The German Shepherd is adorable, hug-able, lovable and a bundle of fluffy energy. This is all the more reason to give them a long happy healthy life. There are a lot of different things you can do as an owner to increase their lifespan and hopefully decrease the amount of health issues that sometimes plague larger dog breeds. Taking the time to learn about healthy habits may just give you and your furry friend a few more special years to enjoy together. Here are 9 tips for a healthy German Shepherd!
1. Clean Ears:
To maintain a healthy German Shepherd, you want to keep those big floppy ears clean. Even though the erect nature of their ears means they are dryer and less prone to getting infected, you still want to keep them nice and clean. The result will be less infections and healthier skin.
Fun Fact: Ear infections are pretty common among GSD’s. A UK study found that 7.89% of German Shepherds had the disorder.
How to Clean:
- Look for infection. (Red or inflamed with foul odor) Take to Vet if necessary.
- Pull the ear up and straight to expose the ear canal.
- Squeeze a couple drops of (dog friendly) ear cleanser into the ear canal.
- Massage base of ear with your fingers to evenly distribute the solution.
- Carefully swab the interior of the ear with a cotton ball. (Never use a cotton swab)
- Let the ear dry or use an ear drying powder.
- Repeat on the other ear.
Check their ears once a week for any build up of wax or infection and clean accordingly.
2. Dental Health:
This top tip is extremely important for a healthy German Shepherd. Since most dogs over the age of three will develop periodontal disease, it is extremely important to keep those toothy trains nice and clean. This infectious disease can be a real doozie and if not taken care of quickly can wreak havoc on your GSD’s organs and health. The progressive gum disease can be fatal if left untreated.
Fun Fact: You need to brush your dog’s teeth consistently for the best results. Studies show that brushing at least three times weekly is necessary to retain their oral health.
- Brush your GSD’s teeth a minimum of three times a week or daily if they have gingivitis.
- Feed your dog approved dental diets and treats.
- Get their teeth professionally scaled when needed. (Never choose anesthesia-free scaling)
- Routine trips to the vet for regular cleanings to remove plaque or any mild infections.
- Use pet-friendly toothbrushes and toothpaste for your dog.
Dental scaling is super important. Studies have shown that dogs with more dental scaling live longer.
3. Find a Friend:
Two dogs are better than one and finding your GSD a friend is a good way to increase their happiness and health. Multiple dogs have many benefits for dogs and their owners. While there may be some extra effort involved in raising and training two dogs, it is worth the added work.
Fun Fact: Multiple dogs means healthier children. Studies show that kids who spend the first year of their life in a home with more than one cat or dog are probably less prone to develop allergies.
Benefits of Multiple Dogs:
- Increased socialization which improves temperament around other animals or people.
- Keeps dogs active and busy when you are away.
- Less allergies to animals, dust mites, grass or ragweed.
- More companionship for you and your dogs.
- Teaches children to be responsible and helps them develop emotionally.
Be careful when selecting a second dog. Certain dogs may mesh better with others. Consider age and health when choosing. Two female dogs is not recommended.
4. Good Food:
This is a no brainer and one of the best ways to keep your pooch healthy and thriving. Feeding your German Shepherd a nutritious diet from the time they are a puppy is very important to their overall health and well-being. A high quality dog food that is low in carbs and has protein in the range of 18-22% is recommended.
Fun Fact: Feeding your dog a lean diet can increase lifespan by a whopping 1.5 to 2 years studies have shown. This means giving them the right amount of food daily and staying away from those fatty treats.
- Feed them a high quality kibble or a raw diet with lean meats, fruits and vegetables.
- Give them the proper calories. (1,740 and 2,100 daily for adults)
- Avoid toxic foods that can hurt their health.
- Stay away from fatty dog treats that are high in sugar.
- Give them healthy raw bones to chew on regularly.
5. Keep Them Busy
This goes hand in hand with exercise with more of an emphasis on keeping their minds active and busy. German Shepherds are very social and love to stay active. If they are left alone or get bored they can partake in some very destructive behaviors. You can avoid this by giving them brain games or jobs to do around the house.
Fun Fact: Boredom may not seem too serious but research shows otherwise. In fact, one scientist warns that a lack of stimulation can lead to your GSD’s brain shrinking.
- Give them a challenging brain game or toy such as the KONG shaped wobbler with treat inside.
- Join a tracking group and hone their natural instincts to track things down.
