German Shepherd

Intelligent, responsive and bright, German shepherds are a delight to train. As long as they are well bred and socialized early, they can be some of the most easy-going, friendly and playful dogs. German shepherds are also loyal and highly protective of their owners and property; if threatened, they will not retreat.

Breed-related concerns

Every dog breed carries a distinct set of genetic advantages and health risk factors. The following are the most common diseases found in the German shepherd breed. Hopefully, your German shepherd will not face these problems. However, early detection and preventive healthcare can make all the difference in helping your dog live a longer, happier life (see breed-related disease descriptions below).

Puppy (birth to 1 year)*

  • Developmental bone/joint disease (hip dysplasia cannot be definitively diagnosed until 2 years of age)
  • Fear-induced aggression

Adult (1 to 6 years)*

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Pannus
  • Perianal fistula
  • Pyoderma

Senior (7 years and older)*

  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Hind limb weakness

Breed-related disease descriptions

Listed in alphabetical order *Please note that these common diseases can occur earlier or later in the dog’s life.

Chronic diarrhea. Loose stool that is persisted for more than two to three weeks. May be accompanied by vomiting and weight loss. Causes include ingestion of toxins, intestinal parasites, intestinal infections, digestive enzyme deficiency, food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, hormonal abnormalities, liver or kidney disease and intestinal cancer. (A sensitive digestive tract is breed related. However, the ingestion of toxins, internal parasites, and intestinal infection are not a breed predisposition.)

Developmental bone/joint disease. Affects predominantly young, large-breed dogs (it starts in young dogs, but a lot of the time it is not evident until the dog is older). Dogs may show no signs or may show pain, lameness, and reluctance to exercise. With hip dysplasia, there may be muscle wasting in the hind legs.

Fear-induced aggression. A pet that growls and snaps when afraid thinks he is fighting for his life. Because of a combination of genetic tendencies, lack of socialization, early experience, and sometimes abuse, the dog that cannot escape will attack. During the growling, snapping or attack, the dog shows fear postures such as crouching with his tail between his legs.

Hemangiosarcoma. Cancer of the cells lining the inside of blood vessels. Affects mainly the spleen, liver, heart and skin. Symptoms include masses weakness, a distended abdomen, sudden collapse and pale gums.
Hind limb weakness. Weakness and sometimes a lack of coordination or wobbliness affecting the rear limbs. Causes include slipped disc, degeneration of the bones of the spine and degeneration of the spinal cord.

Hypothyroidism. Insufficient thyroid hormone production caused by disease of the thyroid glands. Symptoms include hair loss, obesity, lethargy, cold intolerance and skin infections.

Pannus. Inflammation and discoloration of the cornea (window of the eye). Signs include pink to black growths over the front of the eye, squinting, excessive tearing or eye discharge, eye redness, rubbing or pawing at the eyes and impaired vision.
Perianal fistula. Abscesses and ulcers that form around the anus. Signs may include frequent licking around the anus, pain on defecation, straining excessively to defecate, blood in the stool and a foul-smelling discharge coming from sores around the anus.

Pyoderma.Recurring bacterial infection of the skin, often with the presence of pus. Pyoderma is infection of the skin not the disease behind the infection. There are always several factors including different allergies, external parasite infection, and any kind of self trauma.The underlying cause is thought to be an immune system deficiency. Signs include scratching, skin redness, pimples, sores, scabs and areas of hair loss. The skin may be painful and some pets may be lethargic and lose their appetites.

Help your dog live a longer, healthier life. Ask your veterinarian about a breed-related preventive health plan.

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