All dog breeds have their strengths and weaknesses and Great Danes are no exception.
In this article, we’ll look at the most common Great Dane health issues.
However, don’t just assume that your Great Dane is sure to succumb to all or most of them. Instead, use this article to help you know what to look out for.
Where possible, we’ll also examine how you can avoid Great Dane health problems and what you can do to help your Great Dane when health problems have longer-term implications.
The good news is that Great Danes don’t always develop the health issues we’re about to discuss, but may be genetically prone to them.
Unfortunately, certain possible health issues are related to the thing we admire most about this dog breed: its massive size.
Let’s begin with one of the most common Great Dane health issues and work our way down the list.
What It Is
With a large frame to support, it’s not really surprising that joint problems are very common among Great Danes, especially older ones.
Hip Dysplasia and osteoarthritis are the most common joint issues that Great Danes may experience.
You will notice that your dog seems stiff, may tend to limp, or has trouble getting to his feet.
How To Avoid The Problem
The first thing you can do is to make sure you buy your Great Dane from a breeder that screens for hip dysplasia. However, a clean bill of health doesn’t mean you can assume that joint issues won’t develop later on.
One of the best things that you can actively do to prevent joint issues is to ensure that your Great Dane is never overweight – even in puppyhood.
An overfed Great Dane puppy may experience bone development that’s too fast for their bodies to support.
An overweight adult Great Dane places more stress on his bones and joints because they have to carry his weight. Just keeping him at a healthy weight can delay joint issues.
However, in dogs (even small breeds) arthritis in old age is pretty common.
Four out of five dogs will have some form of arthritis in their later years, and sadly, Great Danes have naturally short lifespans and get old quite quickly.
Exercise can also help to prevent joint problems because the muscles take some of the strain off the joints.
Don’t think you have to hold back on exercise for your Great Dane. Long-term studies conducted using examples of dogs that get very vigorous exercise did not find that exercise caused arthritis in animals with otherwise healthy joints.
How To Help Your Dog
As a great pet owner of a great dog, you’ll probably head to the veterinarian at the first signs that your dog is uncomfortable.
It’s the right thing to do, and although there is no cure, your veterinarian can do much to make your dog more comfortable.
Apart from painkillers, there are also joint supplements that really seem to help arthritic dogs.
The next part is going to be a little more difficult for you. Your dog might not be too keen on moving around, but exercise helps to keep your Great Dane mobile.
While you wouldn’t want it to be strenuous exercise, the daily walks should still be part of his routine.
Most difficult of all will be making a decision about your Great Dane’s future when he is in constant, chronic pain from advanced arthritis. If you aren’t sure what the right thing to do is, follow your veterinarian’s advice.
There are many types of cancer that can develop in dogs, especially older ones.
The Veterinary Society estimates that one in four dogs contract some form of cancer after their middle years. The longer they live, the more likely this becomes.
Although some breeds do seem to be more prone to cancer than others, researchers say that it can be difficult to pin down just which breeds are likely to get it.
The more popular a dog breed is, the more cases are going to crop up and this can skew the figures.
Cancer is a leading cause of death in older dogs, and there are only 11 breeds where this doesn’t seem to be the case.
It’s possible that the Great Dane’s reputation for being cancer-prone comes from its short lifespan.
While other dog breeds might still be seen as having a long life ahead of them at the age of seven or so, a seven-year-old Great Dane is already quite elderly.
Because there are so many types of cancer, symptoms are variable and hard to pin down.
All we can suggest is that you keep up those regular health checks for your Great Dane and contact a veterinarian if your dog doesn’t seem quite well.
What You Can Do
Depending on the type of cancer and when it’s diagnosed, there’s a chance your pet can survive this frightening diagnosis.
Your veterinarian may decide to refer you to a veterinary oncologist who can give you a specialist opinion on your dog’s chance of responding to treatment.
As for prevention, there’s a little more you can do. We already know that tobacco smoke, pesticides, and herbicides can trigger cancer.
