Help your dog by educating yourself.

Common German Shepherd Health Problems

Common Health Issues


When you’re looking for a dog, one of the first things you should do is educate yourself on the breed’s common health issues in order to understand which problems may occur with your pup. There is no guarantee your dog will suffer from these issues, but some breeds more commonly see certain conditions than others.

One of the most popular breeds is the German Shepherd, and for good reason. These dogs are intelligent, adorable, and make loving additions to any family. They are best suited for active families, as their high-energy personality means they need athletic challenges to stay happy. Luckily, their active nature seems to play into the breed’s stellar health history.

Overall, German Shepherds encounter relatively little serious health conditions. They have an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years and come with a great track record for being very healthy dogs. They are reputed to evade many complications that affect other breeds more frequently, including issues with the bones, skin, and fur.

Below are a few conditions that have been seen in German Shepherds throughout the years. It is important to familiarize yourself with what medical issues you are more likely to face than others, should you choose to take home a shepherd. Remember, every dog is different, and a German Shepherd can encounter an issue that isn’t included on this list.

Hip Dysplasia

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A genetic condition, hip dysplasia is a malformation of a dog’s hip socket. It can be difficult to pinpoint, because some dogs with hip dysplasia will appear to be perfectly normal, but over time, the condition will reveal itself if not treated, as it can eventually lead to arthritis in dogs. When a dog has hip dysplasia, his thigh bone does not fit properly into the hip socket, which will damage the surface cartilage over time and wear away at the bone.

The condition and symptoms can range from mild to severe, with severe typically requiring complete surgical hip replacement. If hip dysplasia goes untreated, a dog will go lame and suffer great pain. Since it is impossible to know if your dog has hip dysplasia by just looking at him, X-Rays are required to make a diagnosis. This condition should be routinely checked for by your veterinarian. Puppies cannot be evaluated for hip dysplasia, but once a dog turns two, the condition can be detected.

Breeders should always have their German Shepherds evaluated for this condition by the Orthopedic Foundation of America. This foundation can tell you if there is a family history of hip dysplasia, and how often it occurs.

Perianal Fistula


This disorder is what causes canine diarrhea and bloody stool in German Shepherds, a problem they’re known for being prone to. It occurs when the skin around the anus cracks and drains. The open wounds leave German Shepherds vulnerable for infection and causes a foul odor, the latter being what owners usually notice first.


Due to the plethora of nerves running through the anus, the condition can be excruciatingly painful.

Still, there are various treatments available as this can be a rather common condition found in afflicted canines. Diet plays a huge part in mitigating the symptoms as well.



Another common condition in German Shepherds, this occurs when the esophagus loses strength and is unable to pass food properly.

Symptoms typically include vomiting in dogs or regurgitating dense foods and eventually manifest into malnourishment (as they can’t eat properly).

While there’s no cure for this condition, changes in diet can supply your pup with the nutrients he needs to live a healthy life. This condition certainly causes difficulties but it’s not always life-threatening and can be managed.

Tumors and Cancers


Like most dog breeds, German Shepherds can develop tumors and different forms of cancers. The most common types of canine cancer seen in Shepherds are hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma.

Hemangiosarcoma is a malignant cancer that invades the blood vessels. Lymphoma can occur in a dog’s lymph nodes, spleen, liver and other organs. It originates in the lymphocyte cells buried in a dog’s immune system, and slowly breaks it down. It is typically seen in middle-age to older dogs and is treatable with chemotherapy.