Welfare - from the GDCA website
and other health concerns in the Great Dane
The following health conditions have been identified in the Great Dane.
Items so marked () can be identified through
Screening tests are not currently available for the other conditions
listed. Conditions thought to involve significant & direct inheritance are
noted. For those purchasing a pet or intending to breed: it is important to know
the health status before breeding any dog or bitch. Clinically affected dogs,
i.e., those dogs exhibiting symptoms for conditions considered serious and
heritable should generally NOT be bred and health screenings (where available)
are certainly recommend. Please note that the text below is intended as an aid
to those seeking health information on the breed, and should not be used to form
a diagnosis replacing regular veterinary care by a qualified veterinarian.
DCM: CARDIOMYOPATHY - is suspected to be
an inherited disease in the Great Dane and current (preliminary) research
indicates that this disease may be sex-linked in our breed. Research is ongoing.
An echocardiogram of the heart will confirm the disease but will not guarantee
that the disease will not develop in the future. Regular exams on breeding stock
are recommended. There are some congenital heart defects also occasionally found
in the breed. For an in-depth article on the subject, see "Heart
Disease in the Great Dane."
K9HD: HIP DYSPLASIA - is an inherited
disease with multi-factorial
expression. Clinically the disease may be seen as simply poor rear end
conformation or lessened athleticism to such malformation of the hip joint that
the dog becomes crippled. It is recommend that breeding stock be Xrayed as
normal. OFA and PennHIP both offer certification programs.
See OFA and PennHIP.
HYPOTHYROIDISM - in dogs is generally the
result of a heritable disorder of the immune system. This condition results
when the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormone to adequately
maintain the dog's metabolism. Happily, it is easily treated with thyroid
replacement pills. Thyroid testing (T4, TSH and autoantibodies) on breeding
stock should be performed on a routine basis. Finding autoantibodies to
thyroglobulin is normally an indication that the dog has autoimmune thyroiditis.
Low thyroid dogs, manifested by a high TSH and a low T4, should be treated
and monitored on a regular basis. Dogs with confirmed thyroid abnormalities
should not be bred. See the Hypothyroidism
CATARACTS - although not common,
cataracts have been described in the Great Dane and can be blinding. Eyelid
abnormalies (e.g. entropion) are also not unheard of in the breed. For breeding
stock a CERF exam can insure that the eyes are normal in all aspects. See CERF
data for the breed.
GDV: Bloat - is the number one killer of Great Danes & Great Danes are
the #1 breed at risk for bloat. For reasons not fully understood, in certain
deep-chested breeds in particular, the stomach distends, then has a
tendency to rotate, which cuts off the blood supply to various parts of the
body, as well as effectively shutting down digestion. This condition is
extremely painful as well as a true emergency that is rapidly life-threatening.
A dog with a bloated, twisted stomach (technically called "Gastric
Dilatation and Volvulus") will die in great pain in a matter of hours
unless drastic steps are taken: surgery is normally necessary. The reasons
for GDV are currently not understood, however most would agree that multiple
small meals per day and preventing vigorous exercise around mealtimes can help
reduce the chances of bloat. Many breeders and owners of Great Danes consider a
surgery called a prophylactic gastropexy ("preventative tack") which
can help prevent some of the more serious aspects of GDV. Discuss this
with your veterinarian and your Dane's breeder.
CANCER: Danes can suffer from a variety of cancers as do many other
breeds of dogs as well as many mixed breed dogs. Bone cancer (osteosarcoma) and
lymphoma appear to be the two forms of cancer most commonly seen in the Great
Dane, and along with heart disease and bloat (GDV), cancer is a leading cause of
death in Great Danes. Research into both types of cancer is ongoing and
treatment options are improving every day. See The
Genetics of Cancer
CVI: Wobblers - is a result of pressure on the spinal cord in the neck
region and results in a "drunken" gait & increasing instability.
It it thought to result from a combination of nutritional effects and
inherited traits and is considered a form of DOD (Developmental Osteodystrophy)
along with such as OCD. Great Danes are considered at risk for Wobblers. CVI
stands for Cervical Vertebral Instability.
HOD and Pano - these are painful conditions of the bones that occur during
the rapid growth phase of puppyhood causing lameness and general malaise. By far
HOD is the more serious one and can be deadly. Pano is usually self-limiting and
may not need treatment. HOD stands for Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy. Pano is
short for Panosteitis.
Recommended health certifications - see
the AKC-CHF's CHIC program for
GDCA recommended health certifications.
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