When we think of German Shepherds (GSDs), the nobility of the breed can sometimes fool us into thinking that these powerful and highly intelligent dogs are somehow exempt from breed-related health troubles.
Alas, that’s not quite true. For all their resilience and adaptability, GSDs too have some common diseases that you should know about if one is — or about to be — a part of your family. Being knowledgeable about the breed can help you quickly take action, in case you ever suspect that your pet may be showing symptoms of the following disorders that are commonly associated with the hardy and hardworking GSD:
# 1: Hip Dysplasia
Canine Hip Dysplasia is a displacement between the thigh bone and the hip joint that often occurs in heavy-set dogs like German Shepherds. Typically, Hip Dysplasia is marked by progressive lameness or progressive pain and discomfort when walking. You may notice a reluctance to jump, take the stairs or do any activity that aggravates the pain. The dog can be standing with its hind legs planted close together or walking with a swaying gait that relieves some of the pressure.
The reason why a lot of vets encourage families to research the background of a German Shepherd puppy they are purchasing is this: as one of America’s most popular breeds, GSDs are often farmed by unethical breeders and Hip Dysplasia can be a genetically passed-on skeletal disease that is a result of irregular breeding circumstances.
The good news is Hip Dysplasia can be treated with physical therapy in less advanced cases or surgery, if the disorder has become aggravated.
# 2: Elbow Dysplasia
Though less common than Hip Dysplasia, a similar displacement can occur in the elbow joint of German Shepherds, making it difficult for the dogs to walk with without pain and discomfort.
The growth disturbance in the elbow joint can occur because of trauma, defect in cartilage growth, lack of exercise, food habits etc.
# 3: Perianal Fistula
Perianal fistula are tunnel like formations that occur around the anus. They may begin as small indentations and develop into an anomaly that surrounds the entire anal area, making it difficult for the dog to defecate. There may also be blood and pus present in the stools.
Perianal Fistula is a painful condition associated with the GSD breed, and often passes unnoticed in its early stages. Pet owners may first become aware of the problem when they discover a foul odor in the dog’s bedding, crate etc that is caused by pussy discharge coming from the affected area.
A variety of treatments are available if your pet is suffering from Perianal Fistula, and your vet will probably screen his or her diet as well for possible allergy reactions to any food substance.
# 4: Panosteitis
This condition is also known as `wandering lameness’, and it happens without warning, taking GDS owners by complete surprise. The shaft of one or more long bones in the leg gets impacted, and it typically affects younger GSDs of either sex that are still in the growing phase.
Rapid growth and a high protein/high calcium diet can be some of the principle causes of its sudden appearance, and Panosteitis can recur until the animals have reached the age of 2, or past their growing phase.
As the condition is associated with “growing pains” it resolves on its own. The best you can do is follow your vet’s advise on how to help your pet stay as comfortable and pain free as possible until the symptoms of Panosteitis dissipates.
# 5: Megaesophagus
Megaesophagus is a congenital problem which affects the esophagus’ ability to smoothly pass food down to the stomach. The esophagus muscles become limp, which prompts the dogs suffering from the condition to vomit up their food and become weak and sluggish from lack of nutrition. Aspiration pneumonia may also occur from the blocked food and liquid leaking into the lungs.
Megaesophagus requires a lifetime of care, and may involve liquid diets, elevated feeding etc. to make sure the animals receive sufficient nutrition and hydration to survive.