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Great Dane hereditary health and longevity
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Great Dane hereditary health and longevity

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Health & Safety

The Great Dane is one of the tallest of all of the dog breeds, and one that has potentially the longest known history. Dogs that resemble the Great Dane are recorded in frescoes from the 13th century BC, and dogs of the Great Dane type have been recorded throughout history in various different parts of the world. The breed has been widely used in a whole range of different working roles throughout their history too, but today they are more widely kept as pets.

Among the most popular of all of the giant dog breeds, the Great Dane is kind, personable and very gentle, despite their large size! Male dogs of the breed should stand at least 30” tall at the withers, and 28” for females. The minimum weight for adult dogs is 54kg for males, and 45kg for females.

Each year, the tallest recorded living dog tends to be a Great Dane, with the tallest dog on record having reached 44” tall at the shoulder. Owning a Great Dane can be a challenge due to their sheer size and the amount of space that they need to move around in, but they are very rewarding dogs to own.

If you are considering buying or adopting a Great Dane, it is important to do plenty of research into the breed first, and this is particularly important for giant breeds of dog, who come with challenges of their own. In this article, we will look at the hereditary health and longevity of the breed in more detail. Read on to learn more.

Great Dane longevity

The average lifespan of the Great Dane is 8-9 years, which is not a very long lifespan compared to most other breeds of dog. However, giant breeds of dog tend to be shorted lived than smaller dogs, and certain hereditary health problems can shorten the lives of some breed lines too. It is also not unknown for Great Danes to live to over ten years old.

Great Dane conformation

The sheer height, size and build of the breed can potentially pose some problems for the dog, and the Great Dane is in fact considered to be one of the breeds most at risk of developing bloat, or GDV. This condition causes the stomach to fill with dangerous amounts of gas, and potentially to twist over on itself.

Medial canthal pocket syndrome can also affect the large eyes of the breed, causing dirt and debris to build up in pouches within the eye. Due to the size and slow growth of the breed, it is also advised that only bitches of two years or older be used for breeding.

Health tests

In order to help to promote good health and breed out certain hereditary health problems, a range of health schemes and testing programmes are in place for the Great Dane breed. These include:

  • Hip score testing, with the mean hip score across the breed as a whole being 11.1. Only parent dogs that attain a hip score below this figure should be considered as viable for breeding.
  • Elbow score testing, with the ideal elbow score being zero.
  • Eye testing for primary glaucoma, a hereditary eye condition.
  • Great Dane breed clubs also recommend testing for cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that leads to weakness of the heart muscles, and potential heart failure.

Other health issues

As well as the hereditary conditions that can be tested for, the breed as a whole is considered to be at potential risk of various other health problems, but for which no pre-breeding screening is currently offered. These include:

  • Hypertrophic osteodystrophy, a disease that causes problems with the normal development of the bones and leads to swelling and pain in the limbs.
  • Myotonia, a muscle disorder.
  • Deafness, which may have a hereditary element to it.
  • Myasthenia gravis, which leads to muscle weakness in older dogs.
  • Acral lick dermatitis, a skin disorder caused by persistent licking.
  • Demodicosis, a type of mange, a skin condition caused by the presence of mites.
  • Panosteitis, inflammation of the bones.
  • Osteochondrosis of the stifle and shoulder, caused by an abnormality of the bone and cartilage.
  • Various different cardiac conditions, including dilated cardiomyopathy, tricuspid valve dysplasia, aortic stenosis, and persistent right aortic arch.
  • Various different cancers, most notably osteosarcoma, or cancer of the bone.
  • Problems with the eyelids, including either entropion or ectropion. These conditions can cause the eyelid to either turn inwards and rub on the eye, or turn outwards and cause irritations.
  • Wobbler syndrome, a condition that affects as many as 5% of all dogs of the breed.
  • Glaucoma of the eyes.
  • Hypothyroidism, a deficiency in thyroid hormones.
  • Chronic hepatitis, an autoimmune condition that affects the liver’s ability to correctly process and clean the blood.
  • Central core myopathy, which causes muscle weakness and problems with endurance and normal movement.
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