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This is a continuation of our blog post on 11 German Shepherd Health Problems That Every Owner Needs To Know, so if you haven’t, check that out.
But if you have, as you know, the German Shepherd is prone to a whole host of health problems mainly due to the cosmetic alternations it has experienced as a breed.
It’s extremely important that you are aware of the most common health issues your German Shepherd could suffer from so that you can spot them easily and treat them.
Unfortunately, many of the issues they face cannot be cured, but you can extend their life in many cases and make them as comfortable as possible.
So let’s go ahead and check out 10 More German Shepherd Health Problems Every Owner Should Know.
1.) Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease is one of the most common German Shepherd health problems, although some other breeds with crowded or narrow jaws are more susceptible.
The condition is dental and brings about inflammation to supporting structures of the teeth (bone and periodontal ligament) affecting the gums.
On progression, it can become severe causing pain, tooth loss, and in very serious cases jaw fracture.
Dogs are many times more likely to develop gum disease than humans, their teeth don’t get brushed as often, and their mouths are more alkaline which promotes plaque formation.
If plaque is not brushed away regularly it thickens and causes bacteria to multiply, this can lead to inflammation and tissue destruction.
Other parts of the body can also be affected by this condition, including the heart and kidneys.
This occurs due to bacteria entering the bloodstream, leading to damage of outlying organs.
Age is also a factor and can contribute to the onset of the condition since inevitably the teeth and gums deteriorate over time.
Depending on the stage of the disease, veterinary treatments are available that help with the further deterioration of teeth and gums.
Owners can help keep the condition at bay with regular brushing of their dog’s teeth, the use of dental scalers, and by including hard kibble in the diet.
Chews and toys that help control tartar are readily available.
Cooked bones should be avoided since they are brittle and can break into shards or pieces, potentially causing internal injuries. Raw bones are best, ideally given with supervision.
- Bad breath
- Loss of appetite/eating difficulty
- Red, bleeding gums
- Blood on toys/chews
- Discolored, wobbly, or broken teeth
- Swollen face
- Pawing at the mouth
- Reluctance to have face touched
- Brush dogs teeth regularly, at least 3 times a week
- Use a dental scaler
- Antibiotics / anti- inflammatory pain relief, for gum infection
- Scale and polish under anesthetic to remove plaque and tartar build-up
- Extraction if required
If you are keen to learn more about German Shepherd dental hygiene, check out our post on 5 Simple Tricks For Healthy German Shepherd Teeth.
German Shepherds are most affected by three types of skin allergy, food allergy, environmental allergy (pollen, dust), or flea bite sensitivity.
Substances found within these groups can trigger an overreaction in the body’s immune system, causing a list of different symptoms.
Food allergies can develop from chicken, beef, wheat, soy, and corn, plus additives or preservatives included in commercial pet foods.
Environmental allergies may be seasonal due to pollen/grasses, they can develop from detergents, for example cleaning products used in the home or from certain shampoos.
External parasitic allergies caused by fleas, mites, and ticks cause reactions in the warmer months.
Fleas in particular are responsible for 90% of reactions, caused by their saliva in just one bite.
SIGNS / SYMPTOMS
- Frequent scratching, itching, sneezing
- Red and flaky skin
- Hair loss
- Ear infections
- Reverse sneezing
- Vomiting, nausea
- Swelling of throat, lips, face, and tongue
- Difficulty breathing
- Low energy
- Consult a vet to determine the cause, with allergy testing
- Allergy shots/immunotherapy
- Dietary changes / hypoallergenic, prescriptive
- Regular anti-parasitic treatments
- Removal of plants that cause allergens in the home or yard
If you want more detail on German Shepherd allergies, check out our post on 8 Things You Should Know About German Shepherd Allergies.
3.) Bloat is one of the most common German Shepherd health problems
Bloat or Gastric dilatation-volvulus is a condition that most often occurs in large deep-chested breeds and can be extremely serious and life-threatening.
It occurs when a dog eats or drinks too much or too quickly, followed shortly after, by too much exercise.
The stomach twists trapping contents and gases inside, which can’t be dispelled naturally.
This causes rapid swelling of the abdomen, pressing on the diaphragm and other organs.
The abdominal swelling can be visible in short to medium haired dogs, not so visible with longer-haired breeds.
