German Shepherd Joint Problems Explained

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
The German Shepherd is a large size dog prone to many joint issues. Read on to discover what are the three most common joint problems in this breed.

Every year, German Shepherds are among the top three most popular dog breeds in the States.

This breed is so beloved that everyone knows about them: how they gained their popularity, what makes them so unique, and what are their major health issues.

Some people may not know about dogs, but they do know about German Shepherds.

People know that they shed a lot, that they are great service and military dogs, and that they need an experienced dog owner who will provide enough training and exercise to keep their joints healthy and strong.

In fact, joint issues are so common in this breed that every dog gets to experience joint pain at some point in their life.

This cuddly and fearless guard dog went a long way from being a stock dog to being a full-time service or companion dog.

Still, their health hasn’t changed a lot – they still suffer from joint-related issues. Reaching senior years is challenging for humans, and extremely difficult for dogs.

They get to deal with countless health issues, and any underlying medical issues that have been hiding for decades – it’s just a matter of time when certain problems will pop up: a poor jump, a run on a slippery surface, catching that freezby while jumping… it all eventually catches up on dogs, and no breed knows this better than German Shepherd does.

German Shepherds are prone to joint problems.

In fact, the three most common causes of joint problems in this breed are:

Is there a way to prevent these conditions? The best thing that you can do to support your dog’s health is to treat German Shepherd joint problems, which is to encourage healthy weight loss.

Recognize Joint Problems In German Shepherd

Some clear signals can tell you that your dog is in pain. Dogs are masters when it comes to communicating with their bodies.

Since they cannot talk like humans do, they had to learn how to communicate with us – as result, they can tell by our body moving if something is right if they are in danger, and even if they should help.

They expect the same approach to understanding their conditions. For example, if dog barks without any obvious reason, it may be a sign that he is in pain and he does his best to tell you that.

By knowing dogs’ everyday behavior and body signs, you may know when your German Shepherd is in severe pain. These include:

1. Decrease In Energy Levels

Over time you may notice that your German Shepherd isn’t as active as he used to be. In fact, you may notice that your dog’s energy level dropped.

You may even notice your dog showing less interest in overall physical activities.

Your Fido enjoyed long walks in the park and running over every obstacle in the dog park, but avoids it lately? It may be a clear sign that your dog is in pain that can be joint-related.

2. Dog’s Mood Change

How do you behave when you are in pain? Do you tend to smile, or do you prefer to be quiet and spend time in your bedroom for hours?

It’s common for people to be quiet when in pain, and to avoid others until they are pain-free.

In fact, the only person that you want to see in those moments is probably a doctor, and no one else.

Since dogs cannot tell you – Take me to the vet, they will choose a different approach: they will stay quiet, and even hide in a quiet corner waiting for the pain to disappear.

Overall, the dog may change his behavior when in pain. His overall personality and mood may change and you can notice your dog being more lazy or even aggressive.

Some dogs tend to be ultra-sensitive and a bit aggressive when they’re in pain.

3. Movement Difficulties

This should be straightforward.

Any sign of difficulty in movement should be a clear sign of an underlying joint problem in your German Shepherd.

In most cases, the dog will show difficulty when getting up or when sitting down.

You may also start to notice a change in the dog’s overall gait. In some cases, you may even notice a limp.

Why German Shepherds Suffer From Joint Problems

Dog experts and beyond, claim that the main reason for so severe joint problems in German Shepherds is excessive inbreeding.

German Shepherds are one of the most popular breeds of dogs in the world.

They’re usually just behind Labrador Retrievers, claiming the second place of the most beloved and adored dog breeds in the States.

Popularity within the canine world usually comes with a high price. Anyone can tell they are breeders, but only responsible breeders will indeed care about dog’s health and overall well-being.

As expected, the popularity of the German Shepherd has had some negative effects. Why? Some breeders choose to breed certain German Shepherds’ lines that are too close.

In fact, this practice is so often that German Shepherds have become one of the most inbred breeds in the world.

Potential dog owners are advised to stay away from the puppy mills that breed dogs unethically to achieve a new look and so on.

Joint problems are not the only issue that German Shepherds have to deal with. This breed is also at a higher risk of suffering from heart-related diseases, epilepsy, bloat, or Von Willebrand’s syndrome.

The Three Most Common German Shepherd Joint Problems

1. Hip/Elbow Dysplasia

Hip and elbow dysplasia is something that is often seen in German Shepherd.

This is why regular exercise is important once you get this breed home. Otherwise, you will witness many health issues in different joints.

Hip and elbow dysplasia happens due to malformation of the hip joint. This condition may lead to the deterioration of the cartilage.

It’s common for bones to be strongly attached to the sockets. As such they will be loose in a dysplastic hip. Often this leads to bones rubbing against each other when in motion.

Over some time, this rubbing can lead to strong inflammation and many issues, such as arthritis.

An identical process may occur with elbows, just occurring at the elbow joint.

How Do I Know If My German Shepherd Has Hip Dysplasia?

