Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What Are The Health Concerns with Great Pyrenees?

There are always a few main questions people ask when considering a new dog.  How much do they shed?  How much do they eat?  Are they good with other dogs/kids/people? Lastly..  What are the health concerns specific to the breed?  I combined research with my personal experience working with dozens and dozens of Pyrs over the past 2 years, and complied this list as a helpful guide to those conditions a Pyr owner should be aware of.  This isn't meant to include contagious disease conditions, as those awful things have no breed preference!  While I have encountered Pyrs suffering from other conditions such as cancer, I have not ever found any material which suggested a breed disposition to anything other than listed below.  If you have questions, feedback, or have experienced a disease you feel Pyrs are predisposed to, please comment or email us!
  • Hip Dysplasia: Generally speaking, most people think of this when they think of large breed dogs in general.  You may be surprised to learn the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation For Animals) actually sites Pugs way, way higher than our precious Pyrs with regards to instances of documented Hip Dysplasia.
  • Luxated Patellas: This is often a consideration for large breed dogs, especially very active ones.  The term itself describes a condition where the knee cap (patella) pops out of joint.  It is most often corrected by surgery.  Your vet can easily diagnose this; the owner will see occasional limping and favoring of other limbs.  The knee can pop in and out, so the limp isn't always consistent.  
  • More On Patellar Luxation
  • Gastric Dilative Volvulus (Bloat) : GDV is considered a disease condition where all deep chested dogs are prone.  While there are mostly only theories about GDV, the theory is that their deep chests can allow for more room for the stomach to twist.
  • Ear infections: All dogs with longer, floppier ears are prone to ear infections, as those kinds of ears are better at trapping bacteria, yeast, mold, etc.  If you own a Pyr, you need to be proactive and clean their ears no less than once a week to avoid infections.  Ear infections won't go away on their own, and prolonged infections without treatment can lead to deafness and other conditions.
More on Ear Cleaning 
  • Entropion: Your first clue is usually teary eyes.  Pyrs can get a condition where their upper lids fold under, causing their lashes to scrape their eye surface.  Correctable with surgery, this condition can lead to blindness if left untreated.
  • Obesity: I find obesity to be frequent in long haired dogs.  Let's face it.. it can be hard to see those guts under all that fur!  Your dog should be eating 1 cup of dry food for every 20 pounds of ideal weight.  Also, you should easily be able to feel their ribs with only a little bit of pressure when you rub their chests. 
  • Heartworm: This one is a biggie for Pyrs.  We have met far too many positive Great Pyrenees.  I feel confident concluding that it is likely due to their use as livestock guardians.  Pyrs used in this capacity spend a lot of time outside, exposed to mosquitoes.  Sometimes those who use them as working dogs expect the dogs to be very independent, and they may have limited contact with their humans.  Regardless of if you think there are a lot of mosquitoes where you live, remember it only takes 1.

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