Top 10 Common Health Problems in German Shepherd dogs

10 Common German Shepherd Health Problems

German Shepherd dogs are known as a very healthy and strong dog breed, but unfortunately, no one is absolutely immune to diseases. Some health problems you can treat at home, for some you need professional help from your local veterinarian, and some health problems will leave lifelong consequences for your German Shepherd dog.

Usually, each dog breed has its common health problems, and here are the top 10 common health problems for the German Shepherd dogs:

  1. Hip Dysplasia
  2. Elbow Dysplasia
  3. Epilepsy
  4. Hemophilia
  5. Diabetes
  6. Pancreatitis
  7. Thyroid issues
  8. Nose infection
  9. Dental health problems
  10. Cancer

Now, let’s see what health problems can be really dangerous for our German Shepherd dogs, and how you can protect and treat your German Shepherd from these health problems.

1. Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a major health concern problem in German Shepherds. The medical word for a hip socket that does not entirely enclose the ball section of the upper thighbone is hip dysplasia. The hip joint might become partly or totally dislocated as a result of this. Hip dysplasia is a disorder that most individuals are born with.

This is one of the most common health problems in German Shepherd dogs, and most often old German shepherds suffer from this disease.

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia

The hip joint is formed of soft cartilage at birth, which hardens into bone over time. Because the ball and socket operate as molds for each other, they must be perfectly aligned. If the ball isn't properly placed in the socket, the socket won't entirely develop around it and will become too shallow.

Hip dysplasia in German Shepherd dogs

The space within the womb can get so congested in the final month before birth that the ball of the hip joint shifts out of its natural position, resulting in a shallower socket. The following factors may limit the amount of room in the womb:

  • First pregnancy
  • Large puppy
  • Breech presentation

How to treat Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds

If you're German Shepherd has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, first of all, we are sorry, and we hope that your lovely German Shepherd will recover as soon as possible! 

Unfortunately, humans didn't still develop a perfect medical solution for this disease, and for now, there is no cure for Hip Dysplasia.

But the good news is that there are a variety of effective treatments and exercises options.

Here are a few common treatments and exercises that will help your German Shepherd dog to feel better and healthier:

1. Exercise
2. Physical therapy
3. Join prescription diets or formulas
4. Give your German Shepherd pain medications, like NSAIDs
5. Create a dog-friendly environment
6. Acupuncture therapy
7. Surgery - Total Hip Replacement (THR)
8. Juvenile pubic symphysiodesis
9. Total hip replacement

2. Elbow Dysplasia.

Canine elbow dysplasia (ED) is a disorder characterized by the various elbow joint developmental defects. The elbow joint is made up of three bones: the radius, ulna, and humerus. If the three bones do not fit together precisely owing to growth irregularities, improper weight distribution on joint regions occurs, resulting in discomfort, lameness, and arthritis development.

Elbow dysplasia is a genetic disorder that can affect any dog breed, although it is more frequent in big and gigantic breed dogs. It has been reported that up to 80% of patients have pain in both elbows.

Symptoms of Elbow Dysplasia:

In general, German Shepherd stars show symptoms of elbow dysplasia between 5 and 18 months. Some German Shepherd with moderate elbow dysplasia, on the other hand, may not develop symptoms until later in life.

Elbow Dysplasia in German Shepherd dogs
Here are common symptoms of elbow dysplasia in German Shepherds:
  • Limping or stiffness
  • Less enthusiasm to go for walks or play
  • Front paws pointing outwards and/or elbows held at a strange angle
  • Swollen, puffy elbows

How to treat Elbow Dysplasia in German Shepherds

Elbow dysplasia is a painful disorder that requires care for the rest of its life. As soon as you notice any symptoms, it’s important to call your local veterinarian and talk with him. Pain can be reduced to a minimal amount with the proper treatment, and one of the best treatments and drugs are:

  • Anti-inflammatory pain relief (NSAIDs)
  • Weight control (make sure that your GSD isn’t overweight)
  • Controlled exercise
  • Surgery
  • Rest

3. Epilepsy

One of the most commonly reported neurological diseases in German Shepherd dogs is seizures (epilepsy). A seizure, also known as a convulsion or a fit, is an uncontrolled disruption of normal brain function that is often accompanied by uncontrollable muscular movement.

Epilepsy is a word used to describe seizures that appear frequently. Seizures in epilepsy can be individual or clustered, and they can be uncommon and unpredictable or happen at regular intervals.

Epilepsy in German Shepherd dogs


Symptoms of Epilepsy

This isn't a pleasant experience at all, and when you see your German Shepherd or any other dog that has seizures, it's important to stay calm and react properly. In situations like this, there is no place for panic, mark those words well.

