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10 Common Health Problems for German Shepherds: Science-Based Facts

Hallie Roddy

By Hallie Roddy

German shepherd puppy is fed and checked out by a veterinarian. choking, inhaling tiny things, or object inhalation

We view German Shepherds as intelligent, loyal, and brave dogs who can take on even the toughest of tasks. As a breed that works with military and police personnel, it’s hard to imagine these dogs as anything but tough. But like all other dogs, German Shepherds have their fair share of health issues that slowly arise as they start to age.

Let’s look at some of the most common health problems associated with the German Shepherd breed.

The 10 Common Health Problems in German Shepherds

1. Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common problems in many dog breeds, but it’s even more common in German Shepherds. These are a larger dog breed, and the issue only gets worse when they are with owners who don’t take their health and exercise requirements seriously. Dogs with genes for hip dysplasia aren’t supposed to be bred, but many breeders ignore this and breed them anyway. The genes get passed on from litter to litter and is rather painful since it is a malformation in the hip joint.

german shepherd with wheelchair
Photo Credit: makeitclear, Pixabay

2. Elbow Dysplasia

Like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia affects many larger dog breeds from a line of poorly bred ancestors. Instead of the issue with the hip, the same problem occurs in the elbows, and it can vary from mild to severe symptoms. It usually makes it uncomfortable to walk and, unfortunately, not much can be done once a dog is diagnosed.

3. Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV)

Also called bloat, GDV is a serious issue that occurs when dogs eat food too quickly and then participate in too much physical activity. The gas builds up in the stomach and the pressure from the bloating makes it difficult for dogs to breathe. Some dogs go into shock or eat grass to try to vomit. This is a life-threatening condition, and your dogs should be taken to the vet immediately if you think they might have it. Try to feed your German Shepherds three small meals a day to prevent the problem.

4. Diabetes

German Shepherd’s large size means they are more likely to overeat whenever they can get their paws on some food. Because of this, diabetes isn’t uncommon in this breed. The signs of diabetes include dry mouth, fatigue, excessive eating and urinating, and swollen feet.

German shepherd eating pear
Image Credit: Flashieeh, Shutterstock

5. Epilepsy

German Shepherds are known for having seizure disorders. Even though epilepsy is incurable, there are many ways to help prevent the symptoms. Many dogs won’t show any signs of it if they are kept out of stressful situations.

6. Hemophilia

Hemophilia has occurred in German Shepherds due to a long line of inbreeding. This disease happens when the blood doesn’t clot properly. Even the smallest of cuts can be serious for a dog. This disease is more common in German Shepherds than many other dog breeds, so be careful when out exercising with them.

7. Cataracts

Another health issue that your German Shepherd might get as they age is cataracts. This issue is usually easy to tell when it is happening because you start to see that their eyes look a little more cloudy or they start running into things more often. If they progress, it becomes challenging for dogs to see anything at all.

dog cataract
Image Credit: Pauline Loroy, Unsplash

8. Degenerative Disc Disease

If you haven’t been able to tell by now, the size of German Shepherds contributes to a lot of their health issues. Degenerative Disc Disease is common in large animals, but it can even start to manifest when the dogs are still young. A lot of breeders try to avoid this issue. Get your German Shepherd checked for spinal abnormalities from when they are puppies to keep this in check.

9. Panosteitis

German Shepherds grow very quickly and sometimes limp a lot as they mature from 5 to 14 months old. This condition isn’t permanent, but you could notice panosteitis in your new German Shepherd puppy. Take your German Shepherd to the vet and have them perform an x-ray to confirm that this is what you’re dealing with.

10. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis can only happen once throughout your dog’s life. This happens when the dog’s pancreas is inflamed, usually because of environmental issues. It is more common in German Shepherds because they have many stomach issues like Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency.

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Final Thoughts

No matter what dog breed you welcome into your family, there are going to be all sorts of health issues that you’ll have to face at one point or another. Of course, some breeds have fewer than others, but a lot of them can be prevented with a healthy diet and lifestyle.

If you’re nervous about any of these, buy from reputable breeders who have a health guarantee and take them to your veterinarian for regular health screenings.

Over time, visits to the vet can really add up. If you're looking for a good pet insurance plan that won't break the bank, you may want to look at Lemonade. This company offers adjustable plans customized to your pet's needs.

Featured Image Credit: Mihail Guta, Shutterstock

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