German Shepherd Dogs are amongst a group of breeds classed as ‘Category Three’ by The Kennel Club. These are breeds of dog that have been highlighted as having visible conditions or conformational issues that can cause pain, discomfort or health issues due to exaggerations. This means that these breeds of dog have been bred over many years to look a certain way but that these changes to the way they look have started to cause them health problems.
German Shepherd Dogs are a member of the ‘Pastoral’ breed group. Dogs in the Pastoral group are made up of breeds of herding dogs used with working cattle, sheep, reindeer and other cloven footed animals.
German Shepherds are highly intelligent and need to be kept occupied to prevent boredom turning into mischief. Their thick double coat requires grooming more than once a week to keep it in top condition.
Breed-related health problems:
Although some of these health problems are manageable, it’s been identified that it’s in the best interests of the dog to try and selectively breed to decrease the characteristics which cause the health problems.
Some of the characteristics and associated health problems you’ll want to know more about in relation to German Shepherd Dogs include:
- Joint disorders – such as elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia – occur when joints don’t develop correctly and cause degenerative joint disease. Joint and bone problems can be managed but there are schemes to screen your dog and see how likely it is that they will suffer from these joint problems.
- Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) – occurs in large, deep chested breeds such as German Shepherd Dogs. The stomach fills with gas (bloat) and can twist around on itself. This most commonly occurs after they have eaten. If your dog shows any signs of bloating, vomiting unproductively (trying to be sick but nothing being produced) or if you are worried they could be bloated you should speak to your vet straight away – this condition requires urgent veterinary attention.
- Back problems – Chronic Degenerative Radiculomyopathy (CDRM) is a slowly progressive hind limb weakness and paralysis caused by degeneration in the nerves to the hind legs. German Shepherd dogs are very prone to this disease and it is often exacerbated by hip dysplasia meaning treatment can be hard.
- Gastrointestinal problems such as Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) – German Shepherd Dogs can be more prone to gastrointestinal disease. If your dog has recurrent vomiting or diarrhoea, abnormal faeces or is losing weight, you should visit your vet.
- Anal furunculosis – is a severe and deep infection that can occur around the anus of German Shepherd Dogs.
- Eye disease – there is a health screen for hereditary cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy – a gradual loss of vision - for German Shepherd Dogs.
- Atopy – hypersensitivity to certain allergens, causing itching and skin trauma.
- Epilepsy – a brain disorder which can lead to seizures.
- Hypothyroidism – a condition in which there’s a decrease in thyroid hormone production.
- Panosteitis – a painful, inflammatory bone disease.
For some conditions, there are screening programmes available through the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Kennel Club. The Canine Health Schemes allow breeders to screen for a range of inherited diseases, so it’s a good idea to check the parents of any puppy you’re looking to rehome have been screened under these schemes. We’d also recommend discussing the medical history of your potential puppy’s parents and grandparents, and think very carefully before taking on a dog with any of the health conditions listed above evident in the family line.
You can find out more about the Canine Health Schemes on the BVA's website.
German Shepherds need plenty of exercise – ideally over 2 hours per day, so to take on this breed you need to be very active! They may be better suited to a family with older children who can show them respect. German Shepherds require consistency in their training. To learn more about reward-based training for your dog, visit our dog behaviour page where you can pick up plenty of tips to help you and your canine companion better understand each other.
Estimated lifetime cost:
The likely lifetime costs for a German Shepherd Dog are based on estimates calculated using current market prices and include:
- Initial costs of the purchase of the pet
- First vaccinations and booster vaccinations
- Pet insurance
- Flea treatments
The list above does not include veterinary costs if your pet becomes sick or injured, so these average lifetime costs could be even higher.
Insure your German Shepherd with PDSA:
1 in 3 pets need vet treatment each year and vet bills can come to hundreds of pounds. PDSA Pet Insurance can give you peace of mind when your pet is poorly, especially for breeds like German Shepherds that are prone to certain conditions. PDSA Pet Insurance offers:
- 5 Star Pet Insurance* - from the vet experts
- 4 levels of cover to suit you
- Monthly payment at no extra cost
*Defaqto 5 Star rating applies to our Plus and Premier policies only. Defaqto’s Star Ratings provide an independent assessment of the quality of financial products.
By insuring your German Shepherd with PDSA you’ll also be helping to provide vet care to some of the UK’s neediest pets.