Although it’s an expensive option, you can consider giving your dog certified organic pet food, thereby reducing exposure to pesticides and herbicides.
Do beware of companies that have a lot to say about unspecified “toxins.” They’re often trying to sell you products to “detox” your pet.
But just as your body is very well-equipped to get rid of toxic substances (provided the dose isn’t too high) so is your dog’s.
Spaying or neutering your dog at an appropriate age can also reduce the chances of some kinds of cancer. For example, in females, spaying before the first heat can reduce the chance of mammary gland tumors to less than 1 percent.
Of course, if you smoke, you can avoid smoking near your dog – and if there are dangerous materials like broken asbestos on your property, have them removed by experts.
Finally, if you have a white Great Dane, do be careful about letting them spend too much time in harsh sunlight – low pigmentation may make your dog more prone to skin cancer.
What It Is
While arthritis creeps up slowly, bloat is a sudden veterinary emergency that’s fairly common in large breeds of dogs.
With Great Danes being the biggest of breeds, you will need to be alert to this possibility. Your chances? Around 20 percent – so it is a real danger.
Bloat might sound innocuous, but it’s much more than a case of too much gas that’s easily passed.
Instead, the stomach twists (gastric torsion), cutting off blood supply to other organs. This is not the sort of problem that you can leave till later.
Bloat usually occurs within 3 hours of eating. The dog’s stomach is clearly bloated, and the animal is in extreme discomfort. It may be accompanied by retching, drooling, restlessness and panting.
If you suspect that your Great Dane has bloat, you may be able to save its life by taking action fast. There’s nothing you can do other than get urgent veterinary attention.
How To Reduce The Chances Of Bloat
There’s a surgical procedure that can prevent bloat, but your veterinarian may not recommend it for a Great Dane that is otherwise healthy.
If you opt for this surgery for your dog, it’s usually done at the same time as spaying or neutering.
But aside from surgical procedures which you might not want for your Great Dane unless it’s absolutely necessary, there’s a lot you can do to reduce the chances of bloat.
First and most important, don’t feed your Great Dane one big meal a day. Split it up into two or even three portions.
This not only prevents your Great Dane from eating too much at once, but also means he’ll be less hungry at mealtimes and will be less inclined to eat very fast.
Very fast eating can cause bloat, even if the dog doesn’t eat a large amount of food. Great Danes aren’t usually particularly food-obsessed, but if yours seems to gulp down food fast, you may need to invest in a slow-feeder bowl.
Exercising just before or after eating can also increase the chances of bloat occurring.
Try to feed your Great Dane during naturally chilled-out times of the day and don’t take it for a walk or encourage play for at least 30 minutes before and after mealtimes.
Dogs are creatures of routine, so your Great Dane should soon adapt.
Finally, beware of myths about bloat. You’ll still find sources saying that elevating dog bowls off the ground reduces the chances of bloat – even though it’s been proven that it doesn’t, and may even have the opposite effect.
What It Is
According to the Great Dane Breed Council, about four percent of Great Danes develop cardiomyopathy. That may not sound like a big chance, but it’s still greater than the average of 0.5 percent in other breeds.
This heart condition comes from a thinning of the heart muscle that makes it increasingly difficult for the heart to pump blood as it should.
In its early stages, you may just notice that your dog isn’t as keen on exercise and play and seems lethargic.
You may notice cold paw pads as the heart is struggling to get blood through to the extremities.
Cardiomyopathy develops over time and is the leading type of heart disease in dogs. It can’t be cured, but it can be treated.
Cardiomyopathy: What You Can Do For Your Great Dane
First and most important, never miss a veterinary checkup with your Great Dane.
If your dog is developing cardiomyopathy, the veterinarian won’t be able to confirm it without further tests, but they will be able to notice that something is not normal.
If you notice that your dog isn’t acting as energetic as usual, you will likely suspect that something is wrong. It’s always best to get veterinary attention in cases like these.
