German Shepherd are kind, loyal and make great pets. Due to their overwhelming popularity, over the years they have also been victim to irresponsible breeding practices. Putting GSD at risk for conditions that can greatly impact their quality of life.
In most cases, megaesophagus in German Shepherds are congenital. This condition a combination disorder that causes the esophagus to enlarge and lose the ability to move food into the stomach. Since food and water are unable to get to the stomach, it builds up in the esophagus and causes pets to regurgitate. Symptoms will typically begin to show around 5 weeks old, as the dog is just starting to eat solid food. If diagnosed as a young pup, the dog will not grow properly, and many puppies do not survive. If the dog is a little older when diagnosed there may be a noticeable drop in weight.
Treatment for megaesophagus includes managing the symptoms. Switching to smaller meals in a raised bowl or using a Bailey chair. Bailey chairs are designed to help a dog sit up and supports them in such a way as to promote proper internal food mobility. It is a condition that pets can grow out of, this usually occurs around 6 months old.
Due to bad breeding practices, hip dysplasia has become prevalent in the breed. 1 out of every 5 German Shepherds experience some form of hip dysplasia. The severity of the symptoms varies from case to case but can include hip pain, difficulty walking, an awkward gait and in the worst cases an inability to walk on their own.
Although, not life threatening, left untreated hip dysplasia can be painful and debilitating. Physical therapy, joint supplements, and medication can help to relieve pain. Mobility aides such a hip brace or wheelchair can alleviate hip pain and greatly improve a German Shepherd’s quality of life.
Just like in humans, osteoarthritis in dogs is a degenerative joint disease that causes progressive and permanent deterioration of the cartilage surrounds the joints. This form of chronic joint inflammation can be debilitating for your pet.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
PRA is among the most common eye problems in GSD, this degenerative disease affects the photoreceptors in the back of the eye. Most dogs with PRA will begin to show symptoms around two years of age. Early vision loss begins with night blindness, progressing to loss of sight during the day and eventual blindness. Because the vision loss occurs gradually, it allows both the owner and their German Shepherd to adapt. Introduce your dog to wearing a blind dog halo, to help them safely navigate their surroundings as their eyesight changes.
Degenerative Myelopathy in German Shepherds
DM is a debilitating neurological disease that affects GSD mobility. The progressive spinal cord disease begins with rear leg weakness and results in lack of coordination and eventual mobility loss. Early signs of DM in German Shepherds include:
- Hind leg weakness (worsening over time)
- Dragging nails
- Difficulty rising
- Stumbling or swaying
- Knuckling of paws
- Muscle loss
Rehab and hydrotherapy can help maintain some muscle tone and strength, although the disease will lead to eventual paralysis. Dogs with DM will require a wheelchair at some point in their diagnosis. The Walkin' Wheels dog wheelchair will adapt with your dog's changing mobility needs, and can be adapted into a four wheel wheelchair when the condition begins to affect the front legs.
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