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German Shepherd Health Problems – 10 Most Common Health Issues in Alsatians

German Shepherds are a medium to large-sized breed that originated in Germany in the late 19th century. They are highly intelligent, active and loyal dogs that make excellent companions for families and individuals. However, like all dog breeds, German Shepherds are susceptible to a range of health issues. It’s important for owners to monitor their dog’s health and seek medical attention when necessary.

10 Most Common Health Problems & issues in German Shepherds

1. Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Hip and elbow dysplasia are common genetic conditions affecting the joints of German Shepherds. These conditions occur when the ball and socket joint in the hip or elbow do not fit together properly, causing the bones to rub against each other. Over time, this can lead to pain, inflammation & arthritis.

  • Symptoms: Symptoms of hip and elbow dysplasia in German Shepherds include stiffness, limping, lameness, reluctance to move and difficulty standing up. Causes of hip and elbow dysplasia include genetics, poor diet & excessive exercise.
  • Treatment: Treatment for hip and elbow dysplasia may include medications, surgery and physical therapy. Weight management is also important for managing these conditions.
2. Bloat

Bloat, also known as gastric torsion or twisted stomach, is a life-threatening condition affecting the stomach of German Shepherds. Bloat occurs when the stomach fills with air and twists on itself, blocking the blood supply to the stomach and other organs.

  • Symptoms: Symptoms of bloat in German Shepherds include a swollen abdomen, restlessness, excessive salivation & vomiting. Causes of bloat include eating too fast, overeating and exercising after meals.
  • Treatment: Treatment for bloat is emergency surgery. Prevention measures include feeding multiple small meals throughout the day, avoiding exercise immediately after meals and feeding a high-quality diet.
3. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that can occur in German Shepherds. The pancreas produces enzymes that aid in digestion, but when the pancreas becomes inflamed, it can cause these enzymes to leak into the surrounding tissues, leading to pain, inflammation and other complications.

  • Symptoms: Symptoms of pancreatitis in German Shepherds include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and loss of appetite. Causes of pancreatitis include a high-fat diet, obesity and genetics.
  • Treatment: Treatment for pancreatitis may include medications, diet management and surgery in severe cases. Prevention measures include feeding a low-fat diet and maintaining a healthy weight.
4. Allergies

Allergies are a common health issue in German Shepherds, affecting up to 20% of the breed. Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to various allergens, such as food, pollen, dust mites and flea bites.

  • Symptoms: Symptoms of allergies in German Shepherds include itching, redness, hair loss and ear infections. Causes of allergies include genetics and environmental factors.
  • Treatment: Treatment for allergies may include medications and allergy testing and management. Prevention measures include avoiding allergens when possible and regular grooming to prevent skin irritation.
5. Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive neurological disease that affects the spinal cord of German Shepherds. This condition occurs when the myelin sheath that covers and protects the nerve fibers in the spinal cord begins to deteriorate, leading to weakness, loss of coordination & paralysis.

  • Symptoms: Symptoms of degenerative myelopathy in German Shepherds include weakness, loss of coordination & paralysis. Causes of degenerative myelopathy are genetic.
  • Treatment: Treatment for degenerative myelopathy is primarily supportive care and physical therapy. There is no cure for this condition and it often leads to the humane euthanasia of affected dogs.
6. Cataracts

Cataracts are a common eye condition that affects German Shepherds. Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, leading to impaired vision and blindness.

  • Symptoms: Symptoms of cataracts in German Shepherds include blurred vision, difficulty seeing in low light and eye redness. Causes of cataracts include genetics, diabetes & age.
  • Treatment: Treatment for cataracts is surgical removal of the affected lens. Regular eye exams can help identify cataracts early and improve the success of treatment.
7. Ear Infections

Ear infections are a common health issue in German Shepherds, affecting up to 20% of the breed. Ear infections occur when bacteria or yeast overgrow in the ear canal, leading to inflammation and infection.

  • Symptoms: Symptoms of ear infections in German Shepherds include itching, shaking head, discharge & odor. Causes of ear infections include allergies, excessive moisture & foreign objects.
  • Treatment: Treatment for ear infections may include medications and regular cleaning and maintenance. Prevention measures include regular grooming and avoiding excessive moisture in the ear canal.
8. Heart Disease

Heart disease is a common health issue in German Shepherds, affecting up to 10% of the breed. Heart disease occurs when the heart is unable to function properly, leading to a range of complications.

  • Symptoms: Symptoms of heart disease in German Shepherds include coughing, difficulty breathing, weakness & fainting. Causes of heart disease include genetics, age & obesity.
  • Treatment: Treatment for heart disease may include medications, surgery & diet management. Early detection and treatment are essential for managing heart disease and improving the prognosis for affected dogs.
9. Cancer

Cancer is a common health issue in German Shepherds, affecting up to 25% of the breed. Cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow and divide uncontrollably, leading to the formation of tumors.

  • Symptoms: Symptoms of cancer in German Shepherds include lumps or bumps, weight loss & changes in behavior. Causes of cancer include genetics and environmental factors.
  • Treatment: Treatment for cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Early detection and treatment are essential for improving the prognosis for affected dogs.
10. Dental Disease

Dental disease is a common health issue in German Shepherds, affecting up to 80% of the breed. Dental disease occurs when plaque and tartar build up on the teeth and gums, leading to inflammation and infection.

  • Symptoms: Symptoms of dental disease in German Shepherds include bad breath, loose teeth, bleeding gums & loss of appetite. Causes of dental disease include poor dental hygiene, genetics & diet.
  • Treatment: Treatment for dental disease may include regular dental cleanings, home dental care and diet management. Prevention measures include regular dental checkups and cleanings and avoiding feeding table scraps and sugary treats.
A male and a female German Shepherd

Precautions & Preventative Measures

Preventing health issues in German Shepherds is essential for maintaining their health and well-being. Here are some tips for preventing and managing common health problems in German Shepherds:

  • Feed a high-quality diet that meets their nutritional needs and promotes a healthy weight.
  • Provide regular exercise and mental stimulation to keep them physically and mentally healthy.
  • Keep up with regular veterinary checkups and preventative care, including vaccinations and parasite prevention.
  • Practice good dental hygiene by brushing your dog’s teeth regularly and providing dental chews and toys.
  • Keep your dog’s environment clean and free of potential allergens and toxins.
  • Avoid overfeeding and excessive exercise to prevent obesity and joint problems.
  • Consider health screening and genetic testing when selecting a German Shepherd puppy to minimize the risk of hereditary health issues.

What do German Shepherds Usually Die From?

German Shepherds can die from a variety of factors, including age-related conditions, such as organ failure and cancer, as well as hereditary health issues, such as hip dysplasia and degenerative myelopathy. Preventative measures, early detection and prompt treatment can help prolong a German Shepherd’s life and prevent premature death.

German Shepherd Health Problems – 10 Most Common Health Issues in Alsatians