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German Shepherd Health Problems, Issues, Facts, Diseases, Conditions | Cancer, Heart Disease, Dysplasia and Others

German Shepherd health problems, issues, and diseases for this notable breed consist of a number of maladies and illnesses that every current and future owner should be aware of.  Unfortunately, for every owner of a German Shepherd dog, at one point or another, their beloved pet will get sick or experience some health problems. And at times, these problems are not serious, such as an upset stomach, a cut or sprained leg from playing a little too hard or possibly even a mild ear infection.  Yet, other times your German Shepherd may require long-term medical care and may, in some unfortunate instances, be fatal. In order to best protect your dog, it is important to be aware of the particular health problems for which this breed is susceptible to , knowing how to recognize the warning signs and symptoms of any of these conditions, along with education one's self on possible treatment options.  

Because there are many health issues and problems that all canines can succumb to, focuses specifically on German Shepherd health problems, issues, facts and diseases. General canine health issues are explained in other sections of this site, such as ear infections, upset stomach or other minor health issues.  As such, owners of German Shepherds need to be aware of all the major health issues and medical disorders facing this proud and noble breed. It's very difficult to provide an answer when asked if the German Shepherd is a healthy breed because it should be, generally speaking, but poor breeding practices in recent times have led to numerous health issues for the German Shepherd, ranging from the all-too common hip dysplasia to dangerous symptoms, such as gastric torsion. That said, there are some basic precautions that current and potential owners of German shepherds should be sure to take. Regular routine visits to a qualified veterinarian are of course necessary, and there should be routine examinations of both external features like the eyes, teeth, mouth, and coat as well as internal features like the heart or lungs. Furthermore, before you even choose your pet, you should be aware of its origins.

While “properly” bred German Shepherds "should" be healthy, active, and powerful dogs, “improperly” bred dogs, such as those produced by high-volume profit-making “puppy mills” rather than reputable breeders, or “accidents” between two neighborhood dogs that your next door neighbor is trying to get rid of , lack the careful attention to husbandry that defines the breed and its lineage. While this is not to say that a mixed-breed dog or a puppy from your friend's litter is an automatic no-no, know that there are risks involved in adopting a dog that has not been carefully bred by a reputable breeder.

With that said, let's review what is probably the most serious disease afflicting the German Shepherd, or any canine for that matter, and that's cancer.  German Shepherds are prone to various types of cancer, which include the following:

•    Hemangiosarcoma: A cancer that originates in the vascular endothelial cells that line the capillaries
•    Osteosarcoma: Also known as bone cancer (i.e., bone tumors), this type of cancer can occur in any bone in the body, but most commonly occur at the limbs (i.e., elbow or knee area
•    Lymphoma: Cancer afflicting the lymphoid system.
•    Melanoma: Cancer that is formed from small cells resulting in pigment within the skin.

And though there are other cancers that surface in this breed, the above four are quite prevalent, unfortunately.   Cancer treatment, however, has progressed significantly in recent years, thanks in large part to advances in medicine along with experimentation into non-conventional, alternative, and natural treatments.  Treatments from herbs and other natural remedies, once shunned upon in the veterinary world, are now looked upon by many as credible and helpful indeed.  Additionally, canine nutrition, such as cancer specific diets, have also brought about meaningful success in battling cancer.  

Additionally, the German Shepherd is also susceptible to the following heart disease conditions:

•    Aortic Stenosis
•    Heart Valve Malformation
•    Inherited Ventricular Tachycardia (Inherited Sudden Death)
•    Pulmonic Stenosis

Many of these heart disease conditions are in fact congenital in nature, making it vitally imperative that you acquire your German Shepherd from a sound, ethical breeder; one who hopefully has kept excellent records of the dog's bloodlines.  German Shepherd dogs are also prone to elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia, which are usually a result of abnormalities formed in the connecting bones.  These types of health issues are unfortunately quite prevalent in large-bone dogs, such as the Shepherd.

And it's also important to point out all other significant German Shepherd health problems, which include the following:  chronic pancreatitis, cryptorchidisim, degenerative myelopathy, diabetes, epilepsy, panosteitis, von willebrands disease, progressive posterior paresis, cauda equina syndrome, cataracts, gastric torsion, perianal fistulas, and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD).  Please keep in mind that these are health issues most often expressed in this breed, yet there are numerous other illnesses that could potentially afflict the German Shepherd, just as with any other breed.

While this seems like a lengthy and extensive list, please note that a properly bred and sound dog will provide you with years of love and attention, hopefully void of most of these health problems.  We at have had many conversations and ongoing communications with owners of German Shepherd dogs telling us of how their dogs have lived happily up to 15 years.  Just remember to be extremely thorough when conducting your research on obtaining a German Shepherd dog.  It' time that all in the German Shepherd community practice safe, sound, and ethical breeding as it's just the right thing to do.

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