Their uncanny resemblance with the wild wolves of the north is one of the striking features of the Alaskan malamute breed. But don’t be deceived because, unlike wolves, the Alaskan Malamute is a very sweet, gentle, loyal, and caring dog.
Above all else, they are known as the king among hardworking dogs because they always devote their all, whether it is for a chore, play, or exercise. They couldn’t just resist the urge to be productive. In this article, we’ll discuss more of the wonderful things about Alaskan Malamute, including their health profile, personality, and maintenance.
About the Alaskan Malamute – Brief History
Alaskan Malamutes are believed to have existed approximately 30,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. The breed originated from Alaska, where they served as useful dogs of the Arctic’s Mahlemut tribe. They were trained to hunt seals, scare off bears, and pull heavy sleds.
The Alaskan Malamute’s importance became even more prominent during the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1800s. Outsiders who were dragged to Alaska by the discovery of gold became fond of native Alaskan sled dogs like Husky and Malamute because of their stamina, strength, and power. They tried to experiment by crossing Malamutes and Husky with other canine breeds. The practice threatened the existence of traditional Malamute. However, thanks to the Malamute’s genetics, the breed soon recovered some of its original features.
Humans indeed love having Malamutes as companions. The breed was even selected as part of search and rescue groups during World War II. They also accompanied Admiral Byrd in his expedition to the South Pole. Two years after the Byrd Expedition, the American Kennel Club (AKC) finally recognized Alaskan Malamutes as an official breed in 1935.
Appearance and Physique
The most striking quality of Alaskan Malamute is its wolf-like appearance. Its head has a broad and muscular shape marked by brown/black/gray caps. These markings extend to the nape, back, legs, and body of the dog.
Moreover, purebred Malamutes have brown, almond-shaped eyes contrary to the blue-eyed Malamutes circling on the internet. This is one of the common misconceptions about this breed. Their ears, on the other hand, must appear small and perked-up. Alaskan Malamutes have a great diversity in color. Some also possess the Agouti gene that can give birth to unique coat patterns. They can appear in:
- Light grey
- Dark grey
- Dark brown
Malamutes developed a large and muscular body covered in two layers of coat – thick undercoat and exterior hair — given their upbringing and nature.
Males are typically larger than females. They can grow approximately 25 inches in height and weigh about 85 pounds. Females usually grow to about 23 inches tall and weigh slightly less at around 75 pounds. However, it’s not uncommon for well-built Alaskan Malamutes to reach over 100 pounds!
Character and Behavior
Alaskan malamutes are amazing human companions. They are among the best-recommended dogs for the family since they bond extremely well with their owners and even with children.
Not only that, but they are quick to make friends with strangers, although this makes them less of a guard dog. For them, anyone who steps through the door is a member of the “pack” or family.
Not only are they extremely friendly, but they are also gentle, affectionate, and loyal. Instead of barking, they often make crooning sounds to communicate with their owners and other dogs.
If you watch them around, you’ll notice that Alaskan Malamutes are always pumped up with energy. They love running and playing around. Owners who live in small apartments must make time to take their malamutes out to play and exercise. If not, Malamutes can exhibit some destructive behavior due to boredom and stiffness.
As for intelligence, Alaskan Malamutes are one of the smartest breeds. However, their intelligence can lead to stubborn behaviors. They tend to assume the leadership role as if they were living in a pack. Never fret because, with correct training, Malamutes can become the most obedient dogs and your best friend.
Alaskan Malamute Health
Overall, Alaskan Malamutes are healthy dogs whose life span can go up to 10-12 years. However, they are still at risk of certain medical conditions, both genetic and acquired. By knowing these conditions, you can prevent the onset of the disease by doing the appropriate preventive measures, including changes in nutrition, practice, and lifestyle. Here are some of the most common issues that can occur in Alaskan Malamutes:
Roughly 80% of pet animals experience dental problems. The most common dental issue among Malamutes is plaque, which is characterized as the accumulation of bacteria, blood, and saliva. If left untreated, plaque can develop into dental tartar. Dental conditions can damage both the teeth and the gums of your dog.
