Caring for Your Faithful Companion
Keeshonden: What a Unique Breed!
Your dog is special! She’s your best friend, companion, and a source of unconditional love. Chances are that you chose her because you like Kees and you expected her to have certain traits that would fit your lifestyle:
- Great with kids and other dogs: a true family pet
- Easily motivated and trainable
- Adaptable to a wide variety of living conditions
- Alert, curious, and busy
- People-oriented and eager to please
- Quirky, entertaining personality
However, no dog is perfect! You may have also noticed these characteristics:
- Can be rambunctious and rowdy, especially as a younger dog
- Needs regular exercise and diet regulation to avoid weight gain
- Has a tendency to bark quite a bit if not trained out of this habit
- Prone to boredom and separation anxiety when left alone and will find trouble
- Can be independent and strong-willed
- Likes to dig
Is it all worth it? Of course! She’s full of personality, and you love her for it! She is a cheerful and amusing companion who enjoys being the center of attention.
The Keeshond originated in Holland in the 1700’s and was bred for companionship and as a watchdog for riverboats, barges, and farms. The Keeshond is known for its lip-curling grin, inspiring the nickname “the smiling dutchman.” In Europe, the Keeshond is called the German Wolfspitz. Keeshonden crave attention and are friendly to all people as well as most pets. The Keeshond has a stable temperament making a playful and lively family companion. Kees are natural watchdogs but rarely aggressive.
Your Keeshond’s Health
We know that because you care so much about your dog, you want to take good care of her. That is why we have summarized the health concerns we will be discussing with you over the life of your Keeshond. By knowing about health concerns specific to Keeshonden, we can tailor a preventive health plan to watch for and hopefully prevent some predictable risks.
Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. There is a general consensus among canine genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners that the conditions we’ve described herein have a significant rate of incidence and/or impact in this breed. That does not mean your dog will have these problems; it just means that she is more at risk than other dogs. We will describe the most common issues seen in Keeshonden to give you an idea of what may come up in her future. Of course, we can’t cover every possibility here, so always check with us if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.
This guide contains general health information important to all canines as well as the most important genetic predispositions for Keeshonden. This information helps you and us together plan for your pet’s unique medical needs. At the end of the booklet, we have also included a description of what you can do at home to keep your Kees looking and feeling her best. You will know what to watch for, and we will all feel better knowing that we’re taking the best possible care of your pal.
General Health Information for your Keeshond
Dental disease is the most common chronic problem in pets, affecting 80% of all dogs by age two. And unfortunately, your Keeshond is more likely than other dogs to have problems with her teeth. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and progresses to infection of the gums and roots of the teeth. If we don’t prevent or treat dental disease, your buddy will lose her teeth and be in danger of damaging her kidneys, liver, heart, and joints. In fact, your Keeshond’s life span may be cut short by one to three years! We’ll clean your dog’s teeth regularly and let you know what you can do at home to keep those pearly whites clean.
Keeshonden are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections — the same ones that all dogs can get — such as parvo, rabies, and distemper. Many of these infections are preventable through vaccination, which we will recommend based on the diseases we see in our area, her age, and other factors.
Obesity can be a significant health problem in Keeshonden. It is a serious disease that may cause or worsen joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease. Though it’s tempting to give your pal food when she looks at you with those soulful eyes, you can “love her to death” with leftover people food and doggie treats. Instead, give her a hug, brush her fur or teeth, play a game with her, or perhaps take her for a walk. She’ll feel better, and so will you!
All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Kees’ body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest her skin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into her system in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your canine friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis. We’ll also recommend preventive medication as necessary to keep her healthy.
Spay or Neuter
One of the best things you can do for your Keeshond is to have her spayed (neutered for males). In females, this means we surgically remove the ovaries and usually the uterus, and in males, it means we surgically remove the testicles. Spaying or neutering decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted puppies. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your dog is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays or a puppy tooth extracted, this would be a good time. This is convenient for you and easy for your friend. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions for common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk. Don’t worry; we’ll discuss the specific problems we will be looking for when the time arrives.
Genetic Predispositions for Keeshonden
Diabetes mellitus is a fairly common disease in dogs. Any breed can be affected, but Kees have an above average incidence. Dogs with diabetes are unable to regulate the metabolism of sugars and require daily insulin injections. It is a serious condition and one that is important to diagnose and treat as early as possible. Symptoms include increased eating, drinking, and urination, along with weight loss. If he shows signs, we will conduct lab tests to determine if he has this condition and discuss treatment options with you. Treatment requires a serious commitment of time and resources. Well regulated diabetic dogs today have the same life expectancy as other canines.