It’s hard to predict epilepsy too early, and in most cases, humans and dogs don’t know that they will have seizures until it happened.

The symptoms of epilepsy can be:

  • Collapsing
  • Jerking
  • Stiffening
  • Muscle Twitching
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Drooling
  • Chomping
  • Tongue chewing
  • Foaming at the mouth

In order to better understand this disease, we must know that can cause epilepsy in our German Shepherds, and some of the common causes of Seizures in German Shepherd are:

  • Eating poison
  • Liver disease
  • Low or high blood sugar
  • Kidney disease
  • Electrolyte problems
  • Anemia
  • Head injury
  • Encephalitis
  • Strokes
  • Brain cancer

How to treat Epilepsy in German Shepherds

Treating Epilepsy isn’t simply a process at all. Before your veterinarian starts with the treatment, he must know what causes Seizures in your German Shepherd dog, and after that, he can start the treatment.

Some popular treatment methods for epilepsy are:

  • Phenobarbital
  • Levetiracetam
  • Zonisamide
  • Bromide
  • Gabapentin
  • Benzodiazepines
Seizures in German Shepherd dogs medications


Please, don’t treat your dog without the veterinarian's permission! If your German Shepherd had Seizures, please visit your vet as soon as possible!

4. Hemophilia

Hemophilia is a hereditary condition characterized by a lack of blood clotting activity. Hemophiliac German Shepherd dogs are prone to bleeding from a variety of sources, including trauma sites, umbilical cords after birth, and the nose, mouth, and eyes.

In general, this disease can be categorized into two groups, Hemophilia A and Hemophilia B.

Hemophilia A

The most prevalent hereditary blood clotting condition in dogs is hemophilia A. It is caused by a gene mutation that causes a deficit in the blood clotting factor VIII (8). Factor VIII is required for the proper development of blood clots. This mutation prevents a dog from manufacturing effective Factor VIII, which disrupts the blood coagulation process.

Hemophilia B

Hemophilia B is a coagulation factor IX (9) defect that has been discovered in over 25 dog breeds. Hemophilia B dogs, like those with Hemophilia A, may bleed spontaneously into the skin, chest, belly, muscles, or joints.

Hemophilia in German Shepherds dogs

Symptoms of Hemophilia

This is one of the most dangerous diseases because it can happen so fast and leave huge consequences, and in some cases, you can, unfortunately, lose your loyal friend.

That’s why it’s important to react immediately as soon as you notice any symptoms of this disease.

The most common symptoms of this disease are:

  • Spontaneous bleeding
  • Swelling in joints or muscles
  • Lameness
  • Red, round pinpoint spots appear on the skin
  • Nose bleeds
  • Discolored skin
  • Dark and sticky feces containing blood
  • Anemia
  • Weakness
  • Shock

How to treat Hemophilia in German Shepherds

Hemophilia has no known treatment. Repeated substitution therapy is the most common treatment for bleeding episodes in dogs. Until the hemorrhage can be controlled, this entails intravenous whole blood or plasma transfusions.

5. Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is a disease that affects how much glucose, or sugar, is in your German Shepherd's blood. Diabetes develops when your German Shepherd’s body produces insufficient insulin, stops generating it entirely, or has an aberrant insulin reaction.

Diabetes in dogs is more frequent in middle-aged and older dogs, although it may even affect puppies. Diabetes mellitus affects one out of every 300 dogs, and it is thought to be underdiagnosed.

Diabetes in German Shepherd dogs


Symptoms of Diabetes

If you notice any symptoms of Diabetes in your German Shepherd, it’s important to report that to your veterinarian as soon as possible. The sooner your German Shepherd is diagnosed, the higher chance he or she has of living a longer and healthier life.

Here are the most common symptoms of Diabetes in German Shepherd dogs:

  • Increased urination and excessive water usage
  • Even if there is an increase in hunger, your dog consistently lose weight
  • Decreased appetite
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Chronic or recurring infections

How to treat Diabetes in German Shepherds

Insulin is the most common therapy for diabetes in dogs. Your German Shepherd will most likely require twice-daily shots, but we understand if the prospect makes you nervous - you're not alone. Insulin is commonly used as a cornerstone of a treatment since it is typically regarded as the most effective medication.

If your German Shepherd has Diabetes, carefully listen to your veterinarian, because you will have a huge responsibility from now on.

6. Pancreatitis

When the pancreas (a tiny organ located beneath the small intestine and stomach) becomes inflamed and enlarged, it is characterized as pancreatitis in dogs. Its function is to aid in the digestion of meals and the regulation of blood sugar in dogs.