The result is pain, problems with circulation, respiration, shock, and death if not treated immediately by a professional.
Dogs with untreated Exocrine Pancreatic insufficiency and small intestinal overgrowth can be more susceptible to bloat.
Other characteristics include :
- Deep, narrow chest
- Large dogs or dogs weighing more than 40kg
- Older dogs
- Anxious or fearful
- History of aggression towards people/ other dogs
SIGNS/ SYMPTOMS (ANY COMBINATION OF THESE – CALL VET AND TRANSPORT DOG TO LOCATION ASAP)
- Swelling of the abdomen that may or may not be noticed
- Pale gums
- Foamy mucous around lips, vomiting foamy mucous
- Agitation, unable to get comfortable
- Continuous pacing or lying down in unusual places
- Salivating, panting, whining
- Shallow breathing
- Weakness, unable to stand or with a spread leg stance
- Hunched appearance
- Excessive drooling or retching
- Feed smaller meals 2-3 times daily instead of one large meal
- Do not exercise for at least an hour or longer if possible, before and after eating
- Discourage rapid eating and drinking (Dog bowls are available to buy that reduce fast eating )
- Discourage the dog from rolling or jumping around after eating
- Diet, high protein good quality
- Promote friendly gut bacteria from probiotic supplements
- Include herbs designed to reduce gas in pets i.e NR special blend
- GDV cannot be treated at home, it requires emergency hospitalization treatment and expert care. Treatment usually requires a drip and sometimes gastric decompression. When stable the dog will need surgery to return the stomach to its correct position, plus other tests for complications. Success rates decrease the longer treatment is delayed.
Cataracts are a condition causing a cloudy, opaque appearance of the eye lens resulting in blurred vision. This may be visible in a partial area of an eye or covering its whole surface. Cataracts in the German Shepherd are often inherited, other causes are included below:
- Metabolic issues
- Nutritional disorders
- Birth defects
- Onset of age
Congenital cataracts occur in puppies when their eyes first open up until around 8 weeks of age.
Juvenile cataracts occur later up to 4 years of age, and onset cataracts develop in mature dogs.
Small areas of cataract on the eye will not affect a dog’s sight very much, but at the other end of the scale, total coverage will cause blindness.
Dogs who become affected by impaired vision can compensate well with their highly developed senses of hearing and smell.
However, in more limiting cases of blindness, a dog may find navigating new spaces difficult, bumping, or running into things.
Owners can help their dogs by keeping routines regular and the dog’s environment familiar, any changes should be introduced gradually and degrees of patience may be needed.
There is no complete cure for cataracts once the lens has developed cloudiness.
There can be great improvements in a dog’s vision following the surgery, but it won’t be 100% perfect.
Left untreated the internal structure of the eye can become further damaged.
This may result in the cataract becoming loose and blocking fluids flowing into the eye, leading to painful glaucoma and further vision loss and blindness.
- Opaque, cloudy bluish-grey eyes
- More frequent blinking
- Irritated red eyes
- Eye discharge
- Clumsy movement
- Pawing or scratching the eye
- Nutritional support – Veterinary antioxidant supplementation can slow the progression of cataracts in the lens.
- Dark leafy green vegetables, kale, and carrots containing vitamin C and E may also reduce the risk of developing canine cataracts.
- Eye drops to reduce the severity
- Diet change and antioxidant supplementation to reduce the severity
- Treatment of underlying conditions known to cause cataracts can improve the symptoms.
- Surgery in more severe cases.
5.) Bladder Stones
This is a relatively common condition in German Shepherds often being uncomfortable and painful.
It’s caused by a build-up of struvite crystals in the urine, from bacterial waste present in UTI bladder infection.
The urine becomes alkaline instead of the normal acidic pH. Acidic urine helps to dissolve stones which then pass through the urinary tract without problems.
The alkaline urine is unable to dissolve the large stones making them difficult to pass, which can be incredibly painful.
If left untreated serious complications can occur including bladder and kidney damage.
Some other types of bladder stones can develop apart from struvite, these develop or arise under different circumstances.
Genetic predisposition can also occur in some cases, which causes a non-assimilation of minerals.
- Increased frequency of urination
- Straining and painful urination
- Inability to pass or passing small amounts of urine.
- Blood sometimes present in urine.
