DO GERMAN SHEPHERDS HAVE A LOT OF HEALTH PROBLEMS?
German Shepherd Dogs rarely get sick! They have an iron constitution and are physically equipped to live outdoors, come rain or shine. However, they are subject to a few common diseases, so your German Shepherd's health will need some monitoring, as is the case with all dogs.
Common Health Problems for German Shepherds
Although German Shepherds are generally fairly robust and healthy, they are unfortunately prone to certain diseases. It's important to be aware of these before proceeding with an adoption. Here are the most common health problems for German Shepherds:
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia: This fairly common disease is caused by a deformation of the joints during growth. Dysplasia is a genetic disease, which is exacerbated by certain external factors, including canine obesity and intense physical exercise. It usually affects both sides of the body; hip dysplasia affects the hind legs, while elbow dysplasia affects the front legs. As a result, your German Shepherd may suffer from lameness or a lack of coordination. They might even have trouble standing up and lying down and, ultimately, dysplasia can lead to paralysis. All serious breeders will have the parents screened to prevent puppies from being predisposed to the disease. Crossbreeding between two individuals affected by dysplasia is banned.
Hemangiosarcoma: Hemangiosarcoma is a malignant and very aggressive tumour that grows from vascular cells on the heart, spleen, and liver. It is also sometimes found in the skin, bones, nervous system, or even the bladder. The recommended treatment for hemangiosarcoma chemotherapy and/or surgery. Unfortunately, the prognosis is often poor, as the tumour quickly metastasises to other areas of the body.
Perianal Fistulas: This is one of the most common health problems for this dog breed. The origins of the disease are unknown. It is characterised by the appearance of painful ulcerative lesions in the anus of the animal. The most serious cases require surgery.
Pancreatitis: When the pancreas is inflamed and can no longer fulfil its role or starts to deteriorate, this is called pancreatitis. Pancreatitis in dogs can develop either acutely or chronically. There are many different causes of dog pancreatitis, such as obesity, tumours, diet, stress, genetics, etc. Treatment depends primarily on the severity of the disease.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PTA): This is a hereditary disease, characterised by degeneration of the retina. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease and dogs generally go blind within twelve months of diagnosis. While not particularly painful, it will nevertheless require certain adaptations in your daily life. Other dog breeds, such as the Australian Shepherd or the Border Collie, are also affected by this disease.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM): This disease affects the spinal cord and the symptoms result from degeneration of the white matter of the spinal cord. It usually appears in older dogs between 8 and 14 years old. It is characterised by slowly progressive hind limb weakness and paralysis. Ultimately, myelopathy is always fatal and there is no treatment to cure it. Once diagnosed, the animal's life expectancy is six to twelve months.
The Average Lifespan of a German Shepherd
Not all dog breeds are created equal when it comes to health and lifespan. The average life expectancy of the German Shepherd is between 10 and 12 years. This more or less aligns with the life expectancy of other dogs the same size. It is higher than giant dog breeds, who generally live much shorter - 7 years on average for the Bernese Mountain Dog, 9 years for the Great Dane, for example - but it is also lower than smaller dogs or primitive dogs, who are largely unaffected by crossbreeding.
Bear in mind that the average life expectancy of any dog breed is only an indication. Your dog could exceed it or, unfortunately, their life could be cut short by an accident or a serious health problem.
However, there are a few precautions you can take to ensure that your dog stays with you as long as possible, such as contracting pet insurance to better protect your German Shepherd.
How Can I Increase My German Shepherd's Life Expectancy?
Good habits also help to protect your dog better. No matter how careful you are, caution does not protect against the onset of a serious disease. These can appear out of nowhere, without warning. Nevertheless, you can guarantee your dog a good life, no matter how long or short, with these simple tips.
Choose a High-Quality Diet
Don't neglect your German Shepherd's diet; their health also depends on their stomach. Low-quality dog food will have a direct impact on your pet's health, and vice versa. There are a few basic principles to follow when choosing the ideal dog food for your German Shepherd. The first rule is not to buy dry dog food or wet dog food in supermarkets. This is because it tends to be very poor in quality and thus incapable of meeting the nutritional needs of your dog.
Choose dog food that is adapted to your dog's breed, size, health condition, and age. A German Shepherd puppy will not have the same needs as an adult or a senior dog! Give your dog the correct amount of dog food so as not to encourage weight problems and diabetes and go lightly on the treats, especially shop-bought ones. Finally, consider using food supplements if necessary, which can be used to target specific health problems. Always seek your vet's advice before adding a new supplement to your German Shepherd's diet.
Meet Your Dog's Basic Needs
A well-balanced German Shepherd is a happy and healthy dog. The adage "healthy body, healthy mind" applies perfectly to them. An athletic breed, the German Shepherd needs regular games and activities to prevent them from falling into a deep depression. Make sure you take your dog out regularly and play with them to help them exercise as much as they need to.
Get Serious about Vet Check-Ups
Finally, keep your dog's deworming and antiparasitic treatments up to date. Adhere to your dog's vaccination schedule and make sure to visit your vet every year for a little check-up. This will help ensure that any health problem, big or small, is detected early and treated as soon as possible.
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