also a good idea to bury wire in the ground to discourage digging out. Siberians are notorious diggers. It is usually best to set up a sand box somewhere in a shaded part of the yard and encourage digging there, if possible. Siberians should _not_ be allowed to roam around the neighborhood. If one chooses to kennel a Siberian, the kennel should be chain link, with a concrete run, and should be 6 to 7 ft wide and 10 to 15 ft long. It should be at least 6 ft high with chain link across the top of the kennel. It should be in a shaded location and have an insulated dog house with a door for shelter from the elements.

Because the Siberian is an arctic dog, it can remain outside in very cold weather. However, it should be provided with shelter from the elements in the form of a good sturdy house. The house should have a flat roof, as Siberians love to lay on top of their houses and observe the world. A good insulated house with nice straw bedding is perfect for Siberians that spend most of their time outside. Heating the dog house is usually not necessary.

Training

Training Siberian Huskies can be a challenge. They are an extremely intelligent, energetic, and stubborn breed, and one must be ready for the unexpected. Training should start when the dog is young. You should work to establish the rules of the house early, and make sure that the puppy knows that you are in charge. For example, if you do not want the dog on the bed as an adult, do not allow it as a puppy and never give in, even once, or the dog will think that all rules are flexible. The rule of thumb is that if you train a dog to do something, expect him to do it. Therefore, if the puppy learns that certain things are allowed, it will be difficult to train them not to do them as adults.

Since the dog is pack-oriented, it important to establish yourself as the head of the pack, or alpha, very early. Once you do this, the dog will respect you and training will be much easier. It is very important to understand the distinction between establishing yourself as alpha and bullying the dog into submission. _These are not the same thing!_ The former is simply a communication that the dog needs and expects, while the latter is very negative and detrimental to the dog’s well-being. By establishing yourself as the leader of the pack
early, your dog will learn to respect you and look to you for guidance and will know where the boundaries for acceptable behavior lie. It is best to enroll in a puppy training class (or puppy kindergarten training as they are commonly known) soon after your dog is home and has all of its vaccinations. This training is good for the dog and for you as the owner, as it will help you understand your new puppy and establish you as alpha very early in the puppy’s life, which is important with this breed. Once you have completed the puppy class, and have been working with the dog for a few months, a basic obedience class is in order. Obedience training this breed can be very interesting and extremely challenging. Many owners will complain that their dogs act perfectly in class, but will not obey at home. This breed is intelligent enough to differentiate situations very well, and will apply different rules of behavior for different situations. You must stay on top of the dog and maintain control, which is easier to do while the dog is of manageable size than with a stubborn, energetic adult that has been allowed to get away with undesirable behavior for a long time.

It is _very_ important to remember that the Siberian Husky is a _working breed_. His heritage has endowed him with the desire to run and his conformation has given him the ability to enjoy it effortlessly. Because of this, it is important that no Siberian ever be allowed unrestrained freedom. Instead, for his own protection, he should be confined and under control at all times. Since he is a working dog, he must be given something to do. Exercise may be obtained in the leash, at play, and best of all, through mushing. Siberians make wonderful hiking companions, and with a dog backpack, can carry food and water. Above all, if you feel that it is inconvenient or cruel to keep a dog confined and under control like this, then the Siberian Husky is not the breed for you.

Special Medical Problems

The Siberian Husky is a remarkably healthy breed. When well cared for, the Siberian is relatively “maintenance free”, outside of normal checkups and vaccinations.

Hip Dysplasia

The incidence of hip dysplasia in Siberians is fairly low. However, breeding Siberians should, among other things, be OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certified prior to breeding. OFA certification cannot be granted prior to 24 months of age. Conscientious efforts of breeders have kept the incidence of this condition low in the Siberian.

Eye Problems

According to CERF, the incidence of cataracts in the breed checked by ACVO veterinarians is around 15-18%. The actual incidence is probably higher as many long time breeders discover the anomaly in young dogs early and never certify them. With the typical cataract, the dogs vision is not usually substantially affected, and they lead a full, happy, albeit it neutered, life. However, a more aggressive cataract also exists, which progresses quickly and may cause blindness by 2 to 3 years of age.

Corneal dystrophy is also present in the breed. This disease causes diffuse and progressive vision loss in mid to older age. It is often not present or detectable until age 4 to 6 years, at which time the dog could easily have produced a few litters and perpetuated the problem.

Glaucoma is also present in the Siberian, particularly in some specific racing lines. Glaucoma causes the animal significant pain and vision loss usually before it is detected by the owner.

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and central progressive retinal atrophy (CPRA) have appeared in a number of breeds, including Siberians. These problems are genetically caused. Careful screening of potential breeding pairs has helped reduce the incidence of these problem in the breed, and the current incidence of PRA is relatively low.

Obviously, Siberian owners and breeders should regularly check and clear eyes through CERF prior to embarking on a breeding program.

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