Small dog with sunglasses floating on a paddle board in the summer ocean

Embarking on the journey of becoming a pet parent to a German Shepherd? These majestic companions are known for their unwavering loyalty and boundless energy. But let's face it––German Shepherds have a reputation for struggling with certain aspects of their health. 

So which health conditions are worth worrying about, and how can you identify issues as they arise? Taking care of any pet can be overwhelming, but we’ll help you navigate the ins and outs of German Shepherd dog health!

Do German Shepherds have a lot of health issues?

German Shepherds are a breed admired for their intelligence and loyalty––but they’re also known for having some health issues. Their larger frame can make them susceptible to hip dysplasia, a condition that affects mobility. Another concern is exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), which can impact their digestion. Not to worry––not every German Shepherd is destined for these issues!

Many of these issues can be solved through responsible breeding and attentive care by pet parents. Regular exercise, proper diet, and routine check-ups play a vital role in a German Shepherd’s overall well-being. Remember, while these concerns exist, a well-cared-for German Shepherd can still lead a vibrant and active life.

What are the top health issues for German Shepherds?

German Shepherd hip dysplasia is one of the main health concerns for this active working breed. Hip dysplasia in dogs stems from a malformation of the hip joint and can lead to discomfort and reduced mobility for these active canines.

If you have concerns about your dog’s hips, don’t wait to tell your vet! Recognizing signs of hip dysplasia in dogs is crucial for early intervention. Watch for subtle changes in their gait, reluctance to engage in physical activities like jumping, climbing stairs, or playing, and difficulty standing up. Keeping a healthy weight and offering joint supplements for dogs can also help your pet manage this condition.

While hip dysplasia is the most talked-about health issue in German Shepherds, that doesn’t mean other health issues won’t pop up! Just like other dogs, they can struggle with digestive upset and skin allergies in addition to certain genetic conditions. 

German Shepherds may also deal with Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), which affects the spinal cord. This disease can lead to hind limb weakness and eventually paralysis, leading to loss of mobility and decreased quality of life. Hip dysplasia and DM can have overlapping symptoms–like hind limb weakness–so it’s important to be seen for a proper diagnosis from your veterinarian. 

Another disease that affects German Shepherds is Von Willebrand Disease (VWD). Talk to your veterinarian if you see signs of this rare hereditary condition in your pet: excessive bleeding from the gums and nose or easy bruising. 

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) is another condition that can cause issues for German Shepherds. It occurs when the pancreas doesn’t make enough enzymes––the same enzymes that help digest food properly. When they're lacking, it can lead to tummy troubles like weight loss and messy poops. The good news? EPI can be managed with special diets and enzyme supplements, making sure our furry pals feel their best.

So what can German Shepherd pet parents do to keep their dogs healthy? Schedule regular vet visits and keep an open line of communication with your dog’s veterinarian to stay ahead of new (or chronic) health issues.

Anxious German Shepherd with ears back getting a checkup at the vet

Joint supplements for German Shepherds

Dog hip dysplasia can really cramp the style of active dogs.Joint supplementsfor German Shepherds won’t treat hip or joint conditions, but they can support joint function and overall mobility. Most joint supplements are packed with beneficial ingredients like glucosamine and chondroitin, which are the most-trusted ingredients for joints. 

While they won't replace your vet's wisdom, these supplements work well alongside home treatments. Give your furry friend the double dose of TLC they deserve!

Common pet issues that affect German Shepherds

While German Shepherds certainly have a few conditions that plague their breed, they’re not immune to common itching, shedding, or tummy issues! These are a few common conditions that can bother this breed:

Digestive issues

Compared to other breeds, German shepherds tend to have sensitive stomachs. They can suffer from chronic vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. The list doesn’t stop there––bigger issues like exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can also be a challenge and often require the care of a veterinarian. 


Do German Shepherds shed? They sure do! Pet parents of German Shepherds have lots of experience with vacuums and lint rollers because this breed has a large amount of thick, dense fur. It’s the reason why German Shepherds shed year-round: to make room for new fur growth. 


Some German Shepherds–not all–have a higher risk of certain allergies. Food allergies are common in this breed, as are flea allergies and allergies to environmental allergens like pollens and dust mites. Once they’re identified, food allergies can be avoided to prevent flare ups, while seasonal allergies can be managed with medications, allergen-specific immunotherapy (an “allergy vaccine”), and seasonal allergy supplements for dogs.


Large breeds like German Shepherds are often affected by arthritis, especially as they age. Arthritis causes inflammation of the joints and can be especially debilitating for this normally active breed. Joint supplements with ingredients like Glucosamine can support mobility while targeting the causes of achy joints. 

Happy German Shepherd dog resting its head on its owner's knee

Frequently asked questions about German Shepherd health

Have a few burning questions about your German Shepherd’s health? Specific health concerns can only be evaluated by your veterinarian. However, there are a few general facts to know about your dog!

How long do German shepherds live?

Most German Shepherd dogs live to be between 8 and 12 years old on average. Recent records list German Shepherds that have lived as old as age 15, but unverified accounts report ages as high as 20! Staying on top of behavior and symptoms, no matter how minor, can greatly increase the lifespan of your pet.

Why are German shepherds very prone to disease?

It’s not that German Shepherds are prone to disease, but rather susceptible to a handful of genetic conditions. Unfortunately, generations of inbreeding have made this breed more prone to some illnesses and health risks, while a large skeletal frame and thick coat make joint and shedding issues more troublesome.

What are the weaknesses of German Shepherds? 

Certain joint issues, allergies, and shedding could be a struggle for families with German Shepherds. But the positive attributes of this breed far outweigh any potential health risks! This breed is one of the most loyal canine companions and very protective of their home and family. They make great guard dogs but can also be appreciated for their confidence and courage. 

Worried about your German Shepherd’s health? Our furry companions can hide their symptoms well, especially if they’re trying to keep up with us. If you notice anything abnormal about your dog’s behavior, report it to your veterinarian to be sure. Staying ahead of these issues will be the best long-term support you can give your beloved companion!

This blog exists to provide general information and education about veterinary health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, website, or in any linked materials is not intended as and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions, or make specific treatment recommendations through this blog or website.

If you suspect that your pet has a medical concern, you should consult with your veterinary health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that you have read on this blog, website, or in any linked materials.

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Veterinarian Dr. Joya Griffin with a dog patient


Dr. Joya Griffin is an Ohio native and graduated from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. She has a special interest in fungal and immune-mediated skin diseases as well as feline and equine dermatology. Dr. Joya always strives to care for her patients as if they are her own pets and loves building long-lasting relationships with their pet parents. Dr. Joya also stars in the Nat Geo WILD television series, “Pop Goes the Vet with Dr. Joya,” which highlights the challenging and mysterious cases she encounters in veterinary dermatology.

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