What Diseases Do German Shepherds Get – Common Illnesses

what diseases do german shepherds get

German Shepherds live for about 7 to 10 years. These strong and fast animals often face several health problems. A study in Canine Genetics and Epidemiology in 2017 found that 63% of them in the UK had at least one issue. So, it’s critical to check their health often and take good care of them.

German Shepherds are important in police work, rescue missions, and therapy. But their health worries many owners. Knowing what illnesses they get can help you look after your pet better. They are full of energy and work hard. Yet, they can easily get sick, so we must look after their health well.

Key Takeaways

  • German Shepherds have an average lifespan of 7 to 10 years, highlighting the need for vigilant health care.
  • Approximately 20% of German Shepherds are affected by hip dysplasia, leading to discomfort and reduced mobility.
  • Cancer and Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) are more common in older German Shepherds and require immediate veterinary intervention.
  • Allergies and Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) can cause skin and digestive issues in German Shepherds.
  • Regular grooming and a high-quality diet are crucial for managing german shepherd health issues.

Hereditary Diseases in German Shepherds

German Shepherds are known for their loyalty and versatility. However, they can also inherit several health issues. It’s crucial for owners to know about these diseases to care for their pets properly.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Hip and elbow dysplasia are common in German Shepherds. The Orthopedic Foundation of Animals reports that about 21% have hip dysplasia and 19% have elbow dysplasia. These conditions stem from joint development problems and can appear by four months of age.

Symptoms include pain, trouble walking, and less activity. To manage these, options like NSAIDs, keeping a healthy weight, and surgery are available. It’s important to know, overweight puppies are at greater risk. Treatments might cost between $1,700 and $4,500.

hip and elbow dysplasia in german shepherds

Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative Myelopathy affects German Shepherds’ spinal cords. It starts with symptoms similar to hip dysplasia, like walking difficulty and coordination loss. It can lead to total paralysis. There’s no cure, but keeping active and supplements can slow its progression. Treatment expenses can be from $2,000 to $4,000.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) causes vision loss. It’s when the retina slowly breaks down, leading to blindness. PRA shows up later in life and gets worse over time. Early detection with regular vet visits can manage symptoms and help improve life quality.

Besides these, German Shepherds can have about 50 other hereditary diseases. This highlights why regular veterinarian check-ups and genetic testing are vital. Knowing risk factors and early signs can make managing hereditary diseases in German Shepherds more effective.

Common German Shepherd Health Issues

German Shepherds may face several health problems that need quick and ongoing care. Knowing about these issues helps in giving the right care and acting fast.

Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (Bloat)

Bloat is a serious condition where a German Shepherd’s stomach fills with gas and twists. This can stop blood flow and needs quick surgery to fix. Sadly, about 25% to 30% of dogs with this problem may not survive, which shows why fast action is vital. German Shepherds’ deep chests make them more likely to get bloat, but steps can be taken to prevent it. Feeding them in a certain way and not letting them run right after eating can help.

bloat in german shepherds

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency happens when the pancreas doesn’t make enough digestive enzymes. This can lead to weight loss and a bad coat because the dog can’t absorb nutrients well. They need to take digestive enzymes with all meals for their whole lives. Changes in diet are also important to keep them healthy.

Perianal Fistula

Perianal fistula causes painful, leaking sores around the dog’s anus. It’s thought to be an autoimmune problem and may need long-term treatment with medication or immune system suppressants. Sometimes, surgery is needed. With ongoing care and medicines, a dog’s life can be much better.

Bloat (GDV)High among deep-chested breedsImmediate surgery, preventative feeding practices
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)Common in German ShepherdsLifelong enzyme supplementation, dietary adjustments
Perianal FistulaCommon autoimmune disorder in GSDsMedications, immunosuppressants, surgery

Managing Allergies in German Shepherds

Allergies in German Shepherds need careful management for their health. These dogs often get allergies, showing as skin problems. These can come from food, fleas, or the environment. It’s vital to handle these issues well.

Food allergies are a big issue, leading to skin issues. Foods like beef, chicken, wheat, eggs, soy, and milk are common culprits. A diet with fresh foods can help fight these allergies.

Things like pollen, dust, and chemicals can trigger allergies too. Flea bites are also a problem, causing irritation and red spots. It’s important to keep fleas under control.

  1. Identify and eliminate known allergens from your dog’s environment.
  2. Adopt a hypoallergenic diet free from common allergens like beef and chicken.
  3. Practice regular flea control using veterinarian-recommended products.
  4. Consider diagnostic tests such as blood tests, saliva tests, and skin allergen testing to pinpoint triggers.
  5. Employ treatment options like corticosteroids, antihistamines, and probiotics for symptomatic relief.

Vets often suggest changes in lifestyle and medical care to manage these allergies. Bathing with the right shampoo and using coconut oil helps. Wiping down your dog’s fur can remove allergens too.

Watch for signs like red eyes and discharge. Ear infections from allergies can turn into chronic problems if ignored.

Allergy TypeCommon TriggersSymptomsManagement Strategies
Food AllergiesBeef, Chicken, Wheat, Eggs, Soy, MilkItchy skin, Hives, Diarrhea, VomitingHypoallergenic diet, Fresh food
Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)Flea salivaItching, Red spots, InflammationFlea control products, Regular grooming
Environmental AllergiesPollen, Dust, Perfumes, Molds, Insect bitesItchy skin, Sneezing, Watery eyesLimit exposure, Apply coconut oil, Use suitable shampoos

By being alert and active, you can control your German Shepherd’s allergies. This lets them live comfortably and healthily.


Taking care of your German Shepherd means knowing about specific health problems they might face. They can get hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament issues quite often. About 1818-1824 out of every 100,000 dogs may face these. There’s also a high chance of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, with around 450-452 out of 100,000 dogs getting it. This shows how important it is to look after them well.

It’s key to have constant vet check-ups to catch and manage these health issues early. Especially since things like degenerative myelopathy, found in about 10 out of 100,000 German Shepherds in the UK, can be better handled if found early. Anal furunculosis and specific bone problems are also concerns, affecting a small number of dogs. This highlights why keeping an eye on their health matters so much.

Besides regular health checks, talk with a vet about managing any diseases your dog might have. Good breeders who use genetic testing can help avoid some hereditary issues. Making sure your dog has the right vaccines and tests can protect them from other diseases. By being aware and taking action, you can make your German Shepherd’s life better. You’ll be taking great care of your loyal friend.

Source Links

About the author

Nathan Green

I'm Nate Green, a lifelong dog lover and proud owner of numerous dogs throughout my adult life. My passion for dogs goes beyond just owning them; I am dedicated to understanding and sharing the joys and complexities of dog ownership with fellow enthusiasts.