GSD Health


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Degenerative Myelopathy
Endocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency


Degenerative Myelopathy

DM is an autoimmune disease, where the dog's own immune system attacks the myelin and axons - Myelin is the insulation around nerve fibers leaving the nerve cell; Axons are long nerve fibers which carry the signals from the nerve to the muscles. It is similar to Multiple Sclerosis in humans. Belgian Shepherds, Old English Sheep Dogs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Weimaraners and, probably, Great Pyrenees seem to suffer from the same problem, and can be helped by the same things that help German Shepherds. Many other breeds can suffer from myelopathy. Since we're not sure whether the cause is the same, we don't know if they can respond as well to these treatments.

DM is usually first seen in adult dogs between the ages of 5 and 14 years of age. There is a progressive weakness of the hindquarters. The muscles of the lower back and hindlegs are smaller than normal. Many dogs also have hip dysplasia and/or arthritis of the spine, which complicates the condition. The cause is most likely a combination of inherited weakness, plus environmental and toxic factors that lead to its development.

Conventional medicine has little to offer. Exercise, certain vitamins (B-12, E, and C), and some drugs can delay or prevent progression of DM in many dogs, but little has been done to prevent the development of this autoimmune disease. More Info

Endocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency

A disease of the pancreas in which the cells that produce the digestive enzymes are destroyed by disease. Since the dog can no longer digest and absorb food, he/she slowly starves to death. While the dogs are born with a normal pancreas, something begins destroying the cells. Symptoms include flatulence, stomach rumblings, vomiting of bile, weight loss, change in stool.

Other breeds can get EPI, but GSDs are especially affected.

Treatment is simple (Arista had this condition): pancreatic enzymes are added to the food.


Also known as Canine Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus. There is a rapid accumulation of air in the stomach and often also a rotation of the stomach and other organs. This twisting can cut off the blood supply tot he stomach or heart and is life-threatening.

Bloat is a disease of aging and can begin at about 7-9 years of age, but it has been seen in pups of 6 months. If you know or even suspect your dog has bloat, immediately call your vet. The first step is to treat shock with IV fluids and steroids. Antibiotics and anti-arrythmics may also be started now. Then the veterinarian will attempt to decompress the stomach by passing a stomach tube. If this is successful, a gastric levage may be instituted to wash out accumulated food, gastric juices, or other stomach contents. In some cases, decompression is accomplished by placing large-bore needles or a trochar through the skin and muscle and directly into the stomach. In some cases, this medical therapy is sufficient. However, in many cases, surgery is required to save the dog. Once the dog's condition is stabilized, surgery to correct the stomach twist, remove any unhealthy tissue, and anchor the stomach in place is performed. The gastroplexy, or anchoring surgery, is an important procedure to prevent recurrence. Recovery is prolonged, sometimes requiring hospital stays of a week or more.

There are steps you can take to reduce the chance of Bloat. Feed two or three meals daily, add canned food if the dog is eating only dry, discourage rapid eating, and reduce nervousness in the animal. Do not allow exercise for two hours after a meal. More Info


Hip Displasia is a malformation of the hip joint, in which the thigh joint does not fit properly in the pelvic socket, and causes arthritis. German Shepherds rank as eighth to develop displastic hips and displastic elbows are on the rise.

Treatments include surgery (artificial joint), Chiropractic treatments to relieve the stress of the disease on the spine, dietary changes if the dog is overweight, range-of-motion stretching exercises (to prevent muscle atrophy and keep the joints flexible), drug therapies (for pain), and acupuncture.




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