American Eskimo Dog

Virginia LaMon, DVM
By Virginia LaMon, DVM on Oct. 10, 2023
white american eskimo dog lounging in green grass

In This Article

General Care

The American Eskimo Dog, or Eskie for short, is recognizable by his striking white or cream double coat. This breed, once known as the American Spitz, comes in three sizes: toy, miniature, and standard.

Despite his name, the American Eskimo Dog is in no way related to the North American Inuit peoples. Rather, the dog is descended from the German Spitz dog breed. Before being brought to the United States by German immigrants, the American Eskimo Dog worked to herd and guard livestock. The American Eskimo Dog became popular as a circus performing breed in the late 1800s, according to the American Eskimo Dog Club of America (AEDCA), before they became primarily family pets.

Caring for an American Eskimo Dog

The American Eskimo Dog is an “intelligent, alert, and friendly” dog, according to the breed standard. Perky and eager to please, Eskies can make wonderful pets for active families and single pet parents alike.

They require a fair amount of combing and brushing at home, but most Eskies don’t need extensive professional grooming. American Eskimo Dogs also require lots of physical exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy and out of trouble.

There are three American Eskimo Dog sizes:

  • Toy Eskies, which stand 9–12 inches tall and weigh 6–10 pounds

  • Miniature Eskies, standing 12–15 inches tall and weighing 10–20 pounds

  • Standard Eskies, at 15–19 inches tall and up to 30 pounds

American Eskimo Dog Health Issues

American Eskimo Dogs are generally healthy and live 13–15 years on average. But like all dogs, Eskies are susceptible to a handful of health conditions.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a group of diseases that causes the breakdown of the photoreceptor cells (rods and cones) on the retina. Initially, the dog may have difficulty seeing in the dark. Over time, the condition will result in blindness. PRA is an inherited disease in most cases, so dogs with this condition should not be bred. There are currently no effective treatments.

Dental Disease

Dental disease is one of the most common conditions seen in dogs as they grow older. Bacterial tartar and plaque lead to inflammation of the tissues around the teeth, and eventually to tooth and bone decay. The best way to prevent dental disease is with daily tooth brushing with a dog-specific toothpaste. Some diets, treats, and chew toys also help to prevent plaque and tartar.

Dental disease is a painful condition that may even affect the health of internal organs. Routine dental cleanings are recommended to evaluate the mouth, remove plaque and tartar, polish teeth to prevent future buildup, and treat or extract teeth that are significantly unhealthy.

Patellar Luxation

The patella (kneecap) is a small bone that normally sits in a groove within the femur at the knee.  In dogs with patellar luxation, the patella moves (luxates) outside of its assigned groove when the knee is flexed. This inappropriate movement can cause discomfort and may lead to arthritis.

When the patella is out of place, your dog may:

  • Skip or bunny-hop

  • Limp on three legs

  • Emit a cracking or popping noise when the knee is bent

  • Have a bowlegged stance

In some cases, the patella returns to its proper alignment on its own, and can be treated with joint supplements or anti-inflammatory medications to control pain and prevent arthritis. In more severe cases, the patella remains out of place and surgery may be recommended.

Hip Dysplasia

While more common in large dogs, hip dysplasia does occur in some smaller dogs, including the American Eskimo Dog. Hip dysplasia is a condition where the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, causing a loose joint. This can be influenced by growth rate, hormones, diet, and exercise. Hip dysplasia can cause degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis. This arthritis leads to pain, limping, and difficulty standing.

Maintaining a lean body condition is important for preventing arthritis. Many vets recommend low-intensity exercise, omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin supplementation for dogs diagnosed with hip dysplasia. In severe cases, surgery may be needed.


American Eskimo Dogs are at higher risk for developing epilepsy when compared with other breeds. Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes seizures.

The diagnosis is made only once other causes of seizures have been eliminated. Veterinarians typically will run tests like bloodwork, urinalysis and X-rays, but may also recommend MRI or CT-scans to look for a definitive cause.  If no abnormalities that cause seizures are found, the dog is diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy.

If the seizures are frequent or severe enough, the veterinarian will prescribe anticonvulsant medications. Monitoring blood work is recommended for many of these medications. Most dogs will stay on these medications indefinitely but still live normal lives—with few seizures—once diagnosed and on treatment.

What To Feed an American Eskimo Dog

Feeding your Eskie dog a commercial kibble or wet food that’s compliant with the recommendations of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a good way to ensure he receives a complete and balanced diet.

