German Shepherd - breed information and advice

An intelligent herding dog also commonly known as the Alsatian, German Shepherds are alert, energetic, loyal and protective. They are frequently used by the military or police as guard dogs due to their excellent trainability.

Breed information


Size: Large

Coat: This breed has a double coat – a coarse outer coat and a thick, smooth undercoat. The longer-coated dogs have a much more abundant outer coat. German Shepherds need grooming at least once a week.

Exercise: 2+ hours a day for adult dogs

Life span: 10+ years

Breed group: Pastoral dogs were originally bred to herd sheep and cattle, and to help ‘drovers’ move stock to the market. As such, they have a strong natural instinct to herd.

Anal furunculosis

German Shepherds can be prone to a distressing condition called anal furunculosis. Similar in some ways to Crohn’s disease in humans, the condition leads to ulcers and inflammation around the dog’s anus. Depending on the nature and severity of the condition, different treatments are available, such as surgery and immunosuppressive medicines. The condition may require on-going attention, but most dogs are able to live normal, active lives.


Anal furunculosis is the fifth most common illness we see in German Shepherds

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Hip and elbow dysplasia

Larger breeds like the German Shepherd can be prone to hip or elbow dysplasia. This develops when the bones that form the hip or elbow joint develop abnormalities in the cartilage that lines the surface of the joint or structures around it. This leads to the development of arthritis, which shows as stiffness (especially after lying down), and a reluctance to exercise or go up and down stairs. Long-term treatment or surgery will be required to keep the dog active.


Hip dysplasia is the third most common illness we see in German Shepherds

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Intestinal disorders

The German Shepherd, like all dogs, can suffer from problems affecting the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Conditions such as gastroenteritis or an obstruction within the bowel (due to the dog eating stones, cloth or string, for example) commonly cause vomiting and/or diarrhoea. German Shepherds are prone to exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), which occurs when a dog’s pancreas doesn’t produce sufficient amounts of crucial digestive enzymes. The shortage of digestive enzymes in the bowel means the dog can’t digest and absorb food properly. Treatment is in the form of replacement digestive enzymes added to the food. This is required for life but means the dog can live normally.


We paid £2,271 to treat Archie the dog for a digestive system disorder in 2016

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Gastric dilation-volvulus

Larger breeds like the German Shepherd can suffer from gastric dilatationvolvulus (GDV), which is also known as ‘bloat’. GDV is a very serious, lifethreatening condition caused by the twisting of the stomach, which closes it off at both ends. This rapidly becomes an emergency as the stomach distends with air and the blood supply to the organ gets cut off. Urgent treatment is required for GDV, but timely surgery can mean a dog can make a full recovery.


We paid £3,050 to treat Jude the German Shepherd for gastric dilation in 2016

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Spleen tumours

Haemangiosarcoma is a rapidly growing cancer that develops in the lining of blood vessels in organs such as the spleen, liver and kidney. Unfortunately, the tumour often spreads quickly, making the chances of survival very low by the time it is diagnosed. This cancer can affect all breeds, but German Shepherds are particularly at risk. Early diagnosis and treatment offer the best chance of survival.


We paid £2,367 to treat Louie the German Shepherd for a splenic tumour in 2016

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