"Intussusception in the Leonberger dog breed
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"Intussusception in the Leonberger dog breed

Dogs
Health & Safety

The Leonberger is a large dog breed from the Kennel Club’s working group, and which originally hails from Germany. They are striking, noble-looking dogs that aren’t hugely common in the UK, and the breed as a whole almost died out entirely in the aftermath of World War I, when just five pedigree Leonbergers were left extant to form the foundations of today’s breed stock.

Leonbergers are great versatile all-rounders, being middle of the road when it comes to their intelligence levels and need for exercise, and they also have a reputation for being very amenable to training when this is tackled correctly. However, this is a tall, large dog breed with an imposing presence and bags of self-assurance, and the Leonberger needs a confident, experienced dog owner who knows how to train and manage a large and potentially dominant dog. Leonbergers are also very loyal, and form strong bonds with the people that they love and trust.

If you are looking to buy an unusual, versatile and confident dog as your next pet and are experienced with managing and handling dogs, the Leonberger is certainly worthy of consideration. It is important to do lots of research into the breed as a whole and to meet and spend time with as many Leonbergers as possible as part of this, and to spend time speaking to other owners.

One area that all prospective Leonberger owners should examine in-depth when making a decision is the general health of the Leonberger breed as a whole, and Leonbergers tend to have relatively short lifespans compared to other dog breeds, averaging around 8-9 years. There are several health conditions that can be found within the breed and that Leonbergers are more prone to developing than others, and one of these is called intussusception.

Intussusception is an acute and very dangerous health condition that affects the intestines, and all Leonberger owners and would-be owners should learn a little about the condition, its symptoms, and what it means for affected dogs. In this article, we will look at Leonberger intussusception in more detail. Read on to learn more.

What is intussusception?

Intussusception is a condition that affects the dog’s intestines, beginning with an intestinal prolapse and inflammation, which is serious in and of itself. However, what make intussusception such an acute and potentially dangerous condition is the fact that the intestine then folds or telescopes in on itself, altering its shape and the normal passage of the digestive system, and potentially slipping into another part of the body.

An intussusception may develop anywhere in the dog’ gastrointestinal tract from the stomach’s exit right the way through the length of the intestines. Most, but not all, intussusceptions in Leonbergers occur around the middle of the small intestine, or at the junction between the small and large intestines.

Why do Leonbergers have higher risk factors for intussusception?

Intussusceptions can develop in any breed or type of dog, but Leonbergers get more than their fair share of presentations of the condition compared to other dog breeds. The exact reasons for this are not definitively known, but a hereditary or conformation issue within the breed is likely to play a part, or contribute to the development of intussusception in Leonbergers.

An intussusception can develop in dogs of any age, but it is much more common in young dogs than their older counterparts, and over three quarters of presentations of intussusceptions seen in clinics develop in dogs under a year old, and in some cases, in dogs under the age of three months.

Dogs with weakened or compromised immune systems are more prone to intussusception than others.

What are the symptoms of intussusception in Leonbergers?

The symptoms that any Leonberger with intussusception will display can be quite varied, depending where the intussusception occurs and how acute it is. Additionally, because the problem happens internally, it is not always easy to connect the symptoms that you see with their root cause, and so you should speak to your vet immediately if you have any concerns.

Some of the potential symptoms of intussusception you may see in your dog include:

  • Breathing difficulties.
  • Vomiting, which may contain blood.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Unexplained weight loss, or loss of condition.
  • Problems keeping food down, leading to regurgitation soon after eating.
  • A painful, hard or distended abdomen.
  • Diarrhoea, which may contain blood.
  • Constipation or problems pooping.

Can intussusception be treated or cured?

In order to reach a definitive diagnosis of intussusception, your vet will need to run some diagnostic tests in order to rule out any other conditions and get a clear picture of what is going on. This may include ultrasound and x-ray imaging, blood, urine and faecal sample panels, and assessment of the dog’s clinical symptoms and general condition.

Your vet will almost certainly need to operate on your dog to correct the folding or telescoping of the intestine and deal with any damage or compromise to the gastrointestinal tract, but this may not happen immediately as the dog will need to be stabilised prior to what is a fairly serious medical procedure.

Antibiotics, pain medications and fluid therapy may also be indicated, and care must be taken during recovery from surgery to limit your dog’s exertion and keep them comfortable. An untreated intussusception can be fatal, and so it is vital to contact your vet promptly if something is wrong.

Dogs that have had an intussusception can pass on increased risk factors for the condition to their own young, and so Leonbergers that have previously had one should not be bred from.

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