The Breed History
The origins of this breed are easily traced from the 19th century forward in Siberia. The Chukchi people in northeastern Asia were likely the original breeders of these hardy dogs. In Alaska, imports were used for sled dog racing in 1909. One of the famed serum dog teams that delivered life-saving serum from Neoma to Nome Alaska during the diphtheria outbreak of 1925 consisted of Siberians. The AKC recognized the breed in 1930.
Breeding for Function
The Chukchi people of Northeast Asia developed this breed for use as a sled dog. Emphasis was on endurance and tolerance of cold but selection also focused on those dogs requiring minimal food intake. They have been used extensively in Antarctic expeditions, and in search and rescue units during the Second World War. Today, they are most commonly seen in a companionship role, but they are still found out on the trail, ski-joring and pulling sleds.
Height at Withers: female 20-22" (51-56 cm), male 21-23.5" (53-59.5 cm).
Weight: females 35-50 lb (16-22.5 kg), males 45-60 lb (20.5-27 kg).
Coat: Medium-length, double coat is very dense, soft and wooly in the undercoat, and outer coat hairs are straight. Markings on the head are variable, and the base color varies widely from black through white, and white legs and chest are common. Longevity: 11-14 years
Points of Conformation: The Siberian Husky is medium in size, compact in conformation, with a very dense fur. Gait is agile and quick, smooth and ground covering with little apparent effort. His bushy tail is erect when alert, carried over the back in a sickle shape, but not deviated to the sides. The muzzle is straight in profile, gradually tapering, with a well-defined stop. Almond-shaped eyes are blue, brown, parti-colored or odd-eyed (one of each). They are slightly slanted upwards laterally, and are moderately wide-set. Ears are set high, triangular and medium in size, standing erect, and have semi-pointed tips and thick leather. Lips are tight and close, and the nose can have variable pigmentation as long as it is synchronized with coat color. The neck is medium in length and muscling with a slight arch. The thorax is deep and somewhat laterally flattened; ribs are well sprung. The topline is level. They possess straight limbs which are moderately boned and muscled. Foreleg dewclaws may be removed, while the rear ones are usually removed. Feet are oval, medium sized and possess plenty of fur between the toes. Pads are thick.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Independent streak, alert, gentle, friendly, not possessing watchdog tendencies. Very fastidious and thus low odor, tend to roam so should always be exercised off leash in a fenced area. Good in both rural and urban settings. Eager to work, fairly good with other dogs, intelligent, high energy and exercise needs, communal howlers but low barking tendency. Their bark is high pitched. Good with children. Low shedding except during the period in spring and fall when they are blowing the coat. Grooming needs are moderate. May dig and chew. This is a breed that needs close human contact.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Benign Familial Hyperphosphatasemia: This is a familial condition recognized from 11 weeks of age in families of Siberian huskies. Alkaline phosphatase levels average 5x normal due to an elevated bone isoenzyme. There are no clinical signs, and the elevation persists throughout life.
Juvenile Cataract: Autosomal recessive inherited lens opacity in the axial posterior cortex, developing between nine months to two years of age. Reported at a frequency of 6.6% in the 2006 Siberian Husky Health Survey. Reported in 4.7% of Siberian huskies presented to veterinary teaching hospitals. Dorn reports a 1.88x odds ratio versus other breeds. Cataracts are reported in 5.57% of Siberian huskies CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Siberian Husky with a cataract.
Corneal Dystrophy: Autosomal recessive disorder causing bilaterally symmetrical white to grey oval or ring shaped opacities in the corneas. Affected dogs develop the opacities between six months to two years of age. Reported in 2.47% of Siberian huskies CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Siberian Husky with corneal dystrophy.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Reported at a high frequency by the OFA, but too few Siberian Huskies have been screened to determine an accurate frequency.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 2.0% affected. Reported at a frequency of 3.9% in France.
X-linked Progressive Retinal Atrophy (XLPRA): X-linked recessive degeneration of the retina causes blindness between one and three years of age. Reported in 0.28% of Siberian huskies CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Siberian Husky with XLPRA. A genetic test is available.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 11.7% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Cryptorchidism (Retained Testicles): Can be unilateral or bilateral. Reported at a frequency of 11.2% in the 2006 Siberian Husky Health Survey. Late descending testes was reported at a frequency of 6.5%.
Epilepsy: Dorn reports a 29.32x odds ratio for epileptic seizures in Siberian huskies versus other breeds. Reported at an increased frequency in the 2006 Siberian Husky Health Survey.
