The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog historically is an all-purpose working dog. Good health and proper structure need to always be a priority! The following is a list of some of the major health concerns affecting the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog:
Distichiasis – This is an eye condition wherein the eyelashes grow from an abnormal location along the eyelid margin, causing ocular irritation. This can lead to irritation of the cornea.
Entropion – This is an eye condition with the inversion (turning inward toward the eyeball) of the margin of the eyelid. This can be very painful to the dog and can cause damage to the eye, in some cases causing corneal ulceration.
Ectropion – This is an eye condition wherein the eyelids droop outward from the eyeball. This can allow excess debris into the eye.
Epilepsy – A brain disorder that results in seizures. There can be a breed predisposition to this, or it can be caused by environmental factors. No dogs with epilepsy should be bred. There does seem to be some evidence that this is a problem in the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. If a breeder tells you there is no epilepsy in their lines, they do not know their lines well. Most responsible breeders will tell you it is in every pedigree of the GSMD, but you have to breed wisely to minimize the risk.
Hip Dysplasia – A hereditary developmental disease in which the ball and socket of the hips are not formed or seated properly. It is a disease that is seen in almost all of the breeds of dogs, especially the large breeds.
Elbow Dysplasia – A hereditary developmental disease of the elbow joint. Can cause lameness and pain. Seen in large breed dogs.
Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) – This is a disease seen in young fast-growing breeds of dogs, more often in the large breeds. It is characterized by gradual lameness caused by a defect in the cartilage overlying the head of one of the long bones. It is considered a secondary degenerative joint disease. It might occur in the front shoulders, hocks elbows and stifle joints. There is some evidence of a genetic predisposition as well as environmentally caused factors.
Bloat – Also known as Gastric dilation volvulus. This is a condition that involves the distention of the stomach, often flipping or twisting, resulting in a medical emergency. This is a disease or digestive problem that occurs in large breed dogs, but seems to have a higher incidence in the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. Bloat can often be fatal to dogs, and can happen at any age.
Spleenic Torsion – A condition sometimes seen in conjunction with Bloat, but can also occur singularly. It involves the twisting of the spleen, often an enlarged spleen, and requires emergency medical treatment if the dog is to survive. While this condition is fairly rare I dogs, it is seen fairly often in Swissies, so it is important to be sure your vet knows that this condition can happen in this breed.
Swissy Lick (upset stomach) – Swissies seem to have more difficulty with gastric issues. Some Swissies experience intense licking and swallowing. It is thought that this might be related to excessive stomach acid. Many owners find GasX and similar products help relive the lick fit. Swissies should be watched closely if this happens as some will swallow foreign objects during this intense episode.
Urinary Incontinence – Seen in some females, often as a leaking or dribbling of urine. This is seen more often in females that have been spayed prior to their first heat cycle.
Platelet(Bleeding)Disorder – Occasionally we hear of a Swissy that seems to have issues with a bleeding disorder either with surgery or a nose bleed. There is a test for P2Y12 platelet disorder mutation that can identify the gene that may contribute to this disorder in some Swissies.
Other Disorders – As with any breed of dogs, there are many other medical disorders that can occur, including cancers, digestive disorders, and temperament disorders. An open line of communication with your breeder as well as your veterinarian should always be maintained. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are considered a giant breed and have a lifespan on average of 8-10 years. We are starting to see many live a bit longer and this may be due to owners being more aware of bloat and splenic torsion. Many owners tack the stomachs of females when/if they spay them. This is thought to help prevent one of the main causes for early death.
Most breeders will encourage buyers/owners to hold off spaying and neutering until the puppy is more mature. There are many articles available online on this topic. A download & printable article on the heath effects of spay and neutering dogs is available here.
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America in conjunction with the OFA had created a health survey to learn more and share health information regarding the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. To see the results, please visit this link.
Please also review the resource page on this website for additional health information.