Common Diseases of German Shepherds

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. November 6, 2016
Common Diseases of German Shepherds
German Shepherd

Animal file: German Shepherd

The German Shepherd is an extraordinary dog. They are considered one of the most intelligent breeds in the canine world, and they're famous for being great service and rescue dogs. However, such magnificence has a price.

And this price is high: German Shepherds have too often been bred by inexperienced breeders who only want profit, not the purity and successive improvement of the breed. As a result of poor breeding lines for the sake of easy money, some serious genetic diseases are all too common among German Shepherds.

This AnimalWised article will point out the most common diseases of German Shepherds. Keep these in mind and make regular visits to the vet to prevent them from occurring.

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  1. What types of diseases and illnesses are there?
  2. Genetic diseases of German Shepherds
  3. Viral diseases of German Shepherds
  4. Bacterial diseases of German Shepherds
  5. Parasitic diseases of German Shepherds
  6. How to prevent common diseases

What types of diseases and illnesses are there?

There are several types of diseases and illnesses that can affect all dogs, including the German Shepherd. These disorders can originate from the following sources:

  • Genetic origin. Diseases caused by genetic alterations.
  • Viral origin. Diseases which are caused by viruses.
  • Bacterial origin. Diseases whose origin is bacteria.
  • Parasitic origin. Illnesses caused by parasites.
Common Diseases of German Shepherds - What types of diseases and illnesses are there?

Genetic diseases of German Shepherds

The most common diseases with genetic origin affecting German Shepherds:

  • Hip dysplasia. This is a common disease among German Shepherds and other large breeds. It is characterized by inflammation and pain in the joint between the dog's hip and femur, and it causes lameness and decalcification. Hip dysplasia is a congenital hereditary disease. However, it can be fought by controlling the dog's diet and restricting exercise.
  • Glaucoma. This hereditary disease is detected when the German Shepherd is 2 or 3 years old. The eye is affected, and the dog will rib it with a paw or against any surface. When a dog has glaucoma, intraocular pressure increases and causes pain. An opaque and dilated pupil is a clear symptom showing that something it wrong. The disease is treated through surgery.
Common Diseases of German Shepherds - Genetic diseases of German Shepherds

Viral diseases of German Shepherds

The most commong viral diseases affecting the German Shepherd include:

  • Canine parvovirus. This infection causes vomiting, diarrhea and even bleeding. Dogs must be vaccinated against the disease in order to prevent it, as canine parvovirus can be fatal.
  • Distemper. This contagious disease causes coughing, shortness of breath, runny nose, conjunctivitis, fever and general malaise. There are vaccines against the disease.
Common Diseases of German Shepherds - Viral diseases of German Shepherds

Bacterial diseases of German Shepherds

The most common diseases of bacterial origin affecting the German Shepherd are:

  • Leptospirosis. This is a disease caused by drinking water contaminated by rat urine, as can happen in puddles or stagnant water. Symptoms include coughing, vomiting, fever, muscle pain and respiratory problems. There are preventive vaccines.
  • Brucellosis. This disease is caused by ingesting infectious waste. It is also a venereal disease. In male dogs it causes testicular inflammation and sterility. In pregnant females, it causes abortions. It is treated with antibiotics.
  • Mastitis. This infectious disease affects females and consists of an inflammation of the mammary glands.
  • Pyometra. In this is very serious illness, pus accumulates in the uterine cavity. Antibiotic treatment is required before surgery.
Common Diseases of German Shepherds - Bacterial diseases of German Shepherds

Parasitic diseases of German Shepherds

German Shepherds, like other breeds, are susceptible to being attacked by parasites. Most commonly, these are:

  • Pododermatitis. This is a parasitic disease that causes sores, pus and pain when walking. Excess moisture promotes this disease, which must be treated early by a veterinarian.
  • Scabies. This condition is caused by a mite called Demodex canis. It causes hair loss, itching, swelling and redness in the epidermis. It also requires veterinary treatment. It is not contagious to humans.
  • Mange. This is caused by the parasite Sarcoptes scabiei. Symptoms include hair loss, skin inflammation and redness. It can transmit to people, and it requires veterinary treatment. Places where the dog usually goes also have to be disinfected.
Common Diseases of German Shepherds - Parasitic diseases of German Shepherds

How to prevent common diseases

The administration of vaccines is essential to protect your German Shepherd from a possible bacterial or viral infection; here you can learn all about the vaccination schedule for puppies and dogs. You should not forget to deworm your dog regularly: This routine should be carried out externally once a month and internally every three months.