Bronchiectasis: Clinical signs of chronic cough with excessive airway mucous. Diagnosis with radiographs. Reported at a frequency of 3.1% and an odds ratio of 2.86x versus other breeds. Treatment is with bronchodilators and possibly corticosteroids.
Primary (Narrow Angle) Glaucoma: Ocular condition causing increased pressure within the eyeball, and secondary blindness due to damage to the retina. Diagnose with tonometry and gonioscopy. Average age of diagnosis 5.3 +/- 1.7 years. Diagnosed in 1.88% of Siberian huskies presented to veterinary teaching hospitals. Dorn reports a 2.17x risk versus other breeds. CERF does not recommend breeding any Siberian Husky with glaucoma.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 1.48% of Siberian huskies CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Zinc Responsive Dermatosis: Breed specific condition with an unknown mode of inheritance. Affected dogs present with periocular crusts. Parakeratosis is found on skin biopsy. Treatment with oral zinc is curative in most affected dogs, but some may require parenteral zinc or retinoids.
Eosinophilic Disease: The breed is predisposed to disorders that involve the buildup of eosinophilic tissue, including eosinophilic gastroenterocolitis, and eosinophilic granulomas of the eyelid and oral cavity.
Uveodermatologic (VKH-Like) Syndrome: This is an autoimmune disease manifested by progressive uveitis and depigmenting dermatitis that closely resembles the human Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada syndrome. The disease presents between 1-1/2 - 4 years of age, and can progress to blindness. Treatment is with steroids. CERF does not recommend breeding any Siberian Husky with the disorder.
Alopecia-X (Coat Cycle Arrest): Progressive, symmetrical, non-pruritic, truncal hair loss usually beginning in early adulthood. ACTH, LDDS, and thyroid panel results are normal. Elevated blood concentrations of 17-hydroxyprogesterone (17-OHP) have been seen post-ACTH stimulation. Treatment can include melatonin, mitotane, or oral trilostane. The disorder appears to be familial.
Ectopic Ureters: Siberian huskies are an over-represented breed for ectopic ureters. Clinical signs are urinary incontinence and dribbling. Affected dogs can also have hydro-ureter, hydronephrosis, pyelonephritis, bladder hypoplasia or congenital incompetence of the urethral sphincter. Most affected dogs are female. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Spontaneous Pneumothorax: Air release into the chest cavity causing collapsed lung lobes. Siberian huskies are found to be overrepresented compared to other breeds.
Chronic Superficial Keratitis (Pannus): Chronic corneal inflammatory process that can cause vision problems due to corneal pigmentation. Treatment with topical ocular lubricants and anti-inflammatory medication. One study found Siberian huskies to be a breed at increased risk.
Thyroid Cancer: Siberian Huskies have a 2.5 odds ratio versus other breeds of developing thyroid cancer. Affected dogs are usually between 10-15 years of age with a thyroid mass, and a diagnosis of carcinoma, or less frequently adenocarcinoma.
Uveal Spindle Cell Tumor: Rare tumor of the anterior uveal tract of blue-eyed dogs. Median age of onset 10 years. Morphologically and immunohistochemically most consistent with schwannoma. Seen almost exclusively in Siberian Huskies and their crosses.
Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus, Deafness, Demodicosis, Entropion, Factor VIII Deficiency, Follicular Dysplasia, Hypertension, Laryngeal Paralysis, Microphthalmia, Myelodysplasia, Retinal Dysplasia, Tetralogy of Fallot, Ventricular Septal Defect, and von Willebrand's Disease are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous (PHPV): Two Siberian huskies were described with posterior lens capsule opacities secondary to abnormalities of development and regression of the hyaloid artery.
Degenerative Myelopathy: Three related Siberian husky dogs had chronic progressive paresis and ataxia with muscle atrophy in the hind limbs. Pathology demonstrated disseminated degeneration of the spinal cord white matter. A direct genetic test for an autosomal recessive DM susceptability gene is available from the OFA.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for XLPRA is available from Optigen. Direct test for coat color is available from VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required tests are; CERF eye examination (minimum of 1 year of age), and hip dysplasia radiograph. (See CHIC website: caninehealthinfo.org) Recommend elbow radiograph, patella evaluation, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and cardiac examination.
- Breed name synonyms: Husky, Arctic Husky.
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 23 (8,465 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Siberian Husky Club of America: shca.org
Siberian Husky Club of Canada: siberianhuskyclubofcanada.com
Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain: siberianhuskyclub.com
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