Health Problems Common in Large Dogs

Saint Bernard standing in grass field

Common Health Issues to Look for in Large Dog Breeds

Your dog's size could increase its risk of developing certain diseases and conditions. These conditions are among the most common in large breeds.

Entropion

Do your dog's eyelids turn under? Entropion, a problem common in large dogs, may be the reason. The condition is usually noticeable by the time your dog turns one. Although entropion may not sound serious, it's much more than just a cosmetic issue.

Small hairs on your dog's eyelid can irritate the cornea, the clear, rounded layer of tissue that covers your dog's iris and pupil. Painful ulcers can develop as a result of the irritation. Dark scar tissue may also form over the wounded part of the cornea and could interfere with your furry friend's vision. If your dog has entropion, you may notice red eyes or pus on the outside edges of the eyes.

Antibiotic eye drops help ulcers heal, while artificial tears keep the eyes moist. In some cases, surgery may be needed to prevent the eyelids from folding inward.

Dysplasia

Both hip and elbow dysplasia tend to affect bigger dogs more than small ones. Dysplasia happens when the bones in a joint don't fit together smoothly. Dysplasia can cause painful slipping or grinding of the hip or elbow joints when your dog walks, runs, or moves.

Symptoms can include limping, stiffness, unwillingness to climb stairs, change in gait, and decreased range of motion. Keeping your pet at the ideal weight can be helpful, as extra pounds may stress the joints. Glucosamine supplements can also reduce joint pain. If the dysplasia is severe and the joint is damaged, surgery may be needed to reduce pain and improve your dog's ability to move.

Bloat

Bloat occurs when your dog's stomach fills with air and twists. The condition prevents blood from flowing freely to all parts of the body, including the heart and other organs. Although any dog can develop bloat, it's more likely to occur in Great Danes, Irish Setters, Gordon Setters, Weimaraners, Doberman Pinschers, and St. Bernards, according to the American Kennel Club.

A painful, swollen abdomen could be a sign that your dog has bloat. Other signs include trying unsuccessfully to vomit, panting, drooling, or seeming restless or upset. Prompt treatment is essential if you notice any of these signs. Dogs can die within a matter of hours if they don't undergo emergency surgery.

Arthritis

Big dogs are more prone to developing arthritis due in part to their large size. Arthritis wears away the cartilage at the end of the bones that allow the bones to move smoothly in the joints. Arthritis may cause many of the same symptoms as dysplasia, including:

  • Lameness
  • Limping
  • Stiff joints
  • Irritability
  • Creaking or grating sound when your dog walks
  • Trouble with stairs or jumping
  • Disinterest in regular activities

Dogs that have arthritis may gain weight because they're less active. Unfortunately, extra weight stresses the joints and can make the symptoms of arthritis worse. Treatment for arthritis may include anti-inflammatory medications, steroids, and glucosamine.

Your pet may be more likely to develop joint problems if it's overweight or obese, although just being large can cause problems for its joints. Your pet's veterinarian can recommend safe weight loss approaches and other lifestyle changes. Some dogs may eventually need surgery if medication and lifestyle changes aren't helpful.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy happens when the heart becomes enlarged and weakens, making it difficult to pump blood effectively. It's another condition that can affect any dog but occurs more often in larger dogs.

Although dilated cardiomyopathy may not cause any symptoms at first, as the disease worsens your pet may get tired more easily. Other signs and symptoms include swollen abdomen, difficulty breathing, coughing, weakness, and fainting. Medication may help slow the progression of the condition, but unfortunately, most dogs that develop dilated cardiomyopathy eventually die.

If you have a large dog breed, you should monitor its weight and overall well-being while also taking it to the veterinarian for routine wellness exams. Contact our office to schedule an appointment and we can help your big dog live a healthy life.

Sources:

American Kennel Club: Hip Dysplasia in Dogs, 2/17/21

Animal Wellness: Health Issues in Giant Breeds, 3/23/15

Washington State University: Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

American Kennel Club: Bloat (or GDV) in Dogs – What It Is and How It’s Treated, 11/3/16

Call to schedule your pet's wellness or urgent care exam now: (952) 758-6722

Testimonials

  • We have been clients of New Prague Animal Care for over 13 years. They have provided exceptional and compassionate care for our “pack” (6 dogs and 3 cats). As a professional dog trainer, breeder of Best in Show and Master Hunter Retrievers as well an owner of multiple kennel/ doggy daycare facilities (30+ years), I have worked with numerous veterinary clinics both in the Twin Cities and nationwide. Dr. Steve and his crew rate among the finest I have worked with. The clinic has all of the fea

    ...
    Show More - Kathryn N
  • My dad has taken all of his dogs there for years, and I take mine there as well. Dr. Lavalle's bedside manner is amazing, and his staff are so genuine and caring. I always have, and will continue referring people to take their pets here. They are hands down the best veterinary care in the area!

    - Amber C
  • Have taken our dogs to Dr. Lavallee for over 10 years and he is great with each of them. He and his staff are very caring and helpful.

    - Barb S
  • Middle of a snow storm a few days ago. My little puppy was injured. I live in Faribult. Vet offices were closed in town. They actually called me while in route to see if I was ok. They were so good with the puppy. The cost was very reasonable. Called today to see how everything was going. I really was very impressed with this office. I recommend this place.

    ...
    Show More - Wendy E
  • Awesome experience! My pets love the care they get from Dr. Lavallee and his staff! They are not just a number; they care for them like my babies are family! Would highly recommend them!

    - SGGM
  • Found a 6-wk old kitten on the side of the highway and brought it in at 7pm on emergency basis. I was blown away by the compassion of Dr. Johnson's team. What a great experience. True animal people!

    - Anna H
  • Moved to New Prague and found this place for our dog.. Such great service, friendly staff, amazing Dr. and very accommodating to all of our needs!! Highly recommended by my pet family!!!

    - Kerri N
  • We love New Prague Animal Care, they are always so kind and caring, from the phone calls to when you walk in. We take our Siberian Husky Bandit in and he gets so much attention, well loved. We've had to take him in twice for emergencies, the in house testing was great, Dr. Johnson was able to resolve the issue almost immediately. I wouldn't take him anywhere else.

    ...
    Show More - Myra C

Contact Us

We look forward to hearing from you

CURRENT HOURS

Pending further developments, we are open MWF 8am-6pm, TTh 8am-8pm, and Sat 9am-Noon.

Monday

8:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Tuesday

8:00 AM - 8:00 PM

Wednesday

8:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Thursday

8:00 AM - 8:00 PM

Friday

8:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Saturday

9:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Sunday

Closed

Monday
8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Tuesday
8:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Wednesday
8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Thursday
8:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Friday
8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Saturday
9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Sunday
Closed

Our Location