The Reality Of Living With A Sick Husky

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In today’s article I am not going talk about what to feed your Husky or how to tame your wild beast. Today I am going to talk about something that I am unfortunately all too familiar with, the unseen and seldom talked about emotional price that is paid for living with and caring for a sick Snow Dog.

Far beyond the monetary cost of caring for a sick dog, there is another cost associated with this issue; the immeasurable cost of heartache, sorrow, and angst of watching a dog that you love suffer and struggle. I am also going to talk about how you can help reduce the chances of this being your fate as a dog owner.

While it is true that not all dog illness are a result of bad breeding or genetics, the vast majority of them are just that. Sadly we will never have any control over the actions and behaviours of the people who knowingly breed poor quality dogs or lack the specialized knowledge of what is required to produce healthy dogs. We only have control over our own thoughts, choices, and behaviours. So what then, if anything, can we do about people who choose to produce poor quality dogs? We can be informed and know what to look for in a good quality dog and breeder.

Think With Head And Not With Your Heart

Regardless if you are purchasing a dog from a breeder or adopting a second chance dog, you are agreeing to meet all of these dog’s needs, including all of its health needs.

When you adopt a dog, you are taking on a dog “as is”. You really do not get a choice about the health or genetics of the dog. I shudder to think how often dogs end up shelters once owners realize that their dog has health issues.

But when you buy from a breeder, you do have a choice. I am dismayed at the number of people who overlook the signs of a terrible breeder and purchase their dog from them anyway. It does not matter how badly you want a dog, a dog from this kind of breeder may not bring you pleasure and joy. It may instead bring you a dog that either has medical problems or emotional and behavioural problems.

You have a choice about not setting yourself up for a lifelong series of problems with this dog. Think with your head and not with your heart.

Signs That You Should Walk Away From The Purchase

The Breeder Will Not Let You Inspect The Premises

This is a big give away that he has something to hide. Yes, he has a right to ask that you make an appointment to visit his place, but as a consumer of his product, you have the right to see where your dog is coming from. The mother and the puppies should be on site. Ideally, you should be able to view the father too. If the breeder comes up with constant excuses or continually stalls about the visit, assume he has something to hide and pass on this purchase.

The Parents Have Bad Temperaments

The temperament of your puppy is going to be influenced greatly by the genetics and temperament of the parent dogs. If the parents are timid, fearful, aggressive. or unapproachable, pass on this purchase unless you want to spend a lot of your time dealing with your dog who is very likely going to have emotional issues surrounding being social and approachable.

The Puppies Are Kept In Filthy Conditions

I shook my head in dismay when I read just the other day that someone (in an a Facebook group) was asking what she can wash her puppy with because when they brought the puppy home it was covered in dried excrement and stank to the high heavens. This was not due to something that happened on the trip home, this was due to the way that these puppies were housed with the breeder.

Upon seeing the lack of hygiene and care that these puppies received, why on earth would someone go through with this purchase? How healthy do you think this dog is going to be? Puppies reared in filthy conditions are likely going to full of worms and GI tract infestations of bacteria borne illnesses associated with drinking polluted water and eating feces contaminated food. If you see filthy puppies and filthy housing conditions, pass on this deal.

Ask To See A Record Of How Often A Female Has Been Bred

When a female is bred often and over long periods of time, this causes the quality of the puppies to suffer. Your puppy is only going to be as healthy as the mother is healthy. Having only one female likely means that this dog is being bred over and over again. Walk away and pass on this deal.

If A Breeder Has Lots Of Dogs And Lots Of Litters On The Ground At The Same Time

Far too often this has all the earmarks of commercial breeder who cranks out a supply of puppies to sell. Another name for this is called a Puppy Mill. These breeders supply pet stores and online “stores” with puppies.

These parent dogs are usually house in cramped quarters and have no social interaction with the outside world. The quality of puppies these dogs produce are deplorable. If you see this, walk away from the deal.

Buying A Dog Sight Unseen From An Online Breeder

There is no question that we live in an online world. Buying goods online is commonplace these days. But a dog is not toaster, a TV, or a handbag. It is a living animal and you will be assuming responsibility for its care. When you buy a dog over the internet, sight unseen, you are taking the breeder’s word for everything.

That is not to say that there are not good and ethical breeders who also sell dogs online. There are wonderful breeders who use the internet to help reach a wider base of consumers for the goods they produce.

No, this is about the unethical breeder who hides behind the anonymity of the internet and produces horrible quality dogs to sell to unsuspecting buyers. Unless there is way for you to verify the quality of the product that a breeder produces or unless you can plan trip to visit the premises before you agree to buy a dog, walk away from a sight unseen deal.

Getting A “Deal” On A Dog That Some Novice Breeds In Their Backyard

It does not matter how good your “deal” is, dogs, especially Huskies and Malamutes, need to come from clean lines and from breeders who know and understand how to produce health dogs. Far too many people think that easy money can be made from tossing a male and female dog together and allowing them to procreate.

