Health Information for Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs
In general Swissies are blessed with fairly good health. They are less prone to cancer than some breeds and are fairly stable orthopedically. There are dogs with allergies and ones with chronic issues but this is uncommon. Urinary incontinence can be an issue in older females, and most people recommend waiting to spay them until they are about 2 years old to decrease this. Waiting to spay or neuter until about 2 years old also helps to decrease risk of orthopedic issues.
Lick fits are a strange spell where dogs excessively lick at everything usually due to stomach upset but then the things they lick (hair, grass, etc.) further irritates their throat and they become anxious. Swissy owners have a number of treatments including giving GasX, a snack or simply distracting them. Rarely, dogs can ingest something harmful during a lick fit or it can mask the symptoms of bloat. All of my dogs have had lick fits but this is less than 4 times a year.
Seizures have been a problem in the breed although breeders have been working hard to decrease this. Epilepsy typically starts in young dogs (approx 2 years old), but there is some variation in this. GSMD seizures have not been linked to a DNA marker at this time, and there are not perfect genetic links. Seizures in large dogs are terrifying. It is dangerous to dogs as well as humans and can be very difficult to manage. We will not knowingly breed any Swissy with links to epileptic bloodlines, but it is very important to let your breeder know if you seen any of these issues in your dogs.
Emergencies- Bloat, Splenic torsion, obstructions
I would encourage anyone with specific concerns about their dog to contact their veterinarian and breeder both. The biggest emergency health concerns would be bloat, splenic torsion and foreign bodies, as are the same for most large dogs. Due to their large size and the increasing cost of veterinary care, it is strongly recommended that all Swissy owners have pet insurance
The most important factor is to discuss this with a veterinarian that you trust. There are no black and white guidelines here. The people who say they never vaccinate their dogs and they are fine are asking for trouble, but there also can be complications from yearly vaccines.
I vaccinate my puppies with DHPP (Distemper, Infectious Hepatitis, Parvovirus and Parainfluenza) starting at 6 weeks old and then typically at 9, 12 and 16 weeks of age. I booster this vaccine at a year old and then give it again at about 5 years old. My puppies get Rabies vaccines at 12-16 weeks of age, a year later and then every 3 years. My puppies are vaccinated for kennel cough and canine flu before traveling to shows or going to work with me. I often vaccinate my pups for Leptospirosis yearly as they are around cattle and rodents. Vaccine schedules are different for individual dog depending on where they live and the risk factors- your dog very well may not need all these vaccines, or may need more. I recommend discussing the best vaccination program for your dog with your veterinarian. I do not recommend blindly vaccinating all dogs on a yearly basis, but the fact of the matter is that vaccines do save lives and I have seen dogs die from all of these preventable infectious diseases.
Heartworm and flea and tick medications as well as all other medications and treatments should also be discussed with your vet. It is very important to take all of the information you read on the internet with a grain of salt. Anything that says "this medication kills" or swissies should only have something done one way is probably alarmist. There are side effects with all medications, herbs, oils and treatments. Do what works for you and your pet, but your veterinarian is going to be able to provide you with the most up to date advice. Veterinarians make more income from dogs who are not well cared for- the ones who haven't gotten the vaccine and then end up sick or the ones who get flea allergies, so they are not recommending medications or exams to make themselves money.
We feed Purina Pro Plan Large Breed Puppy to our Swissy puppies. My adult dogs eat Purina Pro Plan Sport, although there are many other quality diets out there. My dogs eat about 4 cups a day, so a large bag lasts me about a month per dog.
Please click on the button links for may more articles and veterinary information that I have written.
Health Problems I have experienced in my dogs and puppies I bred
Todd, Betsy and Poppy all get lick fits a few times a year. This is usually related to something they have eaten outside or excessive anxiety. They occasionally (less than twice a year) all get a bit of GI upset most likely also from eating something outside. Poppy gets sour stomach in the mornings and needs a bedtime snack to prevent it. Betsy had one urinary tract infection. One of Poppy's puppies has had several urinary tract infections and vaginitis that stopped once she goes through her first heat. Another puppy had an orthopedic issue with his shoulder that could not be diagnosed on x-rays and needed arthroscopic surgery. Several (all?) puppies have eaten things they shouldn't (socks, toys, drywall) and some were induced to vomit up their prizes. All in all, happy healthy dogs.