And Lots of Energy
German Shepherds are a very
popular breed. Unfortunately this has lead to large
numbers of breedings looking for very specific traits. A German Shepherd bred
for Schutzhund has to have the required characteristics to compete in
three different disciplines in a competitive sport. A dog bred for show,
must have the correct look, color and presence. Some dogs have been bred for size,
color, or even profit. This has meant that many
breeders have overlooked minor health issues.
There has been a movement towards reducing hip dysplasia and more serious
life-threatening health issues such as mega-oesophagus, but many German
Shepherds still have milder health issues which may lower their potential
for work. This is a collection of some of the problems I have had experience
with and have sometimes found alternative treatments to help conquer. A
change in management, food or supplements can sometimes help.
Note: This is not a substitute for veterinary advice!
Health problems in the German Shepherd Dog:
- Many dogs and humans currently seem to be suffering with allergies.
These often manifest in dogs as itching, dry or red skin, and may be
a factor in recurring ear infections or hot spots. Allergy tests can
be done at a veterinary clinic to pinpoint food or environment related
causes. An elimination diet may also be useful in diagnosing the cause.
In the case of mild itching and scratching, moving to a raw
or BARF diet can help and sometimes cure completely. With more severe
problems, where the dog is clearly uncomfortable and has open sores
or large red areas you should see your veterinarian.
Supplements which have helped many dogs include the addition of Salmon
Oil capsules which can be added to the food up to a dose of 1000mg per
10lbs body weight. Borage Oil can also help, the dose for this is typically
1000mg per 50lbs body weight. An
explanation of these oils and how they help can be found in an article
A good probiotic/enzyme blend can also help alleviate some symptoms
of allergies. Some people have found dried nettle leaf helps given at
a rate of 1tsp per 50lbs. Yucca can also help in the short term to reduce Hair
loss from scratching
inflammation and halt severe itching episodes.
Dog Journal contains very good articles on these and other alternative
remedies. Obviously you should not try all these supplements at once,
start with adding salmon oil for a few weeks and see if scratching decreases.
You may also want to find a veterinarian who practises alternative treatments.
Shampoos which can help with the itching include oatmeal and tea tree
preparations. One of these is Purepet
Shampoo which can be bought online and at various pet stores.
A tea tree rinse after shampooing can also help. This is made by adding
½tsp Tea tree oil to one pint of water. This rinse is poured
over the dog and left on.
There are other causes of scratching, particularly the ears. Ear infections and mange mites
can also cause the ears to become itchy and inflamed. These are usually easily treated by
topical preparations available from your vet. It is always a good idea to have your vet check your
itchy dog, and run a blood test and any other diagnostics before you assume the itching is due
to a specific cause.
- Hot Spots
- Hot Spots can be caused by bites by insects such as fleas, mosquitos
etc or spiders, or by the dog scratching or biting a part of his body.
They are particularly common in hot and humid places. They begin as
a red inflammation, then quickly get larger and often yellowy or crusty.
The quicker you can apply treatment, the better. Cut the hair away all around
the spot so you can see at least half an inch of normal skin. The best
treatment I have found is Witch Hazel, Aloe and Tea Tree. I mix 4oz
Witch Hazel with Aloe with 10 drops of pure tea tree oil in a small
spray bottle, and squirt that on to the hot spot twice a day. This
mixture is excellent for drying up hot spots and wounds. If the hot
spot is over a joint, it may be that the dog is experiencing some discomfort
Hot spot trimmed and drying a trip to a chiropractor to remove the root cause can prevent recurrence. Hot
Spots can also be caused by collars, so be sure to check the dog's neck
regularly and cleanse and thoroughly dry any rubbed areas. With my Golden
Retriever, I found Sulfodene very useful if applied quickly, but his
hot spots would spread very quickly and often required a course of the
antibiotic, Cephalexin to clear them up.
- Inter-digital Cysts
German Shepherd breed is apparently prone to these thickenings found
between the toes. They can be quite sore and make the dog mildly lame.
There is often no redness, just a hard thickening of the skin. If you
squeeze the hardening gently, the dog will pull away showing some discomfort.
Sometimes, if the cysts appear on more than one foot, the cause is a
fungal infection, and Tinactin sprayed on twice a day will clear them
up within a couple of weeks. These cysts often go hand-in-hand with
allergies and other immune system problems. Cysts which are found on
one foot can be caused by a foreign body like a grass seed. It is a
good idea to check with your vet and maybe take x-rays before trying
a home treatment. Panalog is also reputed to be a good treatment for
this condition when there are no foreign bodies and no underlying bone
here for information.
- Ear Infections
- Some GSDs are very prone to ear infections, usually one particular ear. Again, the best prevention is
keeping a close eye on the dog, and treating as soon as any symptoms appear. Black goo in the ear, scratching, and
the ear appearing to be set on the side of the head are indications. Keeping the ears clean, and removing grains from the
diet can help, be gentle when cleaning the ear, and try not to clean too often as irritation might be a catalyst for infection.
The mix that I use for hotspots also works well to clean ears and for mild infections. I mix 4oz
Witch Hazel with Aloe with 10 drops of pure tea tree oil in a small
spray bottle, and pour it into the ear twice a day for 2-5 days. This will usually clear mild infections, but if there is no
improvement in a couple of days, a trip to the vet may be in order.
- Not a condition in itself but a symptom of illness or stomach upset,
diarrhea is more common in some dogs than others. Some dogs are sensitive
to very fatty meats, or a change in diet from cooked to raw and vice-versa.
The most effective way to stop diarrhea is to withold food for 24 hours,
and then offer half a can of pure pumpkin with 2tbsp of yoghurt (for
a 50lb dog), an additional enzyme/probiotic might also help. I love
B-Naturals Digestion Blend
for dogs with sensitive stomachs and my female who can't eat yoghurt.
- Many German Shepherd pups experience pano during their rapid growth in the first year or so. My experiences
have been between 4 and 11 months of age, with between a week and two months duration. Pano is considered to be self limiting,
so while it is distressing for an owner to see, a sore pup will rest more and recover quicker. Make sure your pup
has a comfortable bed, and limit his exercise. If your pup looks a little chubby at this point, cut down his food a little, this
may help to slow his growth and limit the time he is sore. A glucosamine chondroitin supplement may also help. I currently use
B-Naturals Flexile Plus for all my
- German Shepherds seem to be prone to disorders associated with the immune system. One possible cause of Hypothyroidism is thought
to be autoimmune disease. This is also thought to be hereditary. It often shows up between the ages of 2 and 5 and has many disparate symptoms.
If your dog shows a strange change in behavior, gains weight or has skin and hair problems, it may be a good idea to have a simple test done to
see if thyroid dysfunction may be a cause. The medication is inexpensive and effective but the dog must be monitored with regular blood tests
to ensure the dosage is correct.
There are many useful sites on the internet with information about this problem. Here is a selection of my
Canis Major - Information and treatment details
Thyroid Info - More possible symptoms and
Hypothyroidism Fears, Facts, Thoughts & Controversies
Sirius Dog - More technical