Visiting the veterinary twice a year is the best way of detecting a disease when it appears; don't forget that most diseases we have mentioned have a good prognosis if they are caught in time.

If you notice any symptoms of joint pain, internal or otherwise, you should see a specialist as soon as possible to get a diagnosis in order to start treatment early. If you follow these tips, take good care of your dog and not force excessive exercise, your German Shepherd will enjoy good health for years and not suffer form any of the most common diseases of German Shepherds.

Common Diseases of German Shepherds - How to prevent common diseases

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Common Diseases of German Shepherds, we recommend you visit our Prevention category.

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Durshi Senevirathne
Hi I have a german shepahrd she's around 7 years old (I think) and whenever she starts walking or running her left feet start dragging on the ground. Should I take her to the vet ASAP? What sign is this?
Administrador AnimalWised

Yes you should take them to the veterinarian. GSDs are known for having inherited problems with their back legs. These problems can be chronic, but they will be able to diagnose and provide the best course of action in terms of managing the condition.
Jeanette Young
We lost our 7 yr. old GS to Hemangiosarcoma of the heart. The vet said it is very common in German Shepherds. He was our 6th one and we had never heard of it. Have you heard of it? It is a very aggresive cancer. It can be found in other parts of the dog, but the heart is the worst. Other dogs can get it also. I wish more people knew about this cancer, and would look up the symptoms.
Tom Baker
May I suggest an addition to the hereditary conditions? GSDs seem to be exceptionally prone to EPI - exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. In this condition the dog is not able to digest food properly. It affects many breeds but the GSD seems to be the predominant one.
I have a 11 month old Shepherd 98lb baby big boy. He has some kind of skin irritations on his nose. It appears to getting larger and very crusty in appearance. While very rough and raised. After going to our vet and on antibiotic, not seeing any change. Any ideas or advice?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Caren,

It sounds like it might be an infection, so the antibiotics are the best course of action. If they are being administered properly, you may need to wait until they take proper effect. However, this is only a suggestion as the vet will be the best person able to decide. We can't see them or know their full clinical picture. If you are unhappy with the treatment, feel free to get a second opinion.
Pam Marshall
Does your big boy maybe have allergies? Is the weather changing, is he sniffing the new smells of spring? If you think it could be that, you may try to give him a couple of over the counter Benadryl. My min Schnauzer and my lab boxer mix get itchy and little bumps in the spring. It could be his food? Even if he was ok w the food he could develop allergies to it at anytime. Just some thoughts for you. Pam
My 7 Year old German Shepard dog about 40kgs effect with leg swelling and becomes Hard?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Sandeep,

Not sure about the question, but we cannot diagnose medical conditions in these comments. A trip to the vet is necessary if you have cause to be concerned about your German Shepherd's health.
Debojyoti Dey
My 3 year old german shepard is around 35 kg and she is having reddened, swollen, ous coming out from its all 4 paws. And the infection is spreading to mouth ear what is the remedy?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Debojyoti,

Our articles are for information purposes only, so we cannot make diagnoses for people's pets. We can say that if your dog is exhibiting these symptoms, you will need to take your dog to the clinic. It sounds like a nasty infection and will probably need treatment (perhaps antibiotics) which can only be prescribed by a vet.
Question: My German Shepherd (Rocky, 5 years old) For the past few weeks, he's been having very loose stools, sometimes diarrhea. We've been giving, as a diet, Hamburger, White Rice, Punkin! This was recommended by a Vet. However, this dose not seem to be working. There is no sign of anything with our other dog (Fuzzy 6 years old 1/2 Shepard 1/2 Lab) and they eat the same food and do everything together. Do you have any idea of is going on, And a solution ????
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi James,

We can't diagnose problems with your dog, so your vet will be the only one to confirm an issue. However, maybe you should ask them if they are getting enough dietary fiber. This is a possible reason for the loose stools as the diet they have recommended may not have enough roughage.
Our girl Xena continually has diarrhea and we found by adding a tablespoon on natural yoghurt to her food has made such a difference.
what is the treatment of their diseases (german shepherds and prevention
Alice Tapiol Breeze (AnimalWised editor)
Hi Semela,

Treatment should be determined by a vet once the dog has been checked up and diagnosed with each of the diseases mentioned.
The only way to prevent viral and bacterial diseases is through vaccination. Parasitic diseases can be avoided through appropriate de-worming through a pippette, which your vet will also provide.
Hope this helps
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Common Diseases of German Shepherds