Siberian Huskies

Not every breed made its debut in American history with as big a splash as the Siberian Husky. A team of these lean, fast sled dogs, brought from northeastern Asia to Alaska in the early 1900s, proved just what they were made of while taking diphtheria serum to remote Neana from Nome, Alaska, in January of 1925. One of the mushers -- "Wild" Bill Shannon -- took his dogs on a tour of the Lower 48 after the news of the courageous men and dogs spread, and from that day on, the Siberian's popularity was assured. The race became known as the Iditarod, and the dogs which made that first life-saving run became the breed we now know as the Siberian Husky.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

For those looking for a calm dog to settle onto the couch in the evenings and maybe enjoy a short stroll around the block a few times a week, it's hard to imagine a worse match than the Siberian Husky. The same goes for those looking for a devoted companion who lives to please and hangs on his owner's every word.

But for people who want a dog to be a partner and a friend, who will love children, greet guests and get along with other dogs -- and most importantly, for those ready and willing to provide consistent leadership and plenty of vigorous exercise every day -- then sharing life with a Siberian Husky will be a joy.

Although they usually get along well with other dogs, they have a high predatory drive and may consider small animals, including cats, as prey. Those with multi-species households need to be extremely cautious with this breed.

As should be expected from a breed developed for snow country, the Siberian also sheds all year round but especially in the spring and fall. On the up side, his short, thick Northern coat requires very little care, and frequent brushing will lessen the amount of shedding. Siberians are not usually barkers, although they'll often howl, especially to a siren. They are infamous escape artists, and have been known to climb over and dig under some pretty serious fences. Neutering may lessen the sense of wanderlust, but don't count on it: Siberians need to be microchipped and have an ID tag on their collars at all times.

Although working Siberians often live happily in kennel situations because they get lots of exercise, relegating a Siberian to the backyard isn't a great idea. He'll easily become lonely and bored, and that means he'll become destructive. They are world-class diggers when they're not jumping fences and wandering for miles.

Variations of Siberian Huskies

Siberians can have blue eyes, brown eyes, eyes that are a little of both, or one of each color. There is no relationship between eye color and eye disease in this breed.

Health Issues Common to Siberian Huskies

The Siberian is one of the healthier purebred dogs, doubly surprising due to his growing popularity. He has a low but measurable incidence of hip dysplasia, a genetic deformity of the hip socket, which requires costly surgery to correct and often leads to arthritis later on in life. This is a particularly devastating condition for an active running dog like the Siberian.

Siberians can also be affected by three serious eye problems: juvenile cataracts, corneal dystrophy and progressive retinal atrophy. All Siberian Huskies should have their eyes examined by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist once a year.

To protect yourself from the expensive vet bills associated with these conditions, you'll want to purchase pet insurance for your Siberian Husky before they show symptoms or are diagnosed.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Hip Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$6,000
Entropion High $300-$1,500
Corneal Dystrophy High $300-$3,000
Deafness Medium $100-$300
Follicular Dysplasia High $200-$500
Uveodermatologic Syndrome High $1,000-$3,000

6 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Siberian Husky Puppy

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you'll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Look for a breeder who is a member in good standing of the Siberian Husky Club of America, and who has agreed to abide by its Code of Ethics, which specifically prohibits selling puppies through retail outlets such as pet stores.

Make sure your puppy's breeder provides you with written documentation certifying his parents are free of these eye and hip problems. Their hips should be certified by either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania (PennHip). Eye clearances should be from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF).

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Siberians aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, Siberian can live 12 years or longer, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.

Puppy or adult, take your Siberian to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues. Ask specifically about care of your dog's eyes.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Siberian Huskies

Pet insurance for Siberian Huskies costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Siberian Huskies are much more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance offers full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Siberian Huskies are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Siberian Husky is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.