German Shepherd Facts
The breed that is just as much of a worker and a guardian as it is a playmate and a friend is none other than the German Shepherd dog. Loyal at heart, strong in body, and consistent in companionship, this breed is known to stick by your side and serve as your truest friend and protector in any situation.
Average Life Expectancy
Their life expectancy can range from 10 to 12 years. Although the breed is considered to be healthy overall, it has the potential to encounter serious health problems, such as degenerative myelopathy and dysplasia of the elbow and hip. Bloat is also a common and urgent cause for concern if consistent physical exercise is discontinued. Evaluations of the hip and elbow are recommended by vets, as well as a nutritious, active lifestyle to keep your furry friend in the best health they can be.
If careful attention is given to it, their average lifespan can be prolonged. A high-quality, low-fat diet with added protein is optimal. Due to the breed’s innately muscular body, a schedule of approx. 40 minutes of daily exercise, training, and play-time is recommended to keep it fit and happy. Thriving on obedience, this breed is kept agile and sharp when vocal commands accompany training and exercise.
German Shepherd Traits and Characteristics
Intelligent, obedient, loyal, and athletic are a few of the many traits that make up the popular breed. Brought over from Germany and developed to work as herding and guard dogs, they showcase unmatched devotion and protection to their family. This breed usually requires training in terms of compliance and socialization early in life to avoid the development of overly aggressive, clingy behavior.
In terms of the physicality of German Shepherd characteristics, this breed can reach 26 inches in height and weigh between 50 and 90 pounds, depending upon the sex. While their coat color can vary, most are a combination of black with either tan, gray, or red. Their thick, wavy, mid-length coats shed year-round and requires frequent brushing to avoid build-up and tangling. Classified as a large dog, this breed stands erect yet graceful.
Due to their predisposition to defend and protect, this breed can mature for the better or worse, depending upon how they are raised and trained. They may become fidgety, tense, and mischievous if not adequately bred. Therefore, purchasing this beautiful dog from a trustworthy, well-known breeder is highly recommended.
One of the most common conditions are ear mites, which is a parasite known to afflict dogs of every breed. While ear mites tend to be easily diagnosed and treatable, they can cause an intense irritation if dogs possess an immune hypersensitivity. This condition is highly transmittable, and can potentially lead to inflamed, itchy infections if left untreated.
Ear mites are often found in the dog’s ear canal where they bite and eat away at the lining. This certainly does not go unnoticed by the poor pup. Dogs with ear mites usually display symptoms of:
- Severe scratching and/or pulling of the ears
- Frequent head shaking
- Inflamed, red ears
- Blood-colored discharge
- Small blockages in ear canal
Dogs with ear mites are treated with medication by their vet. Any other pets in the household are also recommended to receive a round of treatment to ensure that the mites are eliminated. The living space itself should be sanitized and thoroughly cleaned.
Although cancer of the lungs can occur in any breed, lung cancer in this gorgeous breed is especially common due to medium and large size dogs having a higher susceptibility to it. Lung cancer is also more common in aging dogs (8 years or older), with the average age of diagnosis being around 10 or 11 years old. Dogs living in cities with smog and second-hand smoke have a higher chance as well.
There are two main types of lung cancer to be aware of:
- Primary Lung Cancer develops in one or both lungs and is usually malignant in nature. Fortunately, it is a rare from of cancer, with only 1% of dogs developing it.
- Metastatic (Secondary) Lung Cancer is cancer that developed elsewhere in the body but has since spread to the lung(s) and other areas of the body. This is a more common diagnosis.
While German Shepherd facts state that they are capable of having both types of cancer, they are more likely to develop what is known as an Adenocarcinoma. An Adenocarcinoma is lung cancer that is often malignant and metastasizes rapidly to other organs, bones, and systems of the body. It is an aggressive form of cancer that requires immediate attention due to its rapid spread and reach throughout the body.
Adenocarcinomas can be either of the two types of lung cancer (primary or secondary). Close to 80% of primary lung cancers begin with the formation of adenocarcinomas. If the cancer is not detected early, it potentially can spread to the heart, liver, and lymph nodes, and can be fatal. While some dogs with lung cancer display symptoms that can be interpreted as normal, such as loss of appetite or laziness, some dogs display no symptoms at all.
This can make it difficult to determine if your pup needs a visit to the vet. However, some of the more common indications of adenocarcinomas are:
- Shortness of breath or labored breathing
- Quickness of breath
- Vomiting or coughing up bloody matter
- Fatigue or weakness
- Pain in muscles
- Distinct changes in appetite
If your dog displays any of these symptoms, a prompt visit to the vet is highly recommended. Following a thorough examination of your dog, your vet will most likely order an X-ray or CT scan to see if cancer is detected. In most cases of cancer being detected, a lobectomy (removal of tumor and affected areas) is usually performed. Radiation and chemotherapy may be required.
Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds
While this breed is majestic and elegant in stride, many are unfortunately subject to German Shepherd hip dysplasia. This large breed maintains a high susceptibility to hip dysplasia, with an average of 19-20% of all German Shepherds developing it during their lifetime. Hip dysplasia, or canine hip dysplasia (CHD), is a condition where the hip joints are misaligned or too loose, which causes rubbing and grinding of the bones. This painful condition is often inherited or develops from an injury.
Some of the more commonplace symptoms of hip dysplasia are:
- Decreased range of motion, especially in one leg
- Decreased activity/exercise
- Weight gain
- Hobbled-walking or limping
- Hostile disposition if area is touched
- Avoidance of stairs and running
Many German Shepherd facts point to some beneficial treatments for hip dysplasia. The two main treatments involve limiting excessive eating and exercise. The goal is to keep your pup’s weight down to relieve the joint pressure, and to ensure that it is not further damaging the hip with too much activity. Your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication or supplements to promote joint health. Surgery may be suggested for serious cases of hip dysplasia.