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Bernese Mountain Dog Health Problems – 10 Most Common Health Issues

The Bernese Mountain Dog, originating from Switzerland, is known for its sturdy build and gentle disposition. Despite their robust appearance, they are predisposed to specific health issues due to their genetics and size. It’s crucial to be aware of these potential concerns to provide optimal care for your future pet.

10 Most Common Health Problems & Issues in Bernese Mountain Dogs

Hip Dysplasia
A hereditary condition where the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint, leading to arthritis and mobility issues.

  • Symptoms: Limping, difficulty rising, reluctance to jump or run, and pain in the rear legs.
  • Causes: Genetic predisposition, rapid weight gain, or improper nutrition during puppyhood.
  • Treatment: Weight management, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and in severe cases, surgery.

Elbow Dysplasia
Similar to hip dysplasia, this is a condition affecting the elbow joints, leading to pain and lameness.

  • Symptoms: Limping, stiffness, especially after resting, and swelling around the elbow.
  • Causes: Genetics, rapid growth, and nutrition.
  • Treatment: Conservative treatments include weight management and anti-inflammatory drugs. Surgical options may be considered for severe cases.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
A group of genetic diseases that lead to the degeneration of the retina, resulting in gradual vision loss and potential blindness.

  • Symptoms: Night blindness, dilated pupils, and changes in eye appearance.
  • Causes: Hereditary.
  • Treatment: There is no cure, but affected dogs can often live full lives with their blindness, provided their environment is kept consistent.

Cancer
Bernese Mountain Dogs have a higher predisposition to certain cancers like histiocytic sarcoma and mast cell tumors.

  • Symptoms: Abnormal swellings, sores that do not heal, weight loss, and decreased appetite.
  • Causes: Genetic and environmental factors.
  • Treatment: Depends on the type and stage of cancer; may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and supportive care.

Bloat (Gastric Dilatation Volvulus)
A life-threatening condition where the stomach fills with gas and twists, cutting off blood flow.

  • Symptoms: Distended abdomen, restlessness, drooling, and attempts to vomit.
  • Causes: Genetics, eating habits, and exercise patterns.
  • Treatment: Immediate veterinary emergency surgery is necessary.

Von Willebrand’s Disease
A blood disorder that affects the clotting process, leading to excessive bleeding even from minor injuries.

  • Symptoms: Nosebleeds, bleeding gums, prolonged bleeding from surgery or injury.
  • Causes: Genetic.
  • Treatment: Blood transfusions in severe cases, avoiding certain medications, and sometimes desmopressin to stimulate blood clotting.

Aortic Stenosis
A congenital heart defect where the aortic valve is narrowed, making it difficult for the heart to pump blood to the body.

  • Symptoms: Fainting, lethargy, weakness, and in severe cases, sudden death.
  • Causes: Genetic.
  • Treatment: Medication to manage symptoms, and in some cases, surgical intervention may be considered.

Degenerative Myelopathy
A progressive disease of the spinal cord, leading to paralysis of the hind limbs.

  • Symptoms: Weakness in the hind legs, difficulty standing, dragging of the feet, and eventual paralysis.
  • Causes: Genetic mutation.
  • Treatment: No cure is available, but physical therapy and supportive care can help manage symptoms.

Hypothyroidism
A condition where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, leading to metabolic issues.

  • Symptoms: Weight gain, lethargy, skin and coat problems, and intolerance to cold.
  • Causes: Immune system attacking the thyroid gland, tumors, or congenital disease.
  • Treatment: Lifelong thyroid hormone replacement therapy.

Panosteitis
An inflammatory condition affecting the long bones in the legs of growing puppies, leading to limping and pain.

  • Symptoms: Intermittent or shifting lameness, pain when touching the affected bones.
  • Causes: The exact cause is unknown but is thought to be related to rapid growth.
  • Treatment: Pain management with anti-inflammatory medications and rest. The condition usually resolves as the dog matures.

Precautions & Preventative Measures

Maintaining the health and well-being of your Bernese Mountain Dog requires proactive care and attention. Here are some comprehensive precautions and preventive measures to ensure your dog’s longevity and happiness:

  • Balanced Nutrition: Feed your Bernese Mountain Dog a high-quality, well-balanced diet to support their growth and overall health. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate diet for their age, size and activity level.
  • Controlled Exercise: While exercise is essential, avoid overexertion during growth periods to prevent joint and bone issues. Engage in moderate exercise that suits your dog’s age and fitness level. Walking, swimming and low-impact play are excellent options.
  • Regular Vet Visits: Schedule routine veterinary check-ups to monitor your dog’s health, catch potential issues early and ensure they are up-to-date on vaccinations and preventive treatments.
  • Weight Management: Obesity puts extra strain on your dog’s joints and can lead to various health problems. Maintain a healthy weight through proper diet and regular exercise to prevent unnecessary stress on their body.
  • Grooming & Coat Care: Bernese Mountain Dogs have a beautiful double coat that requires regular grooming to prevent matting and keep their skin healthy. Brush their coat several times a week and trim their nails as needed.
  • Dental Care: Establish a dental hygiene routine, including regular brushing and dental treats, to prevent periodontal disease, which can lead to more serious health issues.
  • Environmental Adaptations: Provide a comfortable and safe living environment, especially for dogs prone to joint issues. Use orthopedic beds, ramps and other supportive tools to minimize strain on their joints.

Bernese Mountain Dog Health Problems – 10 Most Common Health Issues in Bernese Mountain Dogs