GERMAN SHEPHERD HEALTH AND LIFE EXPECTANCY
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BREED SPECIFIC ISSUES
Being a large breed, joint issues like hip and elbow dysplasia are quite common. You'll want to be on the lookout from day one for potential problems and be as gentle on their joints as you can, especially while they are still young. This means that a lot of jumping, intense running, or other high impact exercises early in their life can damage their joints, leading to problems later on. Of course, as they get older, even if you keep as much pressure off their joints as possible when they're young, they have a higher possibility of developing joint issues in the latter half of their life. This can vary greatly depending on their genetics and some lines of the GSD were heavily inbred leading to a severe and unnatural slope of their back.
Their high energy level leaves them prone to injury and some have even been known to pace in a too large kennel for hours if their energy isn’t sufficiently depleted. While this isn’t a health issue per say, it is something to keep in mind and consider finding a lower energy line if you won’t be able to exercise them several hours a day.
The final health issue that is quite common with the breed, as well as with many other large breeds, is called bloat. Bloat is a twisting of the stomach and intestines that can be the result of many different things and tends to happen most often in German Shepherd's that eat too fast, don't drink enough, or even when they are given a heavy meal after vigorous exercise before they've had a chance to settle. Some people have also seen a trend where bloat can be more common when feeding on ground level versus raised bowls, but there have not been any scientific studies to confirm or disapprove.
One of the best ways to slow down a fast eater is by feeding a raw diet. The nature of feeding a raw diet forces them to chew and eat in a more natural cadence and tempo. You can also leave some of the meat partially frozen, which also encourages them to chew more thoroughly. I have an entire course that walks you through every step of feeding a raw diet if you'd like to learn more about all of its benefits.
The breed's life expectancy is typical for their size ranging from 7 to 10 years on average. Of course, there are always outliers that can go several years beyond that, but a lot of it depends on their genetics, daily exercise, and the diet they are fed throughout their life. When you get a German Shepherd from a breeder, it's always a good idea to ask what the average lifespan is of the canines they've produced, including the parents and siblings to your German Shepherd. When researching and interviewing a breeder, you also get a chance to learn about the health problems and energy levels that are more likely from their lines than others. Thoroughly interviewing breeders means that you are less likely to be surprised with health problems, but of course, the risk always exists.
Also, don't forget to consider the training of your German Shepherd when you're thinking about their life span and potential health issues. When they are well trained, they are likely to have a longer and happier life when you consider factors like reducing their mental stress and being able to remove them or prevent situations that could result in the dog being put down for aggression.