What are the most common German shepherd health conditions?

What are the most common German shepherd health conditions?

Health & Safety

The German shepherd is a large, handsome and very intelligent dog breed that is both very popular as a pet and that has a wide range of different working applications. This is a dog breed that is confident, smart and loyal, and one that has a long-recorded history of serving mankind in a wide range of different ways.

German shepherds remain popular today too, and are in fact our eighth most popular dog breed overall, and one that thousands of people each year buy as their next pet. However, owning a large, confident dog like the German shepherd is not the right fit for everyone, and even those that are very experienced with dogs need to ensure they find out everything they can about the breed before committing to owning a German shepherd.

One of the most important factors to research for any dog breed is their health; and data published by the Royal Veterinary College on the prevalence of different disorders within the breed in the UK can help you to do just this.

The Royal Veterinary College published data on the German shepherd breed ad the prevalence of disorders within the breed that were under the care of a vet in the UK, expressed as the number of dogs within every thousand.

This article will share this information to tell you the most common German shepherd health conditions.

1. Otitis externa

Otitis externa, or inflammation, pain and swelling of the ear canal is the surprising first entry, recorded within 78.92 out of every thousand dogs of the breed as their cause for visiting the vet.

The German shepherd’s large, usually pointed ears may be more prone to developing otitis externa due to their size, the size of the opening, and the depth of the ear canal itself.

2. Osteoarthritis

Moving on in second place to a generally much more well-known health condition within the breed, we come to osteoarthritis. This tends to affect older dogs of the breed and rarely develops in dogs below the age of around nine, but then requires lifelong care and management.

Osteoarthritis was found to affect 55.42 out of every thousand dogs under primary veterinary care, or over one in twenty. When you factor in the usual age divide with this condition too, it does indicate a significant number of older German shepherds suffering from the condition.

3. Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea might be a one-off or transient health issue that most dogs face at least once in their lives, which whilst unpleasant, is often short term. However, this is the third most prevalent condition German shepherds in the UK are under care for, with 52.41 in every thousand, or over one in twenty, recorded as under treatment for diarrhoea.

4. Obesity

Obesity is a condition we tend to associate in particular with some breeds more than others, and the German shepherd isn’t one that immediately springs to mind for most of us. However, obesity is nonetheless the fourth most prevalent condition under care within the breed, being found seriously enough to warrant veterinary intervention in 51.81 out of every thousand shepherds, or over one in twenty.

Obesity is wholly preventable too; and keeping your German shepherd at a healthy weight can help to lessen the severity of osteoarthritis, and even delay its onset.

5. Dental disease

Another health condition that is often wholly preventable in the German shepherd is dental disease, and yet this is the fifth most common health problem dogs of the breed see vets for! Dental disease in German shepherds can be found in an average sample of 40.96 out of every thousand dogs, or just under one in twenty.

6. Ear disorders

Ear disorders aside from otitis externa (in first place) is the sixth most prevalent issue under veterinary care in German shepherds. This encompasses a wide range of problems with the ears and hearing, ranging from infections to genetic defects that have an impact on the dog’s hearing or health.

Ear disorders as a catch-all can be found in 31.93 out of every thousand dogs of the breed, on top of the statistics already given for otitis externa within the breed.

7. Lameness

Lameness is the seventh most common condition, presenting in 27.71 out of every thousand German shepherds, or a touch over one in forty. The causes for lameness can be complex and numerous, and lameness is generally seen as a symptom rather than a diagnosis.

8. Hip dysplasia

Finally, hip dysplasia bad enough to warrant veterinary treatment can be seen in 26.51 out of every thousand German shepherds, or a touch over one in forty. This is a painful and limiting condition that can sometimes be corrected surgically at a high cost.

Hip scoring of parent dogs and only choosing pups from parent dogs with good hip scores themselves can help to greatly reduce the chances of choosing a puppy that will themselves develop hip dysplasia.



Pets for studWanted pets

Accessories & services

Knowledge hub


Support & safety portal
Pets for saleAll Pets for sale