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Heart Problems German Shepherds | Inherited Ventricular Arrhythmias and Sudden Death

Heart problems for German Shepherds also include that of Inherited Ventricular Arrhythmias and Sudden death.  As the name of this condition might well suggest, this mysterious congenital illness , afflicting mostly German Shepherd dogs, is often surprising in its onset and usually fatal. Dogs suffering from various arrhythmias (i.e., irregular heartbeats), most commonly arrhythmias affecting the ventricles of the heart, may exhibit no signs at all before  anything is wrong; even post-mortem autopsies performed on dogs who have died suddenly from this condition are unable to confirm what, precisely, has caused sudden or unexpected death. Often, dogs suffering from structural cardiac irregularities are able to exercise, play, and otherwise exert themselves alongside their “normal” companions, only to die shortly thereafter in their sleep. The mysterious nature of this condition,  along with its prevalence in German Shepherd dogs, makes attention to a dog’s bloodline all the more important.

While German Shepherd dogs suffering from ventricular arrhythmias display few outward  symptoms – making their deaths all the more surprising and distressing – in some cases an irregular heartbeat may be detected in puppyhood. Dogs often also exhibit a variety of abnormalities when examined by ECG monitors; tachycardia, supraventricular premature complexes, and ventricular bigeminy have all been found in dogs suffering from arrhythmias.  This ultimately suggesting that the manifestations of irregularity take many forms.
Unfortunately, treatment for this condition is minimal at best. If afflicted German Shepherd dogs are diagnosed in puppyhood, intravenously-administered drugs designed as anti-arrhythmics (such as procainamide and lidocaine) may be effective.

However, approximately 50% of dogs suffering from irregular heartbeats die within their first year of life, often when between four and six months of age. To prevent the spread of this condition, care must be taken not to breed German Shepherd dogs from afflicted bloodlines.

Heart problems in German Shepherds also include that of Aortic Stenosis, Heart Valve Malformation, and Pulmonic Stenosis.

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