As mentioned earlier the best way to notice any health issues in your dog is to know his normal state. This means that you can fast admin easily notice any unusual movement, activity change, and so on.

That being said, here are the symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs:

  • Decreased activity
  • Slow range of motion
  • Difficulty jumping
  • Difficulty running
  • Difficulty climbing stairs
  • Seeing gait like bunny hopping
  • Noticable loss of muscle mass

What Happens If Hip Dysplasia Is Left Untreated In Dogs?

Every condition should be treated. The soon you start treating it the faster your dog will recover, or have a better life quality.

If for some reason, hip dysplasia is left untreated, dogs will usually develop osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease).

2. Panosteitis

Next to hip and elbow dysplasia, panosteitis is the second most commonly seen condition in German Shepherds.

Noticing this condition in your German Shepherd is easy if you overall know how your dog moves and behaves.

When a dog has panosteitis, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • a change in the dog’s overall gait
  • an overall decrease in energy levels

How can you know for sure if your German Shoehrd is affected by panosteitis? There is a simple test to confirm this condition in your dog.

All you have to do is to pinch the middle of the affected limb slightly. If affected, the dog will show clear signs of discomfort.

It’s common for the middle of the affected limb slightly. It’s common for panosteitis to affect the radius and ulan.

It can also be seen in the humerus of the tibia’s forelegs and femur of the hind legs.

Panosteitis comes with strong pain, which can be so intense that a dog won’t be able to walk.

Panosteitis may affect multiple bones, which is why dogs may become lame on one leg for a period of a couple of weeks.

How Do You Treat Panosteitis In German Shepherds?

It is important to note that panosteitis is a self-limiting condition that usually resolves spontaneously.

It’s also important to note that panosteitis is also a very painful condition, which is why current panosteitis treatment includes using analgesics, and/or anti-inflammatory drugs.

Based on your dog’s condition, your veterinarian will recommend the best treatment.

3. Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy is a fatal degenerative disease of the spinal cord.

It’s commonly seen in German Shepherds of different sizes and ages.

When it comes to these conditions, it’s important to note that there is no treatment for this disease.

In time, degenerative myelopathy leads to complete paralysis in all limbs, which is why to monitor for symptoms and recognize the disease on time.

Degenerative myelopathy will always affect the dog’s spinal cord, which will result in a weak gait and overall muscle weakness.

Degenerative myelopathy doesn’t cause a lot of pain for the dog, but it always affects strongly dog’s life quality.

To support the dog once the degenerative myelopathy is detected, you should provide the right diet and plenty of exercise.

How Long Can A German Shepherd Live With Degenerative Myelopathy?

Dogs with degenerative myelopathy can live between six months and three years.

During this period you should put extra focus on nutrition and exercise.

Talk with your veterinarian about the best rehab therapy and how you can boost daily exercise. Your goal should be to improve the dog’s overall life quality.

Can You Improve Your German Shepherd’s Joints?

Being a dog owner comes with many responsibilities that not everyone knows how to deal with.

This is why doing proper research on dog ownership and dog breed of interest is a must before you get a dog.

This way you will be better prepared and provide what is needed to keep a dog healthy.

Care of your German Shepherd’s joints starts in puppyhood.

Protect your puppy’s joints by providing the right diet. Puppies of this breed grow fast, which puts them at risk of hurting their skeleton structure. This is why it’s important not to overexercise puppies.

If you do so, you can expect to see malformations and joint damage. Another thing to keep in mind is their weight.

Always do your best to provide high-quality food, to know how much you should feed your German Shepherd, when, and how to choose high-quality food.

Keeping your dog’s weight optimal you are actually supporting the normal growth of their bones and joints.

Always choose food that is specially created for a certain dogs’ age and activity levels.

In other words, never feed puppies with food for seniors dogs and vice versa. They may get fed on food for other age, but they won’t get enough nutrients that their health may benefit.

If you have any doubts about choosing the best food, talk with your veterinarian.

Once you master nutritional basics and you provide the best diet possible, you need to focus on exercise.

When we talk about exercise time we don’t talk about the regular walks that are usually brisk and seen as toilet breaks.

Learn how much you should exercise your dog based on his weight, size, and age.

Help your German Shepherd burn off extra energy by providing regular exercise, well-structured training, and amazing toys that will keep his mind and body busy.

Know how much you should exercise your dog during different life phases because you don’t want to over-exercise your puppy and provide space for possible injuries.

Last, But Not Least…

The best way to keep your German Shepherd healthy and long-living is to provide the best care possible.

When we talk about the best care possible we do not talk only about nutrition and exercise only.

No, we talk about proper grooming and regular veterinarians heck-up as well.

For example, regular brushing sessions will not only make the bond with your Fido stronger, but it will also give you a space where you can check the dog’s skin for any fleas or signs of skin infection.

Regular veterinarian check-ups will help you screen for any health issue on time and as result, you provide the best care possible.

All in all, regular care and check-ups are what will keep your German Shepherd healthy and happy. Plus, proper care will keep the German Shepherd joints strong, muscular, and powerful.