Aside from a potential loss of teeth, secondary infections are also possible since the bacteria can also enter the dog’s bloodstream after destroying the gums. As a result, the internal organs like the liver, heart, kidneys, and even brain can be put at a major risk.
Prevention: You can maintain good oral health by brushing the teeth of your Malamute with vet-approved toothpaste. Try to do it multiples times a week. You can also give your dog dental chews that can effectively remove a build-up of plaque.
The environment is teeming with potentially harmful organisms that pose some serious threats to your Alaskan Malamute’s health. They are susceptible to bacterial, fungal, and infections like canine influenza, parvovirus, rabies, and distemper.
Prevention: The most effective way to prevent these diseases from infecting your Alaskan Malamute is through vaccination.
Obesity is a serious health condition that affects dogs across the world. Statistics reveal that approximately 56% of dogs in the U.S. are obese. Dogs weighing 10% more than their normal weight range for their breed are considered obese. Alaskan Malamutes (or any large breed) are more susceptible to becoming overweight.
Obesity exposes dogs to more serious conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, shortened lifespans, or other respiratory issues. According to vets, the excess fats stored in the body fill up the blood vessels resulting. Not only that, but obesity can cause further stress leading to the development of more serious diseases.
Prevention: Keep your Malamute on a strict diet and exercise regimen to better maintain their health and wellness. Remember not to overfeed or give them too many snacks!
Alaskan Malamutes can be vulnerable to parasitic organisms. Canine parasites are categorized into three main groups – external, internal, and intestinal parasites.
External parasites are comprised of fleas, ticks, and ear mites. They inhabit the skin of the dog while feeding on their blood. These parasites, especially ticks, can cause severe medical conditions like Lyme disease. They can make your dogs extremely uncomfortable and miserable.
On the other hand, internal parasites, such as heartworms, can result in heart failure. Heartworms can enter a dog’s bloodstream through a mosquito bite. The parasites will stay in the heart, where they will mature. Ultimately, the infestation will result in inflammation, disrupting the normal functions of the heart.
The last group of parasites is intestinal parasites, such as hookworms, ringworms, roundworms, tapeworms, and whipworms. They often come from contaminated soil, water, and food. Some of their symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and malnutrition.
Prevention: The best way to keep off these parasites from your Alaskan Malamute is by cleaning their surroundings regularly and by making sure that their food and treats are prepared safely.\
Spay or Neuter
All fur parents must decide whether or not to neuter or spay their dogs. Vets highly recommend having your Alaskan Malamutes neutered or spayed. Not only will it prevent unwanted pregnancy and fathering of puppies, but the surgical procedure also entails many health benefits. The success rate of neutering/spaying is around 99%.
Moreover, neutering and spaying allow vets to check their dogs for potential and existing diseases that remain undiagnosed. Ultimately, this results in immediate and more effective treatment for your dogs.
Related: How Much Does It Cost to Neuter a Dog
Genetic Predispositions for Alaskan Malamutes
Large-sized canine breeds like Alaskan Malamutes are extremely vulnerable to a genetic condition called hip dysplasia. This condition is characterized by the abnormal growth of the hip ball and socket during puppyhood. As a result, the ball and socket of the joint do not fit well together, causing loss of function and even lameness.
Hip dysplasia in dogs can be observed as early as four months after birth. The symptoms usually include:
- Low activity
- Decreased range of motion
- Poor athleticism
- Enlargement of the shoulder muscles
The treatment for this condition depends on the severity of the disease. The usual approach includes physical therapy, supplements, weight management, regular exercise, and medications. In worst cases, your dog might need surgical procedures to fix the joint.