Eskie puppies should be fed a diet formulated specifically for puppies or designated for all life stages. Your vet may recommend a dental-focused diet for adult dogs to help prevent dental disease.

How To Feed an American Eskimo Dog

These dogs do best with two to three measured feedings per day. American Eskimo puppies should eat three to four small meals per day on a regular schedule to help maintain stable blood sugar.  

How Much Should You Feed an American Eskimo Dog?

The recommended caloric intake for an American Eskimo Dog varies from dog to dog. The amount your Eskie should eat depends on his size, metabolism, neuter status, and activity level. The best way to determine portion sizes is by talking to your veterinarian, who can calculate specific caloric needs.

Additionally, the feeding guide labels on dog food packaging provide valuable information for pet parents.

Nutritional Tips for American Eskimo Dogs

American Eskimo Dogs require a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to stay healthy and lean. As long as they eat an AAFCO-approved food, all their nutritional needs will be met.

However, Eskies may benefit from the addition of omega-3 fatty acids into their diet. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in skin and joint supplements, fish oil, and even in some specially formulated dog foods. These fatty acids act as natural anti-inflammatories that support the Eskie’s skin, coat, kidneys, joints, and heart.

Behavior and Training Tips for American Eskimo Dogs

American Eskimo Dog Personality and Temperament

All dogs need to be socialized as puppies, and this includes American Eskimo Dogs. When socialized early, most Eskies are patient with children who are taught how to interact with small- to medium-size dogs.

Eskies are friendly and attentive, especially toward their pet parents. Some individuals have a lot of energy that needs to be expended through daily walks, playtime, and training.

American Eskimo Dog Behavior

The American Eskimo Dog needs mental and physical stimulation to maintain interest and stay out of trouble. An under-exercised or under-challenged Eskie may become destructive in the home or yard, or begin barking excessively. Some Eskies will develop separation anxiety if left alone too often or for too long.

American Eskimo Dog Training

With their history as circus performers, American Eskimo Dogs have a reputation for being easy to train. These playful dogs learn best when training games and positive reinforcement methods are used.

Once your dog masters the basics of sit, stay, and come, try more complicated tricks to exercise his mind.

Fun Activities for American Eskimo Dogs

American Eskimo Dog Grooming Guide

The American Eskimo Dog has a medium-length double coat that comes in white or cream. Despite all their fluff, Eskies don’t have overly complicated grooming needs.

Skin Care

Because the natural oil in his fur helps repel dirt, an Eskie only needs to be bathed every few months. Bathing him too frequently will strip his coat of its natural vibrance.

Talk to your vet if you notice changes in your dog’s skin, such as flakiness or redness.

Coat Care

The Eskie’s double coat needs to be brushed at least twice a week. During periods of heavy shedding (which happen in the spring and fall), brushing him more frequently may help reduce the amount of fur on your floors.

Eye Care

American Eskimo Dogs don’t need any special eye care. But because they are susceptible to PRA, contact your vet if you notice changes to your dog’s eyes or vision.

Eskies can also develop tear staining in the corners of their eyes. Cleaning the eyes with a gentle eye wash once a day will help prevent any staining.

Ear Care

Cleaning your dog’s ears every two weeks helps prevent ear infections. If debris or redness develops, visit your veterinarian.

Considerations for Pet Parents

When given proper care, exercise, and early socialization, the American Eskimo Dog can be a wonderful family pet and fit in with kids, other animals, and single adults alike. They are fast learners and eager to please their humans—just be sure to make training sessions fun for them.

They do require regular at-home brushing, but you won’t feel the strain on your wallet; Eskies don’t normally need professional grooming.

American Eskimo Dog FAQs

Do American Eskimo Dogs make good pets?

The American Eskimo Dog is a good pet for the active family or individual. Their brain and body needs a lot of activity to keep them out of trouble.

Do American Eskimo Dogs bark a lot?

Some American Eskimos Dogs can bark to excess. Keeping them mentally stimulated and well-exercised will help mitigate the barking.

What is the difference between American Eskimo Dogs vs. Samoyeds?

There are several differences between the American Eskimo Dog and the Samoyed. Samoyeds are about twice as big as American Eskimo Dogs, reaching weights of up to 65 pounds. And while both have medium-to-long white coats, the Samoyed’s fur is thicker.

Featured Image: Getty/blendshapes

Virginia LaMon, DVM


Virginia LaMon, DVM


Dr. Virginia LaMon graduated from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. She completed her clinical year at Auburn...

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