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General  Health

Common Problems

  • Shedding
  • Doggy Breath
  • Soft Ears
  • Hot Spots

Nutrition -Water

The pet food industry!

Feeding Bones








Intestinal Worms

Skin Problems/Allergies (fleas etc)



The following information is general information only, it is a list of the more common problems faced by the average pet owner. It does not cover hereditary problems and disorders that can occur within the breed such as hip & elbow problems, cryptorchidism, dwarfism etc. These topics are listed under the Health Concerns page which is under construction and will be available soon.

It is in your best interest to find a 'reputable' breeder who is aware and knowledgeable about the breed  including basic genetics, and does their best to keep their breeding program free of hereditary/health problems.

If you have a problem with your companion, please contact your veterinarian as soon as possible for advice, as prevention is far better than cure!

This site promotes responsible dog ownership.

General Health

A sound German Shepherd Dog makes an excellent companion. An unsound one is a disaster waiting to happen! Carolyn D'Orta

Because of the German Shepherd Dog's many diverse uses, the breed has become a very popular companion over the years. This is one reason it has attracted some 'undesirable' people whose primary interest in the breed is to make money.

Unfortunately, many animals purchased from disreputable breeders, puppy mills and backyard breeders are puppies produced for profit, and can be a nightmare in the making. These people pay no consideration to genetics, temperament or physical characteristics of the breed, resulting in litters plagued with serious health and temperament problems. These so called 'breeders' show little regard for the health and or welfare of the animals they produce.

A well bred dog is a pleasure to own and a wonderful addition to the family, and through careful selection of breeding stock many diligent Australian breeders are striving to consistently produce a sound, correctly built dog with limited hereditary and health problem.

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Common Problems

Some of the more common problems found within the German Shepherd Dog Breed are:

  • Shedding

All dogs shed to varying degrees. One of the purposes of grooming is to rid your dog of dead hair. During certain times of the year and when bitches come into 'season' dogs can shed quite heavily. Brushing every day will help the dog look good and will collect the loose hair. This will also help keep it off clothes and furniture; although I haven't discovered how to do this yet!

By providing your dog with good care, a proper diet and regular grooming, you are helping him to look his best.

  • Doggy Breath

Dog breath may not be as silly as one thinks. A foul odour form a dog's mouth can indicate a build up of plaque, a hard mineralised substance found on the teeth at the gum line. This plaque can undermine the root of the tooth and eventually the tooth will fall out. Bacteria live in plentiful numbers in plaque and as a result root abscesses are often seen. These infections, caused in particular by Streptomyces bacteria, can spread to other organs, especially the valves of the heart.

Thus it is important to take care of this problem. A veterinarian can clean the teeth under comfortable conditions  by using a short-acting anaesthetic. They can also instruct pet owners on how to clean the teeth at home with an anti-plaque toothpaste.

  • Soft ears

This is an inherited recessive trait. Some ears will never develop the musculature needed to stand erect. Soft ears are disqualifying show fault. Soft ears are also more prone to ear infections due to limited air flow to the canal.

  • Hot  Spots

Hot spot eczema is a painful, moist, raw and weeping area of inflammation. It flares up within hours and leaves a hairless area that is usually round in shape. They can be triggered by fleas, an allergy or sting. The dog scratches vigorously and damages the skin. Bacteria invade the raw skin and turn the area into an acute infection. Dogs with dense coats such as GSD's are susceptible. It is usually when the hair begins to fall out the condition becomes noticeable.

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Nutrition - Water

An ample supply of clean water is critical to the health and well-being of animals during all stages of life. It is estimated that the body of the adult dog is 50-60% water, while the body of young pups 15 even higher in water content.

Dogs and cats can go without food for many days, but a loss of 10-20% body water can cause serious health problems and even death. Under normal conditions the percent of water in the body remains constant. Since the body has little capacity to store water, it is important for the animal to have ready access to clean water.

Functions of Water

Water is involved in the function of every cell in the body. It aids in:

  • Regulating body temperature.
  • Lubrication of body tissues.
  • Movement of nutrients and waste products through the cell walls.
  • Elimination of wastes from the body.
  • Milk production.
  • A fluid medium for the blood and lymph system.

Therefore you can see why serious health problems can occur with a severe prolonged loss of body water.

