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Bernese Mountain Dog Health Care & Feeding

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Bernese Mountain Dog

Start your Bernese Mountain Dog off on the right foot by feeding the right food, giving the right vaccinations, finding the right vet, and if you're going to spay or neuter, don't do it too early.


Jump down to this list of
Bernese Mountain Dog Health Problems


Or check out my advice 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 lives a long, healthy life and seldom needs to see the vet... [read more]

numeral 33 Best Ways To Feed Your Dog Healthy Food
You can dramatically increase your dog's chances of living a long, healthy life by feeding the right food. Cutting right to the chase, the best foods for your Bernese Mountain Dog are... [read more]

Real homemade dog food A Quick Way To Make Homemade Dog Food
Your Bernese will love real chicken, turkey, beef, fish, eggs, yogurt, broccoli.... this is not just "people food" and I'll tell you why... [read more]

Dry kibble and canned dog food 5 Best Kibble and Canned Dog Foods
Some are better than others, but I must be honest – I'm not a huge fan of dry or canned dog food. Here are my concerns... [read more]

NomNomNow homemade dog food service Feed Homemade Dog Food Without Needing To Make It
Would you like to feed your dog homemade, but don't have the time to make it? I have a solution for you... [read more]

Pet insurance Should You Buy Pet Insurance? An Honest Review
My advice on the pros and cons of pet health insurance. The best pet insurance company I've found is... [read more]

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

Information on spaying Spaying Your Female Dog: Pros and Cons
Should your female Bernese Mountain Dog be spayed? Current research says, "The AGE at which you spay can be vitally important to your dog's future health." So what's the best age? [read more]

Information on neutering your male dog. Neutering Your Male Dog: Pros and Cons
Have you been told that you must neuter your male Bernese? Current research shows that the issue is not so simple. Pet owners are not being told about some risks associated with neutering male dogs, especially neutering too early... [read more]

Information on choosing the best vet Make Sure Your Vet is the Best!
Is your current veterinarian really the best choice for your dog? Here's how to tell... [read more]

Assisi Loop Assisi Loop Review
Does your Bernese suffer from arthritis, hip dysplasia, disk disease, colitis? My honest review of a veterinary device you can use at home to reduce inflammation and pain. [read more]

Bernese Mountain Dog

Complete list of Bernese Mountain Dog health problems

Unfortunately, this handsome breed has so many serious health problems that I cannot in good conscience recommend them to 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 able to look past the breed's handsome features, striking colors, and good-natured temperament and be willing and able to handle the financial responsibilities of specialist veterinary care, not to mention the potential emotional heartbreak.

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.

Preventing health problems

Some health problems are inherited. For example, if your dog inherits from his parents the genes for an eye disease called PRA, he will go blind and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Dog feeding and health book by Michele Welton But most health problems can be prevented by the ways you raise your 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 in all the right ways that help prevent health problems. Become your dog's health care champion!

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.