4 common German Shepherd health issues

22 March 2024 - 2 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
Image of a brown-and-black German Shepherd with a pink arrow drawn to its hip

German Shepherds are one of the most beloved dog breeds worldwide, renowned for their intelligence, loyalty, and versatility.

But like any breed, they come with their own set of health concerns that prospective and current pet parents should be aware of. Let's delve into some of the most common health issues affecting German Shepherds, from hip dysplasia to arthritis.

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition commonly seen in larger breeds, including German Shepherds. It occurs when the hip joint fails to develop properly, leading to a loose fit between the hip bone and the femur. This condition can cause pain, lameness, and arthritis over time.

A responsible Shepherd breeder will conduct hip and elbow evaluations and make sure any dogs suffering from these conditions are not bred. In many cases, owners will manage hip dysplasia with nothing more than pain medication, but the price can be much higher if surgery is necessary.

Regular veterinary check-ups, maintaining a healthy weight, and moderate exercise can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life.

Gastric dilatation-volvulus (Bloat)

Gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV), aka "bloat" is a life-threatening condition that affects many large, deep-chested breeds like the German Shepherd. It occurs when the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself, blocking blood flow.

Bloat can be an exceedingly expensive condition to treat.

Preventive measures include feeding smaller, more frequent meals and avoiding vigorous exercise around feeding times.

Degenerative myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a progressive disease of the spinal cord that leads to loss of muscle coordination and paralysis in the hind legs. According to one UK study, musculoskeletal disorders (like DM) and an inability to stand are the most common causes of death for German Shepherds.

The exact cause is unknown, but genetics can play a significant role—yet another reason to seek out a reputable German Shepherd breeder! While there's no cure for degenerative myelopathy, physical therapy and supportive care can slow its progression and help maintain your dog's quality of life.


Arthritis is another common issue in German Shepherds, partly due to their size and active nature. The condition causes inflammation and pain in the joints.

Managing arthritis involves a combination of strategies, including weight management, regular, gentle exercise, and anti-inflammatory medications prescribed by a veterinarian.

The bottom line

While German Shepherds may be prone to certain health issues, proactive management and basic knowledge can make a significant difference. Regular veterinary visits, a balanced diet, and an appropriate exercise regimen are key to keeping your German Shepherd healthy and happy.

Of course, you can't anticipate every little (or big) issue your dog might encounter, and that's where pet insurance comes in. It can help reimburse you for the cost of unexpected accidents or illnesses.

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All our policies cover conditions that ended at least two years ago.

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Leanna Zeibak
Content Manager

Leanna Zeibak is a Content Manager at ManyPets. In her spare time, she paints pet portraits and bakes far too many chocolate chip cookies.