Dealing with German Shepherd Health Issues

photo by petgearlab

A big consideration that comes with owning any dog is knowing its medical costs. “Do German Shepherds have health problems?” of course they do! This guide should help you understand what to do when you encounter German Shepherd medical problems.

Common German Shepherd genetic problems

Though an unfortunate reality, generational inbreeding has led to many German Shepherd health problems. The following are known GSD and white German Shepherd Dog health issues.

Hip Dysplasia

This is the most common German Shepherd genetic problem. In mild cases, your GSD’s hip joints become misaligned and hit the femur causing pain. In serious cases, total hip dislocation may happen.

Maintaining a healthy weight, food portion control and moderation of strenuous exercise is good prevention and can prevent further occurrences of German Shepherd medical problems.

Elbow Dysplasia

Much like hip dysplasia, GSDs are also prone to contracting problems with the joint sockets in their elbows. This may lead to arthritic problems with your GSD.

Vet-prescribed painkillers, assisted physical therapy or surgery may be required as preventive treatment for your GSD.


This disorder tends to affect medium-large sized GSDs and “twists” their stomachs. Symptoms include dry heaving, enlarged or bloated stomachs, and marked restlessness.

Bloat (also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus, GDV) requires surgery and cannot resolve itself on its own. Further neglect may result in death.

Heart Disease

Common heart diseases and disorders for GSDs include aortic stenosis, persistent right aortic arch, mitral valve dysplasia and tricuspid dysplasia. Very simply, these heart ailments stem from malformations and poor development of your GSD heart.

Consult with your vet if you notice fainting, constant coughing, difficulty breathing, fluid buildup in the abdominal areas and increased fatigue.


Common GSD allergies include an intolerance to fleas, certain kinds of dog food, corn, chemical or cleaning products. Symptoms include rashes, redness at the affected area and excessive scratching, which may lead to infection.

See also  Pannus and other German Shepherd Eye Problems

Antibiotics may be administered as treatment to badly scratched areas, but prevent exposing your GSD to allergens as much as possible.

Degenerative Myelopathy

Also known as Disc Degenerative Disease, this German Shepherd genetic problem usually presents symptoms at age 8-9. The myelin sheaths and axons waste away over time which may lead to limb and complete paralysis in GSDs.

Physical therapy and regular exercise are the best ways to help treat this genetic condition, as there is no cure for it currently.


One of the common genetic German Shepherd diseases is diabetes mellitus. Symptoms include frequent urination, appetite loss and dehydration. If left untreated, German Shepherd health risks include experiencing seizures, obesity, diabetic shock (hypoglycemia) or diabetic coma.

The only treatment for diabetes in GSDs is administering insulin shots or oral medication. Supplemental treatment may include adding a high-protein, high-fiber, low-carb diet for your GSD, more exercise and regular GSD blood sugar monitoring.


GSDs are predisposed to contract these either through genetics or old age; GSD eyes become cloudy and bluish-looking. Cataracts interfere and can severely disrupt your GSD’s eyesight or leave them permanently blind. GSDs that are diagnosed with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing cataracts.

The only treatment for cataracts is surgery.


GSDs are predisposed to certain kinds of cancer, the most common ones being hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma, lymphoma and melanoma. Tumors can develop in the circulatory system, bones, lymph nodes or skin.

Normally, the surgical removal of the tumors and chemotherapy sessions are recommended treatment procedures.


GSD epilepsy is a common German Shepherd genetic disorder and is characterized by uncontrollable jerky movements, staring, loss of consciousness or muscle twitching. It is caused by abnormal electrical brain activity and has no cure.

See also  German Shepherd Seizure

Treatment will include prescribing anti-seizure medication like phenobarbital, diazepam and primidone.

German Shepherd diseases

The following list of diseases are German Shepherd common health issues and can be contracted through infections. White German Shepherd dog health issues also apply.

Canine Parvovirus

More commonly known as “parvo”, symptoms include vomiting, fever and bloody diarrhea, which can lead to severe dehydration, anemia and toxic shock. It is these reasons that make parvo severely detrimental to German Shepherd puppy health and can lead to death.

Parvo is mainly contracted through fecal transmission, so keep an eye on your GSD when they are outside exploring. Make sure your GSD has been vaccinated against parvo.


Also called “hardpad disease”, canine distemper is a contagious disease that can infect GSDs through the air, shared toys, food or water. This virus attacks the respiratory, nervous and gastrointestinal systems of GSDs which makes it very deadly. Telltale symptoms include pus-like discharge from their eyes and nose, reduced appetite, fever, seizures, muscle twitches, involuntary jaw movements, head tilting, vomiting and a hardening of their foot pads and noses (hyperkeratosis). 

Vaccination is the ultimate prevention for canine distemper in GSDs.

Bladder Stones

Rock-like formations can form in the bladder area of your GSD and may lead to damage in its urinary tract. Symptoms include bloody urine, pain when urinating and an increased frequency of urination. Bacterial infection or a mineral-rich diet can increase the chance for your GSD to contract this disease.

Treatment usually involves surgery, but special diets may help diminish bladder stones.

Liver Disease

GSD liver disease may be caused by cancer, a bacterial infection, accidental ingestion of a toxic substance or physical trauma to the liver. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, increase in thirst, irritability, slow blood clotting, fluid buildup in the abdomen and blindness.

See also  German Shepherd Ear Infection

Constant rehydration, antibiotics prescriptions, medication and (if needed) surgery are required to treat GSD liver disease.


Rabies virus attacks the brain and is transmitted through saliva (and can affect humans). Symptoms include noticeable restlessness, self-mutilation, excessive biting, over-aggression or excitedness and sensitivity to light and sound.Your GSD may have frothy or excessive saliva, facial and limb paralysis and may avoid eating and drinking altogether.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for rabies. The best way to protect your German Shepherd’s well-being from this virus is vaccination.

How do I protect my GSD from these health risks?

Do German Shepherds have health problems? Yes. Here are some things to keep in mind so you can effectively manage and treat health issues to prevent them from permanently affecting your GSD’s life.

Prioritize vaccinations

Though mainly a tried and true solution for viral and bacterial GSD infections, vaccinations are the ultimate preventive method to keep your GSD healthy. Vaccinate your GSD puppy at the age of 6-8 weeks and follow your vet’s instructions afterwards. Ignore vaccinations at your GSD’s peril!

Maintain a regular play and exercise routine

German Shepherd genetic problems may be alleviated and, in some cases, reversed with regular activity and play time. Exercise provides many inherent benefits like increased blood flow and mental stimulation for GSDs and are an overall good deterrent for degenerative genetic disorders.

Follow vet check-up dates

Treat trips to the vet seriously and your GSD will thank you for it. Vets may detect anomalies or seemingly unrelated symptoms of a serious disease and are trained to look for health risks that you may not find on your own. Prioritize your GSD and it will take care of you.

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