The German Shepherd (GS) is an intelligent, obedient, loyal dog commanding a level of respect matched by few other breeds. They are predisposed to many diseases though, so careful observation of your pets daily routine is important. Any significant change in this routine is cause for an examination. Our web site in the Diseases Section has detailed information on many of the diseases they are prone to.
Skeletal disorders are common in German Shepherds and include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and panosteitis. Most skeletal disorders occur in relatively young dogs and are first noticed when the pet seems to move painfully or becomes reluctant to play actively. If your GS is limping mildly rest it for 24 hours, and if the problem persists come in for an exam and radiographs.
Some problems that seem skeletal (involve the bones and joints) are actually neurological (involve the nervous system). They range from epilepsy, to conditions that cause the inability to use the back end properly. Degenerative myelopathy, a serious problem of the rear quarters, is especially prevalent.
Several skin diseases have been reported in German Shepherds. These dogs are susceptible to moist dermatitis, yeast dermatitis, and inhalant and food allergies, along with several diseases in which the immune system behaves inappropriately. Symptoms include lots of itching, hair loss, and smelly skin, in addition to chronic ear problems. These can be chronic in nature so early diagnosis and treatment is imperative.
Hormone problems also occur that cause internal disease. In some the growth is stunted, in others the adrenal glands secrete excess cortisone, the pancreas secretes excess insulin, or the parathyroid glands secrete too little or too much hormone.
They are prone to a large number of cancers that can be of the skin, lymph nodes, reproductive organs or internal organs. Cancer in GS’s can cause many different symptoms, so diligence in checking for any problems in home and prompt examination is imperative.
Problems with the red blood cells are not uncommon. This can cause anemia and bleeding disorders. Watch for lethargy, easy bruising, limping, or blood in urine or stool. Perform a weekly exam of your GS’s mucus membranes (gums) to make sure they are pink. Our Learning Center shows you how to do an in-home exam to check for this.
They have anal problems (called perianal fistulas) that sometimes need surgical correction if severe enough. Symptoms include rubbing, itching, odors, and infection. This is a potentially chronic problem and needs to be dealt with soon for a good outcome.
There are a wide array of diseases that can cause problems to the digestive system. Any abnormality of the digestive system such as regurgitation, vomiting, or diarrhea should be brought to our immediately. They are prone to a problem where the pancreas does not secrete enough digestive enzymes. Symptoms include diarrhea, greasy, and being underweight.
German Shepherds are predisposed to bloat, a serious and even fatal problem in the stomach. Tacking down the stomach when a routine spay is performed on female dogs at an early age might be beneficial. Most of these GI diseases can be successfully treated if correctly diagnosed in a timely fashion.
Eye problems can occur at many different ages. Some involve the eyelids while others involve the internal structures of the eye. In some cases symptoms are apparent, while others need a thorough ophthalmic exam.
German Shepherds are prone to several heart diseases. Any symptom of lethargy, coughing, poor appetite, or exercise intolerance could be a sign of a heart problem and should be investigated. In young dogs a disease of the heart called Patent Ductus Arteriosis (PDA) can occur. We check for this when we listen to your puppy’s heart with our stethoscope when it comes in for routine exams.