Common problems with German Shepherds
The most common health problems in German Shepherds:
Let's look at orthopedic diseases first. German Shepherds suffer from high rates of hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. The Orthopedic Foundation of America evaluated the hip X-rays of over 86, 000 German Shepherds and found 19% dysplastic. That's bad, and the true rate is even higher because most of the obviously bad X-rays were not sent in for official evaluation. Similarly, over 23, 000 elbow X-rays were evaluated, nearly 20% were dysplastic (the 8th worst rate of 82 breeds) and again, the true rate is even higher.
Panosteitis is another common orthopedic health problem in German Shepherds. Osteochondritis and cruciate ligament rupture occur regularly. Wobbler's syndrome and hypertrophic osteodystrophy have been reported.
Let's look at skin problems next – they're rampant in this breed, especially allergies (which cause itchy skin) and pyoderma (folliculitis and furunculosis), but also seborrhea, demodectic mange, lick granuloma, and occasionally calcinosis.
Autoimmune diseases, where a dog's defective immune system attacks its own body, are extremely common in German Shepherds.
- Often the skin is the target of the defective immune system. Autoimmune skin diseases include perianal fistula, sebaceous adenitis, lupus, pemphigus, nail bed disease, and vitiligo.
- When the defective immune system targets other organs, the resulting diseases include degenerative spinal myelopathy, megaesophagus, and myasthenia gravis.
German Shepherds are notorious for digestive problems, especially chronic diarrhea caused by food intolerances, colitis (inflammatory bowel disease), hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, or pancreatic insufficiency. This breed should be eating real food for sure, not an artificial diet of kibble or canned food.
As with all deep-chested breeds, German Shepherds are at higher-than-normal risk for the emergency gastrointestinal syndrome bloat.
Just about every form of heart disease occurs in German Shepherds: sub-aortic stenosis, pulmonic stenosis, cardiomyopathy, mitral valve disease, and patent ductus arteriosus.
Serious eye diseases in the breed include pannus (which is yet another autoimmune disease) and cataracts (which can cause blindness in Shepherd puppies). Other eye diseases include cherry eye, corneal dystrophy, retinal dysplasia, lens luxation, and occasionally progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).
Many German Shepherds are lost to cancer, the most common of which are hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma, and lymphosarcoma.
Epilepsy is one of the most recent concerns in the breed.
Blood-clotting diseases include von Willebrand's disease, hemophilia A, and the more severe hemophilia B.
Hormonal/endocrine system diseases include hypothyroidism, Cushing's disease, and diabetes. According to the Michigan State University Thyroid Database, up to 12% of German Shepherds have low thyroid levels.
Truly a breed with serious health problems.which makes me sad, because a German Shepherd was the first breed I ever owned, and I love them.
You probably want to know if you can prevent those health issues from happening to YOUR German Shepherd.
Yes, often you can.
- Some health problems are genetic, which means inherited from parents. Genetic health issues are common in German Shepherds today because of unwise breeding practices. My book, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, shows you how to find a German Shepherd puppy who is genetically healthy.
- Other health problems are environmental, which means they're caused by the way you raise your dog. My best-selling dog health book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy shows you how to prevent environmental health problems by raising your German Shepherd puppy (or adult dog) in all the right ways.
Here are my dog health tips for raising a healthy German Shepherd puppy or adult dog:
Read my advice on daily health care so your German Shepherd lives a long, healthy life and seldom needs to see the vet.
The best diet for feeding your German Shepherd Dog is real food. Real chicken, turkey, beef, bison, venison, fish.This is not "people food" and I'll tell you why.
If you can't feed homemade dog food, here are your next-best choices.
How many vaccinations does your German Shepherd puppy really need? Does your adult German Shepherd need yearly booster shots? The vaccination guidelines have changed. Find out what some vets aren't telling you.