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11 Common Health Problems for German Shepherds



When buying or adopting a German Shepherd, or any pet for this matter, it is crucial to find out which health issues are common to the breed. Additionally, proper care of such conditions should also be considered and taken. We highly recommend that you consider getting health insurance for your GSD. The costs are not as extreme as you may think and it could save you a fortune should you encounter one of these common health problems in your pup's future. (See our article of the highest rated pet health insurance plans we could find).


1. Hip Dysplasia


Hip dysplasia is one of the most prevalent health issues that many German Shepherds suffer from. Other large breeds of dogs are also susceptible to such illness. But it is more common to GSD's as it affects 15-20 percent of the whole population. Hip dysplasia is a painful, genetic disorder characterized by malformation of the hip joint, which causes instability and may lead to osteoarthritis.


Symptoms:

Bunny hopping gait

Instability in walking

Reduced range of motion

Lethargy

Problems in moving

Pain

Fatigue

Feebleness of hind legs


These symptoms could further develop if the GSD is obese, injured, or overly exercised. If you notice such abnormalities in their movement, visit your veterinarian. If the condition is already severe, the vet will likely advise your GSD to undergo treatments. These include double pelvic or femoral head osteotomy or total hip replacement. To prevent worsening the condition, allow your GSD to have adequate rest, a healthy diet, and physical therapy.


2. Pancreatitis


Pancreatitis occurs when the GSD's pancreas experiences inflammation. In a body of a healthy German shepherd, the pancreas regularly releases enzymes that aid in digestion. However, with those having pancreatitis, there is an abnormality in the activation of those enzymes. The direct cause of this illness is still uncertain. But it is known that obesity and eating fatty foods could aggravate the condition.


Symptoms:

Loss of appetite

Diarrhea

Abdominal pain

Vomiting

Fever

Dehydration


Acute cases of pancreatitis can be treated by giving your GSD enough rest and a low-fat diet. If the physician can determine what is causing the inflammation in the pancreas, you should avoid such triggers. If the symptoms persist more seriously, hospitalization will be needed. Your GSD will be given pain relievers through injection and IV fluids to prevent dehydration.

3. Anal Furunculosis


Anal furunculosis is also called a perianal fistula. This is an unpleasant and chronic disorder that affects the skin around the anus. It is characterized by inflammation and ulceration of the area surrounding the GSD's anus. The swelling and draining openings can strain the dog's defecation. It affects middle-aged or old aged German Shepherds.


Symptoms:

Blood in stool

Loss of appetite

Diarrhea

Excessive licking of the rectal region

Foul odor in dog's bedding

Ulcers in the anal region

Discomfort in sitting


Anal furunculosis is principally treated through surgery. But nowadays, immunomodulating drugs are being introduced as a cure. However, the topical medication is more useful in milder cases. Proper hygiene and healthy dietary measures will help reduce the severity of this ailment.


4. Degenerative Myelopathy


This progressive neurologic disorder affects middle-aged to older German Shepherds. It is a genetic disorder that causes degeneration of a canine's spinal cord, leading to rear limb weakness. If not treated, it may result in paralysis.


Symptoms:

Ataxia (loss of coordination in rear limbs)

Wobbly walking

Weakened hind limbs

Difficulty in standing

Paralysis


Unfortunately, there is still no effective cure to stop or even slow down the progress of this sickness. Since it is hereditary, the only way to prevent it is to ensure that the parents carry normal genes. Before adopting or buying a GSD, ask the breeder for the SOD-1 gene mutation testing. You should also get informed on how to care for GSDs with this kind of condition.


5. Urinary Tract Infection


Most urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria entering your GSD's genitals. Escherichia coli is the most common bacteria that can cause such a health concern in dogs. These bacteria colonize the urinary tract, resulting in an infection. Female German Shepherds are more susceptible to this disease compared to males.


Symptoms:

Bloody or cloudy urine

Changes in color or smell of urine

Discomfort in urinating

Involuntary urination

Fever

Licking of the urinary opening

Sensitivity in the genital area


If left untreated, the condition could inflict further health issues, such as bladder stones, kidney failure, and urinary tract dysfunctions. Prescribed antibiotics can help address the ailment. Also, ensure that your German Shepherd has a boosted immune system to prevent infections from affecting your pup.


6. Progressive Retinal Atrophy


Progressive retinal atrophy is a hereditary optical health issue. It attacks the photoreceptor cells at the back of the eye. The rod cells in the retina will tend to deteriorate, resulting in visual impairment. This is one of the eye ailments mostly found in German Shepherds.


Symptoms:

A progressive loss of night vision

Vision degeneration

Cloudy eyes

Dilated pupils

Change in the color of the pigment of the eyes


The progress of PRA, if diagnosed early, can be slowed down by daily antioxidant supplementation. Most dogs whose symptoms were not addressed at the right time turn blind just a year after onset. Further researches for the treatment of this genetic disease is ongoing.

7. Osteoarthritis


Though hip dysplasia is a more prevalent cause of osteoarthritis, the skeletal disease can also be caused by injury or normal wear and tear. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of canine arthritis. It is a degenerative joint inflammation that occurs due to cartilage damage or breakdown.


Symptoms:

Stiffness

Lameness

Difficulty in standing

Noticeable decrease in movement

Painful joints


To ease the pain that your pup is feeling, you may hire a canine massage therapist for your GSD pet. Or you may also learn and do it yourself. Take your GSD out for a walk or a moderate exercise to avoid obesity. Talk to your veterinarian for advised supplements or medications. Treatments for osteoarthritis include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which help relieve the pain and inflammation. For severe cases, surgery and joint replacement might be needed.


8. Epilepsy


Many German Shepherd owners have discovered that their pets are experiencing this seizure disorder. Epilepsy is an inherited, incurable condition characterized by recurrent seizures.


Symptoms:

Sudden and violent shaking

Disorientation after seizure

Salivating during seizure

Loss of consciousness

Muscle twitching

Staring


Medications depend on the observed behavior of the GSD during the attacks. You should describe the happening in detail to the vet. Also, ensure that your GSD is in a safe place during the seizure episode.


9. Hemophilia


Hemophilia is the condition wherein the blood is incapable of clotting properly. Because of this, a small wound can turn severe and take a long while to heal.


Symptoms:

Skin hematoma

The sudden death of newborn puppies

Intermittent bleeding

Nose bleeds

Discoloration of skin


The primary method of treating hemophilia is by intravenous plasma transfusions that are often given to more chronic cases. Supplements that contain blood clotting nutrients and ingredients are also available.


10. Diabetes


Since they have a considerably large body build, GSDs tend to eat a lot. This makes them vulnerable to diabetes. This health concern can also be acquired genetically.


Symptoms:

Fatigue

Excessive drinking

Excessive urinating

Dry mouth

Weight loss


For chronic diabetes, your GSD requires regular insulin shots, the frequency of which depends on the severity of the condition. At home, a selective diet and moderate exercise are also helpful.


11. Cancer


German Shepherds are one of the breeds that is most prone to cancer, including melanoma, lymphoma, and bone and blood vessel tumors. The symptoms of cancer can vary widely according to type. To secure your GSD's overall health, take him/her to regular checkups with your veterinarian.



Final Word


To answer the question "What are the most common health issues with German Shepherds?" The direct response would be: hip dysplasia, pancreatitis, anal furunculosis, Degenerative Myelopathy, Urinary Tract Infection, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Osteoarthritis, Epilepsy, Hemophilia, Diabetes, and Cancer.



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