Common Ailments in German Shepherd Dogs

Health issues in German shepherds often stem from genetics.
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German shepherds are well known for their roles with the police, military, search and rescue and, of course, as an important part of a family. These talented and caring dogs sometimes suffer from health problems. Even breeders with the highest standards can produce German shepherds with genetic ailments and health issues. The most common ailments a German shepherd experiences include hip dysplasia, skin problems, digestive issues and panosteitis.

Orthopedic Problems

Malformed hip joints sometimes lead to hip dysplasia. If the hip socket and the head of the thigh bone don't fit properly, the bones can wear away over time. Your veterinarian might prescribe medication to help manage your dog's hip dysplasia. In severe cases, surgical hip replacements may be necessary. Other orthopedic problems include osteochondrosis dissecans, which is a weakening of bones that lie under the cartilage layer of joints, and panosteitis, often called wandering lameness. This condition causes inflammation of the bone and typically affects German shepherds between the ages of 5 and 15 months. Dogs affected can suffer recurring bouts lasting a few days or weeks, usually resolving itself when a dog reaches sexual maturity.

Skin Problems

Your German shepherd may experience inherited skin ailments such as pyoderma or seborrhea. Symptoms of pyoderma include itchiness, crusted skin and pustules. Treatment involves antibiotics and medication prescribed by a veterinarian. Your dog may show symptoms of seborrhea, including dry flaky skin or greasy scaly skin. Treatment for seborrhea includes using rinses and shampoos that are recommended by a veterinarian. Contact your veterinarian immediately at the first sign of symptoms. Proper diagnosis of a skin ailment is essential to managing or curing the issue.

Digestive Issues

Although several digestive issues appear in German shepherds, this breed commonly suffers from chronic diarrhea. Frequent bouts with chronic diarrhea usually stem from food intolerance. Some German shepherds require a well-balanced, cooked diet of fresh food, totally eliminating commercial kibble and canned foods. Frequent issues with chronic diarrhea can result in dehydration and malnutrition if they continue for a long period of time. Consult with your veterinarian for a treatment plan if your German shepherd suffers from digestive trouble.

Other Issues

Other health issues affecting German shepherds include autoimmune disease, when your dog's immune system becomes hyper-defensive and begins attacking organs and cells. Clinical symptoms include loss of appetite, lethargy and fever. This disease is diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian, who typically prescribes medication. German shepherds are also prone to heart diseases; common symptoms include poor appetite, intolerance when exercising, coughing and lethargy. Medication and change in diet are common treatment options. Your German shepherd also may experience epilepsy. Seizures are the main symptom and are brought on by abnormal electrical firing in the brain. Epilepsy and seizures are commonly treated with anti-seizure medications as prescribed by your veterinarian.