Sources of Water

The necessary water intake for the animal is provided by:

  • Consumption of water. This is usually the primary source of the water required by the body. Dogs and cats should have access to fresh clean water at all times.
  • Food consumed. The type of food consumed determines the amount of water provided by food intake. Canned pet food, meat and table scraps usually contain 60 to 80% water while dry pet foods have 10% or less water. Consequently an animal eating a canned pet food will usually drink less water than when fed a dry-type pet food.
  • Body metabolism of protein, fat and carbohydrates. During the metabolism of food in the body, the oxidation of hydrogen does form some water. When the same amounts of protein, fat and carbohydrates are metabolized, fat provides the most metabolic water, and protein provides the least.

Water Loss

Water is lost from the body a number of ways including:

  • Urine and faeces. Usually the greatest loss of body water is via the urine and faeces. In illnesses with vomiting and diarrhoea, water loss can occur to the point of dehydration. If this problem is suspected, consult your veterinarian immediately.
  • Respiration. When dogs and cats are in a warm environment and they pant, warm moist air is expelled at or near body temperature. This is one of the reasons why an inadequate water supply during the warmest part of the year can cause health problems.
  • Saliva. Some water is lost from saliva during panting. Also, when the dog or cat lick and clean themselves, additional water is lost from the saliva.
  • Milk production. This can be a primary loss of water during the nursing period. It is critical that adequate water be provided during lactation.

Amount of Water needed

Mature healthy dogs and cats experiencing normal activity and housed at room temperature, generally consume 2 1/2 times more water than dry food. Consequently if an animal consumed 300 grams of dry food it would be expected to drink about 750 grams of water. Water intake is determined by a number of factors including:

  • Type of food consumed and food intake.
  • Environmental temperature and humidity.
  • Stage of life of animals. During growth, and lactation the animal requires more water than the normal adult or the adult female experiencing gestation.

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The pet food industry

With numerous commercial diets on the market these days aimed at getting  your hard earned dollars, choosing a suitable product can prove to be a bit of a balancing act. What brand best suits your budget whilst providing your dog with a quality food suitable for his/her needs. (health and well being).

Well......before you purchase your next bag/can of dog food -Think about this?

Overseas, particularly in the USA many pet manufacturing companies have/are using deceased companion dogs, cats road kill etc as the protein base of their pet foods, both canned food and bagged food! Sounds too unreal to be true?

What has this got to do with Australia? 

Many companies import their products to Australia from overseas. These well known companies are actively involved with and fund research laboratories in a quest to gain 'information' to support their nutritional claims which is then used to market it's products eg; their product's benefit to the urinary tract etc. One of the leading companies in this type of research is Iams (owned by Procter & Gamble)- you have probably seen the brand 'Eukanuba' sold Australia wide?

Be assured that Iams is not the only company involved in such cruel research.

These Labs are notorious for carrying out cruel and inhumane experiments on defenceless animals like cats and kittens, puppies and dogs etc, and on completion of these tests, the poor lab animals are then killed. So much pain and suffering is inflicted on them just to see the effect these companies products have on a living animals digestive system, kidneys, urinary tracts, muscles and much more....and then have the audacity to claim this cruelty is all in the name of 'nutrition?'

Surely one must question the ethics of companies that claim these products are in the best interest of our companions, and surely one must also question the employees who carry out these hideous tests. on the companies behalf?

The more we know about the many companies behind these animal based products and research labs, the sooner we can all begin to make educated choices about what we are feeding our companion animals and if we want to support companies that claim to care for animals whilst carrying out these inhumane acts of cruelty.

Before you buy YOUR next bag/can of dog/cat food for your best friend, ask yourself, "What am I feeding my pet- is my hard earned dollar contributing to animal experimentation?"

PLEASE!  read the following article at the link below. It is lengthy, but well worth it .

The Pet food industry

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Feeding Bones

A Common misconception is that dogs are able to tolerate cooked/raw bones of any description, when this is simply just not true!

Feeding your dog too many bones or the wrong type of bones can lead to all sorts of problems usually ending with a trip to the vets.

Raw bones are preferable to cooked bones which are much more likely to splinter and lodge in the dog's throat or intestine. Beef, Pork and lamb bones are better than chicken bones. Raw bones are more easily digested. Never feed grilled chop or steak bones as these splinter easily. Bones can cause droppings to turn a chalky white colour and may cause constipation.

Avoid feeding cooked bones, especially those liable to splinter, such as fish or rabbit bones. Large raw bones are excellent for dental health.

