Any pet owner can help their dog to lead a full and happy life. Ensuring a long and healthy life for your German Shepherd can start before you even bring them home.
Selecting a Healthy Pup
Choosing A Good Breeder
One of the most important initial steps in adopting a healthy pup who will live a long and healthy life is finding a good breeder. Although this also means that you will pay top dollar for your dog, it will play a huge role in your dog’s health, disposition, and temperament. If you must adopt a young pup, avoid puppy mills and careless breeders.
If you do not already have a good, reliable breeder in mind, your search can begin by simply talking to someone that you know who has a good Shepherd. Find out who their breeder is and contact them. It is always a good idea to contact multiple breeders unless you have plenty of reason to believe that your first contact can and will provide everything you want in a dog.
Spend plenty of time looking at other dogs from each breeder. Take into account their looks, their behavior and their temperament and if they have different owners you can find out much about not only temperament but also any health issues that have presented themselves.
Now turn your attention back to the breeder. A thorough and reliable breeder will have independent documentation showing that all of their dogs are tested and cleared for all of the health problems that are genetic to the German Shepherd.
This is quite a lengthy list, so this is an important step to minimizing the potential for future problems.
There are two organizations that issue clearances for hips, the University of Pennsylvania (PennHip) and Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the breeders should have clearances from one of them. Also, the breeder should conduct regular thyroid, heart and elbow tests that are then evaluated by OFA.
The parents of any pup you choose should have had their last thyroid test, not more than a year ago. Also, ask the breeder about testing for degenerative myelopathy.
It is an uncommon test and therefore a good way to know if the breeder is thorough and conscientious enough to have performed it on their stock. They should be willing to show the results of the tests.
If the breeder responds by giving excuses for not performing the genetic tests, it is likely that your best option is to look elsewhere.
An upside to adopting a full grown dog, from either a breeder or a rescue group, is that it will be much easier to evaluate their health condition as well as their behavior and temperament. All of these are much more difficult and sometimes even impossible to accurately assess in a pup.
First Vet Visit
Regardless of where you purchased or adopted your pet or what age they are, the first step is to get them in to visit your vet as soon as possible. Any visible problems will be noticed and diagnosed by your vet and they will be able to help you set up a plan for proper healthcare and preventative measures for your new companion.
Common Health Issues
Once you have chosen your German Shepherd and welcomed them into your home and family, there are certain factors to be aware of. Even the healthiest and most carefully bred dogs are still going to be prone to genetic issues.
It is important to know what these are so that you can always be on the lookout for signs of health issues. Although some of these issues are genetic and will vary somewhat by a dog, many of them are also environmental, or at least highly affected by the environment.
As mentioned previously, German Shepherds have a rather lengthy list of common health problems. The most common of these include hip and shoulder dysplasia in which the hip/ elbow head does not fit properly into the socket because of a disinformation of the socket.
This causes excessive rubbing and wears away on the bone producing irritation and inflammation. Eventually, it leads to painful arthritis and even lameness. It is impossible to tell with a pup if they have dysplasia but by the age of two, it is evident whether or not it is present.
Another serious neurological disease very common in German Shepherds is degenerative myelopathy, which eventually causes paralysis of the hindquarters. The disease is not curable but treatment can drastically decrease the onset and the sooner it is discovered the better. One way to check if your dog is having any pain or discomfort is to check its nails monthly to determine if there is any uneven wear.
Bloating is a condition which affects German Shepherds more than many other breeds and can be fatal quite quickly, sometimes within mere hours. Symptoms to watch for include pacing and restlessness, dry heaving, restlessness and pain, pale gums, excessive drooling and lip licking.
When the condition hits it requires immediate surgery and dogs who have bloated are much more susceptible to doing so again. Reoccurrences can be stopped by having your dog’s stomach tacked to prevent future twisting. Stomach tacking can also be done early on as a preventative measure.
Other well-known issues in German Shepherds include various heart diseases such as enlarged hearts, murmurs and valve diseases, epilepsy, digestive issues, bleeding disorders, skin allergies and eye and vision issues. Regular monitoring and testing for the onset of serious problems is the best way to ensure your dog stays as healthy as possible.
Outside of regular vet visits and preventative health measures, other steps can be taken to help your dog lead a happy and healthy life. One important measure is providing your German Shepherd with a healthy diet, suited to their needs.
One of the best ways to keep your dog’s diet healthy is to feed them real food. This does not mean they should be fed anything that you would eat as some foods that are fine and safe for people are dangerous for dogs. Real food means unprocessed wholesome and fresh foods. These should include fresh produce, meats and on occasion, even eggs and yogurt.
When choosing meats, you can include venison, fish, beef, turkey, bison, chicken and lamb and cuts should include not only the muscle meats but also bone and organ meats. Many recommend an all meat diet claiming that it is what the canine digestive system was designed for.
Sensitivities to ingredients that are not part of a natural diet can result in aggravating health issues. Skin problems, to which German Shepherds are already very prone, can be exacerbated by improper diet. A healthy diet can provide such benefits as healthy teeth, general health improvement, less body odor, less chance of bloating, less offensive stools, better weight management, improved alertness and energy levels but also a calmer and steadier demeanor.
Proper vaccinations can be helpful in keeping your dog’s health at it’s best. However, it has become common practice to over vaccinate. Not only are yearly booster’s unnecessary but studies have recently shown they can even be dangerous to your dog’s health.
Consider finding a holistic vet as they will be more apt to recommend only the needed vaccines.
It is also a good idea, no matter what kind of vet you work with, to educate yourself on which vaccines are truly necessary and not allow any vet to push you into something that you don’t believe is necessary or healthy for your dog.
HealthCare And Choosing A Vet
It is always important to have a vet that you believe will do their best and who wants the best for your pet. Many are turning to holistic vets who practice alternative measures and medicines and integrated medicines. The term holistic simply means ‘whole’. A whole and thorough approach to healthcare is the most sensible way to keep your dog healthy and happy.
It is important that your vet is of the mindset to look beyond the ailment to root causes and providing support and treatment that will keep your dog at their best. This does not mean avoiding medicine but rather using it when it is necessary and then attempting to maintain optimal health through natural measures to minimize the occurrence or relapse of issues.
German Shepherds require exercise on a daily basis. Activities such as walking, jogging, and playing fetch are excellent ways to meet their activity needs. Be careful not to over-exercise your young German Shepherd as too much can interfere with proper development. However, insufficient exercise can lead to health issues such as increased chances of dysplasia. Plenty of exercises is also essential to keeping them happy.
Keeping your dog healthy is one of the best gifts that you can provide for them. For further information on helping your dog live a healthy and happy life, click here to access our step by step guide to extending your dog’s lifespan.
German Shepherds require lots of care, exercise, and love. Part of loving and caring for your pet is to train it, because everybody loves a well-trained pet. Everyone involved in your pets life, including your German Shepherd, is happy when training is complete and you have your perfect pet. Get started on training your German Shepherd today using Doggy Dan’s online course. It is fast, easy, and effective.