Not many things have as dramatic an impact on your dog’s quality of life as the proper functioning of his eyes. Unfortunately, Keeshonden can inherit or develop a number of different eye conditions, some of which may cause blindness if not treated right away, and most of which can be extremely painful! We will evaluate his eyes at every examination to look for any signs of concern.
Cataracts are a common cause of blindness in older Keeshonden. We’ll watch for the lenses of his eyes to become more opaque—meaning they look cloudy instead of clear—when we examine him. Many dogs adjust well to losing their vision and get along just fine. Surgery to remove cataracts and restore sight may also be an option.
Glaucoma, an eye condition that affects Keeshonden and people too, is an extremely painful disease that rapidly leads to blindness if left untreated. Symptoms include squinting, watery eyes, bluing of the cornea (the clear front part of the eye), and redness in the whites of the eyes. Pain is rarely noticed by pet owners though it is frequently there and can be severe. People who have certain types of glaucoma often report it feels like being stabbed in the eye with an ice pick! Yikes! In advanced cases, the eye may look enlarged or swollen like it’s bulging. We’ll perform his annual glaucoma screening to diagnose and start treatment as early as possible. Glaucoma is a medical emergency. If you see symptoms, don’t wait to call us, go to an emergency clinic!
Distichiasis is a condition caused by extra hairs that grow inside of the eyelid and rub on the surface of the eye. This is one of the most commonly inherited diseases in dogs, and your Keeshond is more likely than other dogs to develop this painful condition. If untreated, these abnormal hairs can cause corneal ulcers and chronic eye pain. Several treatment options are available, and the prognosis is good once the hairs have been permanently removed.
Keeshonden are prone to multiple types of heart disease, which can occur both early and later in life. We’ll listen for heart murmurs and abnormal heart rhythms when we examine your pet. When indicated, we’ll perform an annual heart health check, which may include X-rays, an ECG, or an echocardiogram, depending on your dog’s risk factors. Early detection of heart disease often allows us to treat with medication that usually prolongs your pet’s life for many years. Veterinary dental care and weight control go a long way in preventing heart disease.
Growing Keeshonden can suffer from a painful inflammation of the long bones in the legs, a condition called eosinophilic panosteitis, pano or eo-pan. It usually starts at around six to ten months of age and shifts from leg to leg. We’ll look for this condition upon examination; if your pal exhibits pain when the area is squeezed or palpated, we’ll take X-rays to diagnose the problem. Panosteitis usually causes no permanent damage, but requires pain medication. If your dog has the condition and has developed an abnormal gait to compensate for the sore leg(s), rehabilitation exercises may be required.
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Both hips and elbows are at risk for dysplasia, an inherited disease that causes the joints to develop improperly and results in arthritis. Stiffness in your Keeshond’s elbows or hips may become a problem for him, especially as he matures. You may notice that he begins to show lameness in his legs or has difficulty getting up from lying down. We can treat the arthritis—the sooner the better—to minimize discomfort and pain. We’ll take X-rays of your dog’s bones to identify issues as early as possible. Surgery is sometimes a good option in severe and life-limiting cases. Keep in mind that overweight dogs may develop arthritis years earlier than those of normal weight, causing undue pain and suffering!
Heritable deafness has been noted in some Kees bloodlines, so if his ears are healthy and he’s still ignoring you, a more thorough hearing workup may be needed, including brainwave analysis, if indicated. If you suspect he may not be hearing as well as he should, schedule an appointment with us right away as the problem could also be caused by a severe ear infection.
Some Keeshonden can develop a liver disorder called Copper Hepatopathy. This disease causes toxic levels of copper to build up in his liver, leading to its failure if not treated early. Affected dogs usually show symptoms of jaundice (yellow eyes, gums and skin) by about two to four years of age. He should have liver testing done starting early in life to screen for any abnormalities.
There are several types of inherited bleeding disorders which occur in dogs. They range in severity from very mild to very severe. Many times a pet seems normal until a serious injury occurs or surgery is performed, and then severe bleeding can result. Von Willebrand’s disease is a blood clotting disorder frequently found in Keeshonden. We’ll conduct diagnostic testing for blood clotting time or a specific DNA blood test for Von Willebrand’s disease or other similar disorders to check for this problem before we perform surgery.