- Keep them busy with jobs around the house such as cleaning. (Teach them to pick up their toys)
- Take your GSD swimming if you have a lake nearby.
- Train them in agility, obedience or sports like Schutzhund.
Keeping your German Shepherd busy will lead them to a much happier life.
6. Neuter or Spay
Neutering or spaying your German Shepherd overall leads to a longer healthier life. In fact, fixed dogs live one and a half years longer on average than non fixed dogs. This simple procedure lowers their chance of getting infections from fights and keeps them from developing some diseases. In addition it can sometimes have an affect on their aggressive behaviors.
Fun Fact: Timing is everything when getting your dog fixed. Studies show that neutering or spaying your German Shepherd before they turn one triples their chance of developing more than one joint disorder. This means a much higher risk for Hip Dysplasia.
- Calmer with less aggression due to lowered testosterone levels.
- Less Likely to roam looking for a mate which means fewer fights, injuries and infections.
- Prevents certain prostate problems and testicular cancer.
- Helps prevent breast tumors and uterine infections prolonging life expectancy.
- She won’t go into heat looking for a male which means less urinating and yowling.
While most breeders and veterinarians recommend getting your GSD neutered or spayed, there is some debate over the timing. However research seems to point to the 12-15 month range for males and the 5 month mark for females for the best results.
7. Plenty of Exercise:
German Shepherds love to play so exercise shouldn’t be a problem. Giving them plenty of exercise will keep their minds sharp and their bodies fit. This goes hand in hand with a proper diet which will keep them lean and healthy. Exercise your GSD for a minimum of two hours a day for maximum benefits. Like their diet, this can also increase their lifespan and tack on a few extra years with your pup.
Fun Fact: Dog owners get more exercise than non dog owners. Studies found that people who walk their dog outdoors are more active on cold, rainy days, have 20% higher activity levels and are more active for a half hour daily.
Fun Exercise Ideas:
- Create an obstacle course with household objects for them to traverse.
- Go for a hike in the country or on a mountain trail.
- Have a race or chase them around the yard.
- Play ball or fetch with them in the backyard.
- Take them to the dog park to meet some fellow canines.
Don’t forget the classic walk around the neighborhood for good consistent exercise. Twice a day for thirty minutes each time is recommended. You can make up the other hour with some of our suggestions.
8. Raw Bones:
Raw bones are integral for a healthy German Shepherd. Aside from keeping your dog busy, they provide lots of essential nutrients, keep their teeth clean and distract your GSD from any negative behavior.
Fun Fact: Chewing bones is a great way for dogs to keep those pearly whites healthy and clean. Studies show that it is an effective way to remove dental calculus from their teeth.
Tips for Raw Bones:
- Always supervise your dog when giving them a bone to chew on.
- Feed your GSD a raw bone following their meal so they are less likely to swallow any.
- Only feed your dog raw bones and never give them cooked bones which can splinter.
- Make sure to give them large bones that are at least longer than their muzzle.
- Use beef or lamb instead of chicken or pork bones which are more delicate.
There are two ways to feed your dog raw bones. You can grind them up and add them to their regular food or give them a large raw bone to chew on.
9. Vet Check-ups
Don’t forget that trip to the vet! Annual check-ups with your local veterinarian are crucial for a healthy German Shepherd overall and another way to add longevity to their life. Puppies should go once a month until they are four months old and get the proper vaccinations. Vet check-ups are especially important for German Shepherds who tend to have more joint problems than smaller dog breeds.
Fun Fact: A study was performed using the data from a half million dogs in the UK. It found that that the most common causes for a GSD’s death were musculoskeletal disorders or the incapacity to stand.
- Pups up to 1 month old: Once a month for check-ups and vaccines.
- Pups at 6 months old: First dental check-up since adult teeth are now present.
- Adult dogs 1-7 yrs old: Once a year for health and prevention.
- Senior dogs 7+ yrs old: Once or twice a year depending on your Vet’s advice.
Your veterinarian will also help you develop a nutritious diet plan with the correct caloric intake for your specific dog.
All of these tips play an important role in maintaining a healthy German Shepherd. Remember GSDs are very active and athletic animals who need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay healthy. At the least try to give your dog a healthy diet, plenty of exercise and brush those teeth daily.
Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think!
Do you own a German Shepherd? If so what do you do to keep your GSD healthy and thriving? Let us know! We would love to hear about any new or exciting tips!