As its name implies, the German Shepherd originated in Germany, bred in the late 1800s to protect and manage sheep. The dog’s keen intelligence, curiosity, and willingness to please has made it popular in police and rescue work. Like many large dogs, the German Shepherd is prone to gastric bloating and twisting. The dog is also highly susceptible to hip and spinal problems. This active, loyal breed has a lifespan of approximately 10 to 12 years.
Primary Health Conditions of the German Shepherd
Many breeds of dogs may suffer from hip dysplasia, a sometimes painful abnormality that occurs in the joint between the hip and rear leg bones. However, the German Shepherd is especially susceptible to the condition. Dogs with the disease should be prevented from breeding to help eliminate the problem. Surgery can sometimes be used to treat dogs who suffer from the condition.
The German Shepherd can also experience gastric bloating and torsion, or the twisting of the stomach. This condition can come on quickly, and immediate attention from the veterinarian is required. Feeding high quality dog foods low in grain and higher in protein can help prevent torsion. Blood clotting problems, known as von Willebrand’s disease, are also fairly frequent in this breed. The condition is hereditary and untreatable, and may be prevented through careful breeding.
Secondary Health Conditions of the German Shepherd
The German Shepherd is particularly susceptible to a form of cancer of the spleen and heart called hemangiosarcoma. Signs of the disease are nosebleeds, increased respiratory rate, and abdominal swelling. Caught early, tumor extraction through surgery is possible, although the prognosis for the condition is not favorable. Degenerative myelopathy is also relatively frequent in the German Shepherd, which is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own nervous system. The condition is progressive and has no cure. The breed may also be prone to dermatitis, or irritation of the skin. Good diet and steroids are possible treatments.
German Shepherd Exercise and Walking Needs
This large, lively dog needs a good deal of daily exercise, including long walks and lively play. Such exercise, especially earlier in life, will help keep problems such as hip dysplasia at bay. Just as important for this highly intelligent dog, however, is mental stimulation and the opportunity to interact with its owner and its environment. For example, one can hide an item of the owner’s clothing in a park or large yard and encourage the Shepherd to find it.
German Shepherd Nutritional Needs
Like many large dogs, the German Shepherd is susceptible to bloat and gastric torsion. To help manage this problem, a food high in fiber is suggested. Also, because certain grains, including corn and soy, can exacerbate bloat, foods containing these ingredients should be avoided. Less expensive foods tend to use these grains as filler. Given the Shepherd’s propensity towards dermatitis, a food with good levels of vitamins A and E can be beneficial.