The Hokkaido seems to suffer from few genetic problems despite having a small gene pool. It is a generally healthy breed, living for up to 15 years, however there are some known health issues which have been seen to affect the breed, outlined below.
CEA is a recessive inherited eye disorder which causes abnormal development of the choroid: a layer of tissue underneath the retina of the eye. As it affects the development of the choroid from the start, it can be detected very early on, however there is no treatment or cure for dogs affected with CEA. In mildly affected dogs, thinning of the choroid is the only visible abnormality and the dog will retain normal vision throughout its life. However a mildly affected dog can still produce severely affected offspring. In severely affected dogs (approx 25% of dogs affected with CEA), there are related problems with the eye that can result in partial or serious loss of vision, although it very rarely leads to total loss of vision.
The CEA/CH genetic test can determine the lifelong genetic status of a dog for this disease. In conjunction with the genetic test, an eye exam by a veterinary ophthalmologist is recommended before 8 - 9 weeks of age, this will determine the severity of affected dogs.
Patellar luxation is a common condition, moreso in smaller dogs (although larger dogs can also be affected). The age at which clinical symptoms are visible is variable, most tend to show signs as puppies or young adults however onset in mature dogs is also common. A characteristic 'skipping' lameness is often seen; where a dog will seem to limp for a few steps before returning to a normal gait. It is primarily of genetic cause and can be diagnosed by physical evaluation or through diagnostic imaging.
There are both surgical and non-surgical treatments for patellar luxation. Non-surgical treatment involves physiotherapy, careful weight-management, hydrotherapy, exercise management and anti-inflammatory medication. Surgical treatments for dogs with intermittent and permanent lameness as a result of the patellar luxation and there are many surgical techniques, all of which are aimed at restoring normal alignment - this can involve the reshaping of bones and reconstruction of surrounding soft tissues.