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Big Dog Breed Health Issues

a brown dog in the ocean with a big red ball
Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM author of Big Dog Breed Health Issues

Large breed dogs are seen very commonly in many households.  These dogs are great for families and children. These dogs do have some common health problems that you should be aware of, signs to look out for, and what you can do to help keep your dog healthy and happy for a long time.

This article will cover some of the most common heath issues seen in large breed dogs.

What are big dog breeds?

If your dog weighs over 50 pounds, then you have a large breed dog. Most common breeds seen in this group of dogs are:

  • Labrador Retriever
  • Golden Retriever
  •  Standard Poodle or Poodle mixes
  •  Boxers
  • Doberman Pincher
  • German Shepherd
  • Great Dane

This list represents some of the most popular breeds that are considered large dogs. While many other breeds can also be included in this group. A good rule to follow is any dog 50 to 80 pounds is a large breed dog.

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What are the most common big dog health issues?

Big dogs have different health problems than small breed dogs. These are the most common health problems seen by veterinarians in large breed dogs.


  • Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD)

Canine hip dysplasia is a skeletal problem where the hip joints do not form properly. The hip joint is a ball and socket type joint. In dogs who suffer from hip dysplasia, the ball does not correctly fit into the socket. This can lead to joint degeneration, arthritis buildup, and pain.

Dogs who are gaining weight very quickly can cause the inappropriate formation of the hip joint, which can cause CHD to develop. Common symptoms for this disease include limping, pain when standing, abnormal walking, and difficulty to stand.


  • Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow Dysplasia occurs when the elbow joint improperly forms. This can be due to injury or disease of the joint while a puppy. Common symptoms for dogs who suffer from elbow dysplasia are pain and limping on a front leg. You can manage your dog’s weight to help reduce these painful symptoms


  • Arthritis/Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)

Arthritis is seen in older dogs. Many times, as a dog's age, their joint cartilage starts to break down. This can cause painful inflammation of the joints. Many dogs who suffer from arthritis have trouble standing, limping, or painful joints.

There are many great supplements that you can give your dog to help with their joint pain, such as fish oil and CBD oil. These have to show to help reduce inflammation and decrease pain


  • Bone Cancer/Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcoma is commonly seen in large breed dogs over 80 pounds. As is commonly seen around the knee joint, shoulder joint, and wrist joint. Symptoms of dogs with Bone cancer are large swollen area near a joint, limping, very painful leg.


  • Panosteitis

Panosteitis causes inflammation of the leg bones in large breed puppies. This can be typically treated with pain medication. This can be a very painful condition see in large growing puppies. These dogs will usually be limping and having trouble walking.


  • Bloat and Torsion/Gastric Dilation and Volvulus Syndrome (GDV)

Bloat is caused when the stomach rotates, preventing food from moving through the rest of the digestive tract. This disease often occurs after a dog has eaten a large meal and exercised. Signs of a dog with bloat are trouble breathing, enlarged abdomen, and vomiting.


  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy DCM

Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a heart disease seen in older large breed dogs. This is when the heart gets big and has trouble pumping blood through the body. Common signs seen in dogs with DCM are coughing difficulty breathing, and lethargy.


  • Obesity

Many dogs as they age start to slow down and can gain weight. Obesity can shorten your dog’s lifespan by up to two years. This weight gain can lead to many other problems, such as:

Obese dogs can have many of these problems. As your dog ages, it is a great idea to decrease the amount of food that you are feeding them to help them stay at their ideal body weight.


  • Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is caused by a lower production and release of T4 and T3 hormones by the thyroid gland. Common signs seen in dogs with hypothyroid are lethargy, weight gain, and hair loss. This condition can easily be treated with daily medication.


  • Cherry Eye

Cherry Eye is a common term for the prolapse of the third eyelid gland. This will be pinkish tissue in the corner of the eye. This can very easily be corrected with surgery.


  • Ectropion

Ectropion is acommon condition of dogs where the lower eyelids droop or roll out. While there are not many problems with this disease, it can easily be corrected with cosmetic surgery.


  •  Entropion

Entropionisa genetic condition in which a portion of the eyelid is inverted or folded inward. When the eye rolls in the hair and lashes around, the eye can rub on the cornea of the eye causing major problems such as a corneal ulcer. This should be corrected with surgery, or your dog would have to endure lifelong problems with their eyes


  • Cervical Spondylomyelopathy (CSM) or Wobbler Syndrome

This is a disease of the cervical spine. Dogs who suffer from this disease have trouble walking and an abnormal gait

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms in your large breed dog, make an appointment with your veterinarian. They can help you determine what is causing these problems in your dog.

Many large breed dogs will end up with one of these health problems during their life. If your dog has any problems, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to help determine why your dog is sick. By visiting your veterinarian often, they can catch many of these diseases before your pet gets very sick. This will allow your dog to stay healthier much longer.

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Meet The Author 

Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM author of Big Dog Breed Health Issues

Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM

Since she was a little girl, she knew that her dream was to become a veterinarian. With a tremendous passion and love for animals that makes her a great source of knowledge for others. She lives happily with her husband Greg and her babies Ruby the Schnoodle, and Bam-Bam the bunny.

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