These dog breeders do not seem to give a second thought to the expense, anguish, or heartache that will be caused to the unsuspecting person who buys their badly produced dog. No matter how much money you think that you are saving yourself by agreeing to buy a “good deal dog” it will not prove to be such a good deal when you find yourself having to pay for endless vet visits because you have a sickly dog.

Bottom Line

If no one bought dogs produced in Puppy Mills, there would be no market for their product.

If no one purchased dogs from hack breeders who keep their dogs in deplorable conditions, then there would be no market for them to sell their poor quality dogs.

People who purchase dogs from questionable breeders help keep them in business.

While we don’t have any control over people who choose to be bad breeders, we do have a choice about not buying their horribly bred puppies. Please, be aware and informed. Do not unwittingly support these businesses. Do not set yourself up for everything that comes along with caring for a sick dog.

The Reality Of Life With A Sick Dog

Not being well informed or not walking away from a bad deal even when your instincts told you something was not right will cost you dearly in the end. Even if a breeder has a replacement policy for sick dogs, the reality is that you have fallen in love and bonded with this dog. How easy do you think it is going to be to return him to the breeder? It’s not like returning a pair of shoes after discovering that they hurt your feet.

And if you choose to keep the dog, the reality that becomes your life can be overwhelming. Secondary to the cost associated with owning a sick dog is the emotional toll it takes on you. Worry. Struggle. Heartache. Pain. Feeling helpless to be able to help or fix your dog.

My Dog, Jhett

As some of you may or may not know, I just recently lost my 4 year old Siberian Husky to a cluster of epileptic seizures. Jhett had a cluster of 13 back to back seizures and died in my arms. He started having seizures at only 14 months old. He had 34 seizures in his young life not counting the cluster that took his life.

It was not until Jhett was gone did I realize exactly the true “price” that was paid for sharing my life with a sick dog. Even after Jhett’s passing, for quite a while when I heard nails scrabbling on the floor I leaped up to run and assist with the seizure. When dogs have a seizure they will fall wherever they are at the time. They can get wedged or hurt themselves by banging into a hard immovable object.

Jhett frequently ran to hide in his crate when seizure was about to happen. The confines of a wire crate is not the best place to be having a seizure. I cannot tell you how many times I had to dive in there with him to hold his head so he would not get hurt while he convulsed. I cannot tell you how many times I rushed home after running errands because I was worried about Jhett having a seizure while he was crated.

I cannot tell you how many times I sprung out of bed in the middle of the night because of what sounded like the silent “acking” sound that was made by Jhett having a seizure in the middle of the night. You learn to sleep with one ear open when you have a sick dog. Jhett was gone for a quite a while and I was still living my life in a state of high alert.

Chronic Sickness Isn’t Always A Result Of Bad Breeding

Yesterday I got news that made my heart sink. One of the puppies from Skylar’s litter has had two seizures. The breeder gave the owner my number because of the specialized information that I have regarding Zinc and Seizures in Huskies and Malamutes.

Even though this breeder uses proven clean lines and feeds correctly, we are dealing with a puppy who is having seizures. This is not the first breeding of these two lines. They have never had any epilepsy in their lines before. It happens.

And if it happens to with expert breeders who know what do and to look for imagine how often it happens with negligent, inexperienced, or unethical breeders.

Even though there are more than one reasons that a dog can have seizures, now I am going to have to watch Skylar for seizures too. I have already lived with two dog Snow Dogs that had seizures. I honestly hope we won’t have to go through this again.

Things To Avoid When Buying/Adopting A New Dog

  • If you are thinking about buying a dog sight unseen …. don’t.
  • If you are thinking about buying a dog from bad breeders because you have “always really wanted to own this breed” …. don’t.
  • If you are trying to save yourself money by getting a “deal” from a hack backyard breeder …. don’t.
  • If you think that just because you have a male and female dog that you should breed them … don’t.

By arming yourself with information you can hopefully avoid living the reality of sharing your life with a sick Sled Dog.

As always we welcome your questions, comments, and stories regarding this topic. When we share our stories and our wisdom we may be helping someone who is struggling with their Snow Dog.

Helping all Snow Dogs … one owner at a time.

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21 Comments

  1. I goty sky from other owner who couldn’t keep her (or don’t want to) anymore, she was 8.5 months old. Month before I got her she has run away from him and I believe she have been hit by the car cos one of her back leg been dislocated which have been treated, although it’s not perfect but I didn’t care cos I fall in love with her from the first sight. The problem started after her second season. She had discharge from her vagina. The private vet was playing with antibiotics for a month (cost loads of money). She was very poor on the end and when I took to the charity vet they gave her less than 10% to wake up from the operation cos she had already nasty infection of all the uterus and tissue around. She survive…but after two weeks she started to have problem with esophagus( the side effects of antibiotics and long illness)…that was a very long journey…tube into stomach by which I need to feed her…baloon treatment every week and of course a huge vet bills…not sleeping much, and working hard on trying put back 10kg which she lost but after almost a year of fight we made it, although she can eat just blended food now but you will never say that she almost died twice and she have been sick…no matter what illness you are dealing with please carefully choose the vet cos I almost loose my baby girl.

