Health Matters

The Keeshond is a generally healthy dog with an average life span of 10 – 13 years although many have lived well into their teens. As with all dogs cancer does seem to be a major cause of death in the dog over the age of ten years. Research both in the UK and USA has shown that 40% of dogs (irrespective of breed) over the age of 10 years will die of some form of cancer.           

Some of the main health concerns that are prevalent in the breed across the world are:


Allergies are a common ailment in dogs, and the Keeshond is no exception. There are three main types of allergies: food allergies, which are treated by eliminating certain foods from the dog's diet; contact allergies, which are caused by a reaction to a topical substance such as bedding, flea powders, dog shampoos, and other chemicals; and inhalant allergies, which are caused by airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, and mildew. Treatment varies according to the cause and may include dietary restrictions, medications, and environmental changes.

Primary Hyperthyroidism (PHPT)

Canine primary hyperparathyroidism is a late onset disease which causes a dog’s blood calcium to abnormally increase. The condition is considered to be rare in dogs and most cases are sporadic, do not run in families and may just represent spontaneous change in the parathyroid glands. Research in the USA as long ago as the 1980′s has shown that the Keeshond has a predisposition.

The four rice sized parathyroid glands are situated on each side of the thyroid gland and are responsible for secreting a hormone that regulates the calcium phosphorous ratio in the body. The parathyroid glands are not functionally related to the thyroid, merely adjacent to them. The condition known as primary hyperparathyroidism occurs when small, usually benign tumours grow on one or more of the glands. This in turn causes them to become overactive and secrete too much parathyroid hormone (PTH, parathormone) into the bloodstream. The result of this action is that the calcium levels in the blood rise and hypercalcaemia results.

Undetected this situation will cause calcium to be drawn from the bones and in extreme cases can lead to spontaneous fractures. Excess calcium is also laid down in the kidneys. The unaffected parathyroid glands become suppressed in an attempt to normalise the calcium levels. If undetected irreversible damage is done to the kidneys and other major organs, leading to death.

The main problem with the disease is that the symptoms shown can be so easily explained by the ageing process. These include polydipsia (increased water consumption) and polyuria (increased urination), an increasing stiffness of gait, lethargy, inappetance, exercise intolerance, vomiting, weakness, eventually the affected dog dies of what seems like old age, except it isn’t necessarily that old. The disease generally has a late onset, 7 years plus (average age 10 years) and dogs can die as young as 8 or 9 years, usually of kidney failure.

Luckily, there are now genetic test for this disease and Keeshonds from breeding programs all over the world have been tested. All Keeshonds at Rymiska have been tested for this disease and all of our dogs have been cleared for the disease with a negative test result or they are negative by descent.  To view the International data base ran by the Keeshond Club of the UK.

Hip Dysplasia (HD)

Hip dysplasia (HD) is a common inherited orthopaedic problem of dogs and a wide number of other mammals. Abnormal development of the structures that make up the hip joint leads to subsequent joint deformity. The hip joint is a "ball and socket" joint: the "ball" (the top part of the thigh bone or femur) fits into a "socket" formed by the pelvis. If there is a loose fit between these bones, and the ligaments which help to hold them together are loose, the ball may slide part way out of the socket (subluxate). With time, as this occurs repeatedly, other degenerative changes in the joint occur (also called osteoarthritis) and your dog will become painful, lame and weak in the hind end. This disease is progressive; that is, it gets worse with time.

So how is it inherited? The mode of inheritance of this disease is polygenic (caused by many different genes). Scientists do not yet know which genes are involved, or how many genes. Factors that can make the disease worse include excess weight, a fast growth rate, and high-calorie or supplemented diets.

To test for the disease, your veterinarian will probably suspect hip dysplasia if your dog has pain or lameness in the hips. Your vet will take x-rays to evaluate the general fit of the femur and pelvis, and to look for any osteoarthritic changes in the hip joint. Usually sedation or anaesthesia is required to ensure proper positioning of the dog.  In order to see how much looseness there is in the hip joint, your veterinarian may take special stress or distraction radiographs.

Because it is virtually impossible to determine the exact genotype, it is difficult to control defects like hip dysplasia that have a polygenic mode of inheritance. The best attempts at control are based on a grading scheme for identification of the defect and a breed policy of recording and publishing the results for as many dogs as possible. Hence, here at Rymiska Keeshond's we are striving to test all of our breeding dogs. 


Keeshonds are known to have a breed predisposition to epilepsy although the incidence of dogs developing epilepsy in the breed is not significantly higher than the canine populations as a whole. Breeders of Keeshond's have been committed to reducing the incidence of seizures in the breed since the 1930’s. The advancement of DNA research has made the possibility of finding the gene/s causing primary epilepsy in the breed a reality. In the UK, they are currently undergoing studies to identify the genes associated with the disease, so that breeders can, like PHPT test for the predisposition and begin eradicating it form breeding stock. 


Keeshond Club of UK website  

'Dogtime' website



Contact Details

Ray, Marilyn & Tracey Parker
Kenthurst, NSW, Australia
Phone : 0438 407 497
Email : [email protected]