Though the Alaskan Malamute is a big and muscular breed, dwarfism can still affect a few dogs. Dwarfism has become a popular trend in breeding because many people have become fond of miniature or dwarfed versions of larger dogs.
However, dwarfism is a hereditary disorder caused by autosomal recessive alleles. The most notable effects of this condition are shortening of the legs, abnormal bone shape, and a seemingly larger head. Other than these physical deformities, dwarfism is not considered life-threatening.
Bloat is a dangerous medical condition with a 30% morbidity rate. Larger dogs are more prone to canine bloating, also called Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV).
This life-threatening condition occurs when gas enters and fills up the dog’s stomach, making it swollen or distended. As a result, the stomach twists or rotates, leaving the dog unable to expel the gas. Consequently, the blood cannot enter any part of the stomach, depriving the abdominal cells of the much-needed oxygen and nutrients.
Bloat can quickly rupture the stomach, and in a matter of hours, your dog can die from cardiac arrest and peritonitis.
Vets and researchers have yet to find out the definite cause of stomach bloating in dogs. However, it is believed that genetics, diet, and stress play significant roles in the occurrence of the disease.
It is important to note that canine bloating happens randomly and rapidly. The notable symptoms are enlarged belly, drooling, restlessness, painful sounds, vomiting, and collapsing. The treatment for GDV is often done with surgical procedures and meds.
Peripheral neuropathy or polyneuropathies is a neurological disorder that reduces or eliminates the function of peripheral nerves in dogs. The peripheral nerves play vital roles in regulating involuntary functions like digestion, motor skills, and the transmittal of sensory information to the brain and spinal cord. According to studies, the disease is caused by recessive genes received from both parents.
This condition becomes evident at around 3-9 months of age. Malamutes inflicted with the hereditary disease will experience muscular atrophy, tremors, poor reflexes, gait abnormality, weak stamina, lethargy, weight gain, and lacking coordination.
To alleviate the detrimental effects of the disease, vets may prescribe meds, diet modifications, vitamins, and supplements. More severe conditions sometimes require surgery and assistive devices such as a wheelchair.
Canine breeds from northern regions like Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes are prone to hormonal problems, especially thyroid-related conditions. And the most prevalent hormonal disorder among Malamutes is hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is a health condition that arises when thyroid glands do not produce enough thyroid hormone. This is detrimental because thyroid hormones play major importance in metabolism, reproduction, growth, and development.
Malamutes with hypothyroidism experience hair loss, dry skin, weight gain, mental disorders, poor athleticism, behavioral change, and skin diseases. Veterinarians will most likely prescribe your Malamute with thyroid medication.
Alaskan Malamutes are no aliens to inherited and acquired eye problems. Although these conditions are not fatal, they can be a major inconvenience to the daily life of your Malamute.
The two most prevalent eye disorders among Alaskan Malamutes are Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) and cataracts. PRA is a genetic disease that results from defective genes. Early signs of the disease can be displayed by the Malamute 3-5 years after its birth. The symptoms include pupil dilation and night blindness. Since there is no available cure for the disease, Malamutes diagnosed with PRA will soon progress into complete blindness.
Another common eye problem among Alaskan Malamutes is cataracts. This is characterized by the opaqueness of the eyes that leads to blindness. Surgical procedures are often performed to restore loss of sight.
Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada (VKH) Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that affects many of the body’s systems. One of the first problems a Malamute will experience is eye problems, skin depigmentation, and premature whitening of the hair. Loss of sight is also very common.
The treatment for this disorder focuses heavily on preventing (or slowing down) the deterioration of the eyes and regaining vision. However, in some cases, blindness can be permanent.
Diabetes mellitus is a prevalent disease among dogs. And Alaskan malamutes are quite predisposed to the disease. Like in humans, diabetes is a medical condition that arises from the body’s inability to metabolize sugars. Many complications like organ failure (kidney and liver), skin, eye, and cardiovascular disorders are linked to diabetes. Malamutes diagnosed with the disease suffer from drastic weight loss and excessive drinking, eating, and urination.
