Great Dane Health and Research
Inherited and other health concerns in the Great Dane.
The following health conditions have been identified in the Great Dane. Items in purple can be identified through testing.
Health and Research Chair: Neil O’Sullivan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Screening tests are not currently available for the other conditions listed. Conditions thought to involve significant & direct inheritance are noted. For those purchasing a pet or intending to breed: it is important to know the health status before breeding any dog or bitch. Clinically affected dogs, i.e., those dogs exhibiting symptoms for conditions considered serious and heritable should generally NOT be bred and health screenings (where available) are certainly recommend. Please note that the text below is intended as an aid to those seeking health information on the breed, and should not be used to form a diagnosis replacing regular veterinary care by a qualified veterinarian.
Is suspected to be an inherited disease in the Great Dane and current (preliminary) research indicates that this disease may be sex-linked in our breed. Research is ongoing. An echocardiogram of the heart will confirm the disease but will not guarantee that the disease will not develop in the future. Regular exams on breeding stock are recommended. There are some congenital heart defects also occasionally found in the breed. For an in-depth article on the subject, see “Heart Disease in the Great Dane.”
K9HD: HIP DYSPLASIA
Is an inherited disease with multi-factorial expression. Clinically the disease may be seen as simply poor rear end conformation or lessened athleticism to such malformation of the hip joint that the dog becomes crippled. It is recommend that breeding stock be Xrayed as normal. OFA and PennHIP both offer certification programs.
See OFA and PennHIP.
And other heritable endocrine disease – Hypothyroidism in dogs is generally the result of a heritable disorder of the immune system. This condition results when the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormone to adequately maintain the dog’s metabolism. Happily, it is easily treated with thyroid replacement pills. Thyroid testing (T4, TSH and autoantibodies) on breeding stock should be performed on a routine basis. Finding autoantibodies to thyroglobulin is normally an indication that the dog has autoimmune thyroiditis. Low thyroid dogs, manifested by a high TSH and a low T4, should be treated and monitored on a regular basis. Dogs with confirmed thyroid abnormalities should not be bred. Another autoimmune endocrine disease that can affect the breed is Addison’s disease. See the link on Addison’s Disease Info in the Research section to learn more about both the ongoing research project as well as how to diagnose and treat dogs with Addison’s disease.
Not common, cataracts have been described in the Great Dane and can be blinding. Eyelid abnormalies (e.g. entropion) are also not unheard of in the breed. For breeding stock a CERF exam can insure that the eyes are normal in all aspects.
Is the number one killer of Great Danes & Great Danes are the #1 breed at risk for bloat. For reasons not fully understood, in certain deep-chested breeds in particular, the stomach distends, then has a tendency to rotate, which cuts off the blood supply to various parts of the body, as well as effectively shutting down digestion. This condition is extremely painful as well as a true emergency that is rapidly life threatening. A dog with a bloated, twisted stomach (technically called “Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus”) will die in great pain in a matter of hours unless drastic steps are taken: surgery is normally necessary. The reasons for GDV are currently not understood, however most would agree that multiple small meals per day and preventing vigorous exercise around mealtimes can help reduce the chances of bloat. Many breeders and owners of Great Danes consider a surgery called a prophylactic gastropexy (“preventative tack”) which can help prevent some of the more serious aspects of GDV. Discuss this with your veterinarian and your Dane’s breeder. Click HERE to find a detailed chart on dealing with bloat/torsion and see also here a chart on prophylactic gastropexy (the preventitive “tack” surgery). Note that most of forms of a “tack” can now be done through laproscopic surgery. Discuss the options available with your veterinarian.
Danes can suffer from a variety of cancers as do many other breeds of dogs as well as many mixed breed dogs. Bone cancer (osteosarcoma) and lymphoma appear to be the two forms of cancer most commonly seen in the Great Dane, and along with heart disease and bloat (GDV), cancer is a leading cause of death in Great Danes. Research into both types of cancer is ongoing and treatment options are improving every day. See The Genetics of Cancer
Is a result of pressure on the spinal cord in the neck region and results in a “drunken” gait & increasing instability & potential paralysis. The congenital form of Wobblers in Danes usually presents in adolescent Danes and is the result of a malformation of the cervical vertebrae thought to result from a combination of nutritional effects and inherited traits; it is considered a form of DOD (Developmental Osteodystrophy) and is referred to as cervical vertebral malformation or CVM. A whiplash sort of traumatic injury to such long-necked dogs as Danes can occur in adult dogs and can also be referred to as “Wobblers” or cervical vertebral instability (CVI). Great Danes are considered at risk for both congenital & trauma induced “Wobblers.” Ronaldo da Costa, DVM, DMV, MSc, PhD, Dipl ACVIM-Neurology, at Ohio State University in conducting research into the cause & treatment of Wobblers & can be reached at the following email: Ronaldo.daCosta@cvm.osu.edu
HOD and Pano
These are painful conditions of the bones that occur during the rapid growth phase of puppyhood causing lameness and general malaise. By far HOD is the more serious one and can be deadly. Pano is usually self-limiting and may not need treatment. HOD stands for Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy. Pano is short for Panosteitis. Information on growth and other puppy issues is available HERE.
