What are typical German Shepherd health issues?
Original Question: I recently lost earlier this summer my very best friend, companion and shadow, my 11-year-old lab Riley. It was very sudden and quite a shock. We were always together. I live alone in Peterborough and regularly visit my parents in Lindsay on the weekends. I have also been fortunate to be able to travel to a couple of cottages over the summers and visit with my Grandparents near Flesherton. Riley was included in everything! I work full time in Peterborough and went home every day for lunch to see Riley and walk him. I am getting used to a new routine now but experiencing quite a void in my life. I haven't completely decided on a puppy vs. a young dog, but I am very interested in the German Shepherd breed. I grew up on a farm with a German Shepherd\Husky mix who lived to be 17 years old. I did raise Riley from 8 weeks old so I am familiar with the puppy stage but open to a younger dog as well. I love my Labs but wanted to explore this breed. I am also thinking about getting into agility. There is a facility here fairly close to Peterborough. I have never done agility before but I know German Shepherds require lots of physical and mental exercise and do well in agility. My home and yard back onto a walking trail so I am very lucky and consider myself fortunate to have a great area to go walking in. I have done quite a bit of research over the last few days on dog breeds. I've gone to the library, the internet and even considered a rescue at the Humane Society. I have researched some local breeders here. I have done quite a bit of reading about the breed and recognize that they are very different from Labs, but I have been so intrigued with them and would like to explore further. I know they require a lot of exercise daily as they are a working dog (originally a herding dog, which I didn't know). They need a strong leader, a job to do and learn very quickly, I know they are also very loyal and protective of their family (not such a bad thing when you live alone and walk the trails). My number one request is for a dog that has excellent temperament and health. I'm going to be on vacation during September so I'm going to arrange for a couple of visits to local breeders here to get some more information and meet the dogs. I wondered what you thought of the breed and if you had any concerns overall or with their health? Many thanks for your thoughts and advice! - Karen
I’m sorry to hear about your loss but I’m happy you are considering another dog. It sounds like he or she will be very lucky.
I’ll give you my standard advice. I strongly recommend that people visit shelters first. They always have great dogs available for adoption. I have found that people have a much more positive relationship with their dog when it’s started off by saving a life. I really encourage you to at least consider it. They do a great job of telling you the pet’s history and make sure that it’s a good fit.
I have a big heart for mixed breeds. They tend to be much less intense and much healthier than the average purebred dog. I know you may think otherwise, but many vets have found that mutts are healthier which is well documented on a website that many vets in North America are a member of, called VIN.
When thinking about a particular breed. I encourage you to think about the behavior more than the look. Make sure it suits your lifestyle and be honest with yourself. Some people get a high-intensity dog like a Border Collie and then have a limited time to walk it which creates havoc.
I like German Shepherds. They are a bit too intense for me but if you think that is a fit then I’d go with it. Don’t let it get overweight because they often have hind end problems. Get it checked regularly for any heart issues, ie. heart murmur.
Once again, go to your local shelter before doing anything. Just have a look!
Dr. Clayton Greenway
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