German Shepherd Health Care & Feeding
By Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2018
Quick list of German Shepherd health problems
Truly a breed with serious health problems. Makes me sad, because the German Shepherd was the first breed I ever owned, and I will always love them. But....
They suffer from too many painful and crippling bone and joint diseases – high rates of hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, panosteitis, cruciate ligament rupture).
Terrible skin problems – chronic itchy allergies, bacterial infections (hot spots), seborrhea, demodectic mange, and autoimmune diseases that target the skin.
Neurological diseases, especially degenerative myelopathy, that lead to paralysis. Digestive diseases that cause chronic diarrhea. An emergency gastrointestinal syndrome called bloat, which can kill a German Shepherd within hours.
Just about every form of heart disease occurs in German Shepherds. Serious eye diseases can cause blindness.
Many German Shepherds are lost to cancer. Epilepsy is one of the most recent concerns in the breed.
(See more health problems below.)
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.
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 German Shepherd, my best-selling book, 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!
Here are my dog health tips for raising a healthy German Shepherd puppy or adult dog:
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.
The Best Dog Food For Feeding Your German Shepherd
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.
Kibble or Canned Dog Food – Almost As Good As Homemade?
Are you looking for the best dry kibble or canned dog food?
Feed Homemade Dog Food Without Needing To Make It
Would you like to feed your dog homemade, but think you don't have the time or skill to make it? I have the solution for you....
Should You Buy Pet Insurance? An Honest Review
My advice on the pros and cons of pet insurance, and the best pet insurance company I've found.
Vaccinations and Booster Shots: Needed or Not?
How many vaccinations does your German Shepherd puppy really need? Does your adult German Shepherd need yearly booster shots? The vaccination guidelines have changed! Find out what some vets aren't telling you.
Spaying Your Female Dog: Pros and Cons
Advantages and disadvantages of spaying your female dog.
Neutering Your Male Dog: Pros and Cons
Advantages and disadvantages of neutering your male 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 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 German Shepherd health problems
Let's look at orthopedic diseases first. German Shepherds suffer from high rates of hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. The Orthopedic Foundation of America evaluated the hip X-rays of 118,000 German Shepherds and found 20% dysplastic. That's bad, and the true rate is even higher because most of the obviously bad X-rays were not sent in for official evaluation. Similarly, 44,000 elbow X-rays were evaluated, and 19% were dysplastic, and again, the true rate is even higher.
Panosteitis is another common orthopedic health problem. Osteochondritis and cruciate ligament rupture occur regularly. Wobbler's syndrome and hypertrophic osteodystrophy have been reported.
Let's look at skin problems next – they're rampant in this breed, especially allergies (which cause itchy skin) and pyoderma (folliculitis and furunculosis), but also seborrhea, demodectic mange, lick granuloma, and occasionally calcinosis.
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 include perianal fistula, sebaceous adenitis, lupus, pemphigus, nail bed disease, and vitiligo.
- When the defective immune system targets other organs, the resulting diseases include degenerative spinal myelopathy, megaesophagus, and myasthenia gravis.
German Shepherds are notorious for digestive problems, especially chronic diarrhea caused by food intolerances, colitis (inflammatory bowel disease), hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, or pancreatic insufficiency. This breed should be eating real food for sure, not an artificial diet of kibble or canned food.
As with all deep-chested breeds, German Shepherds are at higher-than-normal risk for the emergency gastrointestinal syndrome bloat.
Just about every form of heart disease occurs in German Shepherds: sub-aortic stenosis, pulmonic stenosis, cardiomyopathy, mitral valve disease, and patent ductus arteriosus.
Serious eye diseases in the breed include pannus (which is yet another autoimmune disease) and cataracts (which can cause blindness in Shepherd puppies). Other eye diseases include cherry eye, corneal dystrophy, retinal dysplasia, lens luxation, and occasionally progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).
Many German Shepherds are lost to cancer, the most common of which are 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.
To help you train and care for your dog
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.
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.
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.