10 Health Tips for Your German Shepherd
Looking for ideas to keep your German Shepherd healthy? Want some health advice for your German Shepherd puppy?
The German Shepherd is known as a healthy breed. Properly bred German Shepherds have lifespans of 7 to 10 years, according to the American Kennel Club, and typically do not face serious health issues.
But like any breed, a few health conditions can affect German Shepherds.
For example, canine hip dysplasia is common in German Shepherds, especially when proper breeding practices aren’t followed. And the breed is also susceptible to Von Willebrand’s disease, an inherited blood-clotting condition. Even so, the majority of German Shepherds lead happy lives with few health issues.
Generally, the most common health issues faced by German Shepherds are all avoidable. Things like a lack of proper socialization, oral hygiene, and improper diet, for example, can all have severe mental and physical health consequences for a German Shepherd.
Need some German Shepherd health tips and things to avoid? These are 10 tips German Shepherd owners can follow for optimal health for their pups.
- Regular Exercise
Daily exercise is essential for German Shepherds. A daily walk, run or play time in the yard helps ensure good mental and physical health for your animal.
One thing to note: German Shepherds love routine; taking a walk or scheduling exercise at the same time(s) each day is best.
- The Right Diet
German Shepherds require a balanced diet to thrive. But what’s the best diet for Shepherds? A proper menu includes enough protein. Generally, about one-quarter of calories should be protein. Plus, the food should consist of enough fat, which helps keep the Shepherd’s coat shiny and healthy. A few diet considerations include:
- Right Amount – Your Shepherd’s activity levels, sex and weight all affect the amount of food you should be feeding your dog. Consult with your veterinarian for the right amount of food to feed your German Shepherd.
- No Abrupt Changes – If you need to change your dog’s diet, use gradual adjustments. Start with a mix of 75% old food to 25% new food, and slowly increase the ratio until you’ve transitioned to the new diet. Abrupt changes can cause stomach and digestion issues for your pup.
- Food Quality – Whether you’re using raw, homemade or store-bought dog food, the quality of your food matters. Quality dog food includes the proper ratio of vitamins and minerals, which is essential for your pup’s long-term health.
- Good Oral Hygiene
Good oral health is vital for overall health. Many infections and serious health issues can be caused or exacerbated by improper health. A few German Shepherd oral health tips include:
- Brush teeth regularly
- Schedule regular examinations
- Use teeth-cleaning treats
- Know symptoms of oral issues (bad breath, redness, swollen or bleeding gums, and plaque)
- Proper Socialization
Early socialization is essential for German Shepherds. It helps introduce them to new people and situations, which can help significantly reduce issues like excessive barking, anxiety, and aggression later in life.
One tip: Pick a responsible breeder. The best breeders socialize pups before they go to their forever homes. Early socialization can ease the transition from breeder to forever home.
- Regular Health Visits
Find a good veterinarian for your German Shepherd and schedule regular appointments. Yearly or twice-yearly is ideal. Also, make sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and X-rays. Shots help protect your pup from disease, while X-rays can help catch illness early.
- Choose a Responsible Breeder
Many German Shepherd health issues are caused by improper breeding. Canine hip dysplasia, for example, is a hereditary disease that becomes more common with improper breeding practices.
German Shepherd puppies also have special needs early in life. Socialization, dietary and exercise considerations are all critical as puppies. The best breeders provide their puppies with the important care that they need early in life.
- Avoid Overheating in Summer
German Shepherds have heavy, dark-colored coats. As such, they’re prone to overheating in hotter months. In summer, make sure you protect your pup against heat sickness and heat stroke. Provide ample access to shade and water, and never leave your animal alone in the car.
- Be Aware of Your Animal’s Joint Health
As a larger breed, German Shepherds are susceptible to joint discomfort and disorders. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of arthritis and hip dysplasia, and take proper care of your dog’s joints. A few tips:
- Avoid heavy lifting – When your German Shepherd is a puppy, you should avoid heavy lifting. Wait until the joints are fully mature, which usually occurs around 1-2 years old.
- Supplements may help – Supplements can help promote good joint health. If you notice symptoms, a supplement might help; often though, supplements aren’t necessary if you provide your Shepherd with a high-quality diet.
- Recognize symptoms – Arthritis, hip dysplasia, and joint discomfort become more problematic as your pet gets older. Be aware of signs, as early diagnosis can help reduce the impact on your dog’s quality of life.
- Find a Reliable Trainer
German Shepherds are so intelligent. But when that intelligence is left to its own devices, problematic behaviors can materialize. In addition to regular exercise, obedience training, Schutzhund competition, and agility training are all great activities for your pup.
One tip: Provide regular physical challenges for your German Shepherd, like hiking, swimming, and open running. German Shepherds are so athletic; these sorts of activities allow your pup to put its athleticism and intelligence to good use.
- Know the Signs of Bloat
As a larger breed, German Shepherds have a higher risk of developing bloat. Bloat is a digestive disorder, in which the stomach twists and fills with gas, causing discomfort and, in severe cases, death. Knowing the symptoms – a distended abdomen, difficulty breathing, drooling and pain – can help you seek early care for your animal.
Misty Ridge Animal Resort and Boarding Kennel specialize in German Shepherd breeding, pet boarding, and Shepherd training. With more than 30 years of breeding and training experience, we are Maryland and Northern Virginia’s source for German Shepherd expertise. Contact us for more information.