Most common health problems in Bernese Mountain Dogs, plus health care and feeding.


My Complete Health Care Program for your Bernese Mountain Dog

If you want to AVOID health problems in your Bernese, you'll find my health care program very valuable.

It's called "11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy."

Raise your dog the RIGHT way, feed him the RIGHT food, give him the RIGHT vaccinations, avoid unnecessary veterinary expenses, and help him live a longer, happier, and more comfortable life.

If your Bernese already HAS a health problem, I'm sorry to hear that. You should immediately begin my health care program, and you may be able to restore his good health – or at least make him much more comfortable. Let me help!

My best-selling dog health book


Bernese Mountain Dog dog breed

Bernese Mountain Dog Health Care & Feeding

By Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2017


Quick list of Bernese Mountain Dog health problems

Unfortunately, this handsome breed has so many serious health problems that I'm no longer recommending them to any of my breed consulting clients.

Many Bernese Mountain Dogs only live 6-8 years. So many are lost prematurely to hereditary cancers, or to crippling elbow dysplasia or hip dysplasia, or to an emergency gastrointestinal syndrome called bloat.

There's also epilepsy, heart disease, hereditary eye diseases that can cause blindness, autoimmune diseases, blood-clotting disease.

Prospective owners should be willing and able to handle the financial responsibilities of specialist veterinary care, not to mention the potential emotional heartbreak.

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

(See more health problems below.)


Preventing health problems

Some health problems are inherited. For example, if both parents of your Bernese Mountain Dog have certificates proving they were tested and cleared of hereditary eye diseases, hip and elbow dysplasia, heart disease, and blood-clotting disease, your Bernese Mountain Dog has less risk of developing those conditions.

Other health problems can be prevented, or partially prevented, by the ways you raise your dog. If you're serious about doing everything you can for your Bernese Mountain Dog, my best-selling book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, shows you how to raise your Bernese Mountain Dog puppy (or adult dog) in all the right ways. It will help you be your dog's health care champion!


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

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 the best life he can.


Real homemade dog food The Best Dog Food For Feeding Your Bernese
Food is the #1 foundation for good health. The best diet for feeding your dog is real food. Real chicken, turkey, beef, fish....these are not just "people foods" and I'll tell you why.


Natural dog foods for your Bernese Mountain Dog. The Second-Best Dog Food For Your Bernese
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 some vets aren't telling you.


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


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


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.


Assisi Loop Assisi Loop Review: How I Helped Treat Inflammation and Pain
Does your dog suffer from arthritis, hip dysplasia, disk disease, colitis, a skin wound? My honest review of a veterinary device you can use at home to help reduce inflammation and pain.


Complete list of Bernese Mountain Dog 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 15,900 Bernese Mountain Dogs and found a shocking 28% dysplastic – the 8th worst rate of all 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.

Hip dysplasia is also a big problem. The OFA evaluated the hip X-rays of 21,000 Bernese Mountain Dogs and found 16% dysplastic. 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.


To help you train and care for your dog

book cover To learn more about training your dog to be calm and well-behaved, my dog training book is Teach Your Dog 100 English Words. It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your dog to listen to you and do whatever you ask.

book cover My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a good-tempered, healthy dog.

book cover My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, shows you how to help your dog live a longer life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.