Big Dog Breed Health Issues

Published on April 29, 2020 by Charlie Buehler

Vet Tech holding a golden retriever

Veterinary technician is an excellent career choice for anyone who wants to spend their career working with and caring for animals. The best thing about choosing a career as a vet tech is that you can complete an Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology degree program in two years or less. After sitting for the VTNE, you can be a Certified Veterinary Technician and begin your career caring for dogs of all shapes and sizes. Working with animals in the field provides a lot of hands-on experience working with different dog breeds.

What Are the Different Big Dog Breeds?

There are more than 340 recognized dog breeds in the world, and 193 of them are recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Although people adopt dogs that they’re drawn to and fit into their lifestyle, many dog owners love big dog breeds. Dogs are like humans, and each has certain personality traits. Most big dogs are intelligent and devoted to their owners.

It’s essential when choosing any dog or puppy to adopt that the dog is socialized and trained correctly. Children in the home should be taught that dogs are part of the family and should never be mistreated or handled as a toy. Even the most even-tempered dog will react if it’s mishandled or hurt. Many large breed dogs are an excellent fit for a family. Opinions of dog lovers vary, but here are some of the best-tempered big dog breeds:

Labrador Retrievers

Labs are one of the most popular big dog breeds. They’re intelligent, energetic, and love people and other animals. Labs do well in an environment that allows for plenty of exercise and play. They’re eager to keep their owners happy and do well in training. Some of the health problems that are common in Labs are allergies, eye diseases, epilepsy, heart conditions, Osteochondrosis, and hip and elbow dysplasia.

Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers are high-energy dogs that require a lot of exercise. They love to play and are a natural breed to train. This breed loves to fetch and is often used as working dogs, for search and rescue, or as hunting dogs. Goldens have an out-going personality and get along well with people and animals. Health issues are similar to those similar to Labs and may include eye problems, dysplasia, heart conditions, and cancer.


Weimaraners are obedient and amiable dogs that love spending time with their families in the outdoors. Weims have a fearless streak and can be well-behaved or pick up some negative tendencies if they aren’t properly socialized. Due to the short coat, Weims are easy to care for. They may develop health problems including Von Willebrand’s disease, Thyroid disease, and gastric torsion. They’re also susceptible to hip dysplasia, eye problems, heart disease, and cancer.

Irish Setters

Irish Setters are lovely family dogs, are friendly, and have easy-going personalities. This breed requires training because they can get bored quickly and need a lot of human interaction. Setters are sensitive animals and need positive reinforcement, which is the type of training all dogs should have. Setters have a long coat, so brushing two or three times a week is recommended. Ear infections and eye problems, hip dysplasia, and bloating are health problems that may develop in Irish Setters.

Standard Poodles

Standard Poodles are as close to a hypoallergenic breed as you can get. Their coats need frequent grooming, including clipping or trimming. Poodles are loving, intelligent dogs who are often shy around strangers. They respond well to an owner with a quiet demeanor and may be frightened by loud voices. Poodles are easy to train and are very agile.

Since they’re a social breed, Poodles do best in a home where they have a lot of interaction with their owner. Poodles may be susceptible to several medical conditions, including Von Willebrand’s, epilepsy, immune-system disorders, hip dysplasia, and Sebaceous Adenitis.


Collies are an ideal breed for the owner who wants to spend a lot of time with their dog. This breed is devoted to its owner and loves attention. Collies require a lot of exercise and love to go on walks. They’re brilliant and love to learn new things. Collies are very adept at obedience and agility courses.

Collies actually don’t shed a lot but require frequent brushing due to their long, double coats. Collies are prone to health problems, including hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, gastric issues, and dermatomyositis. Collies are more prone to certain prescription drugs than other breeds and should be carefully monitored if they take prescription medications.

German Shepherds

German Shepherds are a working breed, are extremely intelligent, loving, and protective of their owners. Shepherds require a lot of mental stimulation and exercise. They’re great dogs for families that live active lifestyles. However, proper training is a necessity since they can be too overprotective of their families. Shepherds generally have a calm and friendly demeanor. They may be susceptible to bloat, hip and elbow dysplasia, heart problems, vision issues, epilepsy, disorders of the immune system, and degenerative myelopathy.

