Like any breed, GSDs can be affected by a variety of health problems that are frequently observed and prevalent within the breed. Inbreeding and line breeding greatly promote the inheritance of recessive diseases.
You’ve probably heard of inbreeding where close relatives are bred together to produce offspring.
How long do German Shepherds live?
While some websites state that German Shepherds have an average lifespan of 10-14 years, the American Kennel Club (AKC), which registers the breed in the United States, lists their lifespan as just 7- 10 years.
Why the difference? It is possible that American German Shepherds have shorter life spans than German Shepherds in other parts of the world. How can it be?
German Shepherds can develop osteoarthritis. While common in many dogs, larger breeds like German Shepherds may be more prone to developing this condition. Also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), this is a progressively worsening condition caused by inflammation of the joint due to deterioration or weakening of the cartilage. Cartilage is what cushions the joint bones, allowing them to move smoothly and painlessly against each other. Cartilage loss leads to pain, inflammation, decreased range of motion, and painful bone spurs. This disease most commonly affects the lower limbs and spine.
Deep-chested dogs like German Shepherds are prone to gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), or bloat. This is a life-threatening condition in which the stomach fills with gas and rotates, causing serious complications. Signs of GDV are:
Size and workload matter
This breed is considered a type of working dog; So unlike pugs or chihuahuas, they exert more physical effort which would cause their bodies to get tired sooner. This explains exactly why a well-groomed GSD is likely to live shorter lives than smaller dogs. Additionally, some common treatments can be detrimental to a German Shepherd’s lifespan and sadly, many of these problems are hereditary and are caused by improper breeding.
For example, hip and elbow dysplasia is a prevalent disease among German Shepherds due to inbreeding. This condition would gradually cause your dog pain and discomfort as the joints in the hips or elbows are formed incorrectly; in this case, it would affect your dog’s quality of life the most as it would ultimately disable him.
Consider yearly checkups
One of the best ways to increase the natural life of this dog breed is to make sure they get regular yearly checkups for older breeds and twice a year for puppies (as a side note, 18 months is usually when German Shepherds stop growing). Large breed breeds are very susceptible to joint and hip problems such as hip dysplasia.
Taking a German Shepherd to the vet allows for quick identification of potentially fatal health problems in the German Shepherd. Visually, it’s hard to tell if a dog is in pain because he may be hiding how he’s feeling. But aside from injuries, you should also look out for other obvious symptoms, such as German Shepherd skin problems. Your vet will identify specific diseases and conditions before they become fatal.