Osteosarcoma is the most common bone tumor in dogs. It typically afflicts middle-aged large and giant breeds like your Keeshond. Early symptoms include lameness and leg pain. Early detection is critical! Call right away if you notice that your dog is limping. This is a painful and aggressive tumor, and the sooner it is removed, the better his prognosis.
Keeshonden are prone to renal dysplasia, a genetic form of kidney disease affecting your dog as early as puppyhood. Signs include excessive drinking of water and urine production; poor appetite or weight loss; and eventually vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog shows signs of this disease, we’ll perform diagnostic tests to be sure. Treatment may include medication, fluid therapy, and a special diet.
Multiple Skin Problems
Your Kees is susceptible to different kinds of skin infections and diseases. One of them is caused by yeast (Malassezia dermatitis). When it infects the ears, it causes itching, redness, and an accumulation of brown waxy discharge. On the skin, it leads to greasy, hairless areas, especially on the neck and throat, with a characteristic odor. Another common skin disease called seborrhea can cause dry, flaky skin or greasy, oily skin. These diseases make your pet itchy and uncomfortable. Bathing with special shampoos and rinses may be helpful, and we’ll treat any underlying problems such as allergies. The earlier you call to have his skin problems checked, the less likely it is that you will end up caring for an itchy, bald, smelly dog.
In humans, an allergy to pollen, mold, or dust makes people sneeze and their eyes itch. In dogs, rather than sneeze, allergies make their skin itchy. We call this skin allergy “atopy”, and Keeshonden often have it. Commonly, the feet, belly, folds of the skin, and ears are most affected. Symptoms typically start between the ages of one and three and can get worse every year. Licking the paws, rubbing the face, and frequent ear infections are the most common signs. The good news is that there are many treatment options available for this condition.
Each time a female goes through her heat cycle, her hormones cause a growth of nourishing cells to line the walls of the uterus. This becomes a lush environment for the development of a raging bacterial infection that can progress rapidly into a critical emergency that may require surgery. Pyometra can happen to any female dog, but it seems to be more common in Keeshonden. If you don’t plan to use your friend as a breeding animal, a spay/neuter procedure is best for health!
Keeshonden are prone to a common condition called hypothyroidism in which the body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. Signs can include dry skin and coat, hair loss, susceptibility to other skin diseases, weight gain, fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes. We’ll conduct a blood screening test annually to screen for the disease. Treatment is usually simple: replacement hormones given in the form of a pill.
The skeleton (all bones in the body) contains approximately 98% of total amount of calcium in the entire body. The remaining 2% circulates throughout the body. Older Keeshonden are prone to overproduction of a hormone called Parathyroid Hormone (PTH). Symptoms of this condition are serious and include muscle weakness, lethargy, excessive drinking and urinating, bladder stones, poor appetite, weight loss, constipation and vomiting. Periodic screening blood tests are recommended and may show that the calcium level in the blood is dangerously high before symptoms appear. A DNA test is available to screen for the PHPT gene that causes the disease.
Teeth abnormalities are often genetically induced, and are relatively common in dogs. Oligodontia is a condition where only a few teeth are present and is often found in Keeshonden. We want to keep his teeth healthy so we will be watching your puppy’s developing teeth closely.
Taking Care of Your Keeshond at Home
Much of what you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is common sense, just like it is for people. Watch her diet, make sure she gets plenty of exercise, regularly brush her teeth and coat, and call us or a pet emergency hospital when something seems unusual (see “What to Watch For” below). Be sure to adhere to the schedule of examinations and vaccinations that we recommend for her. This is when we’ll give her the necessary “check-ups” and test for diseases and conditions that are common in Keeshonden. Another very important step in caring for your pet is signing up for pet health insurance. There will certainly be medical tests and procedures she will need throughout her life and pet health insurance will help you cover those costs.
Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise
Build her routine care into your schedule to help your Kees live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine.
- Supervise your pet as you would a toddler. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will keep her out of trouble and away from objects she shouldn’t put in her mouth.
- She needs a thorough brushing at least weekly most of the year. Twice a year she blows her coat and loses crazy amounts of hair; daily brushing is recommended during this time.
- Keeshonden generally have good teeth, and you can keep them perfect by brushing them at least twice a week!
- Clean her ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—we’ll show you how!
- She’s a smart dog with lots of energy, so keep her mind and body active, or she’ll get bored. That’s when the naughty stuff starts.
- She can be sensitive to warm temperatures; avoid any prolonged exposure and be very alert to the signs of heat stress.
- She is highly intelligent and can be taught to perform a variety of tricks to keep her mentally stimulated.
- Keep your dog’s diet consistent and don’t give her people food.
- Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for her age.
- Exercise your dog regularly, but don’t overdo it at first.
What to Watch For
Any abnormal symptom could be a sign of serious disease, or it could just be a minor or temporary problem. The important thing is to be able to tell when to seek veterinary help, and how urgently. Many diseases cause dogs to have a characteristic combination of symptoms, which together can be a clear signal that your Keeshond needs help.
Give us a call for an appointment if you notice any of these types of signs:
- Change in appetite or water consumption
- Tartar build-up, bad breath, red gums, or broken teeth
- Itchy skin (scratching, chewing, or licking), hair loss
- Lethargy, mental dullness, or excessive sleeping
- Fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes
Seek medical care immediately if you notice any of these types of signs:
- Scratching or shaking the head, tender ears, or ear discharge
- Inability or straining to urinate; discolored urine
- Cloudiness, redness, itching, or any other abnormality involving the eyes
- Increased hunger and thirst, weight loss
- Coughing, exercise intolerance, rapid breathing at rest
- General reluctance to run or play
- Easily startled, no reaction to unseen sounds
- Depression, poor appetite, yellowing of the eyes
- Dull coat, hair loss, sluggish, weight gain
- Leg stiffness, reluctance to rise, sit, use stairs, run, jump, or “bunny hopping”
Partners in Health Care
DNA testing is a rapidly advancing field with new tests constantly emerging to help in the diagnosis of inherited diseases before they can become a problem for your friend. For the most up-to-date information on DNA and other screening tests available for your pal, visit www.Genesis4Pets.com.
Your Keeshond counts on you to take good care of her, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that she lives a long and healthy life. Our goal is to provide the best health care possible: health care that’s based on her breed, lifestyle, and age. Please contact us when you have questions or concerns.
- Ackerman L. The Genetic Connection: A Guide to Health Problems in Purebred Dogs. Second edition. AAHA Press; 2011.
- Bell JS, Cavanagh KE, Tilley LP, Smith FW. Veterinary medical guide to dog and cat breeds. Jackson, Wyoming. Teton New Media; 2012.
- Gough A, Thomas A. Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats. 2nd Edition. Wiley-Blackwell; 2010.
- Crook A, Dawson S, Cote E, MacDonald S, Berry J. Canine Inherited Disorders Database [Internet]. University of Prince Edward Island. 2011. [cited 2013 Apr 11]. Available from: http://ic.upei.ca/cidd/breed/keeshond
- Breed Specific Health Concerns [Internet]. American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, Inc. [cited 2013 Apr 11]. Available from: http://www.akcchf.org/canine-health/breed-specific-concerns/?breed=keeshond
17 to 18 inches
55 to 66 pounds
A delightful little companion.
Loyal, alert and protective.
Intelligent but quite stubborn.
The Keeshond is named after Cornelis “Kees” de Gyselaer, the leader of the Dutch rebels who rose up against the House of Orange in the late 18th century. The King used the Pug as his symbol, so de Gyselaer chose his own dog to be the symbol of the revolution. The dog became known as the dog of Kees or Keeshond. It made the Keeshond famous. Of course, being the symbol of a political movement can have its drawbacks, too. When the monarchy regained power, the Keeshond disappeared from the cities. A few of the barge captains kept it as a guard dog, and as a result it got its other name, the Dutch Barge Dog. The present day Keeshond was first shown at a dog show in Holland in 1891. A breed standard was drawn up in 1933 in its native land, but the American Kennel Club (AKC) did not approve one until 1949.
Typical Northern sled-dog type of medium size.
The fairly long, plume tail is tightly curled over the back and is not altered. A double curl is most desirable.
The high set ears are small and erect. They are not altered.
The bushy, double coat consists of a thick, downy undercoat and a long, straight outercoat that stands well away from the body.
Reflecting the dog’s oft used descriptive name, Wolf Spitz, the Keeshond is gray. It sports a pale gray or cream undercoat with an outercoat that is a mixture of gray and black hairs.
The neck has a heavy ruff of longer hair and the long feathering on the legs resembles britches.
The feet and face have short soft hair.
Characteristic dark markings frame the face with spectacles.
Requires frequent brushing.
Seasonal shedding may overwhelm the owner.
Health and Wellness
Tetralogy of Fallot.
Ventricular septal defect.
What You Should Know
Pronounce the name kayshond.
The plural of Keeshond is Keeshonden, utilizing the Dutch form.
Puppies are born black, or seal brown, and fade to white by four months.
The wolf markings may take 18 months to develop.