German Shepherd Dog Health Problems - II

Part II  lists acquired and inherited diseases most commonly found in the German Shepherd Dog breed. Young dogs must undergo regular tests developed for a particular disease.

Aortic Stenosis

In aortic stenosis, there is a partial obstruction to the flow of blood as it leaves the left side of the heart (the left ventricle) through the main blood vessel (the aorta) that carries blood to the rest of the body. Aortic Stenosis is an inherited heart disease.

Acral Lick Dermatitis

The Acral Lick Dermatitis (ALD) is a behavioral disorder characterized by self-licking, chewing or scratching most commonly on the limbs. Breeds mostly predisposed to ALD are Doberman, German Shepherd, Great Dane, Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever. It may occur in dogs which are bored, socially isolated, confined for long periods of time or are physically abused by their owners. ALD should only be considered if other factors have been excluded, such as bacterial or fungal infections, tumors, trauma, foreign body and allergies. Treatment of ALD requires elimination of causes that might have triggered the dog's anxiety and providing suffucient social interaction, exercise and mental stimulation for the dog.


Cataracts are white opacities in the lenses of the eyes that impair vision or cause blindness.


Dermoid is a form of benign, congenital tumor composed of tissue cells. Dermoids are firm but "fleshy" in nature, and their color may range from white, gray, or pinkish yellow to brown, depending upon the specific tissue within the tumor mass. Often, blood vessels and/or hair follicles may be seen within or coming out from the dermoid. Dermoids may be present on the eyelid but most frequently they are located on the conjunctiva or cornea. Treatment requires a surgical procedure.


Demodicosis, also called Demodex mange, is an allergic reaction to Demodex mites. The mites are transferred directly from the mother to the puppies within the first week of life.

Pulmonic Stenosis, Pulmonary Stenosis

Pulmonic Stenosis (PS) is an abnormal narrowing of the right ventricular outflow tract or stricture of the pulmonary artery. This abnormality leads to the enlargement of the right ventricle and the increase of the heart blood pressure.

Canine Wobbler Syndrome

Canine Wobbler Syndrome is a complex neurological disorder involving cervical spinal cord (part of spinal cord in the neck area).

Cutaneous Asthenia

Cutaneous asthenia is an inherited skin disorder characterized by extremely stretchy and fragile skin that tears at the slightest scratch causing scars and wounds.

Selective IgA Deficiency

Selective IgA Deficiency is an inherited immune system disorder characterized by lack or insufficient production of immunoglobulin protein that protects the body against infections.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy - PRA

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a collective term comprising a group of hereditary degenerative lesions of the retina (a layer of nervous tissue which covers the back of the eyeball where the sensation of vision occurs).

Retinal Dysplasia

Retinal dysplasia (RD) is a congenital, local or generalized malformation in the eye that may result from trauma, a genetic defect, or damage caused by a viral infection. Most forms of retinal dysplasia in dogs are inherited.

Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)

Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) is the most common congenital heart disease in dogs that usually causes heart failure and death unless corrected at a young age. PDA occurs twice as often in females as in males, most commonly in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, German Shepherd dogs, Toy and Miniature Poodles, Collies, Cocker Spaniels, Shetland Sheepdogs and Pomeranians. About half of untreated dogs develop left-sided heart failure by 8 months of age.

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV)

Bloating and twisting of a dog's stomach is a serious condition veterinarians call Gastric Dilatation Volvulus, or GDV. It can be caused by overeating, especially in large breeds, but often there is no underlying cause, making this disease one that is baffling to veterinarians and to owners alike. Signs include a distended abdomen. The dog may appear restless, depressed and have dry heaves.

Sebaceous Adenitis

Sebaceous Adenitis (SA) is a hereditary immune skin disease. It cannot be cured, but can be treated. In SA the sebaceous glands that adjoin the hair follicles become inflamed and are gradually destroyed. Most common signs include excessive dandruff, skin lesions on the back and ears, patchy hair loss. If left untreated, bacterial skin infection may develop. The disease occurs in many dog breeds. Affected carriers must NOT be bred. Long-term treatment is necessary to control the disease.


In this condition the food does not reach the stomach and sits in the esophagus (the tube connecting the throat to the stomach) until it simply falls back out the mouth at some point. The action is called "regurgitation". Megaesophagus occurs when the esophagus loses its ability to transport the food to the stomack because of incomplete nerve development. If it is seen in young puppies it may disappear after the dog matures. In adult dogs it is treatable, but difficult to cure.

Myasthenia Gravis

Myasthenia Gravis is a disease that interrupts the way nerves communicate with muscles. Signs include muscle weakness of the eyes, throat and limbs, exercise intolerance (fatigue), voice change, or difficulty swallowing. The quick lethal form of the disease can be caused by chest tumors. Myasthenia Gravis is a very common disease, so any dog with muscle weakness, difficulty swallowing must be tested for the disease.

Familial Vasculopathy

Familial Vasculopathy is a hereditary skin disease that is commonly seen in young puppies. Signs include fever, laziness, skin lesions, footpad softness, swelling, ulceration and depigmentation, crusting and ulceration of ear tips and tail tips, and depigmentation of the nose. No known treatment is considered effective, although some dogs appear to respond to high dosages of corticosteroids.

Nodular Dermatofibrosis

Nodular dermatofibrosis is a noncancerous skin disease associated with internal malignancy and recognized in 1967. It is most commonly seen in German Shepherd dogs but has been also reported in other breeds. This condition evolves as a series of lumps (nodules) which can number in the hundreds and are most often seen involving the areas between the toes and on the legs, but can also develop on the ears and back.