Diabetes requires lifelong medications such as insulin injections and stricter lifestyle changes concerning diet and physical activities.
Alaskan Malamutes are notably susceptible to a skin infection called zinc-responsive dermatosis. The symptoms include the growth of a red-colored, hairless, crusty, and scaly patch of skin in the face. There can also be some visible lesions around the footpads and nose of the infected dog.
According to vets, the skin infection results either from the insufficient dietary supply of zinc or the inability of the dog’s system to metabolize zinc. The treatment can be zinc supplements or dietary modification.
There are quite a few cardiovascular diseases linked to Alaskan malamutes. Some of them are induced by genetics, diet, nutrition, and overall lifestyle.
Get your Malamute regularly checked for any conditions. Some heart disease symptoms to look out for are irregular heartbeats. You should also get confirmatory tests to get conclusive diagnoses.
Malamutes with heart problems are often prescribed with lifelong medications as well as dietary restrictions. Physical exercise and weight management are also necessary to keep up heart health. In more severe cases, your dog might need surgery.
Alaskan Malamute Diet and Nutrition
Diet and nutrition play vital roles in keeping your Malamutes healthy. The best recommended practice is to feed your dogs appropriate amounts of highly nutritious and well-balanced meals.
The first thing about Alaskan Malamute is that they tend to overeat. If they see something inside their bowl, they will dive in and eat until the food is finished. Overeating is an unhealthy practice since Malamutes are prone to obesity. The best way to avoid this is to set a schedule for their mealtimes and manage their food intake.
The next factor to consider is age. Different ages often have a specific nutritional requirement. Younger puppies will require more proteins, vitamins, and minerals as they continue to grow and develop, while adult dogs may need more carbs to keep up with the energy requirement of being active all day. Older dogs usually eat less because they have less digestive power. However, all meals should remain balanced and nutritious.
Last but not least are the supplements your Malamute consumes. Providing your Malamute with the right supplements can also boost their health. Some of the most recommended are vitamin and protein supplements. It is best to check with your vet before doing so to avoid unwanted complications.
Taking Care of Your Alaskan Malamute at Home
Here are some pointers on how you can care for your beloved Alaskan malamutes:
- Allow your Malamutes to go outside and play. They are very athletic animals, and they need to meet their daily physical activity requirements to remain healthy and happy.
- Alaskan Malamutes are pack dogs. They need company, so it’s better to spend time with them and train them to live inside your home rather than outside.
- Make sure your Alaskan Malamute always has enough water, ventilation, and air conditioning, especially for owners living in slightly hotter regions. Remember that Malamutes are arctic breeds, and they are very sensitive to heat.
- Brush your dog’s teeth at least three times a week to prevent dental disorders.
- Cut their nails once or twice a month to prevent injuries and tears.
- Regularly check and clean their ears to avoid infection.
- Bathe, groom, and brush them regularly since they have thick coats.
Where to Adopt or Buy an Alaskan Malamute
If you want to be the owner of an Alaskan Malamute, you can check out official and legitimate breeders listed in the American Kennel Club (AKC) marketplace or from the Alaskan Malamute Club of America (AMCA) Breeder Directory.
Adopting an Alaskan Malamute is also an option! People interested in adopting Alaskan Malamutes can ask non-profit organizations like Adopt-A-Pet and Pet Finder that provide new homes for abandoned animals.
More About Alaskan Malamute
The Alaskan Malamute is a very loyal, sweet, and social breed. Despite their seemingly wolfy appearance, they are nothing but perfect human companions. They are bred to become part of families, get along extremely well with children, and aren’t aggressive and loud. Malamutes can be stubborn, but they are highly trainable. Having one will definitely bring out the best in your life!
Read Next: Siberian Husky Temperament and Personality