The loyal dog, Hachiko, is the most famous dog in Japan. Like all Akitas, his devotion knew no bounds.
The Akita's Japanese ancestors were used for guarding and big game hunting. In the 1930s they were officially designated a Japanese treasure. The loyal dog, Hachiko, met his owner's return train daily for nine years after his owner died at work. He became a national hero for his loyalty.
After World War II, only about 20 Akitas were left in Japan. Only with a huge effort was the breed saved. Helen Keller brought the first Akita to America.
The Akita is loyal to family, but suspicious of strangers. He is courageous and protective. But he also has a fun side, and loves to play with tough toys.
The Akita's large size brings some special concerns, including joint problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Feeding a diet formulated for large breed puppies during the first year of life will help decrease the possibility of hip dysplasia, and probably elbow dysplasia. These diets allow the puppy to grow more slowly, while still achieving the same adult size---just a little later. Joint supplements, such as glucosamine chondroitin, are also vital for protecting joint health throughout life.
Be careful to keep your adult Akita at a lean weight. Too much weight stresses the joints, and can worsen arthritic changes. You may need to feed a low-calorie food. When dieting a dog, you must make sure he gets enough vitamins. We suggest supplementing with a good multi-vitamin, probiotics and, if the coat is dry, a fatty-acid supplement.
One of the Akita's largest concerns is bloat or gastric torsion, a condition in which the gases accumulate in the stomach and can't escape. The stomach may then twist, totally cutting off any ability for anything to leave the stomach. The dog's stomach enlarges as gases continue to accumulate, and the dog is restless and tries unsuccessfully to vomit. This is an extreme emergency that needs immediate veterinary attention to save the dog. Nobody knows exactly how to prevent it, but many veterinarians advocate feeding an anti-gas pill with every meal.
Brush once a week to remove dead hair. During shedding season, use a tool that pulls out undercoat. You may have to use it every day for a couple of weeks!
Like all Northern breeds, Akitas can develop a coat problem related to insufficient levels of zinc in the diet. Adding a multi-vitamin daily may be helpful in some cases. Use a shampoo designed to build body. A whitening shampoo can help bring out the coat's highlights.
As Akitas age, they may form calluses on their elbows. Encourage your dog to rest on soft surfaces (even carpeting can be abrasive, but is still better than hard tile). Using a cooling blanket or simply placing a fan so it blows over a soft cushion can help steer him to the better surface. Moisturizers applied to the calloused area can also help, as can wrapping the elbows with padding.
Brush the teeth daily.
Clip the nails every two weeks or so using a heavy-duty dog nail clipper.
Akitas may be affected by age-related physical changes, such as arthritis, at an earlier age compared to smaller dogs. Besides any intervention recommended by your veterinarian, a soft cushion to lie on and glucosamine chondroitin supplements added to the diet can help soothe aching joints, and keep him going strong!