As with most pedigree breeds, there are certain hereditary conditions that can be a problem in the German Shepherd as well as other health issues that are more prevalent in this breed which need to be considered if you are thinking acquiring a GSD.
If you are buying a German Shepherd puppy it is important to ensure that you only purchase a healthy dog from a reputable breeder and a good idea would be to contact the breed council who should be able to provide you with a list of such breeders. Most reputable breeders don’t need to advertise but if they do they tend not to use free papers or other general advertising media but will usually place their advert in a specialist dog magazine or paper. The Kennel Club will provide a list of breeders but this does not signify that they are reputable only that they register their puppies with the KC.
There are a number of common conditions seen in this breed, some of which have a better prognosis than others but all of which are expensive to treat – so insure your German Shepherd Dog as soon as you get it.
Inherited conditions such as hip dysplasia are becoming more common largely because of irresponsible breeding so you should look for a puppy whose parents are both hip scored and the lower the score the better – ideally less than ten. This is a distressing and painful condition for a GSD as well as the costs for treating being prohibitive if the animal is not insured. Elbow dysplasia is also a common hereditary condition.
Bloat or gastric torsion is a real emergency and a life threatening condition, which has become more common in deep chested dogs over the years. Experts are divided but good tips for reducing the risk are that it is best to feed 2 small meals rather than one large meal a day and to avoid feeding your GSD before strenuous exercise.
Anal furunculosis is a distressing auto immune condition which can be controlled with expensive drugs for a while but will inevitably progress as is the condition CDRM which is a degenerative disease which will ultimately lead to the loss of use of the dogs back legs and then bowel/urinary incontinence.
For whatever reason there seems to be an increasing number of GSD’s suffering from PI – pancreatic insufficiency, which presents as chronic watery diarrhoea and failure to thrive. This condition is treatable with expensive pancreatic enzymes and a low fat diet but the regime must be strictly adhered to.
Epilepsy is also more common these days and although it can be controlled by drugs, usually tolerance eventually occurs which will often result in the loss of control of the fits and the likelihood of brain damage as a result of prolonged uncontrolled fitting.
To protect your new puppy and in order to try to minimise long term or future health problems, it is vital that a high quality feeding regime is adopted from the start. German shepherds often have digestive problems so it is important to find a quality food that your dog likes and one that doesn’t upset the digestion. If in doubt ask your vet for advice or contact German Shepherd Rescue UK.