What Health Problems Do Alaskan Malamutes Have? A Comprehensive Guide

Alaskan Malamutes are powerful and dignified dogs that are native to the Arctic region. They are known for their strength, endurance, and ability to withstand harsh climates. These dogs were originally bred for pulling heavy sleds and assisting with hunting and transportation in the Alaskan wilderness.


The history of the Alaskan Malamute dates back thousands of years, where they were highly valued by the indigenous Inuit people. They played a vital role in their survival, helping them traverse long distances and carry heavy loads. Over time, Alaskan Malamutes gained popularity outside of Alaska and became recognized as a distinct breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1935.


Alaskan Malamutes are large and strong dogs, with males typically weighing between 75-100 pounds and females ranging from 65-85 pounds. They have a dense double coat that provides insulation and protection from extreme cold weather. Their coats come in a variety of colors, including gray, black, and white, and they have striking facial markings.

Common Health Problems

Despite their robust nature, Alaskan Malamutes are prone to several health problems that potential owners should be aware of. These health issues can vary in severity and may require ongoing management or treatment.

Hip Dysplasia

One of the most common health problems seen in Alaskan Malamutes is hip dysplasia. This condition occurs when the hip joint is improperly formed, leading to joint instability and eventually arthritis. Symptoms may include lameness, difficulty rising or walking, and pain. Regular hip evaluations by a veterinarian and responsible breeding practices can help reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia in the breed.

Elbow Dysplasia

Similar to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia is a developmental condition that affects the elbow joint. It involves abnormal growth and formation of the elbow, leading to joint pain, lameness, and reduced mobility. Elbow dysplasia can be managed through proper nutrition, weight management, exercise, and in some cases, surgical intervention.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an inherited eye disease that affects the retina, leading to progressive vision loss and eventually blindness. Alaskan Malamutes can be genetically tested for PRA to identify carriers and prevent its spread through responsible breeding practices. Regular eye examinations by a veterinary ophthalmologist are also important for early detection and management of PRA.


Hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Symptoms can include weight gain, lethargy, hair loss, and skin issues. Regular blood tests can help diagnose and monitor thyroid function, and lifelong medication can effectively manage this condition in Alaskan Malamutes.

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV)

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus, commonly known as bloat, is a life-threatening condition that can affect deep-chested breeds like the Alaskan Malamute. It occurs when the stomach fills with gas and twists, leading to a blockage of blood flow. Bloat can be caused by eating too quickly, exercising after meals, or other factors. Immediate veterinary intervention is necessary, and preventive measures such as feeding multiple small meals, avoiding strenuous exercise after eating, and using elevated food bowls can help reduce the risk.

Cardiovascular Issues

Alaskan Malamutes have a genetic predisposition to certain cardiovascular conditions, including dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and subaortic stenosis (SAS). These conditions affect the structure and function of the heart, leading to symptoms such as fatigue, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Regular cardiac evaluations by a veterinarian, including echocardiograms, can help detect and manage these conditions.

Inherited Polyneuropathy (IP)

Inherited Polyneuropathy is a neurological disorder that affects the nerves in Alaskan Malamutes. It can cause weakness, muscle atrophy, and difficulty walking. Genetic testing can identify carriers of the disease, and responsible breeding practices can help prevent its spread.


Chondrodysplasia is a skeletal disorder that affects the growth and development of bones and cartilage. It can result in abnormal limb and spine development, leading to mobility issues and pain. While there is no cure for chondrodysplasia, supportive care and management can improve the dog’s quality of life.


Cryptorchidism is a condition where one or both testicles fail to descend into the scrotum. It is more commonly seen in male dogs and can increase the risk of testicular cancer. Surgical intervention is usually necessary to remove the retained testicle.

Autoimmune Disorders

Alaskan Malamutes are prone to certain autoimmune disorders, including autoimmune thyroiditis and lupus. These conditions occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues. Symptoms can vary widely, and treatment typically involves medication to suppress the immune response.

Preventive Measures

While some health problems in Alaskan Malamutes are hereditary, there are several preventive measures that can be taken to minimize the risk or severity of these conditions.

Health Testing

Before breeding Alaskan Malamutes, it is crucial to perform health tests to identify potential genetic issues. This may include hip and elbow evaluations, eye examinations, thyroid function tests, and genetic screening for specific diseases.

Proper Nutrition

Feeding a balanced and nutritious diet is essential for overall health and wellbeing. Alaskan Malamutes should be fed high-quality dog food that meets their specific nutritional needs. Consultation with a veterinarian or canine nutritionist can help determine the best diet for your dog.

Exercise and Weight Management

Regular exercise is important to keep Alaskan Malamutes physically and mentally stimulated. However, it is crucial to strike a balance and avoid excessive exercise, especially in puppies, as it can put strain on growing joints. Maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and exercise can also help prevent obesity-related health issues.

Regular Veterinary Check-ups

Routine veterinary check-ups are vital for early detection and management of health problems. Regular physical examinations, vaccinations, and preventive treatments such as flea and tick control can help keep your Alaskan Malamute healthy.

Proper Socialization

Socializing Alaskan Malamutes from a young age is important to ensure they are comfortable and well-behaved in various situations. Positive experiences with other dogs, people, and different environments can help prevent behavioral issues and promote overall wellbeing.

Managing Health Issues

In the unfortunate event that your Alaskan Malamute develops a health problem, there are various ways to manage and treat these issues.

Treatment Options

The treatment of specific health conditions will depend on the severity and nature of the problem. Treatment options may include medication, dietary modifications, physical therapy, surgery, or a combination of these approaches.


Medication can be prescribed to manage symptoms, slow down disease progression, or alleviate pain. It is important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions regarding medication dosage and administration.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy, such as hydrotherapy or therapeutic exercises, can help improve mobility, reduce pain, and enhance overall physical function in dogs with certain health conditions. Working with a qualified professional can ensure that the therapy is tailored to your Alaskan Malamute’s specific needs.

Surgical Interventions

In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to correct certain health conditions or alleviate pain. This may include procedures such as hip or elbow surgery, tumor removal, or addressing other structural abnormalities.

Pain Management

Managing pain is an important aspect of caring for a dog with health issues. Your veterinarian may recommend pain medications, alternative therapies, or a combination of approaches to keep your Alaskan Malamute comfortable.


While Alaskan Malamutes are generally healthy dogs, they do have a predisposition to certain health problems. By being aware of these issues, taking preventive measures, and providing proper care, you can give your Alaskan Malamute the best chance at a happy and healthy life. Regular veterinary check-ups, responsible breeding practices, and a well-balanced lifestyle are key to managing and mitigating potential health concerns. Remember, with proper care and attention, your Alaskan Malamute can have a long and joyful life by your side.

ThePetFaq Team