I am very pleased to welcome Andrew from Shepped.com as our guest blogger today. Shepped.com is the go-to site for information regarding German Shepherds. German Shepherds have been in my family for many years: our beloved Rocky was a German Shepherd Lab Mix, and my parents now have a German Shepherd mix named Sasha, so I was very happy to hear from Andrew.
Since My Kid Has Paws is a pet blog focused on health, Andrew is sharing with us some information regarding Common German Shepherd Health Issues. Enjoy!
Your German Shepherd is a loyal friend and a part of the family. As with any family member, you want to do everything you can to ensure they live a long, happy life. Generally speaking, German Shepherds are powerful, healthy dogs. But they do have some potential health risks.
The main health problems typically associated with a GSD are going to be either congenital or hereditary in nature. You can eliminate the risk of many diseases by buying your GSD from a trusted, responsible breeder who knows the genetic history of the dog. You can also help prevent potential problems by learning what signs and symptoms to watch out for.
Here are the six common health issues found in German Shepherds. By knowing what to watch out for, you can greatly increase the changes of early diagnosis and successful treatment:
Dysplasia in the hip and elbows
Dysplasia is a congenital orthopedic problem. The GSD’s hip or elbow joint fails to properly fit into the socket. Unfortunately, this can lead to arthritis, pain and lack of mobility.
Because this is a genetic condition, at least in part, dysplasia can appear even in young, healthy dogs – even dogs as young as four months old. Symptoms include unusual movement, slow movement and a reluctance to climb, jump or run. You may also see a decrease in muscle mass near the hind legs but an increase near the front (as the GSD attempts to alleviate exertion on the back legs).
Diagnosis and treatment requires a visit to your vet. Blood samples, urinalysis, x-rays and more will likely be taken. Also, a complete genetic history of your GSD is very useful in diagnosis. Left untreated, dysplasia will likely grow worse over time, so it’s important to take your GSD to the vet as soon as you notice any potential symptoms.
German Shepherds are susceptible to a variety of eye problems including cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy and retinal dysplasia. One particularly common type of cataracts in German Shepherds is a genetic condition known as Chronic Superficial Keratitis. Left untreated, these various eye conditions can lead to blind spots and even total blindness.
Symptoms are usually pretty obvious. Your GSD will bump into objects and otherwise not be able to get around very well, even though the dog’s musculature seems fine. Your dog’s vision may also appear unfocused. Sometimes, you’ll actually be able to see dark spots forming in your dog’s eye.
Fortunately, treatment is usually fast and effective. Most cataracts can be removed at the vet’s office in a fairly simple procedure using sonic waves. Also, prevention is also very effective. Work with your vet to develop a proper diet containing the vital nutrients your dog needs. This can help prevent a problem from returning or, ideally, prevent an eye problem from ever developing in the first place.
German Shepherds, like many other large breeds of dogs, are susceptible to heart problems. Common issues are dilated cardiomyopathy and stenosis. Cardiomyopathy is a thickening of the heart’s wall muscles, while stenosis is the narrowing of various pieces of the heart. Cardiomyopathy is the rarer of the two, but they can both be very dangerous to a GSD.
Symptoms include fainting, excessive coughing and difficulty breathing. The GSD will be tired and not want to exercise. In the case of stenosis, it might be possible to actually hear an abnormal heart rhythm.
If your dog exhibits these symptoms, take him to the vet as soon as possible. Medication and treatment are the two most common treatment options. Obviously, heart problems in a dog can be pretty serious, so you should always err on the side of caution when considering a vet appointment.
Von Willebrand’s disease
Similar to hemophilia in humans, this is a genetic condition where the GSD’s blood clotting abilities don’t work properly. Once an injury occurs, the dog will bleed excessively and for long periods of time.
Aside from bleeding due to injury, dogs affected with this issue will often suffer from nosebleeds, bleeding from the gums and blood in the urine. Ideally, responsible breeders should screen for this condition before breeding, but it is still relatively common.
Preventative treatment includes medication as well as education. If your dog has this condition, you’ll need to know what to do if the dog is ever injured. This is something you’ll need to discuss with your vet.
Epilepsy (and other Seizure-related Disorders)
Just like in humans, GSDs can suffer from epilepsy, which is marked by seizures. The frequency and severity of the seizures depends on a whole host of factors, mainly genetic. While watching your dog have a seizure can certainly be scary, the dog will usually appear just fine afterwards. Still, epilepsy in GSDs needs to be taken care of – we just don’t want you have a panic attack if your dog suddenly has a seizure. He’s usually not in immediate danger.
Treatment usually starts with a blood test at the vet’s office. That’s the best way to determine exactly what’s causing, or not causing, the seizures. Typically, treatment consists of preventative medication and a general education about what to do if your GSD seizes.
Bloat is a common issue in dogs. Bloat is when the stomach becomes twisted, which traps gas in the gastrointestinal track. Unlike many of the other conditions on our list, which are more on-going conditions, bloat requires immediate veterinary attention.
Symptoms of bloat include heavy salivating, a wet mouth, abdominal swelling and heavy panting. Bloating usually occurs after the dog has eaten a meal, although sometimes it can occur several hours after the dog has finished. The first treatment the vet will try is the insertion of a tube into the dog’s stomach. If that doesn’t relieve the pressure, surgery will be required.
When to Go to a Vet
Prevention and proper nutrition are vital to your dog’s health. So are regular check-ups at the vet. Otherwise, you should check with the vet whenever something new appears. Check with your vet if your dog starts to walk funny, has a sudden decrease in energy or any other drastic changes in behavior. Also, make an appointment immediately if your dog has a seizure – and take your dog directly to the vet emergency room is he or she shows signs of bloat.
German Shepherds are part of the family. When you know what common signs and symptoms to watch out for, you can help keep your GSD safe, happy and healthy. Visit Shepped.com for additional information on GSD health issues.
I want to thank Andrew for sharing this comprehensive blog post.
If you, or a family member, has a German Shepherd, have you every experienced any of these health issues?