During a pancreatitis crisis, German Shepherd dogs may hunch their backs and lift their rear end into the air while lowering their front legs and head to the floor.

Pancreatitis in German Shepherd dogs

Pancreatitis can be really painful and dangerous for our German Shepherds because 90% of the time, the cause of pancreatitis cannot be determined.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis

A German Shepherd dog with acute pancreatitis will show more significant symptoms, such as:

  • Severe lethargy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Severe dehydration
  • Collapse and shock

On the other side, a German Shepherd dog with chronic pancreatitis is usually not as unwell as a German Shepherd dog with acute pancreatitis. The following are examples of clinical signs:

  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite to not eating at all
  • Abdominal pain and/or vomiting

How to treat Pancreatitis in German Shepherds

Acute pancreatitis does not have a special therapy. To begin with, your dog's suffering must be controlled, and primary prevention is critical to avoid additional issues. According to the AKC, the following treatments are treatments that have proven to be the most reliable:

  • Intravenous (IV) fluid therapy in severe pancreatitis
  • Vigorous monitoring of a worsening condition
  • Antiemetic medication for vomiting (to prevent dehydration)
  • Resting the pancreas (withholding food and water for 24 hours) Long-term management includes:
  • Vigilant monitoring of fat intake—No table scraps allowed!
  • Use of a prescription diet of gastrointestinal-supportive low-fat, or ultra-low fat, food.
  • Feed smaller, more frequent meals instead of one larger meal
  • Have amylase and lipase levels checked by a veterinarian regularly

7. Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a chronic disease in German Shepherd dogs that causes weight gain, skin and hair problems, behavioral changes, and decreased energy.

Hypothyroidism is a disorder in which your German Shepherd’s thyroid does not produce enough vital thyroid hormones to adequately control its metabolism, resulting in slowed metabolism.

Hypothyroidism in German Shepherd dogs

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism causes your German Shepherd’s metabolism to slow almost every organ in your dog’s body that is affected by this disease. This can be extremely exhausting for your German Shepherd dog, and if you notice any of these symptoms, it’s better to visit your veterinarian as soon as possible:

  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Obesity
  • Lack of energy, lethargy
  • Mental dullness
  • Cold intolerance
  • Thinning coat
  • Dull looking fur
  • Dark pigmentation of the skin
  • Recurring ear infections
  • Recurring skin infections
  • High cholesterol
  • Slow heart rate
  • Lameness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Thickening of skin
  • Reproductive issues

How to treat Hypothyroidism in German Shepherds

Unfortunately, Hypothyroidism has no known treatment. Thyroid hormone replacement medication is required for German Shepherds for the rest of their lives. Two medications have been licensed by the FDA for replacement treatment in dogs with decreased thyroid function.

  • THYRO-TABS CANINE (levothyroxine sodium tablets)
  • ThyroKare™ (levothyroxine sodium tablets)

8. Nose Infection

Rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes) or other damage to the nasal mucous membranes is one of the most common upper respiratory tract disorders. Sinusitis, or inflammation of the sinus lining, is frequently connected with it. A key filtering function is lost if the nasal passages degenerate and cease to operate correctly. As a result, the lungs are exposed to substantially higher levels of dust and germs.

The German Shepherd’s history, physical examination, x-ray results (particularly computed tomography), endoscopic examination (called rhinoscopy), nasal biopsy, nasal cultures, blood tests, and the elimination of other causes of nasal discharge and sneezing are all used to make the diagnosis.

Nose infection in German Shepherd dogs

Symptoms of Nose Infection

Usually, almost all German Shepherd owners immediately notice an infection. Something like that is easy to notice because your dog will “tell you” that something isn’t right! 

German Shepherd's nose is far way more sensitive, compared to ours. Their nose has over 220 million smell receptors, and ours “only” 5 million.

If you notice any of these symptoms, visit your local vet as soon as possible!

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Nasal bleeding
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Watery eyes or purulent eye discharge
  • Gagging due to the nasal discharge
  • Pain caused by pressure in the forehead and around the eyes
  • Facial deformity, such as swelling below the eye
  • Fever
  • Halitosis
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Dehydration

How to treat Pancreatitis in German Shepherds

There are different treatments for nose infections, and treatment usually depends on the cause. If your German Shepherd dog has a bacterial infection, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics for a couple of weeks. Antifungal medications are generally supposed to treat fungus infections. If your dog develops recurring infections, surgery may be necessary.

If you want your German Shepherd to become a healthy dog as soon as possible, visit your veterinarian first, and ask for help.

One of the best antibiotics for nose infection, based on the customer satisfaction are:

  • Cephalexin
  • Amoxicillin
  • Ciprofloxacin

9. Dental Health Problems

Unfortunately, German Shepherds can’t alone make an appointment with a dentist, and that’s why it is important to brush their teeth and regularly check them.