    • Margit Maxwell on

      Aleksandra, this does sound like this has truly been an ordeal for you both. I am very sorry to hear all that you two have had to go through.

  2. Margit Maxwell on

    Mike you and your wife clearly are human angels to take on the care of these dogs. I too have knowingly taken on the care of sick dog. Our Elkhound was diagnosed with Strangles at only a few days old. Loki had immune system problems for the rest of his 10 years with us. The breeder asked us if I would be willing to take on his care. I agreed. Yes, these dogs need someone to love and care for them too. My issue is with the breeders who create sick dogs and then pass them off to unknowing consumers. It is one thing to willingly take on the care of a sick dog but in these other cases people paid for and expected to receive a dog in sound health. Taking on the care of a sick dog should be a choice that a person makes for themselves, not one that is made for you by a negligent or unscrupulous breeder.

  3. A very good article. But I implore you not to avoid sick dogs. I know it takes more from you than you may want but they are living creatures who only want to love. My wife and I have rescued 22 dogs over the years, at least 4 had known illnesses ranging from epilepsy (or vet called us on that one) to massive tumors, to thyroid disease. Yes it can be heart breaking to bond and lose a friend in a short time, but don’t they deserve to experience a loving home for their last days, weeks, month, or years instead of a shelter? I would not trade anything for the love they shared with us despite the tears we’ve shed at their passing or the money we spent to make them confortable.

  4. My sweet Husky, Skye, came down with Parvo less than 24 hours after we purchased her from a pet shop. They offered to take her back and return our money, but i couldn’t send her back there. She pulled through thanks to excellent care from our Vet. Skye had residual heart and digestive issues from her bout with Parvo. Happily, Skye lived a long and pampered life as my best friend canine. At the ripe old age of 15 years and 7 months, I held her and our family gathered around her as our trusted Vet eased Skye across the Rainbow Bridge. That was 2 years ago this month. I have a huge empty place in my heart and life, but wouldn’t trade or change one second of my life with Skye.

    • So sad to hear about Skye arriving with health issues but wow, she beat the odds with your help and lived a wonderful life. I’m so glad you decided to keep her, as I don’t imagine she would have led that wonderful life without you. x

    • Margit Maxwell on

      Clearly you took excellent care of her and I am sure that she lead a wonderful life after her a dismal start.

    • Hey i want your help as you having husky . I have problem with my husky . He don’t eat alot and before some days he started vomiting and whatever he eats he vomit everything amd don’t eat his dog food eating so less and turning so weak and have kind of cough like dry cough. Can you suggest me some sort of diet or something to keep him healthy and he is only 2 months and i bought him 12 days ago in local shop in china i still live here but i already losed 1 husky last month from same shop had some kennel cough

  5. Great article my. Pup was ill when she came back it’s not just about breeders it should be also about when people come to have a pup they don’t screw it up it’s taken me months to get my girl healthly as well as one the right track for getting better with aggression which she didn’t have before and us at the vets everyday almost for 4 months their can be some good breeders out there it also about everyone who wants a husky cause they think it’s cute not thinking about vet bills that’s the reason we had my girl back cause they couldn’t afford vet bills

  6. my dog mya has seizures and its the scariest thing ever i feel so bad and there is really nothing to do she is on 2 meds and is now pretty controlled but when she does have 1 1 leads to 9 the most but it really breaks my heart and the sleeping with a sick husky yes u rreally do get very aware of everything sorry about ur doggie

  7. Great article. I rescued a six month old Husky last September. We took him to the vet the next day and found out he had liver disease. My baby boy wasn’t even with us a whole year and he passed this July. It was hard taking care of him somedays as he never felt very well. I’m still sad and miss him terribly.

    • That’s devastating. But I’m glad you managed to give your boy a year that he wouldn’t have had without you.

    • Margit Maxwell on

      Hannah, I am so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for being an angel in his life when he needed it the most.

    • Our Husky Beau just turned 4 years old and is suffering from liver disease! He was diagnosed almost a year and a half ago! It has been the hardest thing watching him go from a happy, vibrant dog to having difficulty walking and having accident’s! He still has some good days where he plays a little. He has been a true fighter but we know that with winter coming he won’t have the strength to get in and outside with the harsh Maine winters! He is our hero and we are dreading the day we say good-bye!
      All three of our huskies come from a reputable breeder!

      • Margit Maxwell on

        Jody, I am so sorry to hear of the Beau’s health challenges. Problems can even happen when breeders are reputable. Sadly, it happens. 🙁

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