These proud looking dogs are known to be pretty healthy characters that boast long lifespans if well cared for, living anything from 11 to 15 years and sometimes even longer. With this said, the breed is known to suffer from certain hereditary and acquired health disorders which are worth knowing about because the sooner a condition is correctly diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome usually is.
The breed is known to be incredibly loyal and affectionate but they need to be kept busy both physically and mentally because their instinct to herd is extremely strong. In short, Belgian Shepherds are not the ideal choice for first-time dog owners and they need to be treated with a firm, fair and gentle hand so they know who is boss. Below is a list of health disorders seen in the Belgian Shepherd.
The breed is known to suffer from Hip Dysplasia but because their build is not exaggerated in any way, Belgian Shepherds are less likely to develop the condition like many other pedigree dogs. However, some dogs will develop this particular disorder and would need to be assessed by a vet so they could recommend a treatment to alleviate any pain and discomfort a dog might be feeling.
The breed is also known to suffer from polar cataracts with the condition developing at any age although some Belgian Shepherds only start to develop cataracts when they are around 5 years old or so. It's thought to be an inherited ocular health issue, although just how it is passed on to puppies is still unknown as more research is needed to establish just why this is.
The condition is more commonly seen in the Tervueren Belgian Shepherd than the other three types which is something worth knowing. The other thing to bear in mind, is that some Belgian Shepherds may never develop the condition during the course of their life times, but they could be carriers, which is why breeders should have their dogs tested before using them in a breeding programme and if any dogs come back positive, they should be spayed or neutered.
Sadly, the breed is also prone to suffering from epilepsy which can be quite frightening for owners to witness the first time their pet suffers a fit. The condition is officially defined as dogs experiencing "repeated seizures where the cause is unknown" and it is thought to be an hereditary disorder although why this is so, is still unkown which makes testing very difficult.
However, the condition can be very successfully managed with the right medication and dogs live out happy and long lives, but because it is an incurable disorder, dogs diagnosed with epilepsy would need to be kept on medication for the rest of their lives very much as people do. Regular check-ups with the vet are also recommended especially if a dog experiences more episodes than usual because it's important to monitor their condition which helps vets and owners establish what might be triggering them.
It's really important to contact reputable breeders when thinking about getting a Belgian Shepherd puppy. However, no matter how well bred the puppies are, there is no guarantee they will not develop a genetic or inherited disorder because the genes responsible for many of the conditions can skip several generations.
Getting a puppy from a well established breeder does, however, reduce the chances of them developing any inherited or congenital health disorders with the exception of those which dogs cannot be tested for. The same can be said where epilepsy is concerned as more research needs to be carried out to establish why some dogs inherit the disorder from their parents whereas others do not.
The Belgian Shepherd is a strong, robust dog and one that does not boast too many congenital and hereditary disorders. However, knowing a dog might develop a condition helps owners recognise the early signs there may be a problem. The sooner a condition is correctly diagnosed and then treated, the better the outcome generally is for affected dogs. The other thing about catching a condition sooner rather than later, is that a dog is made to feel more comfortable as quickly as possible which avoids them suffering any unnecessary pain and discomfort.