Your German Shepherds Health
The German Shepherd is normally a fit, healthy dog with an average lifespan these days of 10-15yrs. As with most pedigree breeds, there are certain hereditary conditions that can be a problem, as well as other health issues that are more prevalent in this breed, which need to be considered if you are thinking of getting a GSD.
Your German Shepherd will need a good diet from weaning age and there is an enormous variety of foodstuffs suitable for this large breed. At the bottom of this page you will see a link for "Feeding Your GSD". There is more information and some suggestions of kibble that we think is worth while, however, there is growing interest in feeding a more natural diet rather than dried foods. This is something to think about, especially when considering the possible long-term effects of diet. In general, to keep your dog fit and well, you need to give him/her a healthy diet and lots of regular exercise. German Shepherds are very sociable dogs. They bond strongly with their family and love to be with them , so make time to be with them and have lots of fun.
Right now I want to talk about the health of the GSD and how a good breeder should (most do)
prepare for the healthiest litter possible.
By now, a lot people know that most of our larger breed dogs run the risk of hip and elbow dysplasia, but there is a growing number of you that do a lot of research and are aware of different possible health problems that can affect the GSD. Other breeds are also affected, but you are here because of your interest in the German Shepherd Dog and that is what we are concentrating on now.
Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. There is a general consensus among canine genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners that the conditions described here have a significant rate of incidence and/or impact in this breed. That does not mean your dog will have these problems; it just means that the dog is more at risk than other dogs. We will describe the most common issues seen in German Shepherd Dogs to give you an idea of what may come up in her future. This guide contains general health information as well as the most important genetic predispositions for German Shepherd Dogs.
My purpose in creating this page is not only to educate the prospective GSD family but hopefully, it may also alleviate unnecessary heartache in the future. Now, having said that, a breeder can only do so much to try to guarantee a long and happy life with your new family member. No amount of health testing, feeding correctly, choosing the best possible bloodlines to be bred together, can give you a 100% guarantee that your puppy/dog will not be affected by a disease. But a puppy produced by health-tested parents with a strong health-tested pedigree is a lot less likely to result with a genetic fault.
We all agree to breed-related risks the day we agree to purchase this specific breed and the benefits of owning the dog of your dreams, outweighs the risks related to the genetics of this breed.
OK, here we go.
Recommended Test for the German Shepherd Dog
Elbow Dysplasia * Hip Dysplasia * DM (Degenerative Mylopathy * *Temperament*
These are the four main concerns though there are some others I will list, but not go into as much here. Cardiac, Eyes, and Thyroid
Canine Hip Dysplasia
Canine Hip Dysplasia typically develops because of an abnormally developed hip joint, but can also be caused by cartilage damage from a traumatic fracture (i.e. playing too rough, jumping from furniture or autos, over exercising a young pup). With cartilage damage or a hip joint that isn’t formed properly, over time the existing cartilage will lose its thickness and elasticity. This breakdown of the cartilage will eventually result in pain with any joint movement.
No one can predict when or even if a dysplastic dog will start showing clinical signs of lameness due to pain. The severity of the disease can be affected by environmental factors, such as caloric intake or level of exercise. There are a number of dysplastic dogs with severe arthritis that run, jump, and play as if nothing is wrong and some dogs with barely any arthritic x-ray evidence that are severely lame.
Canine Elbow Dysplasia
Elbow dysplasia is a general term used to identify an inherited polygenic disease in the elbow. Three specific etiologies make up this disease and they can occur independently or in conjunction with one another. Studies have shown the inherited polygenic traits causing these etiologies are independent of one another. (Again- environment and how you raise your puppy also play a big part in development) Clinical signs involve lameness which may remain subtle for long periods of time. No one can predict at what age lameness will occur in a dog due to a large number of genetic and environmental factors such as degree of severity of changes, rate of weight gain, amount of exercise, etc.. Subtle changes in gait may be characterized by excessive inward deviation of the paw which raises the outside of the paw so that it receives less weight and distributes more mechanical weight on the outside (lateral) aspect of the elbow joint away from the lesions located on the inside of the joint. Range of motion in the elbow is also decreased.
Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a disorder of the spinal cord that affects dogs and is similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a human disease that’s also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The word “degenerative” in the name refers to the degeneration of the spinal cord and the peripheral nerves. “Myelopathy” describes any neurological deficit of the spinal cord. The spinal cord contains fibers that relay movement commands from the brain to the limbs and sensory information from the limbs to the brain. DM is known now to be a genetic disorder: A genetic mutation has been identified that is a major risk factor for development of the disease. Something important to note; DM though awful, at least is not painful. DM is not a required test from OFA, it is optional at this time. But most breeders are performing the test.
I feel so strongly about the Temperament of a dog that I almost put this section first. So please don't think that because temperament is fourth, that we think of it in that order.
One of the very first things we ask when looking at a new puppy or dog, what is their temperament like?
What is their parents temperament like?
Are they social with humans and other animals? Now, I don't expect my dogs to be licking a stranger or totally accepting right off the bat but, I don't want a dog that is a liability either.
Our puppies are bred first, for families. That doesn't mean they are push overs, it means that they are patient, loving, loyal and will listen. It means they know how to discriminate. Most of our adult dogs know the good from the "iffy" and the bad. More than once I have had one of my girls stand "guard" behind a person they didn't trust and as it turned out, neither did I.
Though the other test are optional, using good hygiene will affect your dogs overall health. Especially keeping his teeth clean. Just like in humans, bad teeth and gums can lead to infections which will affect the blood stream and in turn, the heart. So good teeth cleaning should become a part of your yearly check up on your GSD.