5 Month Old Baby Onr Leg Short After Dysplacia Treatment Common Health Problems of the Great Dane

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Common Health Problems of the Great Dane

As sweet and wonderful as Great Danes are, like all breeds, they have their drawbacks. Their often short lifespan is first on the list. A high average is probably seven to eight years, although there are certainly exceptions to this. Many are known to live from nine to twelve years. This is a question to ask when interviewing a breeder for a puppy. Obviously, their early deaths are due to some causes. Unfortunately, more than their share of health problems are found in this breed. Not all of the problems listed below are life-threatening, but seem to occur more often in Great Danes. Thyroid imbalance, cataracts and Von Willebrand’s disease are some health problems that breeders are now also screening for. Ask the breeder what problems they are experiencing. It’s likely that they will never concern you, but it doesn’t hurt to be aware of these health issues when considering a Dane for your family.

1. Von Willebrand’s disease

Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD) is an inherited disease that prevents the blood from clotting. There are different degrees of vWD, ranging from clear, to genetic carrier, to affected. Screening consists of a blood test that determines which grade the Dane will fall.

2. Cataracts

There are many causes for cataracts in dogs, including injury, nutrition, congenital and genetic inheritance. We are mainly concerned with hereditary cataracts here. Juvenile, or inherited, cataracts plague Great Danes. Unfortunately, not many breeders examine cataracts because they cannot always be seen with the naked eye. There is not much data on this condition in Danes to draw conclusions from, as they may not live long enough for the cataract to ever bother them. Cataracts are found on the lens of the eye, the clear body behind the iris. Mostly, dilation of the iris is necessary to actually see the cataract. It is important that the eyes undergo an annual examination by a certified eye doctor. If the dog passes the CERF (Canine Eye Registration Foundation) test, a number – valid for one year – is then issued to the dog.

3. Thyroid

Problems with the thyroid consist of an over or under active thyroid. The correct function of the thyroid is essential, as it affects many aspects of the dog’s health. A blood test will check the effectiveness of thyroid. The OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) will only certify dogs with a normal thyroid. If the thyroid is functioning abnormally, it often affects the skin condition and causes dry, itchy skin with sparse hair growth. Autoimmune problems are also common, as well as causing sterility in the reproductive system.

4. Panosteitis

Panosteitis is inflammation in the long bones of the leg, causing lameness. It is known to move from leg to leg and usually goes away on its own. If the pain is severe, then a trip to the vet is a good idea. It is unknown what causes panosteitis. Most often, it shows up between four and eight months of age and usually disappears when the dog turns two years old.

5. Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia is what happens when the joint of the femur (the long thigh bone that connects the pelvis) does not fit comfortably into the socket of the pelvic bone. Mainly, this happens because the pelvic socket is too small to accommodate the femoral joint. The dog experiences pain because they don’t fit and arthritis often develops as a result. Fortunately, hip dysplasia is becoming rarer in the puppies of responsible breeders who regularly screen their dogs for this condition. Screening consists of a hip x-ray and OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certification. Unfortunately, many breeders do not check their dogs’ hips and it is they who still have a very high incidence of hip dysplasia in their puppies. Insist that both parents be screened for this condition.

6. Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy

Hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD) affects young people during their most rapid growth period, usually between four and ten months of age. It is a severe swelling and inflammation of the joints that causes immense pain for the puppy. Often the dog will just lay there and cry because the pain is so intense. Diagnosis is by x-ray and the cause is unknown. Be aware of HOD as many vets do not recognize it when it first presents. Treatment is usually successful if caught early and there are several treatment methods, the most important being pain control.

7. Wobblers Syndrome

A disease of the nervous system, Wobblers Syndrome is when the dog has problems with movement. When the vertebrae in the neck form abnormally, it creates pressure on the spinal cord. There are several degrees of severity. Some dogs live long, happy lives with the condition, while others are sadly euthanized while young. Loss of coordination in the hind legs is usually the first symptom. It seems as if the dog is moving without understanding exactly where its hindquarters are. The problem is more severe when the dog falls during a turn. Sometimes, in very extreme cases, the front legs can also be affected. There is rarely pain involved with Wobblers Syndrome.