Many of the dental problems that German Shepherds have are similar to those that people have. Dental care for your German Shepherd, including preventative measures such as tooth cleaning, may help keep his teeth and gums healthy.

Recent case studies show that over 80% of dogs older than three years old have an active dental disease!

Dental health problems in German Shepherd dogs

Symptoms of dental health problems

If you notice any of these symptoms, you may want to check your German Shepherd and make an appointment with your veterinarian. 

  • Bad smell
  • Swollen, red and/or bleeding gums
  • Buildup of yellowish-brown plaque and tartar on the teeth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Reluctance to eat, which may lead to weight loss

How to treat dental health problems in German Shepherds

Dental health problems in German Shepherds dogs can be treated in many different ways. Once you take your dog to your vet, and he checks your dog, he will decide which treatment is the best solution for the dog.

One of the best and most popular treatments for dental health problems in German Shepherds are:

  • Dog mouth wash
  • Anti-inflammatory pain relief
  • Antibiotics
  • Dental cleaning
  • Repairing a decayed tooth
  • Extraction of a decayed tooth

10. Cancer

In German Shepherd dogs over the age of ten, cancer is the primary cause of mortality. Experts believe that 50% of all tumors may be cured if identified early.

Luckily, the same treatments are available for our German Shepherd dogs, as for humans, and during the last couple of years, thanks to advances in technology, deaths have decreased.

There is more than one type of cancer, and one of the most common cancer types in German Shepherd dogs is:

  • Anal Sac Cancer
  • Bladder Cancer
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Liver Cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Breast Cancer
  • Mast Cell Tumors
  • Melanoma
  • Oral Melanoma
  • Stomach Cancer
  • Soft Tissue Sarcoma
  • Testicular Cancer
  • Thyroid Cancer

Symptoms of Cancer

Some cancer symptoms in German Shepherds dogs are clear, while others are not. Cancer symptoms in dogs can vary widely based on a variety of circumstances. 

Cancer in German Shepherd dogs

Here is one of the most common symptoms in German Shepherds dogs who suffering from cancer:

  • Lumps and bumps underneath a dog's skin
  • Abnormal odors emanating from the mouth, ears, or any other part of the body
  • Abnormal discharge from the eyes, mouth, ears, or rectum
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Non-healing wounds or sores
  • Sudden and irreversible weight loss
  • Change in appetite
  • Coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Lethargy or depression
  • Changes in bathroom habits
  • Evidence of pain

How to treat Cancer in German Shepherds

The treatment of cancer in German Shepherds dogs is very similar to the treatment that humans get. Depending on the stage and cancer type, you can treat cancer via surgical treatment, combination therapy of surgery and chemotherapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy alone, and immunotherapy,

Also, have in mind that cancer treatments are expensive, really expensive. In some cases, the price of chemotherapy for your German Shepherd can be from $2,000 up to $10,000.

What is the most common disease in German Shepherds?

Not all diseases are equally represented among German shepherds. Some diseases are common, while some diseases are very rare.

But without doubt, one of the most common diseases in German Shepherds is Hip Dysplasia. Hip dysplasia scares every owner of a German Shepherd dog. In general, this disease is more prevalent among larger dog breeds. This disease will make it difficult for your German Shepherd to move and will probably shorten his life.

Hip dysplasia in German Shepherds

In this article, we mentioned the symptoms and treatments for this disease. If you notice "strange" behavior of your German Shepherd, please don't ignore that. Call your veterinarian and make an appointment.

Are German Shepherds prone to health problems?

In general, the German Shepherd is considered one of the healthier breeds of dogs. However, if you don’t train or walk with your GSD, and your German Shepherd doesn’t have a proper diet, he can get sick easily. To keep your German Shepherd healthy, it's inevitable to provide him with enough exercise and vitamins.

Each dog breed is prone to some diseases, but you play a big role in your German Shepherd's life. Educate yourself, be with them, work with them, give them enough supplements and food, and your German Shepherd will live a much, much longer, and happier life.

Final words.

Being a dog owner isn’t easy at all, especially when you have a large and high-energetic dog breed, like a German Shepherd. We are the only ones who can do something when they get sick, and it’s important to react immediately. 

If you notice that something isn’t right with your German Shepherd, the only person you need to trust should be your vet. When you choose your vet, ask other people about their experience with that vet and read some reviews on the Internet about that veterinarian station.

Keep your German Shepherd healthy. Feed him with good food, provide him with enough vitamins, train with your dog, and will reduce the chances of your German Shepherd getting sick!

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