GSD Health Problems

GSD health problems: even the German Shepherd can't escape them. The German Shepherd Dog has become a very popular pet, due to the breed's versatility and incredible intelligence. In many ways this is a very mixed blessing for this dog breed.



While most people really enjoy the pleasure a well-bred and well-trained German Shepherd adds to their lives, many others have been attracted to the breed primarily to make money.

While a well-bred GSD is truly a remarkable dog, a German Shepherd from a puppy mill, a disreputable breeder, out of an accidental breeding, or someone simply trying to make money on the side, can, quite simply, be a nightmare.

Anyone not taking careful consideration of all the potential health, genetic, temperamental, and physical characteristics, will definitely increase the potential of a litter that will be plagued with serious health and temperament problems it's whole life.

GSD chewing on bottle


Although many of the GSD health problems listed below are found in German Shepherds, they are not necessarily found only in GSD's, nor are they necessarily common in GSD's. This list of GSD health problems may seem a bit intimidating at first.

Keep in mind that a good look into any individual purebred dog breed will reveal a substantial list of health problems that may be common to that one particular breed.

This list shouldn't scare you away but it should encourage you to find a reputable German Shepherd breeder who is aware of these potential GSD health problems and does their best to keep their breeding program free of these potential problems. Remember also that this list of GSD health problems is by no means all inclusive.


Potential GSD Health Problems - German Shepherd Illness:

Chronic pancreatitis (suspected genetic) - lack of enzymes that digest fat and protein; chronic weight loss

Cryptorchidism (suspected genetic) - undescended testicle(s)

Degenerative myelopathy (unknown) - spinal degeneration in older dogs (Chronic Degenerative Radiculomyleopathy - CDRM) Generally appears from middle age. The degeneration occurs over time, beginning with hind limb weakness. Although initial signs resemble hip dysplasia, in actuality, it is the degeneration of the spinal cord rather than hip joints.

Diabetes mellitus (recessive) - onset of insulin deficiency at 2-6 months

Elbow dysplasia (dominant) - progressive developmental deformity of elbow joints, symptomless to crippling, may be polygenic. Characterized by an onset of severe lameness at between 4 and 6 months of age. There are three different types of elbow dysplasia: UAP (ununited anconeal process), FCP (fractured coronoid process), and OCD (osteochondrosis). Final health diagnosis can only be made by radiograph. OFA now certifies elbows as well as hips.


Epilepsy (recessive) - recurrent seizures onset between 1-3 years old. This may possibly be transmitted genetically. The disorder may not express itself until the German Shepherd Dog is about three to four years old. There is no way of testing for the disease until the German Shepherd actually has a seizure.


Hip dysplasia (polygenic) - progressive developmental deformity of hip joints, symptomless to crippling.

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Basically, the hip joint is not constructed properly. Dysplastic German Shepherd Dogs can vary from minor problems to severe dislocation of the hips.

This condition is generally considered to be inherited. GSD breeding stock should be OFA certified or given an "A" certificate if from Germany. Pedigree, exercise, diet,and other factors can play a role in the extent that the dog exhibits a existing predisposition to HD as well.

Intervertebral disc disease (suspected genetic) - slipped disc, pain, weakness to paralysis of limbs

Osteochondritis dessicans (suspected genetic) - growth disorder of shoulder cartilage; pain, lameness (OCD)

Panosteitis (suspected genetic) - (Commonly called "long bone disease," "wandering lameness," "growing pains" or simply "pano.") Acute shifting lameness of growing dogs, deep bone pain, self-limiting. Caused by excessive bone production on the long bones, it is generally seen between 5-12 months of age.

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Dogs will generally grow out of the problem, but it is a painful condition. Pano leaves no lasting ill affects on a German Shepherd dog and diet is thought to play a role. German Shepherd puppies usually completely outgrow Pano by 18 months. Enforced rest is usually prescribed with no use of painkillers since the German Shepherd puppies will play more without pain, and may exacerbate the condition.

Perianal Fistulas - A perianal fistula begins as a painful abscess or lesion somewhere near a dog’s anus. A fistula is an abnormal crevice or tract that forms from an abscess. There are usually more than one fistula present, and if left untreated, they can result in chronic, painful, draining deep sores.

Retinal atrophy (suspected genetic) - (generalized) PRA - retina degenerates causing first night blindness then total blindness.

Soft ears (recessive) - weak ear musculature. All German Shepherd's are born with floppy ears. Normal GSD ears will begin to stand up on their own in the 2nd or 3rd month. Some GSD's ears will never develop the musculature to stand erect. This is an inherited recessive trait. Though soft ears primarily affects a German Shepherd dog's showability (hanging ears are a disqualification), soft-eared GSD's are also more prone to ear infections.

Ununited anchoneal process (dominant) - elbow dysplasia; pain and limp in front legs.


von Willebrand's disease (dominant) - bleeding disorder. A blood disease, an inherited dominant condition, that can include mucosal bleeding. Clinical blood tests must be done to distinguish this from other conditions. Results of breeding two VWD dogs are lethal. VWD is autosomal and not sex-linked.

Return from GSD Health Problems to Cancer and Your GSD

"Do not make the mistake of treating your dogs like humans or they will treat you like dogs." - Martha Scott


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Thank you for this web site. Very informative and well written. I often advise my shepherd people to visit here for information. Again GREAT JOB. Laura Page Warden, DVM


What a fabulous website!!! I really enjoyed reading about the history of the dogs. There is a ton of helpful information on here and defiantly something for every reader to enjoy!!! Misty Weaver


Recently got a GSD again. Last time had GSD no internet etc. Cant believe how much info for free. Kenneth


I love and appreciate the helpful advice I found on your website! Rachelle



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