Your Purebred Puppy, Honest Advice About Dogs and Dog Breeds

Sensible advice for raising your Bernese Mountain Dog puppy so he lives a long healthy life and seldom needs to visit the vet. Learn about the most common health problems and issues in Bernese Mountain Dogs, the best dog food diet for feeding Bernese Mountain Dog puppies and adult dogs, the truth about vaccinations, spaying and neutering, and natural health care.


11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, my best-selling dog health book

Bernese Mountain Dog breed

Bernese Mountain Dog Health Problems and Raising a Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy to be Healthy

By Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2013

Quiz – How Long Will Your Dog Live?
How To Raise a Healthy Dog
Feeding the Best Dog Food
Feeding the 2nd Best Dog Food
Vaccinations: Needed or Not?
Are You Sure Your Vet Is Good?

The most common health problems in Bernese Mountain Dogs:

This handsome, good-natured breed unfortunately has a LOT of serious health problems. The Bernese Mountain Dog Club conducted a health survey that included 1325 dogs. They report that the average age of death was 5-6 years for unneutered Bernese Mountain Dogs, and 7-8 years for neutered Berners. These are shockingly young ages to die.

Looking specifically at 261 Bernese Mountain Dogs who had died, only 18 of them died of "old age". Almost HALF died much earlier – of cancer. The most common cancer in the breed is histiocytic sarcoma, which accounts for about one-quarter of the diagnosed cancers. This deadly cancer is inherited – if your Bernese puppy has just one parent who develops histiocytic sarcoma, his chances of developing it are about 22%.

But histiocytic sarcoma isn't the only cancer found in the breed. Other tumors and cancers found regularly in Bernese Mountain Dogs are mast cell tumors, lymphosarcoma, osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and fibrosarcoma. The club survey reports that 16% of the dogs in their survey had some form of tumor, whether benign or malignant.

Moving away from cancers, we have orthopedic diseases, which are rampant in Bernese, especially elbow dysplasia. The Orthopedic Foundation of America evaluated the elbow X-rays of over 6700 Bernese Mountain Dogs and found a shocking 30% dysplastic – the 3rd worst rate of 82 breeds. And the true rate is even higher because most of the obviously bad X-rays were not sent in for official evaluation. Supporting that theory, a Swedish study found that over 53% of Bernese Mountain Dogs had elbow problems. Elbow dysplasia is truly an epidemic in this breed.

Hip dysplasia is also a major problem. The OFA evaluated the hip X-rays of 11,000 Bernese Mountain Dogs and found 17% dysplastic. Very high. For comparison, the massive Great Pyrenees has a 9% hip dysplasia rate.

Other common orthopedic diseases in Bernese Mountain Dogs include luxating patella (loose knees), osteochondritis, cruciate ligament rupture, panosteitis, and Wobbler's syndrome.

With their deep chest, Bernese Mountain Dogs are at higher-than-normal risk for the emergency gastrointestinal syndrome called bloat.

Epilepsy and heart disease (subaortic stenosis) are occurring more frequently in Bernese Mountain Dogs.

Cataracts is the most common eye disease, followed by eyelid abnormalities (entropion and ectropion). Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) can occur early in life (some Bernese go blind before age 2), or much later.

Autoimmune diseases are those in which your dog's defective immune system attacks and damages parts of its own body. In Bernese, automimmune diseases include hypothyroidism, autoimmune hemolytic anemia, lupus, and degenerative spinal myelopathy.

Blood-clotting disease (von Willebrand's) occurs in Bernese Mountain Dogs. Fortunately, a simple DNA test is available so you can find out at any time whether your Bernese has von Willebrand's, carries it, or is completely clear of it. Thus far, test results show that about 1% of Bernese are affected and another 14% are carriers.

Allergies cause itchy skin and can lead to bacterial skin infections (pyoderma).

Other health issues reported in Bernese Mountain Dogs are kidney disease, inflammatory brain disease (aseptic meningitis), cerebellar ataxia, hernias, and calcinosis.

With their thick black coats, Bernese Mountain Dogs often suffer in hot climates. Summer exercise should be limited to early morning and late evening hours to prevent overheating.


Can you prevent health problems from happening to YOUR Bernese Mountain Dog?

Yes, often you can.

  1. Some health problems are genetic, which means inherited from parents. Genetic health issues are common in Bernese Mountain Dogs today because of unwise breeding practices. My book, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, shows you how to find a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy who is genetically healthy.
  2. Other health problems are environmental – 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 Bernese Mountain Dog puppy (or adult dog) in all the right ways.

Here are my dog health tips for raising a healthy Bernese Mountain Dog puppy or adult dog:

Dog lifespan quiz How Long Will Your Dog Live? – Take This Quiz!
Based on your dog's breed and how you're raising him, this personalized quiz will help you understand how long your dog might live – and most importantly, how you can increase his life expectancy.


Obedience instructor and author Michele Welton Dog Health Care – The Sensible Way
Read my advice on daily health care so your Bernese Mountain Dog lives a long, healthy life and seldom needs to see the vet.


Real homemade dog food The Best Dog Food For Feeding Your Bernese Mountain Dog
The best diet for feeding your Bernese Mountain Dog is real food. Real chicken, turkey, beef, bison, venison, fish....This is not "people food" and I'll tell you why.


Natural dog foods for your Bernese Mountain Dog. The Second-Best Dog Food For Your Bernese Mountain Dog
If you can't feed homemade dog food, here are your next-best choices.


Information on booster shots for your Bernese Mountain Dog. Vaccinations and Booster Shots: Needed or Not?
How many vaccinations does your Bernese Mountain Dog puppy really need? Does your adult Bernese need yearly booster shots? The vaccination guidelines have changed. Find out what many vets aren't telling you.


Information on choosing the best vet for your Bernese Mountain Dog. The Type of Veterinarian I Recommend
Is your veterinarian really the best choice for your dog? Learn about the differences between vets who practice conventional, holistic, and alternative veterinary medicine.


Information on spaying your Bernese Mountain Dog. Spaying Your Female Dog: Pros and Cons
Advantages and disadvantages of spaying your female Bernese Mountain Dog.


Information on neutering your male dog. Neutering Your Male Dog: Pros and Cons
Advantages and disadvantages of neutering your male dog.