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German Shepherd Health Care & Feeding

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

German Shepherd

Start your German Shepherd puppy 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
German Shepherd Health Problems

Or check out my advice for raising a healthy German Shepherd 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 German Shepherd 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 German Shepherd are... [read more]

Real homemade dog food A Quick Way To Make Homemade Dog Food
Your German Shepherd 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]

Information on booster shots for your German Shepherd. Vaccinations and Booster Shots: Needed or Not?
How many vaccinations does your German Shepherd 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 German Shepherd 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 German Shepherd? 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 German Shepherd 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]

German Shepherd dog breed

Complete list of German Shepherd health problems

The typical lifespan of German Shepherds is 10-12 years old. Some do live to 13 or 14, but often with chronic health issues such as arthritis.

And sadly, many don't even make it to age 10.

As a long-time German Shepherd owner, I know first-hand how many health problems this breed suffers from. Crippling joint diseases, autoimmune diseases, heart and eye diseases.... truly a breed with serious health problems.

Orthopedic disorders

German Shepherds suffer from high rates of two painful joint diseases: hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. At least 20% of the breed suffers from hip dysplasia, and another 20% from elbow dysplasia. Surgery for these joint diseases runs to several thousand dollars.

Panosteitis, which causes pain and lameness in young Shepherds, is another common orthopedic problem.

German Shepherds are prone to tearing the cruciate ligaments in their legs – that's another expensive surgery.

Skin problems

Rampant in this breed, especially allergies (which cause itchy skin) and pyoderma (skin infections that set in after frantic scratching of the itchy skin). There's also seborrhea, and in young Shepherds, demodectic mange.

Autoimmune diseases

Autoimmune diseases, where a dog's defective immune system attacks its own body, are extremely common in German Shepherds:

  • Often the skin is the target of the defective immune system. Autoimmune skin diseases in German Shepherds include perianal fistula (a particularly nasty infection in the poor dog's hindquarters around the anus), sebaceous adenitis, lupus, pemphigus, and nail bed disease.
  • When the defective immune system targets other organs, the resulting diseases include megaesophagus, myasthenia gravis, and degenerative myelopathy (DM). Long ago, I had a German Shepherd with DM. The defective immune system eats away at the spinal cord and leads to a slow, inevitable paralysis of the hind legs. There's no cure.

Digestive ailments

German Shepherds are notorious for digestive problems, especially chronic diarrhea caused by food intolerances and colitis (inflammatory bowel disease).

Believe me, you haven't lived until you're awakened at 3 am by your German Shepherd experiencing a bout of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (bloody diarrhea) all over the house.

Pancreatic insufficiency, a defective pancreas that wreaks havoc on the dog's ability to digest food, is yet another issue in the breed.

As with all deep-chested breeds, German Shepherds are at high risk for an emergency gastrointestinal syndrome called bloat (gastric torsion). It strikes out of the blue and can kill a perfectly healthy dog in just a few hours.

Heart disease

Just about every form of heart disease occurs in German Shepherds: sub-aortic stenosis, pulmonic stenosis, cardiomyopathy, mitral valve disease, and patent ductus arteriosus.

Eye diseases

Serious eye diseases in the breed include pannus (which is yet another autoimmune disease – I had a female German Shepherd with it) and cataracts (not just old-age cataracts, but cataracts that can cause blindness in Shepherd puppies).

Other eye diseases in the breed include cherry eye, corneal dystrophy, retinal dysplasia, and lens luxation.

Other health problems

Many German Shepherds are lost to cancer, the most common being hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma, and lymphosarcoma.

Epilepsy is one of the most recent concerns in the breed.

Blood-clotting diseases include von Willebrand's disease, hemophilia A, and the more severe hemophilia B.

Hormonal/endocrine system diseases include hypothyroidism, Cushing's disease, and diabetes. According to the Michigan State University Thyroid Database, up to 12% of German Shepherds have low thyroid levels.

Sigh. I love this breed and hate to see them suffering.

Preventing health problems

Some health problems are inherited. For example, if both parents of your German Shepherd have certificates proving they were tested and cleared of hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, heart disease, and degenerative myelopathy, your German Shepherd has less risk of developing those conditions.

Dog feeding and health book by Michele Welton Other health problems can be prevented, or partially prevented, by the ways you raise your dog.

FREE eBOOK! My free online health care program, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy shows you how to raise your German Shepherd puppy (or adult dog) in all the right ways. It will help you be 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.

My best-selling books – now available  FREE  on my website

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy is for puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know. Click here to read for free.
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. Click here to read for free.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life. Get my honest advice about all 11 Things before you bring home your new puppy, because some mistakes with early health care cannot be undone. Click here to read for free.