3 Common Complaints in German Shepherds

3 Common Complaints in German Shepherds

Health & Safety

Many dogs suffer from some sort of common ailment that is particular to their breed, so it is always good to know about these when you first adopt or buy a dog. Knowing about the conditions helps because you can keep an eye out for any of the first symptoms or signs of the illness and then seek veterinary help straight away. It also means you know what you may be in for when you do decide to take on a particular breed. German Shepherds are prone to quite a few illnesses but the 3 most common are listed below.

1. Hip Dysplasia

This is a very painful condition caused by an abnormality in a dogs' hip joints. The condition results in lameness and eventually arthritis which can quite literally cripple a dog. Hip dysplasia all starts because of an abnormal development in hip joints which are known as a type of ball and socket joint. The top of the leg bone which is called the femur does not fit snugly into the socket of the hip and as such causes a lot of discomfort. However, as the condition worsens it becomes a crippling disease.

What Are The Other Causes?

German Shepherds are predisposed to getting hip dysplasia but there are other contributing factors to consider as well. These include diet, sudden weight gain and the rate of growth seen in the dog. All of these factors can affect hip joints and cause this horribly painful condition.

First Signs To Look Out For

Dogs as young as 4 months old can show clinical signs of hip dysplasia but some German Shepherds don't show any signs of abnormalities until they get well into their senior years. You may first notice your dog develops a bit of a strange gait which gradually gets worse and then leads to severe lameness. Dogs with the condition often appear to 'roll' their hind legs in a weird sort of gait. You may also find your pet is reluctant to go out for walks and will have trouble walking up and down stairs. Dogs can have the condition in one leg only but it can also affect both hip joints simultaneously. Older dogs might have trouble getting up from the lying position too.

Clinical Signs of Hip Dysplasia

  • Lameness in one or both hind legs
  • Staggering or swaying actions
  • Pain when trying to stand up or lie down
  • Not wanting to jump up on things
  • Trouble standing up
  • Strange gait
  • Lop sided gait
  • Reluctance to go for walks
  • Clicking sounds when dog stands up or walks
  • Muscle weakness in rear legs – in chronic cases the muscles appear atrophied

2. Degenerative Myelopathy

This is a progressive disorder that affects the dog's spinal cord. Unfortunately the causes are unknown but the condition is commonly seen in older German Shepherds. Degenerative myelopathy is severely debilitating and to date there's no real effective treatment. Dogs diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy are usually seen to go downhill between six to twelve months after the condition has taken hold.

First Signs

Males are more prone to the condition than females and usually show signs of the disease when they anything from 5 to 14 years old. Because the condition mostly affects German Shepherds, it is thought to be a genetic disease.

Clinical Signs

  • Weakness in the hind legs which progressively gets worse
  • Dogs drag their back legs
  • Have trouble standing up
  • Dogs find in hard to jump up
  • Dogs may stumble
  • Toes knuckle
  • Inner digits of back paws can become sore
  • Muscle loss in hind legs
  • Tremors seen in hind legs
  • Incontinence
  • Front legs may be affected as the disease progresses

3. Idiopathic Epilepsy

This is another condition that affects German Shepherds and unfortunately nobody actually knows why. There are several terms which mean the same thing – this includes epilepsy, seizure, convulsion or fit but they all refer to when dogs suddenly suffer from involuntary contractions in their muscles.

However, pets may also just suffer a far-away look or minor twitching in one part of their faces. At the other end of the scale a pet may fall down on their sides, bark, gnash their teeth and may soil themselves whilst all the while making a paddling movement with their legs.

How Long Do Seizures Last?

Seizure can happen at any time and last for a few seconds to several minutes and then stop just as quickly as they came on. It is thought to be a genetic condition that affects German Shepherds, but other breeds too can suffer from idiopathic epilespy. For this reason any dog with the condition should not be used for breeding purposes.

What to Look Out For in A Seizure

There are 3 things to look out for that might show the onset of a idiopathic epilepsy attack which are listed below:


Dogs are often seen to be restless, they may shake and start salivating. Your pet may even become a little clingy and whine or they could go the other way and start wandering off and hiding. These signs may go on for a few seconds or they could last for days – but if you do notice anything then it's a good idea to keep a close eye on your pet to make sure they don't injure themselves during an episode.


This is when the seizures actually occur and they may last anything from a few seconds to minutes. Dogs often fall on their sides and start paddling or kicking their legs out. Many will also start to salivate and may soil themselves, this is also when your pet is totally unaware of where they are and will not respond to you. It is important to stay with your dog to make sure they do not hurt themselves.

Postictial stage

This is the stage right after a seizure is over and is when your pet may seem very confused and disoriented. Dogs will often start wandering aimlessly around or they may even start pacing. Very often you will find your dog does not respond to you but some dogs will come straight to their owners for comfort. The Postictial stage can last for days or it could end much sooner. Again, you need to keep a close eye on your pet to make sure they don't get themselves into trouble.



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