There is an ongoing study recruiting both puppies who currently have HOD as well as adults who suffered from HOD as puppies. Please contact Dr. Alison Starr-Moss to participate: ASTARR@clemson.edu
Recommended disease screenings – OFA offers a public database where breeders can record the health status of their dogs. The minimum recommendations for the Great Dane to be used for breeding are a baseline at approximately two years with normal hip, heart, thyroid & eye results established. Heart & thyroid testing should be repeated at least every 2-3 years as results done on young adults do not remain valid for the life of the dog. Echocardiograms (for heart testing) are recommended for all adult Great Danes used for breeding, but are particularly important for stud dogs. Records of other disease issues should be maintained on all potential breeding stock (i.e. these four tests are not enough on their own). Note owners may wish to perform any &/or all of these tests on their own dogs, as health is a concern for all owners, not just breeders of Great Danes, and results publicly recorded can benefit the whole breed. For more information see the AKC-CHF’s CHIC program for the Great Dane.
Each year the Canine Health Foundation & Orthopedic Foundation of America award a “Champion Of Health” in each AKC breed participating in the CHIC program
To view past recipients & learn more about this program, click here: Champion Of Health Award Recipients
Surgical Guidelines for the Great Dane
The following information regarding both routine spay and neuter surgery as well as emergency situations in the Great Dane (such as those involving C-sections) is presented as a basic protocol to help avoid complications such as DIC (Disseminated Intravascular Coagulopathy) which appear to occur in a higher number of giant dogs undergoing surgery than the norm. Therefore, the GDCA offers the following information for owners and breeders of Great Danes.
Several veterinary clinics with regular and extensive experience dealing with giant breeds have developed similar protocols for surgery that can be recommended preferentially for giant breeds. These are techniques that have proven highly successful; both in routine spay/neuter surgeries as well as more critical care situations, such as C-sections. Such a set of protocols is offered below. We suggest you download it and discuss this with your veterinarian PRIOR to any surgical appointment.
Please review the following with your attending veterinarian before deciding to have surgery done on your Dane:
- First find a veterinarian experienced with surgeries involving giant breeds.
- All elective surgeries, such as spay/neuter, should be done ideally only on healthy animals. Spays are best planned in anestrous: about 3 months after the last season. Please insure your veterinarian is aware of any health concerns you might have about your dog prior to surgery.
- Prior to any surgery, request that the veterinarian do a complete physical examination, including a good heart auscultation, and EKG.
- Ensure that you elect to have the pre-surgical blood work done (CBC and serum chemistry panel) and ask them to also include a CLOTTING PROFILE.
- If all blood work and the exam are normal, then schedule the surgery and fast the dog overnight. It’s not generally necessary to withhold water for 12 hours (simply put the water bowl away at bedtime).
- Ask that the surgeon insert an IV catheter prior to surgery. Fluid therapy should generally be administered as a safety precaution. Pulse oximetry and cardiac monitoring are also recommended. If blood pressure monitoring is available, consider any extra costs as potentially insuring additional safety margins.
- Spay surgery in conjunction with C-section is not always the safest option in giant dogs. Be sure to discuss the pros and cons of two separate surgeries vs. doing both procedures at once with your veterinarian.
- Currently, the induction agent, Propofol (deprivan), and the gas anesthesia, Sevoflurane, are considered the most ideal (safe and effective) anesthetic agents. These agents are not always available and always cost more to use. Valium, ketamine, and the gas isoflurane are widely available and generally acceptable. Due to the variations in physiology in giant breeds, drugs such as acepromazine, rompun and the thiopentals are less appropriate choices. Discuss this with your veterinarian. Also discuss appropriate pain control for your dog when contemplating surgery for your Great Dane.
- During and after surgery, dogs are highly susceptible to hypothermia (lowered body temperature). The body loses heat directly through the surgical opening; stress and anesthetic agents further impair ability to maintain body temperature. Hypothermia adversely affects the cardiovascular system, coagulation, anesthesia recovery time and increases the risk of wound infection. Preventive measures, including warming of IV fluids, placing the dog on a heated pad (circulating water heating pad or other heating pad set on “low”) and covering the body and extremities with warmed blankets, towels, bubble wrap, or other protective coverings post-surgery are vital in conserving body heat.
- Temperature monitoring, either via electronic device or rectal thermometer, should be done during surgery and periodically throughout recovery.
Prepared by the Health and Welfare committee of the Great Dane Club of America. Written by Sue Cates, RVT and reviewed by LeAnn Lake-Heidke, DVM.
Permission to reprint as submitted for educational purposes is given.