Health Problems: Common Issues And Allergies For Shiba Inus

sick shiba inu

My first visit to the vet with Faith ended with a bottle of medication and a “she’s slightly sick” diagnosis, which was very upsetting because I didn’t notice. Thankfully if was incredibly minor and my vet was being cautious, but that left me with a lot of questions. This article is everything I was able to find.

Although considered a healthy “well built” breed, Shiba Inus do have a weak point, their eyes. Cataracts, Glaucoma, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) are quite common. Females easily get Pyometra when they aren’t spayed. Hip dysplasia and Patellar Luxation are also common pain points.

After several questions and a couple of hours of research, here is what I’ve found to be the most common health issues I and many others may run into with. If you are interested in seeing what you may be in store for you, feel free to continue reading.


Allergic reactions for dogs are different from us people, where we would normally sneeze and get a runny nose they start developing skin problems. Usually shown as a constant itching called “atopy”.

The most common “itchy” spots are around their paws, belly, ears, armpits, groin, and between folds of skin.

Allergy issues are more common for Shiba Inus in warmer, summer-like, climates.

While itching and scratching is the most common sign of allergies, here is a list of some other possible warning signs:

  • Itchiness
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or earflaps
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing*
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy ears
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Consistent face rubbing or paw licking

If your Shiba Inu seems to have constant sneezing problems. While some allergy triggers such as perfumes, shampoos, and latex are uncommon there are plenty that is fairly common. Lets go into a bit more detail for those common allergies.

Food Allergies

There are two possibilities when it comes to food, food allergies or food intolerance, and knowing the difference is important.

Food allergies involve a response from your pet’s immune system, seeing the food as an invader. These are commonly shown as itching and skin rashes.

Some severe food allergies may even lead to anaphylaxis shock, leading to a possible life-threatening situation. Contact your vet immediately if you believe your Shiba Inu is suffering from an acute food reaction.

Food intolerance is a bit different, it involves a response from your dog’s digestive system. This usually leads to them being unable to digest the food, similar to lactose intolerance in people.

Food intolerance usually causes diarrhea, vomiting, and an upset stomach. Thankfully most intolerances do not pose a serious health issue.

In both cases it’s best to contact your vet to get their opinion, you may be able to run some tests to see what is causing your Shiba Inu’s food issues.

Skin Allergies

Unlike other types of allergies, skin issues can be complex and time-consuming to remedy. The core three causes are:

Food allergies – This is possible, but only 10% of skin allergies are caused by food. A simple diet change can solve this.
Flea allergies – Second most likely cause. Fairly straightforward, also labeled as (F.A.D)
Environmental allergies – The most common and difficult possibility. Usually caused by dust mites, mold, and pollen.

Skin allergies, or Atopy, shows as:

  • Itchy skin
  • Dry skin / dandruff
  • Red / inflamed skin
  • Scratching, licking, gnawing
  • Scabs
  • Loss of fur
  • Oily skin
  • Itchy / red eyes / eye discharge
  • Face rubbing
  • Recurrent skin and ear infections

Typically around the face, ears, paws, armpits, belly, groin, or between folds of skin.

Dogs suffering from skin allergies usually have skin barrier dysfunctions as well, secondary infections are also quite common.

Each Shiba Inu will need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but typically medication and frequent baths are prescribed to help reduce Atopy.

Acute Reactions

Acute allergic reactions, or anaphylactic shock, is alarming and possibly fatal if left untreated. If you notice your Shiba Inu is going through this, drop everything and drive either to your vet or a pet-ER.

Every second counts and your pet’s health and safety are the first priority.

Some possible causes are:

  • Acute food allergy – usually caused by the protein ingredient
  • Bee stings
  • Medications
  • Vaccines
  • Spider bites
  • Insect stings – Wasps, bees, spiders, fire ants.
  • Flea bites – Rare but still possible

Some signs of anaphylactic shock in dogs are:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Pale to bluish-colored gums
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cold legs
  • Seizures – Rare but still possible
  • Coma – Rare but still possible

Unlike in people, little to no swelling around your pet’s face or throat will occur.

The most immediately affected organ by anaphylactic shock in dogs is their liver.

Dental Diseases

The most common chronic problems in dogs are dental diseases, affecting 80% of all dogs by the age of two.

Tartar build-up on your Shiba Inu’s teeth not only breaks down and yellows them, it will begin to infect their gums and eventually the roots of their teeth if left unchecked. Unchecked dental problems can also lead to kidney, liver, heart, and joint problems down the line.

Two of the most common warning signs of this are:
1) Yellowing teeth
2) Bad breath

Bad doggy breath can be a warning sign for many things, poor dental hygiene being one of them. For more details check out our bad breath article here.


Overweight problems are both common and significant health problems for Shiba Inus. It can lead not only to other diseases, but actively worsen any digestive, metabolic, or joint problems they already have.

Find a diet, food brand, and schedule that works for both your and your four-legged best friend. Extra treats or surprise snacks such as fruits aren’t bad, but continual overfeeding or treating will lead to this.

An active life with tons of exercise and play will help lean your Shiba Inu out. Leading to a happier, healthier, and overall more energetic fur generator.

Genetic Issues

Shiba Inus overall are quite rugged and durable little things, but their eyes are another story.

Unfortunately, Shiba Inus seem to be quite vulnerable to eye problems:

Cataracts – typically occurs late in life for Shiba Inus. Caused by an opacity on the lens of their eye, later causing it to tear and become cloudy. There are many types of cataracts and quite a few possible corrective surgeries or treatments available.

Glaucoma – This is, unfortunately, the most common eye problem for Shiba Inus. While there are several different types of glaucoma, almost all of them can be treated to a point. Surgeries and special eye drops are common but it depends on your unique case.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) – This is a slow, incurable, walk to blindness. PRA starts with a loss of vision in the dark and steadily gets worse over time until your dog struggles to see on sunny days. Unfortunately, there is no cure at the moment, but it can be diagnosed quite early so you and your pet can prepare for it.

While the Shiba Inu’s Achilles heel seems to be their eyes, they aren’t immune to other types of genetic health issues. Some of the more common ones are:

Hip Dysplasia – This is a major issue for quite all dog breeds, but is most common in heavy-set dogs that grow rapidly. This is an issue between your pet’s thighbone and hip joint. While pain and mobility issues are a given, it varies case-by-case. Shows as difficulty walking and abnormal gait. Thankfully, because it is common (which is still terrible), there are tons of treatment options available if your pet is suffering from this. Some Shibas will have a similar issue with their elbows

Hypothyroidism – This causes a chemical in-balance in your dog’s hormones, due to an issue with their thyroid gland. A reduced metabolism, changes in appetite, hair loss, and lethargy are possible warning signs. Medication is usually used to help rebalance your pet’s hormones, a visit to your vet and some blood work will let you know what’s going on.

Patellar Luxation – Causes be a drifting kneecap due to weak or dislocated ligaments, this non-life-threatening health problem is also fairly common in all dog breeds. It’s possible your Shiba was born with this but it’s also possible it occurred later after an injury. Pains, mobility issues, and treatment options all vary based on the severity.

Pyometra – Effects non-spayed female Shiba Inus more than other breeds. This is where a bacterial infection occurs during a female dog’s heat cycle, possibly causing a life-threatening infection. This is a major reason people recommend female Shiba Inus should be spayed if you aren’t planning on breeding them.

Colby Adkins

I am a proud Shiba Inu owner who is just looking to share any tips, tricks, or advice I have to help others.

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