Rowen Blogg & Eric Allen

I prefer to use brisket bones, lamb flap or large knuckle bones (Dino bones sliced long ways so the dog can get to the marrow inside). These are particularly useful if your dog is required to spend time without you in the yard. It will keep him occupied for quite some time and is also good for his teeth.

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Fleas are not choosy about where they live and feed. They infect both animals and humans, causing irritation and inflammation of the skin and are the major cause of skin allergies in dogs and cats. Animals  often become abnormally sensitive to flea bites, making life uncomfortable for the infested animal. Fleas are also capable of transmitting some tapeworms from dogs, cats, rats and mice to humans by acting as a host, but this is rare.

Effects of flea bites can be seen immediately. The skin will be irritated and inflamed. Other effects of flea infestation - such as tapeworm infection, hypersensitivity and dermatitis - will not be known until later.

Incubation Period

The biggest problem in fighting fleas is that 90% of the flea life cycle takes place off the pet in the surrounding environment, i.e.: carpet, bedding, furniture, kennels, car etc. Adult fleas living on the animal lay 100's of tiny eggs which quickly drop off. The eggs hatch into larvae which crawl away and hide. The larvae feed on debris and flea faeces before turning into pupae. The pupae cannot be killed. In the presence of animals and vibration the pupae batch into new fleas, which jump onto the animal for a blood meal.

Infectious Period

Until the flea eggs (including those on animals in the environment) are destroyed by treatment.

Controlling the spread/and treatment

1. Treat ALL animals in the household at the same time.

To kill fleas that are on your dog or cat it is recommended you use a flea rinse or spray and maybe a mousse for cats. These should be used regularly to kill new fleas.

Treat animals with specific preparations designed to kill fleas. Use these products strictly according to the instructions on the label. If applying an insecticidal wash, wear rubber gloves and dilute the wash according to the instructions on the label. Avoid absorption of insecticide through the skin. Treat animals with fleas for tapeworm, as fleas can transmit tapeworm infections. If indoor areas are heavily infested with fleas, you may need to treat them. Further advice on methods of treatment can be obtained from your veterinarian.

2. Treating the environment.

Treat animals, their bedding and their immediate environment (that is, areas where they usually rest) to destroy adult and immature fleas. Dispose of any debris and vacuum floor coverings thoroughly, at least weekly. Include furniture, carpet, pet baskets, beds, kennels, doormats and the car. Destroy vacuum bag contents after use. Wash animal bedding on hot cycle and wash bedding regularly. Spray after vacuuming with insecticidal spray. Use insecticidal foggers or environmental spray (flea bombs) inside the home about every 6 months. These products contain adult flea killers and also insect growth regulators.

3. Preventing Re-Infestation

Modern flea treatments available focus on disrupting the life cycle of the flea. Using insect growth regulators (IGR's) that prevent flea eggs and larvae developing into new adult fleas. These can be in the form of tablets or paste, sprays, foggers or flea egg collars.

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The more common forms of worm infestation in dogs is intestinal: however, there is an especially troublesome parasite that lives in the dog's heart and surrounding blood vessels. This worm is aptly named - Heartworm.

Symptoms of Heartworm

The severity of heartworm infestation depends on the number of worms living in the heart and primary blood vessels surrounding the heart. If the worms are present in large enough numbers, some of the symptoms a dog may experience include: coughing; difficulty in breathing; and listlessness (tires easily). In the more advanced stages, a dog may suffer from congestive heart failure, which can lead to premature death. All these symptoms are caused by the worms blocking the flow of blood through the right side of the heart and the main artery carrying blood away from the heart.

Life Cycle

The worm is round, white and can grow to 30-35 centimetres in length. The mature worms breed, and the females give birth to worm larvae called microfilaria, which are so small they can only be seen under a microscope. These larvae circulate in the dogs bloodstream but undergo no further development. Development only proceeds when a mosquito bites the dog and takes in some larva infested blood. While in the mosquito, the larvae develop into an infective stage in about two weeks. When the carrier mosquito bites a dog again, the larvae are deposited under the skin where they grow to about 2-3 centimetres in 90-120 days. From under the skin, worm migration proceeds to the heart where the worms reach maturity and the cycle starts again.


For heartworm to be a problem there must be both mosquitoes and dogs in the area infected with the parasite. Heartworms are primarily a problem in warm and wet areas and pose less of a problem in dryer, colder areas. However, since today many dogs are shipped from one country to another etc, heartworm can be a problem almost anywhere.