If there’s nothing much wrong with your dog, that’s great, but if there is, your dog can get treatment.
Back at home, caring for a dog with cardiomyopathy is similar to caring for yourself if you have heart disease.
A veterinarian-approved diet, controlled exercise, medications, and supplements will help to extend your Great Dane’s lifespan.
You’ll surely get detailed instructions on this from your veterinarian.
What It Is
All large breeds of dogs can develop a neurological condition known as Wobbler Syndrome. As very large dogs, Great Danes are somewhat prone to it – about 4.2 percent may develop it, according to Ohio State University.
It’s more prevalent among older dogs and begins with a characteristic “wobbly” way of walking.
What You Can Do
Your veterinarian will likely present you with two treatment options: management or surgery.
When people try to manage Wobbler Syndrome in Great Danes, the success rate (based on improvement not cure) is about 50 percent.
Surgery has an 80 percent success rate, but here you should consider the age of your dog and decide whether you’d want to put it through the risks of surgery. As always, your veterinarian can give you a qualified opinion.
What It Is
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones. If it’s picked up early and properly treated by a veterinarian, the prognosis is very good.
Great Danes are by no means among the breeds most likely to develop this health issue, but they’re definitely on the list of breeds seen as being prone to it.
It usually crops up after the age of four, and although we couldn’t find a reliable statistic on what a Great Dane’s chance of getting it is, it does seem as though it’s one of the less-common Great Dane health issues.
The first symptom that people notice is that their dog is gaining weight without eating more.
It also takes the edge off your Great Dane’s energy – he just doesn’t seem as on-the-go as he was before.
Besides this, your Great Dane may seem to be more sensitive to cold weather with skin and coat losing condition.
Although these symptoms may not sound terribly serious, it’s very important to get a prompt diagnosis and start your Great Dane’s treatment – a simple matter of giving him tablets containing the right hormones.
What You Can Do For A Great Dane With Hypothyroidism
The good news here is that once your Great Dane has its thyroid meds, which it will need for the rest of its life, you’ll see a rapid improvement.
So, the main thing to do if you suspect your Great Dane has hypothyroidism is to get a prompt diagnosis. With the right treatment, it will be business as usual for you and your dog.
Other Great Dane Health Problems
Just like other dogs, Great Danes can get ill in a large number of ways and for a large number of reasons.
These aren’t specifically “Great Dane health issues,” although some people may like to present them as such because, well, any dog can get them.
There are, however, a couple to look out for.
Dogs with floppy ears are believed to be more prone to ear infections and your Great Dane certainly has floppy ears (if they’re natural). Look out for signs like constant head-shaking or pawing at the ears.
And, in case you were wondering, there’s no evidence that ear-cropping reduces ear infections, so we aren’t absolutely sure about the “floppy ears might mean ear infections” thing.
The skin is the largest organ, so it’s no surprise that dogs, including Great Danes, often suffer from skin allergies and other skin issues.
They could be a sign of something more serious, and it’s uncomfortable for your dog, so it makes sense to get to the bottom of the problem and address it.
And The Rest Of Doggie Disorders In Equal Measure
There are tons of doggie diseases and health issues out there, and just because they aren’t on the list of “Great Dane health Issues” doesn’t mean your dog can’t get them.
Keep vaccinations up to date, visit your veterinarian if your dog seems to be acting strangely, and don’t miss those yearly checkups!
Remember: It’s A Good Thing They Don’t Live Longer Than We Do!
We might all wish our dogs could live forever, but they don’t. And it’s a good thing too! Your Great Dane needs you almost as much as he needs food and water.
So, much as we want to extend our pets’ lives for as long as possible, they will get ill and die sooner or later. It’s just part of life, even though it isn’t one we particularly like.
However, as caring pet owners, we can do our best to help our animals enjoy their health for as long as possible – and as the happy owner of a Great Dane, we’re sure you’ll do everything in your power to achieve that.
Enjoy your dog and the dog-ownership experience. Make the most of that Great Dane magic in your life.