Breed Health Spotlight: German Shepherd

2.5 min read
Jan 27, 2022

With the German Shepherd’s substantial popularity throughout the world, many dog lovers might be surprised to find it is actually a relatively new breed when compared to others. Its origins date back only as far as the 19th century, where it was bred to be the ultimate working dog. The German Shepherd’s combination of athleticism, obedience, and companionship have made it the favorite choice for a diverse array of owners; from the typical family of four, to disabled individuals in need of a service dog, to military and police personnel.

While this versatility might make German Shepherds seem like some sort of super-dog, they are unfortunately far from invulnerable. In fact, they have an assortment of breed-specific ailments and issues to cope with. 

Health Issues in German Shepherds


One of the German Shepherd’s most recognizable features are its erect, pointed ears. Unfortunately, these prominent ears are vulnerable to fungus, yeast, and other bacteria that can lead to potentially chronic complications, the most common being otitis.


Researchers identified a gene in canines linked to eczema, a type of dermatitis which causes itchy, rash-like skin. German Shepherds were identified as one of the breeds at particularly high risk. However, there are many other causes of dermatitis in German Shepherds and other dogs, such as allergies brought on by fleas, food, or inhalants like pollen and dust. 


This refers to a common bacterial infection of the skin characterized by lesions and pustules. While dogs of any breed can develop pyoderma, the short-coated German Shepherd is a particularly vulnerable. While unpleasant for your dog and often visually alarming, it is usually treatable even in chronic cases with consistent maintenance and some sort of prescription antibiotics. 


Colitis is the inflammation of the colon, and it’s a frequent culprit of chronic diarrhea in dogs. There are various forms of colitis, each with a name even harder to pronounce than the last. German Shepherds are predisposed to developing a type known as “lymphocytic-plasmacytic enterocolitis.” Just like with humans, there are a number of treatments, from diuretics, to dietary management, to anti-inflammatory drugs. 


While colitis refers specifically to an inflammation of the colon, gastroenteritis refers to an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract—the stomach and intestines. Most often, this is caused by infection from bacteria, parasites or other irritants, and symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and dry heaving.


As we’ve seen in previous Health Spotlights, conjunctivitis (or “pink eye”) is prevalent amongst many dog breeds, but most prominently in those that have issues with allergies or skin diseases such as German Shepherds. 


Panosteitis refers to the inflammation of the outer surface of one or more of the dog’s leg bones. Despite the fact that the inflammation often resolves itself as the dog reaches adulthood, it is still quite painful and may require pain medications. It most commonly affects young, larger, breeds of dogs such as German Shepherds asthey mature. 


Upper respiratory infections of the nasal cavities of dogs are quite common, the most common causes stemming from bacteria. Symptoms are reminiscent of the cold in humans, and the sooner the infection is diagnosed and treated, the less severe it will become. 


All dogs are susceptible to allergies stemming from a wide variety of sources, but German Shepherds are particularly vulnerable to skin allergies due to their short coats. One of the best ways to prevent ongoing discomfort caused by skin allergies is to find an effective flea and tick medication. 


A “mass” can refer to any unnatural growth on your dog’s skin. Whenever such a bump is found, many dog owners panic, immediately thinking the worst. However, cancer is by no means an assurance every time a mass is discovered; in fact, such growths are often quite harmless. Of course, it’s always best to visit a vet for confirmation. 

Protect your German Shepherd with Dog Insurance 

Thinking of bringing home a new puppy? Consider protecting them with a dog insurance policy from MetLife Pet Insurance.1  Our dog insurance policies can provide the coverage and care your furry family member deserves.  Get your free quote today. 

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions. 

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