All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems,
just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not
offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who
tells you that her puppies are isolated from the central part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will
be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines. The Great Dane
is prone to a host of health problems. Here’s a brief rundown of what you should know.
Among the conditions that can affect the Great Dane is bloat, a disease in which the
stomach expands with air. This can become the more severe condition, gastric torsion, if the stomach twists on itself, cutting
off the blood supply. This is as grave an emergency as you'll ever face with your dog, and immediate surgery is the only thing
that can save his life. The Internet is full of home remedies and suggestions for avoiding that expensive trip to the emergency
hospital. Ignore them and head for the veterinarian if you want to save your dog.
Before surgery, ask about having your dog's stomach tacked, a procedure that will prevent it from
twisting again in the future. Nearly all dogs that bloat once will do so again, and that surgery can save your dog's life.
Many Great Dane owners have it routinely on all their dogs as a preventive measure.
Also known as gastric dilation-volvulus, gastric torsion is the number one killer of Danes, and
they bloat more often than any other breed. According to a Journal of the AVMA study reported in 2000, 5.3 percent of Great
Danes exhibited GDV every year. This condition may be at least partly genetic, but there is no screening test for bloat at
this time. Your puppy's breeder should be able to give you an idea of how many close relatives of his parents have bloated
in the past; the fewer such animals in your puppy's ancestry, the better.
Great Danes also suffer from a high incidence of cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease resulting
in an enlarged heart. This is very common in many giant dogs, and when it occurs late in life, it is often manageable with
medication. Have your dog's heart checked at least once a year, and have any murmurs or unusual symptoms investigated by a
board-certified veterinary cardiologist. This condition may be genetic as well, but the testing currently available can only
clear the dog for the time being; a dog could test clear one day and develop heart disease the next.
Great Danes can also suffer from hip dysplasia, a crippling malformation of
the hip socket that may require costly surgery to repair, resulting in painful arthritis later in life. Another genetic problem
with an imperfect screening test is that the best prevention for hip dysplasia is to buy whose parents both tested with
normal hips who have very few close relatives with the disease. Keeping your dog lean, particularly when he's young, can also
Another painful bone condition is hypertrophic
osteodystrophy, occurring during the rapid growth phase of puppyhood. Ask your veterinarian about puppy foods for large breed
dogs. These diets are formulated to help the puppies grow slowly, which can help prevent developmental orthopedic problems.
Cancer is another leading cause of death in Great Danes, particularly bone cancer.
They are also prone to several other skeletal, vision, and neurological problems, both major and minor. Outstanding Dane vet
bills, like the dogs themselves, tend to be very, very large.
all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy. It is impossible to predict whether an animal will be free of these
maladisordersich is why you must find a reputable breeder committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should
be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for common
defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
Before individual Great Danes can be included in the Canine Health Information Center
(CHIC) database, the Great Dane Club of America requires them to have a hip evaluation from the Orthopedic Foundation for
Animals, Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) or PennHIP; clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation; an OFA thyroid evaluation
from an approved laboratory; and a cardiac evaluation from OFA or the ACVIM Registry of Cardiac Health (ARCH).
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the
CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration
alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease. Still, all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed
by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents. If the breeder tells you she doesn't need to do those
tests because she's never had problems in her lines and her dogs have been "vet checked," then you should go find
a breeder who is more rigorous about genetic testing.
breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens. Still, Mother
Nature has other ideas, and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary
medicine mean that in most cases, the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about
the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of
the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Great Dane at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend
his life. Free feeding is recommended for the Great Dane breed; it is almost impossible to know when your dog is hungry. Bad
feeding habits are mainly the cause of many behavior issues. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier
dog for life.