Dogs of all breeds and of all ages have the potential to become infected.


If you are concerned that heartworm may pose a threat to your dog, check with your veterinarian for a preventative treatment.  Do not try self diagnosis and treatment. This may result in health problems or even death of your dog! All medications and treatments should come from a veterinarian.

If heartworm is a problem in your area, a veterinarian can take a blood test from the dog to check for the parasite. If the results show the dog does NOT have the parasite, the dog can be put onto a preventative program . Obtain medication from the veterinarian who checked the dog and follow directions carefully.

If heartworm is a problem in your area and the test shows the dog HAS the parasite? Your veterinarian will prescribe treatment which can take several weeks (if caught early enough). After treatment, a preventative program will be started. Follow directions carefully.

Please don't wait until your dog (s) has the obvious symptoms of heartworms - Remember, Prevention is the best treatment! 

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Your dog's eyes should be clear and bright and the area around the eyeball should be white. Any red spots, apparent damage to the eye, or excessive and continual discharge from the eyes or other abnormal conditions, should be checked and treated by a veterinarian.

Carefully clean the area where eye drainage can discolour the hair with a cotton ball moistened with warm water.

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Check ears at least twice a month. Check for dirt, cuts, scratches, swelling, parasites, discharge or an unpleasant odour. Clean out wax deposits carefully with a cotton swab moistened with ear cleaner. To avoid possible injury, never use long/sharp instruments to probe deep into the ear. If you discover dried blood, scabs, swelling or a thick discharge, consult your veterinarian. Persistent head shaking can lead to aural haematoma which is like a blood blister inside the ear. This is caused by the breaking of veins and subsequent filling up of blood. This condition is relieved by operating.

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Check teeth regularly. Food bacteria and saliva accumulate, and adhere to the tooth surface forming a soft plaque. If plaque build up continues, chalk like material forms a hardened dental calculus on the tooth surface. If left unchecked, plaque and calculus build-up may eventually cause inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and of the membrane lining the tooth socket (periodontitis). Eventually this could lead to bad breath and even loss of teeth. The abrasive action of regular feeding of dry food or snacks, will help in keeping teeth clean. It is possible to brush dogs teeth to help reduce plaque build-up. Teeth should be checked at least once a year by your veterinarian and cleaned if necessary.

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Keeping nails clipped to the proper length is essential for good paws. This is particularly true if your dog does not run enough on the types of surfaces that keep nails worn down. Nail clippers made for dogs should be among the first items purchased for your dog. Puppies have sharp nails and clipping the points off is good practice for future clipping. If necessary, have your veterinarian or breeder show you how to do it properly the first time.


Cut the tips only and do not cut too far back where you may hit a vein causing the nail to bleed. If this should happen, a moistened styptic pencil usually stops the bleeding. Or you can press a cotton ball with some petroleum jelly on it against the end of the nail. If the bleeding continues, or is excessive, call your veterinarian.


Found on the inside of the front legs need to be clipped regularly also, as these toenails are not worn down from walking.

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Dogs normally should be bathed when they look dirty and/or have a strong doggy odour. A hydro-bath is excellent for removing dead hair and giving the dog a 'spring clean'. If you don't have access to a hydro bath, then you could use an old bathtub, or whatever is large enough for the dog to fit into comfortably. If you use your own bath, then be sure to clean and disinfect after use. Have everything you need on hand, as once you start bathing you will have little opportunity to get them. Have the dog's shampoo. towels etc nearby and accessible. Shampoo or soap used should be specifically for the dog and always follow the instructions carefully.

Place the dog in the bath and soak the coat thoroughly to the skin. A good shampoo followed by a thorough rinsing with warm water, should be sufficient  to get your dog clean. There are also many dog conditioners on the market today. Let the water drip from the coat squeezing out the excess water from the coat. Get him safely out of the bath (prevent injury)  and place him/her on a large dry towel. Have an extra towel to cover the dog and gently begin squeezing out the excess water with the towel. Do this until most of the water has been absorbed.

In colder weather

A hair dryer may be held above the coat to aid in the drying process. Holding a hair dryer too close can burn the skin just like humans! Move the dryer and the brush up and down so the coat dries evenly. Never leave a wet dog outside in cold weather or drafts.

If possible, keep him away from areas where he is likely to get dirty before he is completely dry!

Dry Baths

Sometimes it is best to avoid using soap and water, especially in the colder months. When a puppy is very young or a dog is convalescing you can give your dog a dry bath (available from vets, pet shops etc). These products are rubbed into the coat and brushed out. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully!