Doberman Pinschers

Dobermans are one of the most misunderstood of the large dog breeds because a lot of them have been trained to work as guard dogs. People who share their home with a Doberman know that these dogs are loyal, eager to please, and are very intelligent. With proper training and socialization at an early age, they’re beautiful dogs for families. Dobermans have an abundance of energy and love to spend time with their owners going on long hikes or walks.

This breed is excellent for families with active lifestyles. Dobermans need a lot of interaction and stimulation. They crave attention and shouldn’t be left alone for too long, even if they’re in a fenced-in backyard. Dobermans don’t require a lot of grooming but do shed. They’re usually a healthy breed but can be prone to inheriting albinism, cardiac problems, hip dysplasia, bloat, hyperthyroidism, and Van Willebrand’s disease.

German Shorthaired Pointers

German Shorthaired Pointers are a breed that’s friendly and gets along well with their owners. They’re eager to please, so they’re easy to train. They tend to vocalize more than other breeds, so they’re best suited to a family that isn’t too close to their neighbors. Since these dogs have a short coat, they only need to be brushed about once a week. They’re an excellent breed for active owners since they love spending time outdoors with their families. German Shorthairs may develop health problems, including hip dysplasia, lymphedema, eye issues, OCD, cardiac problems, and bloat.


Greyhounds exhibit a lot of independence. This breed is very gentle and requires a lot of positive reinforcement. They react well to owners that have a similar temperament. Since the coat of the Greyhound is very short, they shed very little, so don’t require a lot of grooming. Greyhounds are a dolichocephalic breed, which means their heads have a shape similar to wolves that were their ancestors. Health issues in Greyhounds may include gastric torsion and bloat, eye problems, neuropathy, and cardiac issues.

What Health Issues are Associated with Big Dog Breeds?

Every dog can develop health issues as any age. However, even though there are health problems that large breeds are prone to, it doesn’t mean every dog will be susceptible to them. The health problems in large breed dogs are different from small breeds, so owners should be aware of them.

One of the most common problems is hip dysplasia, in which hip joints are outside the hip joint or don’t fit correctly into the joint. The cause of hip dysplasia isn’t known, but testing is available to determine if your dog is susceptible. Elbow dysplasia is a similar condition. Some dogs live healthy lives with the disease, while others may require surgery.

Panosteitis is believed to be caused by high-protein foods that are fed to growing puppies. The condition causes pain in the legs, which can move from one leg to the other. One leg may get better while another gets worse. You should discuss food options for your large breed puppy with your veterinarian.

How are Big Dog Health Issues Affected by Size?

One of the health problems that’s affected by size is gastric torsion and bloat. Torsion is a condition that happens when the stomach flips. Bloat is caused when the stomach fills up with air. Gastric-Dilation Volvolvus is a life-threatening condition that affects; large, deep-chested dog breeds more than small breeds.

Large breed dogs are more likely to suffer from the effects of obesity, ligament, and joint problems, and have shorter life spans. One effective way to catch potential health problems early is to find out what health problems your puppy could be affected by as they age and discuss issues with a veterinarian.

Not all large breed dogs need a lot of space, but they can get overweight and develop health problems quickly if they don’t get enough exercise. When adopting a big breed dog, make sure they have a yard big enough for them to play and get exercise in. Also, a nearby dog park can serve the purpose of a big yard.

One condition that’s very painful for large breed dogs is arthritis. Dog owners can take steps to keep their dog as healthy as possible by controlling food portions, provide their dog with plenty of exercise, and discuss potential health problems and treatments with a veterinarian.

How is DNA a Factor in Big Dog Breed Health Issues?

Mutation of only one gene can cause a health problem in a big breed dog. DNA testing allows breeders to test dogs before they’re bred to determine if they can pass on a gene to their offspring that can cause disease. DNA testing will enable breeders to reduce the risk of passing on medical problems to which big dog breeds are prone.

Special Medical Problems

Some big dog breeds like Bulldogs and Boxers may develop medical problems that aren’t common in other large breeds. They are more prone to conditions like Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, which causes problems to the airway. A brachycephalic dog breed is one that has a shorter, broader head than other breeds. The condition can cause an obstruction to the airway. These dogs may experience difficulty in breathing due to a smaller windpipe.

Large breed dogs need a lot of mental stimulation and exercise because most of them have a lot of energy. Although a lot of them are high-energy, once they’re properly trained, they’re wonderful pets and do well in homes with adults and children.

Did learning about managing big dog breed health issues interest you? Ready to start a program to become a veterinary technician? With an Associate Degree in Veterinary Technology, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.

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