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Health Concerns GSD Owners need to be aware of

Dr Karen Becker an Honest Discussion about Spaying & Neutering

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German Shepherds are predisposed to a number of joint problems, including:

Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease characterized by an abnormal development of the hip joint. It affects mostly large breed dogs such as the German Shepherds.
The typical sign of hip dysplasia is limping and bunny hopping. The condition can range from “mild” to “severe”. Treatment includes medical therapy and/or surgery.

Elbow dysplasia is a group of congenital elbow diseases in dogs.
Specifically, there is malformation of the elbow joints. Because of the malformation, the bone or cartilage can be damaged, and this starts the process of osteoarthritis. Dogs with elbow dysplasia usually have varying degrees of lameness in the front limbs. Lameness may start as early as 4 months of age

Problems Related to The Circulatory System

Two rather common German Shepherd health problems that are related to the circulatory system are:

Dilated cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart) is the most common cause of canine congestive heart failure in large and giant breed dogs such as German Shepherds. The age of onset is 2 to 5 years.
Dogs with this problem usually tire easily. They are lethargic and may be unwilling to exercise.
In more severe cases, they may cough, have difficulty breathing, bluish gums, and fainting spells.
Treatment is to use medication to:
• improve the force of the heart muscle,
• control arrhythmias,
• prevent fluid buildup in the abdomen and lungs.
Supplements such as vitamin-B, Coenzyme Q-10, taurine and carnitine are also beneficial.

Von Willebrand’s disease is the most common inherited bleeding disorder and affects quite a few dog breeds, including the German Shepherds. A deficiency of a plasma protein called the von Willebrand factor causes the bleeding.
The bleeding in most cases of vWD is mild and lessens with age. But, in severe cases, bleeding may include prolonged nosebleeds, bleeding beneath the skin, and blood in urine and stool.

Nervous System Problems

Two German Shepherd health problems that involve the nervous system include:
Degenerative myelopathy is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system of an affected dog begins to attack its own nerve cells.
It is a slow, progressive, degenerative spinal cord disorder that results in muscle weakness and a loss of coordination in the hind limbs. The age of onset is 5 to 14 years.
Treatment includes the use of medication (although only about 50% of affected dogs can see improvement with medicines), supplements, appropriate exercise and mechanical support.

Epilepsy is a disorder of recurring seizures. This condition can be idiopathic (unknown cause), which is believed to be inherited, or acquired.
German Shepherds are prone to idiopathic epilesy. Seizures (usually of the grand mal type) begin between 6 months and 5 years of age.
Treatment usually involves the use of drugs (e.g. phenobarbital) to control the frequency and severity of the seizures

Bloating is a condition that refers to distention of the stomach due to rapid gas fill-up. Sometimes the bloated stomach rotates and becomes twisted. As a result of the twisting, blood cannot enter the stomach.
Deep-chested, large breed dogs, such as the German Shepherds, are prone to bloat.
Some of the classic symptoms of dog bloat include unproductive attempts to vomit, retching, and enlargement of the stomach. The dog may drool excessively and may appear restless.
Sometimes, the dog may just have gas and simply look uncomfortable, and the stomach may feel a bit tight (but not distended).
If your dog does not show the classic symptoms of bloat but has a tight stomach and cannot vomit or belch, observe your dog closely to see if an emergency trip to the veterinary clinic is necessary.

Perianal Fistulas

Fistulas are chronic lesions in the perianal skin. The cause of these lesions is infection of the skin glands in and around the anus. Initially fistulas look like draining puncture holes.
As the problem progresses, they become open sores and draining tracts. The discharge is foul-smelling.
This problem affects German Shepherd dogs most often probably because of their low-slung, broad-based tail.
Surgery is the most effective treatment of perianal fistulas, although it may leave the dog with a degree of fecal incontinence.
Other treatment options include the use of immune-mediating medications, laser treatments and cryotherapy.


German Shepherds are predisposed to certain types of cancer, such as hemangiosarcoma, which is a soft tissue tumor that arises out of blood vessels, and osteosarcoma, which is the most common form of bone cancer in dogs.

Ocular disorders

Chronic Superficial Keratitis (Pannus) is a disease seen most commonly in the German Shepherds, but does occur in other breeds. A progressive change occurs where blood vessels and scar tissue invade the cornea. This change usually begins in the temporal (outer) or ventral (lower) quadrant of the cornea, and severe cases can involve most or all of the corneal surface area resulting in blindness. With chronicity the affected areas become black with pigmentation.
Atypical Pannus- affects the third eyelids only
Treatment for both forms is topical anti inflammatory drops/ointment and immune modulating topical drops/ointment

Endocrine disorders

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) is caused by a degenerative disease of the pancreas. Signs typically associated with this condition, of hunger, weight loss and diarrhoea, are shown by a GSD of less than 5 years of age, EPI is likely to be suspected. EPI can be confirmed by measurement of blood trypsinogen levels. This is the serum trypsin-like immunoreactivity (TLI) test 

The link below offers DNA screening for you German Shepherd for some of the common diseases we see in German Shepherds.
The disorders listed below have been scientifically established in the selected breed. Genetic research continuously identifies new mutations underlying inherited disorders. Most of the currently known mutations can still be considered breed-specific, while others are more ancient and widespread across breeds. 



Blood Disorders

Canine Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency (CLAD), type III

Blood Disorders

Canine Scott Syndrome, (CSS)

Ocular Disorders

Cone Degeneration, (CD) or Achromatopsia; mutation originally found in German Shepherd Dog

Neurological Disorders

Degenerative Myelopathy, (DM; SOD1A)

Neurological Disorders

Degenerative Myelopathy, (DM; SOD1A)

Blood Disorders

Factor VIII Deficiency or Hemophilia A; mutation originally found in German Shepherd Dog

Blood Disorders

Factor VIII Deficiency or Hemophilia A; p.Cys548Tyr mutation originally found in German Shepherd

Renal Disorders

Hyperuricosuria, (HUU)

Metabolic Disorders

Mucopolysaccharidosis Type VII, (MPS VII); mutation originally found in German Shepherd

Renal Disorders

Renal Cystadenocarcinoma and Nodular Dermatofibrosis, (RCND)

Dermal Disorders

X-Linked Ectodermal Dysplasia, (XHED)


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