- Excessive licking of genitals
- Poor appetite
- Veterinary testing to diagnose the type of stones
- X- rays or ultrasound
- Urohydropropulsion under anesthesia for smaller bladder stones
- Prescriptive/special diet, to help the bladder dissolve stones
- Surgery for calcium oxalate stones that cannot be dissolved
6.) Urinary Tract Infection
Urinary tract infection or UTI’s are the most common infectious disease in all dog breeds, therefore German Shepherds can often contract a UTI.
Most dogs get an infection when normal skin and gastrointestinal tract flora overwhelm the urinary tract defenses.
The bacteria responsible is commonly E.Coli which colonizes the urinary tract and causes the infection, although other types can be responsible.
If the staphylococcus bacteria for example colonizes and is left untreated, this can lead to the formation of kidney or bladder stones, infertility, kidney failure, and blood poisoning.
Some dogs don’t have symptoms which isn’t ideal as obviously, the infection can go unchecked.
But on occasions, it sometimes shows up during a routine veterinary check or treatment for another condition.
Signs that point to a possible UTI may also be due to other serious conditions, which a vet may want to look into and rule out first.
Female dogs are more likely to get a UTI than males, other causes are included below :
- Female dogs
- Older dogs
- Males that are un-neutered
- Stale food or water ingestion
- Exposure to infested, stagnant water while swimming or playing outdoors
- Bad urine odor and usually dark in color
- Pain and discomfort when urinating
- Tenderness in the genital area
- Cloudy or blood in the urine ( Always contact a vet if blood is spotted, apart from a UTI other conditions may be responsible, for example, bladder stones, cancer, kidney disease, trauma, or poisoning )
- Frequent urination
- Straining or whimpering
- Dribbling urine and accidents in the home
- Increased licking of genitals
- Some Urinary Tract Infections arise from feces, residues, or debris on or near the dog’s genitals.
- Dogs usually take care of cleaning themselves, but if the dog is incapacitated in some way this may not be possible.
- This can happen during illness, surgery, or by the wearing of a neck cone which causes restrictions.
- Provide fresh clean water daily
- Remove stale food
- Make sure food and water bowls are changed or cleaned daily
- Provide bladder support aided by chews /snacks i.e Cranbladder Chews. Or to help alleviate symptoms and reduce pain add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar i.e Braggs to the dog’s water twice daily for 10 days
- Administer vitamin C tablets to boost the dog’s immune system. It also makes urine more acidic which helps to kill bacteria and toxins. They can be crushed and added to food
- Try to prevent pets from entering water that may possibly be infested, such as ponds or areas of stagnancy.
7.) Nose Infections are another one of the most common German Shepherd health problems
Dogs with long noses and skulls are most commonly affected, which includes the German Shepherd.
Rhinitis is the inflammation of the nose and is the most common cause, resulting in a runny nose, sneezing, and appetite loss.
Sinusitis is the inflammation of nasal passages, it’s fairly common and can cause coughing as well as the other symptoms.
Both of these cause mucus to occur, and inflammation with a bacterial infection.
When acute this is often caused by a foreign body being lodged inside the nose, in this case, sudden violent sneezing will be apparent. Chronic cases are often caused by allergies or viral infection, other causes are included below:
- Foreign body
- Fungal infection
- Nasal discharge
- Pigmentation change around the nose
- Neoplasia ( abnormal tissue growth )
- Reverse sneezing o excess sneezing
- Loss of appetite
TREATMENT / PREVENTION
This varies widely due to the cause. Most cases respond well but in the case of chronic rhinitis, owners and vets need to work together to maintain effective treatment
- Antibiotics, antifungal therapy, or parasiticides
- Humidifier use at home
- Anti-inflammatory therapy
- Surgery i.e removal of foreign body
The pancreas is an organ close to the stomach and helps to digest food.
When it functions normally it produces an enzyme that activates on reaching the small intestine.
With pancreatitis the enzymes are activated too soon while still in the pancreas, causing self-digestion and damage to the organ and inflammation and damage to surrounding tissues.
Instead of digesting food, the enzyme breaks down body tissue protein, so the body starts to eat itself from within.
If left untreated it can lead to shock and be life-threatening.
Pancreatitis can be acute when it occurs suddenly, and chronic when it continues over time.
