If you are seeking a large breed or gentle giant to welcome into your family, be sure to educate yourself about the personality traits of each breed that you are considering as well as the health conditions that often strike our larger canine friends. This will empower you to take steps to address potential problems and avoid costly and debilitating scenarios. Have your new puppy evaluated by your veterinarian, who will pass along some preventative tips.
Hip dysplasia is one of the most common conditions to afflict large dogs. It is an inherited condition in which the hip joints are malformed and do not join together properly. The two bones of the joint rub and grind on one another, causing excess wear and tear on your dog’s hips. The pain that this causes can result in limping, difficulty getting up from a laying position and shying away from physical activity. German shepherds and retrievers are very prone to this disease, but any breed can present with hip dysplasia. The discomfort of the condition is typically treated with nutritional joint supplementation, pain management and lifestyle accommodations. Some symptomatic dogs are candidates for hip replacement surgery by a board certified veterinary orthopedic surgeon.
Another inherited condition is Von Willebrand’s disease, a blood clotting disorder in which the protein complex that enables platelets to aid in clotting the blood are present only in small amounts or absent altogether. Dogs with this condition bleed excessively from wounds, bruise easily and hemorrhage can occur during surgical procedures. While Von Willebrand’s disease is found in numerous breeds of dogs, it is more prevalent in such larger breeds as Doberman pinchers, German shepherds, golden retrievers, rottweilers and German shorthaired pointers. Extra precautions must be taken with dogs who are diagnosed with this disease before undergoing any surgical procedure. Conscientious breeders usually screen potential breeding dogs for genetic conditions like Von Willebrand’s disease and hip dysplasia, so be sure to ask for results of the parents’ tests before you choose a puppy.
Gastric torsion or volvulus, commonly referred to as bloat, is a life-threatening attack. When bloat strikes, the dog’s stomach greatly expands, distends and begins to twist within the abdomen, cutting off the stomach’s blood supply and allowing gas to remain trapped in the abdominal cavity. Dogs who are stricken with severe nausea will be very restless and may wretch persistently without bringing up much vomitus. Some dogs may also appear to take on a bloated appearance around the abdomen. These are signals to seek emergency veterinary assistance immediately in order to save the life of your furry friend. Bloat can strike any dog, but it is more likely to occur in Great Danes, weimaraners, Doberman pinschers, greyhounds, Irish wolfhounds and other large, deep-chested breeds.
Large breed dogs continue their growth for up to two years before reaching their adult physique. A common large breed condition is called panosteitis, in which the long leg bones are painful to young, developing dogs between 5 and 18 months of age. The exact cause of the ailment is unknown. When the painful flareups occur, the puppy suffers from lameness in the affected limbs. Breeds that are predisposed to suffering from panosteitis include German shepherds, retrievers, Doberman pinschers, mastiffs and rottweilers. The good news for your growing canine is that he will outgrow it, and the symptoms will resolve once he exits the growing puppy phase. In the meantime, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory pain management to help keep your puppy comfortable and happier.
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