German Shepherd Health Guide
For many years, the German Shepherd has been one of the most popular dog breeds, as a family pet, a companion to those with physical limitations, and as a working dog in law enforcement.
Generally, a strong, active, and healthy dog, the German Shepherd would be a wonderful addition to your family and with good care, could give you years of companionship.
Health Problems in the German Shepherd
Over the years, the popularity of the German Shepherd has led to some careless breeding that encouraged hereditary diseases such as joint dysplasia, blood disorders, and other medical conditions.
This alone is reason enough to work with a top-quality, reputable breeder to make sure that the young dog you bring home is healthy and as free from physical problems as any dog can be. This strong start, along with a good diet and plenty of exercise, should eliminate many of the serious health issues that may afflict a purebred dog.
One of the conditions that all dog owners should be aware of is hip dysplasia, a degenerative joint disease that does not have to be a problem for you if your breeder has certified his puppies as free from this condition. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) has a radiograph procedure that will detect early signs of this condition. When working with a breeder, you should ask for documentation showing the puppy meets this OFA standard.
Proper socialization of puppies by the breeder is also important, not only because you will receive a calmer, friendlier dog that is comfortable with humans, but also because a less nervous, less stressed dog would not be prone to some of the digestive problems that can afflict a timid or skittish animal. Proper socialization and care from the start will go a long way to ensuring that your new pet will eat properly and exercise to stay healthy.
German Shepherds can also be subject to some flea allergies and skin problems, such as eczema. Three main types of allergies related to skin conditions are food allergy, flea allergy dermatitis, and allergic inhaled dermatitis. In addition, some dogs are allergic to the grains in cheaper grades of commercial food (wheat, corn, soy). Dairy products can sometimes be a problem for individual dogs as well.
For flea allergy dermatitis, this was more common years ago but new treatments and awareness of the condition have made it more treatable and less of a worry to the dog owner. Canine atopy or allergic inhaled dermatitis is generally caused by re-exposure to the same allergen, items such as certain trees and grasses, feathers, house dust, and chemicals used to treat fabrics.
Many experienced owners of German Shepherds recommend staying away from all but the top-quality commercial foods. However, other people recommend that you feed your dog the same high-quality foods that you bring home from the store for yourself, such as lean meats and certain vegetables. Bloat or gastric distortion can sometimes be a problem for large, deep-chested dogs.
One of the key factors in this condition is a twisting of the stomach that traps contents and causes gas to build up. One way to help prevent this condition is to feed your German Shepherd smaller amounts at each feeding so it does not wolf down too much food at once. The same is true for water.
Because the German Shepherd was bred as a working dog, it is best to plan for regular exercise to keep him healthy. Give your German Shepherd some regular tasks to do, even if they are just fun and a little bit challenging such as retrieving the paper, getting the ball, etc.
With proper care and nutrition, your German Shepherd will be with you for 12 or more happy years.
Read More About German Shepherd
- German Shepherd Breed Information
- German Shepherd : 10 Most Common Questions
- German Shepherd Training Guide
- Owning a German : Breeder Recommendations