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Intestinal Worms -from Bellarine Veterinary Prcatice info sheet on worms


Adult tapeworm live in the intestine of dogs and cats. Segments of the tapeworm are passed in the faeces and contain infective eggs - these segments may be seen around the anus and look like grains of rice.

The infective eggs are ingested by a flea or louse (intermediate hosts) where they develop further. The life cycle is complete when the dog or cat ingests the flea or louse.

The tapeworm rarely causes disease in the dog or cat other than anal irritation.

Fleas are the most important intermediate host of tapeworm of the dog or cat. Adequate flea control is an important part of tapeworm control and treatment.

Hydatid Tapeworm (Echinococcus granulosus)

The hydatid tapeworm is an important health risk for humans. The adult hydatid tapeworm is 3-6 mm long and lives in the intestine of the dog. The infective eggs are passed in the dogs faeces. If these eggs are ingested by people they can go on to develop into cysts within internal organs, potentially causing severe and life threatening disease.

Dogs can only be infected by ingesting intermediate stages of the tapeworm (cysts) that are found in the internal organs (offal) of sheep and rarely in kangaroos and wallabies. Dogs should therefore not be fed offal. If they have access to offal, i.e.: living in semi-rural areas where they can wander or on a farm where they have access to offal, they should be wormed with a specific hydatid tapeworm treatment (Droncit or Drontal) every 6 weeks.

Whipworm (Trichuris virus)

Is an uncommon parasite of dogs that lives in the large intestine, feeding off intestinal contents and blood.

Often no clinical signs are observed. Abdominal pain, diarrhoea and unthrift ness may be observed in severe infestations.

No human cases have been reported in Australia.

Hookworm (Uncinaria steriocephala) -and others further north in Australia.

Hookworms of dogs and cats attach to the large intestine lining feeding off blood. They cause significant damage to the lining of the bowel and may produce anaemia, enteritis, diarrhoea and mal-absorption syndromes.

Dogs become infected by eating the developing worms found in the environment or in intermediate hosts. The hookworms found in Northern Australia are able to gain entry by migrating through the skin.

In Northern Australia people may be at risk of the developing larvae penetrating their skin causing itchy dermatitis. It is not a risk for people in the southern parts of Australia.


There are three species of Roundworm that commonly infect dogs and cats and are especially important in puppies and kittens.

Animals are infected by the worm in the following ways:

  • Before birth, from dormant larvae in the bitch that are reactivated when the bitch becomes pregnant and are passed through the placenta to the developing pup or kitten.
  • Larvae are also passed from bitch to pup, via the bitch's milk.
  • By ingestion of small rodents that act as transport hosts for the worm and may contain infective larvae in their tissue.
  • By ingestion of eggs containing infective larvae, passed by infected pups or kittens.

Almost all pups and kittens have roundworms. After swallowing the infective larvae, the larvae migrates through the body of the animal, eventually ending up in the small intestine where they develop to adults and absorb nutrients from the animal.

Problems caused by Roundworm in Dogs and Cats

-Ill thrift vomiting, diarrhoea and a pot-bellied appearance are the most common signs of roundworm infection in pups and kittens.

-Rarely, a cough and lung damage may occur during migration through the lungs. Fits and stillbirths may be encountered.

Problems caused by Roundworm in People

People may be exposed to infective larvae of the roundworm in soil, sandpits and on the coat or tongues of infected animals.

If ingested, usually inadvertently by small children, (eg: dirt eaters, touching mouths immediately after handling infected puppies/kittens, child's face being licked by animal), the larvae migrate and may cause mild disease.

In rare cases severe brain or eye disease results.

Worm Control in Dogs and Cats

Pups and kittens should be wormed fortnightly from birth until 12 weeks of age, monthly until six months of age and then every 3-4 months. You can start off with a puppy wormer but a broad spectrum all wormer should be used form 16 weeks of age.

Pregnant bitches should be wormed twice during their pregnancy and fortnightly whilst they are lactating.

Children should be encouraged to wash their hands after handling animals.

Sandpits should be covered whilst not in use.

Dogs with access to offal or sheep's' carcasses should be wormed every six weeks with Drontal or Droncit.

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Skin Problems/Allergies


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Revised: 02/21/06


Camnusch German Shepherd Dogs - Beauty, Brains & Versatility...Why settle for less?