Mild cases may cause, loss of appetite and lethargy, but more acute episodes can cause pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.
A high-fat diet or occasional high fat treats can trigger pancreatitis, other possible causes also include:
- Existing conditions like hypothyroidism and diabetes
- Steroids or following surgery
- Post-surgery occurrence
- Distended abdomen
- Lack of appetite
- Hunched back
- Labored breathing
Mild cases can be resolved within a few days of veterinary treatment, but more severe cases may require several days of hospitalization and a longer recovery period.
- Feed smaller more frequent meals instead of one large one
- Avoid feeding a high-fat diet or over fatty treats – Check out MyOllie.com or Royal Canin for German Shepherds.
- Keep an eye on possible garbage raiding
- Check the nutritional content of dog food for the ratio of protein, carbs, vitamins, and minerals in relation to the dog’s age
- Diet change
- Possible hospitalization for pain management and IV fluids
9.) Thyroid Issues – Hypothyroidism
German Shepherds are commonly affected by endocrine issues that need treatment early on, to prevent them from becoming severe or life-threatening.
Canine hypothyroidism is the most commonly diagnosed hormonal disease found in dogs.
The thyroid gland is located next to the dog’s windpipe and produces hormones responsible for regulating the metabolism (converting food to energy)
Hypothyroidism is the underproduction of thyroxin, the hormone produced by the thyroid gland.
This usually starts when the dog is 2-6 years old.
The condition is usually caused by either one of two diseases, lymphocytic thyroiditis or idiopathic thyroid gland atrophy.
The first is the most common cause and happens when the immune system sees the thyroid as foreign or abnormal and starts to attack it.
No reason is known but it could be a genetic condition. With idiopathic thyroid gland atrophy, thyroid tissue is replaced with fat tissue, reasons are also unknown in this case.
- Unexplained weight gain
- Thinning coat, dry and dull, excess shedding with a failure to regrow
- Slow heart rate
- Cold intolerance
Hypothyroidism is treatable but is not curable. A thyroid replacement hormone needs to be given for the rest of the dog’s life, sometimes with periodic adjustments.
Thyroid oral supplements 1-2 times a day, clinical signs usually improve within 4-6 weeks.
10.) Degenerative Disc Disease is one of the German Shepherd health problems that are tough to treat
German Shepherds are prone to spinal issues as they age, but it can also affect younger dogs due to genetics.
The spinal cord is a very sensitive and important organ system.
Nerve cells that are damaged are not replaced with healthy ones, fibrous scar tissue takes its place.
The spinal cord is protected by bone along its length except at the vertebrae junction.
The junctions at this point have rubbery cushions called intervertebral discs.
The discs allow free movement of the spine in many directions preventing contact with the bones of the spinal column.
This condition causes disc degeneration and rupture, known as a slipped disc.
It often becomes apparent with trauma, for example following a fall or jump, but it’s the degeneration itself that causes the injury.
Material from the disc may take a while to escape, but when it does it causes pain and problems with mobility.
With acute ruptures, some dogs may have total paralysis in less than an hour.
SIGNS / SYMPTOMS
- Neck/back pain
- Partial or total paralysis
- Loss of feeling, following paralysis
- Pain relief
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Restricted exercise
- Surgery in some cases
On another note, as an owner are you worried about German Shepherd joint & hip problems? If so, get our FREE guide called ‘The Experts Guide to Avoiding Joint Problems in German Shepherds” here.
Conclusion – German Shepherd Health Problems
As you can see, there are many German Shepherd health problems to be aware of and we can see that so many conditions are caused by genetics.
Owners can’t change their pet’s genes, but potential owners can reduce future problems by avoiding backyard breeders.
Purchasing from responsible and ethical breeders will ensure strong healthy puppies from sound breeding lines, plus a list of other benefits like health testing, temperament, trainability, and breed knowledge/ support.
All owners should also be buying a dog DNA test so they know what potential issues they are coming up against and get on top of them early, the most popular are by EmbarkVet.com, check them out here.
As always, if you are unsure if your dog is currently suffering or showing symptoms of an illness get a vet’s advice.
If you are struggling to get to the vets during the pandemic or for any other reason, consider checking out an online vet service such as Vetster, where you can get an appointment in the comfort of your own home. Check them out here.
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Thank you for reading.