Due to poor breeding, many dogs unfortunately suffer from a number of hereditary diseases. Thankfully, the Norwegian Elkhound is not among the breeds that suffer from the largest number of health problems. There is increasing evidence that Elkhounds tend to suffer from a variety of eye problems, such as progressive retinal atrophy (common in a number of dog breeds), lens luxation and glaucoma. Norwegian Elkhound owners should constantly monitor their dogs for changes in behavior or strange behavior that could indicate the onset of any of these issues; it's also a good idea to have your Elkhound's eyes checked regularly by a veterinarian so as to catch these problems early if they do indeed pop up in your dog.
Progressive retinal atrophy in dogs has been recognized for quite a long time and is a common occurrence in many dog breeds besides the Norwegian Elkhound, including the Tibetan Terrier, Labrador and Cocker Spaniel; it frequently results in total blindness. The disease affects the retina, a specialized tissue at the back of the eye composed of photo receptor cells that absorb light and transform it into nerve impulses that are then sent to the brain. There are two types of photo receptors: rods, which work in little light, and cones, which work in bright light and which are responsible for color vision. A dog who suffers from progressive retinal atrophy first loses his night vision, due to the fact that the cones are the first to degenerate; then daytime vision is affected, with pupils dilating greatly, followed at times by cloudy eyes. There are different types of PRA, and they mainly differ in how fast the disease progresses and at what age the disease first appears. Norwegian Elkhounds, along with Irish Setters, Collies and other breeds, have the early onset type, with pups as early as 12 weeks showing signs of the disease; many dogs are completely blind by one to two years of age.
Another eye problem found in Elkhounds is glaucoma; glaucoma essentially results from an excessively high fluid pressure inside the eyeball. This pressure causes damage to the structures inside the eye. This often leads to blindness. There are essentially two types of glaucoma seen in dogs: primary and secondary. The first type is usually found in animals whose genetic makeup have predisposed them to glaucoma; in these animals, the proper draining mechanisms for the eye fluid are absent or deformed. This is the type of glaucoma that Norwegian Elkhounds suffer from. Secondary glaucoma is caused by some other condition, like a tumor or serious eye infection. You need to consistently monitor your dog for signs of glaucoma, such as a dilated pupil, corneal cloudiness an increase in the size of the eye's blood vessels and rubbing of the eye against some surface (this indicates pain), so as to be able to treat the condition and avoid blindness.
Lastly, Elkhounds also suffer from lens luxation; this is a partial or complete detachment of the lens, which is a clear structure in the eye that has the function of focusing light onto the retina. Depending on where the lens falls after it detaches, it can cause glaucoma and/or damage other eye structures; in most cases, the dog will feel severe pain.