Healthy German Shepherd Puppies
Find out how to choose a healthy German Shepherd Dog and what health signs to look for.
By D. Caroline Coile |
Posted: May 31, 2012, 8 a.m., EDT
German Shepherds are a healthy breed, but like all breeds, they have their own host of breed-specific problems. The best known of these is hip dysplasia. Almost 20 percent of GSD radiographs submitted to OFA are judged to be dysplastic. Elbow dysplasia is reported at about the same rate.
The parents of your prospective German Shepherd Dog puppy should have hip and elbow certification. It’s even better if the aunts and uncles of your German Shepherd have such certification as well. Hip and elbow dysplasia are caused by the interplay of several gene pairs, so the status of collateral relatives (aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, and so on) is as important as that of direct ancestors, such as the grandparents.
OFA has long been the gold standard for hip and elbow dysplasia scoring in the U.S., but PennHIP (Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program) is equally respected and sometimes preferred by veterinarians. In Canada, look for certification by Ontario Veterinary College, and in Germany, dogs should have an "A” stamp.
Hip and elbow dysplasia aren’t the only health concerns among German Shepherd Dogs. Ginny Altman, the health and genetics chairperson of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America, says she likes to make sure that both parents of the dog have a normal, functioning pancreas but points out that a GSD owner would know if the dog had a pancreatic problem, because it would have an obvious toll on the German Shepherd’s weight and digestion.
Altman cautions that other conditions, such as bloat, might occur more frequently in some bloodlines than others. "If the puppy’s parents’ siblings or grandparents died from this condition, the owner must be educated so he or she can recognize the early signs,” Altman says. "The only way to save the dog’s life is with treatment. That’s not to say that every GSD puppy with a family history of bloat will come down with it – only that if it should happen, the owner must be prepared.”
The Canine Health Information Center collects information on dogs who have been tested for conditions listed by the national breed club. For German Shepherds, those tests are hip and elbow dysplasia (OFA evaluation), congenital heart disease (OFA evaluation), autoimmune thyroiditis (yearly OFA evaluation) and a temperament test (GSDCA results submitted to OFA). Dogs who have received the required tests are listed on the CHIC website. One way to locate responsible breeders is to find CHIC dogs starting with the same kennel name, then contacting their breeder.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid German Shepherds from inbred pedigrees – those in which the same ancestor appears behind both the father and mother within the first few generations. Some breeders will provide you with a measure of inbreeding (called a coefficient of inbreeding, or COI). The lower the COI, the better. Anything lower than a score of 10 percent in a 10-generation pedigree is good.
Nobody can ensure that your German Shepherd Dog will have perfect looks, temperament and health, but then again, nobody’s perfect. If you go to a reputable breeder to find your GSD puppy, however, chances are the German Shepherd you choose will be very close to perfection in your eyes.
Excerpt from the Popular Puppies Series magabook German Shepherd Puppies with permission from its publisher, BowTie magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase German Shepherd Puppies here.
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