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German Shepherd Heart Problems | Aortic Stenosis German Shepherds | Sub-Aortic Stenosis (SAS) | Dogs | Canines

German Shepherd heart problems include that of aortic stenosis, also known as sub-aortic stenosis (SAS). In a normal heart, blood is able to pass normally from each of the heart’s four chambers to the other, allowing oxygenated blood to be pumped throughout the body, and deoxygenated blood to receive oxygen once more. Yet in aortic stenosis (aka sub-aortic stenosis, or SAS), the pathway designed for blood exiting the heart becomes too narrow, leading to a pressure buildup in the area. The channel between the left ventricle of the heart and the aorta becomes highly pressurized, either due to a narrowing in the aortic valve (in which case the condition is known as valvular), in the area above the valve (rendering it supravalvular) or  in the ventricle itself (making the condition subvalvular – the most common form of the illness.)

While the precise mechanism for transmitting this condition is not understood, it is genetic. Many carriers of SAS have few if any outward signs of their condition, making it all too common for less-than-reputable breeders to breed carriers and produce many at-risk puppies. If we at thegermanshepherd.org haven’t yet made it clear just how important it find reputable breeders, here is yet another reason: you may unknowingly bring home a German Shepherd puppy with a life-threatening condition. While mild cases of SAS often present few outward signs except a heart murmur, more serious cases are fatal.

German Shepherd dogs with a family history of aortic stenosis should be examined for traces of a heart murmur.  Dogs with a serious case of SAS can exhibit any one of a number of symptoms, or none at all until a sudden and premature death. Watch out for signs of easy fatigue and poor capacity for exertion in puppyhood, as well as problems breathing, coughing, and/or fainting after exercise. These are all caused by the heart’s inability to properly supply all parts of your German Shepherd's body with oxygen.

There is no cure as such for dogs with SAS. Those suffering from a milder form of the condition may not suffer any lifetime ill-effects, and treatment would be limited to ensuring that exertion in hot weather does not become overly intense or difficult, as well as a weight maintenance program to limit the likeliness of over-exertion. In more serious cases, beta-blockers may be prescribed in order  to reduce cardiac workload, regulate cardiac rhythm, and improve the dog’s capacity for exercise. However, despite these precautions, it is possible that a German Shepherd dog with a severe case of CAS (about 10% of dogs) may worsen and experience sudden death as a result of cardiac irregularity.

Other German Shepherd heart issues include that of Heart Valve Malformation, Inherited Ventricular Tachycardia (Inherited Sudden Death), and Pulmonic Stenosis.

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