8. Bloat or gastric torsion

This condition is probably the most common cause of death in Danes. Studies have shown that at least twenty-five percent of the Great Dane population experiences bloating. Generally, swelling occurs only when the dog is five years or older. What actually causes swelling is still unknown. Many people believe that carefully monitoring what your Great Dane eats and drinks can help prevent it. Gas fills the stomach and the dog is unable to release it. Due to excess gas, the stomach will swell, eventually turn on its axis and fall over. This is known as gastric torsion. When this happens, the nerves and blood vessels going to and from the stomach become blocked. The tissues that function because of these vessels will begin to die and produce toxins, which in turn will cause toxicity and shock throughout the animal. This very quickly leads to death. It is essential to get your dog to the vet very quickly when this happens. Sometimes, getting your dog to the surgery in time is not enough. Often, trauma from the experience is enough to cause heart failure.

To successfully treat this condition, the dog must first be stabilized before surgery. By inserting a stomach tube through the mouth, the trapped gas can escape. If the tube can’t be inserted due to time or blockage, then they will have to puncture the stomach directly so the gas can expel itself. Releasing the gas is the only way to stop the deadly effects of bloating and stomach torsion. Once the dog is stable and the surgical team decides it is safe to attempt surgery, the vet will open the dog up and perform a procedure that will ensure the stomach can never twist again, called a gastroplexy. Discuss this condition with your veterinarian before any incidence of bloat occurs, as there are several methods commonly performed. Don’t be afraid to ask your vet how familiar they are with performing a gastroplexy.

If the stomach is only “tacked” then it is not a permanent solution. Within six months the tacking will be ineffective. There are more permanent methods to treat this condition. Future stomach twist is now prevented. However, an episode of swelling will always be possible. Some breeders and owners perform a gastropexy on all female dogs during sedation during spaying, and on male dogs when they are x-rayed for hip dysplasia – as most vets will use an anesthetic to take an accurate x-ray. The peace of mind is worth it to them with the likelihood of swelling being so high.

9. Cardiomyopathy

Common in the breed is a condition called cardiomyopathy. This is a heart condition that usually does not affect a dog before three or four years of age. Symptoms you may notice include a lack of interest in food, intermittent coughing, lack of energy and exercise intolerance. Watch for swelling in the legs and shaking, as sometimes the stomach and chest cavity will collect fluids. Unfortunately, once diagnosed, cardiomyopathy patients are given about three months to live.

10. Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcoma is the most common form of cancer found in this breed. Usually it affects the long bones in one of the legs. The first symptom is swelling of the leg and limping. Osteosarcoma is mostly diagnosed by x-ray. It is important to diagnose this condition before the cancer spreads (metastasizes). Treatment consists of amputation of the limb. This is drastic, but Danes do well on three legs and run around as if they still have the amputated leg. Factoring into this decision will be the age and strength of your dog. Owners who have experienced this condition and treatment almost unanimously do not regret it.

Because of the potential health risks in the Great Dane, responsible breeders will examine their dogs before making breeding decisions. The OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) evaluates and registers dogs for elbow and hip dysplasia, heart defects and thyroid function. The grade of hip will be either poor, good or excellent. They will also tell the owner if the dog has dysplasia. CERF (Canine Eye Registration Foundation) will certify eyes after the dog passes an examination by a Board Certified Canine Ophthalmologist. Insist on proof of these tests from the breeder to ensure that conscientious breeding practices are taking place, and to know that your Dane is from a good breeder.

Great Danes grow in one year what humans grow in eighteen. During this period of growth, if something goes wrong with the metabolism or assimilation of nutrients, it will most often show in the skeleton. Most of these problems are easily managed or prevented with proper nutrition. Ideally, a diet including all the elements for growth properly balanced should effectively slow down this growth rate. Given that all of the above problems are overwhelming, there’s no reason your Great Dane can’t live a long life without any of them. Having a dane doesn’t always mean there will be problems!

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